Coxinha: The Famous Brazilian Chicken Tapa

Brazil is a country widely known for its warm temperatures, sizzling dance moves and of course, great food!

One major aspect of Brazilian cuisine that people love is the coxinha (koh-sheen-ya), or ‘little chicken thigh.’ You might have heard of it if you’ve seen it on our menu but have never ordered it. But if you’ve never been to our restaurant before, and have never tried Brazilian food at all, you’re in for a real treat!

Essentially, this delightful Brazilian tapa, or appetizer, is either shredded or chopped chicken, or sometimes a whole chicken thigh, wrapped in dough and shaped like a chicken leg, then battered and deep fried. If you’ve taken Spanish classes before, you might recognise the word tapa. The reason the word has made its way into Brazilian cuisine is from the people that emigrated to Brazil from Spain, many of whom replaced the African slaves on the coffee plantations.

History of the Coxinha

The story has it that Isabel, Princess Imperial and Prince Gaston, Count of Eu, had a son who lived in seclusion owing to mental issues. The boy had a favourite chicken dish, but interestingly enough, only ate the thigh. The cook realised one day that she didn’t have enough chicken thighs. Necessity being the mother of invention, of course, she decided to use a whole chicken to make ‘thighs.’ Shredding the chicken, she created a filling to place in a dough, then shaped it into something resembling a drumstick.

Needless to say, the child loved what the cook had created, and later, Empress Teresa Cristina, upon visiting the boy, couldn’t resist tasting the treat. She, too, was impressed, and ordered that the Imperial chef learn how to make this new dish.

How the Coxinha is Prepared

The dough of the coxhina is commonly made with wheat flour, chicken broth, and if mashed potato is mixed in, which it sometimes is, the coxhina dough might be thought of as potato pastry.

Once the dough is made, then it’s filled with the shredded meat, which is often flavoured with spices. Alternatively, a whole thigh is used. If using the shredded chicken, the filling is often as follows:

  • Spiced, shredded chicken
  •  Scallions
  • Onions
  • Parsley

Other ingredients might include tomato sauce, turmeric and perhaps a cheese called “catupiry.”

Once the filling is placed in the dough, and shaped, then it’s battered, and breaded with either manioc flour or actual bread crumbs, then it’s deep fried. The purpose of the chicken broth, as you might guess, is to help enhance the coating surrounding the coxinha.

Variations on the Theme

Two common variations of the coxinha are:

  •  Coxinha mineira: The filling is made with maize, which is a culinary tradition in the region of Minas Gerais, including the region where Caipira and Sertanejo are spoken.
  • Cheese coxinhas: These are also commonly seen in snack bars, and to mark them, a toothpick is used to represent the place where the chicken bone would ordinarily be.

Other variations include vegetarian-style coxinhas, which are rare in restaurants, but are more commonly made at home, since it’s a fairly unconventional deviation. The vegetarian coxinhas are often made with textured vegetable protein (soy, usually), or falafel, and both are seasoned appropriately so that even the vegetarian version closely resembles the meat version.

While such variations are rare in restaurants, it could be said that the popular cheese coxinha is a semi-vegetarian version, since many moderate vegetarians go ahead and consume dairy. It’s the soy and falafel versions, on the other hand, that might be considered ‘vegan.’

So if the chicken coxinha sounds appealing to you, come into our restaurant and try the appetizer for yourself. We know you will love it, and come back for more.