What is Acarajé da Bahia?

June 21, 2024


Acarajé is a traditional Afro-Brazilian dish that originated in the state of Bahia, Brazil. It is a popular street food that is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Acarajé is made from black-eyed peas that are mashed into a dough, formed into balls, and deep-fried in palm oil. The fried balls are then split open and filled with a spicy shrimp and vatapá mixture. This delicious and flavorful dish is a staple of Bahian cuisine and is often served at festivals and celebrations.

History of Acarajé

The history of acarajé dates back to the 19th century when enslaved Africans brought the dish to Brazil. It is believed that acarajé originated from the Yoruba people of Nigeria and was brought to Brazil during the transatlantic slave trade. The dish quickly became popular in Bahia and has since become a symbol of Afro-Brazilian culture. Today, acarajé is a beloved dish that is enjoyed by people of all backgrounds in Brazil and beyond.


The main ingredients in acarajé include black-eyed peas, palm oil, shrimp, onions, garlic, and various spices. The black-eyed peas are soaked, peeled, and mashed into a dough before being formed into balls and deep-fried. The shrimp is cooked with onions, garlic, and spices to create a flavorful filling for the fried balls. Vatapá, a creamy mixture made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk, and spices, is also added to the acarajé for an extra layer of flavor.


To prepare acarajé, the black-eyed peas are soaked overnight and then peeled to remove the skins. The peeled peas are then mashed into a dough and formed into balls. The balls are deep-fried in palm oil until they are golden brown and crispy. The shrimp filling is prepared by cooking the shrimp with onions, garlic, and spices until it is fragrant and flavorful. The vatapá mixture is also prepared separately and added to the acarajé before serving.


Acarajé is typically served hot and fresh from the fryer. The fried balls are split open and filled with the shrimp and vatapá mixture before being topped with hot sauce or pepper sauce for an extra kick. Acarajé is often served on the streets of Bahia by women known as baianas, who are dressed in traditional white dresses and headscarves. The dish is best enjoyed with a cold drink, such as coconut water or a caipirinha, to balance out the spicy flavors.


While the traditional acarajé recipe includes shrimp and vatapá filling, there are many variations of the dish that cater to different tastes and dietary restrictions. Some variations of acarajé include vegetarian fillings made from beans or vegetables, as well as gluten-free options for those with dietary sensitivities. Some chefs also experiment with different spices and seasonings to create unique and innovative versions of acarajé that appeal to a wider audience.

Health Benefits

Despite being a fried dish, acarajé offers some health benefits due to its nutritious ingredients. Black-eyed peas are a good source of protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Palm oil, although high in saturated fats, contains antioxidants and vitamin E. Shrimp is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health. When enjoyed in moderation, acarajé can be a flavorful and satisfying meal that provides essential nutrients.


Acarajé has gained popularity not only in Brazil but also in other parts of the world where Brazilian cuisine is celebrated. The dish is often featured in food festivals, cultural events, and Brazilian restaurants around the globe. Acarajé has become a symbol of Bahian culture and is often associated with the vibrant and diverse culinary traditions of Brazil. Tourists visiting Bahia often seek out acarajé as a must-try dish to experience the flavors and culture of the region.


In conclusion, acarajé is a delicious and flavorful dish that represents the rich culinary heritage of Bahia, Brazil. Its history, ingredients, preparation, and serving methods all contribute to its popularity and appeal to food lovers around the world. Whether enjoyed on the streets of Bahia or in a Brazilian restaurant abroad, acarajé is a dish that embodies the spirit of Afro-Brazilian culture and tradition. Try acarajé today to experience a taste of Bahia in every bite.

Tatiana Cesso

As a journalist, I've made it my mission to explore and share stories that inspire, inform, and entertain. You may have stumbled upon my work in esteemed publications such as InStyle, Marie Claire, Bazaar, L’Officiel, and Vogue, among others. Having called the U.S. home since 2010, I've lived in Chicago, LA, and currently, Miami. But my heart always beats to the rhythm of Brazil. It's where I was born and raised, and my love for its culture, people, and energy knows no bounds. To share this passion, I've founded Brazilcore, a platform aimed at bridging the gap between Brazil and English speakers worldwide.