The sizzle and sputter.
The wafting scent and appetizing aroma.
The savory flavor.
Cooking is a multi-sensory experience that can activate many parts of your brain—including, believe it or not, its language-learning center!
Increase your Brazilian Portuguese vocabulary, improve your listening skills and hear grammar in action.
With these kickin’ Brazilian TV cooking shows sure to whet your appetite and sate your language-learning passion!
How Brazilian TV Shows Can Help You Learn Portuguese
Learn by seeing, listening and reading.
Think about how children learn languages.
When we were kids, we listened to people speaking as we watched them doing something (like pointing to a ball while asking “do you want to play ball?”).
The function of listening and connecting the words to objects and actions enabled us to increase our vocabulary, learn how to speak and pronounce things and to understand context.
Besides food, every cooking show has something else in common: the chef talks us through what they are doing. This lets us connect words with their meanings immediately, and helps us remember them for life!
Different chefs also expose us to accents from various areas of Brazil, all with their own set of peculiarities.
Cooking shows can also help hone our Portuguese reading skills, since you can usually read the recipes provided by the show’s websites or see real-life notes from Brazilians in the comments, using various levels of formality and slang.
Increase your vocabulary.
Naturally, cooking shows will teach you the words for many cooking utensils, ingredients and cooking methods.
However, they will also teach you words that you can re-use outside of the kitchen. Many chefs on Brazilian TV shows comment on more than just their cooking—from health to the history of the ingredients they are using—and some even hold interviews while they cook.
These are all excellent resources for vocabulary gathering.
Understand more about Brazilian life and its culture.
Here are some wise words spoken by Wilhelm von Humboldt (a famous Prussian/German linguist and philosopher):
“Absolutely nothing is so important for a nation’s culture as its language.”
In other words, in order to master a language, you also need to learn the culture.
Why? Because grammar and vocabulary are not everything in a language!
How you speak (the tone, the volume), what body language you use and even why certain words exist in one language but not in another are all important aspects that show bits of culture.
In other words, learning the culture together with the language enables you to communicate fluently.
You will observe all of this on the cooking shows.
Of course, you will also be learning about traditional dishes, common ingredients and cooking methods and so much more.
How to Learn Portuguese from a Cooking Show
All the cooking shows we have listed below can be found on YouTube.
You can follow them from anywhere in the world.
While sometimes imperfect, YouTube provides closed-captioning that can help you identify new words and phrases as you watch.
Choose cooking shows based on the types of food you love to eat.
There are several types of cooking shows in Brazil:
- Practical cooking for every day
- Barbequing, Brazilian style
- Healthy cuisine
- Brazilian cuisine
- Vegetarian cuisine
As we all know, learning something is a lot easier if we enjoy what we are learning.
The same applies to learning Portuguese through cooking. Select shows that not only satisfies your hunger to learn a new language but your belly, too!
Read and understand the recipe before watching the show.
Many cooking shows provide the written version of the recipe. Before watching the show, take the time to look up new words or phrases from the recipe.
This will help you remember new words, and it will also reduce the number of times you need to stop, go back and look the words up while actually watching.
Often, the chef will share a lot more information about the dish or the cooking methods.
Make sure you capture the new words you encounter, recording them in your notes and taking the time to look up their meanings after the show is over.
Stop, go back and repeat.
Being able to easily repeat parts of the video is a great advantage of using YouTube. You can go back and watch it as many times as you want to.
Once you think you have mastered a recipe, try re-watching the show in its entirety.
When you no longer need to stop or re-watch parts to understand them, then you have officially mastered the language in the video!
Reinforce your learning by cooking dishes that are different, but delicious.
Imagine you have now watched several shows and have learned, in Portuguese, how to cook a number of new dishes.
Do not stop there—get to your kitchen and actually cook one!
Besides enjoying a different and delicious meal, the act of cooking using Portuguese instructions will reinforce what you have learned.
You will need to understand, (or quickly look up), the words of the recipe to prevent your cooking to turn into an outright disaster. This added pressure, to “know” the language by “doing,” will help you conquer Portuguese faster.
It may even make you proud of producing something tangible (and downright tasty) without the use of the English language.
Extend your reach beyond YouTube.
If you love learning with Brazilian TV shows and YouTube, take it a step further with FluentU.
FluentU hand-picks real-world videos from YouTube—like cooking shows, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU’s enhanced video player comes with interactive captions: Click any word for an instant definition and native pronunciation. Each video also comes with flashcards and exercises to help you remember the words even after you’ve finished watching.
A Portuguese FluentU program is currently in development, so check back soon for an authentic, immersive experience.
5 Brazilian TV Cooking Shows to Sizzle and Sear Your Way to Fluency
We have selected five shows from one of the best Brazilian TV networks, GNT.
GNT has a website where you can find the full episodes of the cooking shows below, as well as their recipes.
For learning purposes, we recommend you use the videos posted on YouTube, as these have subtitles to help you follow the dialogue.
“Cozinha Prática com Rita Lobo” (“Practical Kitchen with Rita Lobo”)
Recommended Level: Beginner
The cooking show “Practical Kitchen” offers one of the best opportunities to learn Portuguese, especially if you are a beginner.
Rita Lobo presents the show at a relatively slow pace and with a clear Paulistana (São Paulo lady’s) accent. Her well-thought-out and lean cooking commentary work well in the video; in fact, the simplicity of the commentary makes this a fantastic show for learning Portuguese.
The videos that offer a varied selection of typical (but extremely yummy) Brazilian dishes. Since most of the videos are only two to five minutes long, beginner Portuguese learners can take baby steps on this show.
The ingredients are displayed on the screen as Rita prepares them and the accuracy of the Portuguese closed-captioning is excellent. Recipe links are included in the YouTube video information so you can read along as you watch or refer back to the instructions when you are ready to try your hand at cooking up the dishes.
If you are interested in learning Portuguese by watching cooking shows, this show is a wonderful place to start.
About the chef:
Rita Lobo started her working life as a model but moved into the culinary world after deciding she needed a life-long profession. She was trained in gastronomy in the U.S. and returned to Brazil to open a Thai restaurant in São Paulo.
She has written several books about food on topics from healthy food to baby food, has various TV shows and is the founder of a very successful website and blog called “Panelinha” (“Small Pan”)—another great resource to learn Portuguese.
“Perto do Fogo” (“Close to the Fire”) with Felipe Bronze
Recommended level: Beginner to Intermediate
This gourmet version of Brazilian barbecuing, presented by Filipe Bronze, is also another excellent TV show to follow.
On this show, you will hear a Carioca (someone from Rio de Janeiro) accent. Hear how he swallows his “r”s and how sometimes “s” sounds become an “sh,” as compared to a Paulistano (a guy from São Paulo).
Felipe’s clear and uncomplicated presentation is easy to follow, as he just focuses on talking about what he is cooking and does not include extraneous monologue which could confuse a new Portuguese learner.
Each video is relatively short (two to five minutes), making the show ideal for beginner or intermediate learner wanting to quickly ramp up their comprehension. The accuracy of the closed-captioning on this show is also very good due to Filipe’s crisp pronunciation.
You will need to work a little harder, however, to find the receitas (recipes). Go to the GNT receitas site and buscar (search) for the recipe of the show you are interested in, e.g. salada de figo defumada (smoked fig salad). You will find the recipe described below the video of the show.
Be sure to read and understand the recipe before watching the show, as Filipe uses some unusual ingredients and cooking methods.
About the chef:
Felipe Bronze was born in Rio De Janeiro, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and is now one of Brazil’s leading contemporary chefs.
He owns two restaurants, the Oro and the ‘Pipo, in Rio de Janeiro. He presents various TV cooking shows and has authored several culinary books.
“Bela Cozinha” (“Beautiful Kitchen”) with Bela Gil
Recommended level: Intermediate
“Bela Cozinha,” presented by Bela Gil, promotes natural foods and the importance of healthy eating. Bela speaks in a clear Carioca accent at a medium speed but with more complex sentence structures than the shows previously described.
This show is recommended for intermediate or advanced Portuguese learners, as occasionally the host diverts her presentation away from what she is cooking and talks (rightly so) about her passion for healthy and nutritious food.
She also invites famous Brazilian guests onto her show and their conversations can be difficult to follow for beginners. However, this provides an opportunity for more advanced learners to hear authentic speech and different Portuguese accents.
Videos usually run between five and 10 minutes long, so they may be overwhelming for novice learners of Portuguese. Bela’s clear and precise pronunciation makes the closed-captioning work very well indeed.
About the chef:
Bela Gil, also a Carioca, has many gastronomic qualifications to her name. Besides attaining degrees in Natural Culinary at the National Gourmet Institute and Nutrition and Science of Food at Hunter College, both in New York, she attended numerous other courses specializing in healthy nutrition.
She is a TV chef, has published a number of books about cooking and is the founder of a popular cooking website and blog called “Belagirl.” Recently, she has created a YouTube channel called Canal de Bela (Bela’s Channel) which offers more videos made by Bela on diverse topics, such as natural deodorants and obstetric violence. (Even more opportunities to learn Portuguese!)
“Tempero-de-familia” (“Family Seasoning”) Rodrigo Hilbert
Recommended level: All levels
This Brazilian cooking show offers the chance to hear the southern Brazilian accent of Rodrigo Hilbert as he teaches us about the boa comida caseira (good home-cooked food) typical of the countryside of Brazil. Roberto has a clear pronunciation and produces simple-to-follow commentary while he cooks.
In earlier episodes, you will see Rodrigo combining his passion for food with metalsmithing, where he will make cooking utensils (like a food smoker) from scratch, and then use them to make a meal.
You may also see him catching his meat in the chicken coup or harvesting herbs or vegetables from his farm.
This makes for an extremely interesting show which provides tons of insight into the lives of caipiras Brasileiros (Brazilians who live in the countryside) and the amazing views of the Santa Catarina’s countryside.
In the later seasons of the show, you can watch Rodrigo journeying to and cooking in various regions of Brazil and Portugal.
One season, for instance, has him traveling to Portugal to gather old recipes, which today are only remembered by elderly Brazilians and rarely cooked in Brazil. Episodes from this season provide a fantastic opportunity to compare and learn the differences between Brazilian and Portuguese accents.
The videos posted on YouTube only show the cooking segments of this show, which any level of Portuguese learner can follow.
The complete episodes, which include the non-culinary footage, are available on GNT. These are recommended for intermediate and advanced learners because they run for about 25 minutes and are not subtitled.
About the chef:
Rodrigo Hilbert, born in the southern state of Santa Catarina, is a Brazilian actor, model and chef.
Although he does not have any formal culinary training, he is a highly regarded and capable chef, with the majority of his recipes and his culinary learning coming from his family.
Rodrigo has published two books, which chronicle the recipes presented in his TV show.
“Comida.Org” (“Food.Org”) with Tati Lund
Recommended level: Advanced
Tati Lund presents this vegetarian cooking show.
She has a typical Rio de Janeiro accent but she presents at a faster pace than some of her peers. Don’t let the velocity of her speech put you off, though, as her pronunciation is very clear and the YouTube subtitles are accurate.
By watching these shows, advanced learners can train their ears to understand Portuguese at full speed. This is certainly invaluable to learn, as most Brazilians speak at neck-breaking and headache-forming velocities and keeping up with them can take a lot of practice.
Tati narrates the details of her cooking with care. Her videos contain word and picture associations of the ingredients she uses—a useful feature that can help you learn.
Her monologue goes beyond these ingredients, however, and sometimes you find yourself listening to reasons why she is using a particular ingredient for its nutritional benefit, or why she chose to use one cooking method over another.
Considering these observations, and the speed at which she presents, we only recommend advanced (or brave intermediate) learners to learn Portuguese from Tati’s shows.
Each episode can run from five to 12 minutes in length and the recipes are available on the GNT site.
About the chef:
Tati Lund, from Rio De Janiero, graduated from the National Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York.
After several years working in vegetarian restaurants in the US, she returned to Brazil and opened her own restaurant, called simply “.Org,” back in her hometown.
Are you hungry for language-learning yet?
Cook up some Brazilian Portuguese skills thanks to the TV shows above and have a fun time studying—and eating the results!
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