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Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

Fuel for festivities: food traditions during the carnival season across the countries

ByDominika Margolt

Jan 10, 2023

What is carnival?

Generally, carnival is the period before the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. The word “Carnevale” dates back to the 14th century and means “to say farewell to meat”. Therefore, during the carnival season, you’ll frequently encounter meat-free recipes. You will also see an abundance of sweet treats and delicacies that use up leftover items before Lent.

Wherever you find yourself at the carnival time, you are certain to be able to admire colourful street parties, lavish costumes and elaborate masks. All of this mixed with music, culture and plenty of tasty food. Yes, about that. What are the best or most popular (not necessarily the same) snacks and dishes during the carnival time?

Carnival food across the countries

Brazil

It will come as no surprise that Brazil hosts the world’s biggest carnival party. The best foods include traditional Brazilian recipes such as feijoada, which is slow-cooked pork and beans with rice, and moqueca baiana, a fragrant stew made of fish. Another well-known dish is carurú, which is similar to gumbo, made with shrimp and toasted nuts. They also offer plenty of street food and sweet treats, such as quindim, which is  a dessert made of egg yolks, sugar and ground coconut. Another famous dessert are brigadeiros, chocolate truffles made with condensed milk and cocoa.

Rio de Janeiro: Pão de queijo

During Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous Carnival, approximately 2 million people are on the streets every day . It’s been recorded as the world’s largest Carnival by the Guinness Book of World Records. One of the most well-known snack is pão de queijo, which is almost as ubiquitous as the colorful dazzling costumes. Being a popular breakfast and snack food, pão de queijo has several variations, but its main ingredients are starchy cassava flour and cheese. Although the dough is unleavened, the elasticity of the cassava, along with the expansion of warm air during baking, result in unique these texture and consistency of these cheese balls.

Trinidad and Tobago

When it comes to the Caribbean islands, the carnival is celebrated lavishly in those regions. The most celebrations take place in Trinidad and Tobago. You can expect huge parades and plenty of colourful costumes alongside food, such as curried chicken, corn soup or fried bread sandwiches. You can also try to prepare your own Caribbean-inspired food, for examplem Jamie’s rice and peas with jerk roasted veg.

Port of Spain: Pelau

One of the most popular dishes in Trynidad and Tobago is pelau, which is a dish that combines rice, peas, and coconut milk with meat that has been caramelized in sugar. Although doubles are a typical street food of this twin-island nation, pelau is probably the second favorite. It has become so famous due to its flavor, filling ingredients, and ability to be devoured at any temperature, making it the perfect food for liming (a slang term for socializing in the Port of Spain) during carnival.

Italy

The Italians celebrate carnival with an array of (surprise, surprise) pasta dishes and fried pastries, such as frittelle di carnevale or crostoli, the latter ones are fritters filled with cream. Particularly in Venice, there are plenty of seafood dishes to be enjoyed, inspired by the abundance of local fresh fish. Another delicacy worth trying is arancini di carnivale.

Venice: Fritole veneziane

Although savory snacks and dishes are popular during the carnival season, the sweet fritole veneziane is essential to try when in Venice. Fritole veneziane are fried sweet fritters filled with liquor-soaked raisins and pine nuts dusted with granulated sugar. This historic delicacies date back centuries. There is even a recipe found in a document from the 13th century in Rome’s Biblioteca Nazionale Catanese.

Poland

Eastern European countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia also join the carnival celebrations. In Poland, on Fat Thursday (Polish: Tłusty Czwartek), one tradition involves indulging in pączki (similar to doughnuts but way tastier), chrusty or faworki (fried pastry strips dusted with icing sugar). As far as the savory dishes are concerned, gluten-free buckwheat is hugely popular in Eastern Europe, for instance, delicious buckwheat crepes with poached apple and pear.

Colombia

Barranquilla Carnival has the status of the second-largest Carnival celebration in South America. Their mark dish is called arepas. They are an iconic part of Colombian cuisine, with dozens of forms of preparation and fillings. Ground maize dough patties are cooked and filled with cheese, meats, eggs, beans, or seafood. Their endless variations and street vendors make them the go-to for Carnival food.

France

In France, carnival is called Le Carnaval or Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday”. The most famous street carnival in this country takes place in Nice during the two weeks before Lent. Plenty of fresh crêpes can be found, alongside waffles and beignets, which can be associated with doughnuts.

Cyprus

Carnival in Cyprus is mainly celebrated around the streets of Limassol. The first week dedicated to meat, you can enjoy chicken kebabs like souvlaki there, while the second week worships cheese. An example of a tasty, meat-free Cypriot party piece, the Cypriot-inspired potato salad, packed with plenty of new potatoes, black olives and fresh herbs is one of the options there.

Grenada

Grenada, known as Spice Island, is the lush isle abundant in nutmeg, allspice, clove, and cinnamon, which results in fragrant island breeze. Oil down is Grenada’s national dish and a simmering pot of Grenada’s rich cultural history. This hearty stew consists of breadfruit, dumplings, salted meat, callaloo (a Carribbean vegetable dish), and other veggies simmered in coconut milk, herbs, and spices.