Portuguese Corn Bread (Broa)


 Pedro Rebelo

Prep: 3 hrs 30 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Total: 4 hrs 5 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Yield: 2 loaves
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
167 Calories
1g Fat
35g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 167
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 331mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 9mg 1%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 95mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Broa is one of the most delicious kinds of Portuguese bread. The outside of the loaf is dark and crusty, a real exercise for the teeth to bite into. The inside, however, is chewy and moist, but not the least bit airy, the way some breads can be. The cornmeal, mixed with regular wheat flour, makes it dense. You feel like you are eating an entire meal in one slice!

Opinions about the best way to make Broa seem to be many and varied. Some recipes use a sponge method; some suggest corn flour over cornmeal. Some use milk and some just water. According to one source, the Azoreans make a version of this bread call Påo de Milho using white corn flour.

The traditional way to bake this bread was, of course, in a brick or stone oven that is filled with steam. This creates the tough outer crust and moist interior. The recipe below is adapted from one in Ana Patuleia Ortins' Portuguese Homestyle Cooking and can be baked in a regular home oven. If you are interested in trying to mimic the effect of a brick oven, you can either try to bake the bread on a pizza stone or use Jean Anderson's method, which she shares in her book, The Food of Portugal.


  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

  • 1/4 cup warm water, between 90 and 112 F

  • 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 1 pound cornmeal, finely ground

  • 3 to 3 1/4 cups boiling water, divided

  • 1 scant tablespoon salt

  • 1 pound all-purpose flour

Steps to Make It

  1. Prepare the sponge: dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside for 10 minutes. Mix in the ½ tablespoon flour, cover, and set aside for 1 hour.

  2. Place the cornflour in a large bowl. Dissolve the salt in 2 ½ cups of the boiling water. Pour the salted water over the cornflour and, stirring quickly, mix them thoroughly; make sure all flour is moistened. It should look like lumpy mashed potatoes. Set aside until it is cool enough to handle, about 15 or 20 minutes.

  3. When the cornflour has cooled, gradually mix in the all-purpose flour, the yeast sponge, and an additional ¼ cup of the remaining water, which should be just tepid at this point. Mix until the dough comes together. If the dough seems a little dry, mix in more of the remaining water to make the dough more pliable. Use as little of the water as you can. Knead the dough in the bowl for about 10 minutes. It will feel sticky. Dust the dough with flour and cover it with a clean dishtowel. Set it aside in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until double, about 2 ½ hours.

  4. Preheat the oven to 500 F.

  5. When the dough has doubled, do not punch down. Divide it into 2 pieces carefully, without deflating the dough.

  6. Swirl some water in another bowl, pour it out, and sprinkle some flour in the bowl to stick to the sides. Place one piece of the dough in the bowl and roll it around to shape it into a rough ball. Invert the bowl over a round cake pan or metal pie plate. Repeat with the other piece.

  7. Place the pans no the middle rack of the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The bottom should sound hollow when tapped and the outside of the loaf a golden brown color. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before cutting.