Prepare to dance your way to chocolatey bliss with brigadeiro, the luscious Brazilian chocolate ball that’s just as irresistible as their culture! Apart from caipirinhas, brigadeiro may just be the perfect culinary gateway into the vibrant and colorful region.
With its delicious texture, rich chocolate flavor, and exquisite history, this bite-sized chocolate dessert is guaranteed to impress family or house guests, whether with its taste or story.
In this article you’ll discover how this sweet treat has become a beloved treat both in Brazil and around the world, plus tidbits of the brigadeiro's fascinating history, anatomy, and flavor variations.
🎓 What is Brigadeiro?
To put it simply, brigadeiro is a round chocolate ball traditionally made of sweetened condensed milk, butter, and chocolate or cocoa powder. It's simple to make and can be modified with various sprinkles or toppings, like freeze-dried fruits.
The mixture is heated until it thickens before being hand-rolled into beautiful chocolate balls. The chocolate delight is also softened with butter, and the taste is brought together by cocoa powder, the latter of which is left out if they're flavored.
They can be topped with chocolate sprinkles, nuts, crushed cookies, or shaved fruits after chilling. It’s still not overly sweet, even with the toppings, as the condensed milk lends sweetness without further need for sugar.
To get the velvety texture desired by many Brazilians, it’s quite important to be precise about both temperature and cooking time. Otherwise, you can wind up with a batch of extremely hard chocolate confections.
Some Brigadeiro recipes never make it into balls, as some are simply spooned out of the pan after cooling. These are called brigadeiro de colher (spoon Brigadeiro), though they're sometimes also served in bowls with spoons.
🥣 Different Versions of Brigadeiros
All around the world, many flavor variations and modern-day interpretations exist for brigadeiro, including the use of toasted oilseeds, flavoring pastes or powders, essentials oil, and fresh ingredients like fruit.
There are versions that use different kinds of nuts - macadamia, cashew, hazelnuts, pistachio, or pecans. While others use fruity flavors in fresh or dried forms like lemon, coconut, mango, passion fruit, orange, pineapple, cranberry, or raspberry.
Some add a touch of luxury to the chocolate balls by using tree-to-bar chocolate or international flavors such as lavender, yuzu, matcha, maple syrup, vanilla bean, coffee, and rose. These sophisticated versions often include a mix of two or more flavors to increase desirability and appeal.
🍫 History of Brigadeiros
Brigadeiro is a popular sweet treat in Brazilian cuisine and culture that is liked by people of all ages. This is because the little chocolate balls of happiness have come to mean ‘happiness’ in Brazilian culture.
They are commonly made at home or can be bought in bakeries and shops and are typically served at children's birthday parties, following the birthday cake. It’s also a common dessert at gatherings such as family reunions, weddings, anniversaries, and casual get-togethers.
Bringing a box of assorted exquisite handmade Brazilian chocolate balls to a gathering is common practice. The array or selection of brigadeiros is always something that’s looked forward to upon receiving a box.
Eating the confectionary balls is also thought to ignite nostalgic memories of joyful times spent with family and friends.
Like many origin stories, brigadeiro has a few popular ones to its name.
Some claim brigadeiro was created by Brazilian chocolatiers during a time of strife. The lack of supply of many commodities during the second world war affected many countries prompting societies to innovate and adapt, like with egg coffee in Vietnam.
This led to the production of sweetened milk to sterilize milk before refrigeration. Ingredients were also swapped for what was available.
Similarly to how the Italians substituted premium hazelnuts for cocoa in gianduja, the Brazilians substituted sweetened, sterilized milk cream for sugar in their desserts, resulting in brigadeiro.
Meaning of Brigadeiro (Roots)
The term Brigadeiro hails from the English word brigadier, a commander of a brigade. One origin story says an Air Force brigadier named Eduardo Gomes, who ran for Presidency in 1946, came up with the name.
To raise funds for his political campaign, his female supporters made chocolate and condensed milk treats they named Brigadeiro inspired by the popular “Brigadier” whose slogan was “Vote no Brigadeiro, que é bonito e é solteiro” (vote for the brigadier who is handsome and single).
Possibly because he was handsome but also because, at the most crucial time, he stood against populism and advocated for women’s suffrage and various other social reforms.
Despite his popularity and the efforts made by his supporters, he did not win the Presidency, though brigadeiros won the hearts of Brazilians by a landslide.
❓ Brigadeiros vs. Truffles
This is a classic Brazilian sweet chocolate delicacy that’s similar to, but not the same as, a chocolate truffle. They both have a dense and sticky texture and mostly sweet chocolate flavor, but this is as far as their similarities go.
While both Brigadeiro and truffles are chocolate confections that are commonly served as desserts, their ingredients and production methods differ.
Brigadeiro is prepared with sweetened condensed milk and occasionally cocoa powder and includes toppings such as fruit shavings, chocolates, powders, ground or crushed nuts, and other flavorings.
The classic Brazilian confection is a mixture that’s heated over low heat until it thickens enough to be shaped into little balls and then sprinkled with various toppings.
On the other hand, truffles are made from chocolate, cream, and butter, then coated with tempered chocolate and dusted with various toppings.
In contrast to the ‘easy to make Brigadeiros,' truffles involve a meticulous and tedious multi-step procedure. This European confection, possibly of French origin, includes tempering chocolate, creating the ganache filling, and then molding the truffles in small shapes.
In short, brigadeiro is a condensed milk-based delicacy, whereas truffles are chocolate-based.
🔪 How to Make Brigadeiros
In several simple steps, this is how brigadeiros are made:
- Prep the Ingredients.
- Combine the Base: condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter.
- Cook the Mixture.
- Cooling Phase.
- Shaping the Brigadeiros.
- Add the Finishing Touches.
- Chill and Serve.
If you find the mixture too sticky when rolling, chill it for a bit longer before attempting to roll the balls. For a fun variation, you can try rolling the brigadeiros in different coatings like crushed nuts or colored sprinkles.
Just be sure to clean your spoon or spatula frequently during stirring to ensure no mixture sticks and burns, affecting the taste of your brigadeiros.
🙋🏻♂️ Brigadeiros FAQ
Brigadeiro is a popular sweet treat that's become emblematic of Brazilian culture. It’s made of sweetened condensed milk, chocolate or cocoa powder, and butter. There are many flavor variations to brigadeiro, generally indicated in the form of the sprinkles they're rolled in. They range from the type of chocolate to added nuts, essences, fruits, or even flavored sugars
Although brigadeiros are very similar to chocolate truffles, what sets brigadeiros apart from regular truffles is their production process - brigadeiros are easy, while truffles can be tedious. A brigadeiro is made by just boiling sweetened condensed milk, butter, and chocolate or cocoa powder, whereas truffles are made from chocolate, cream, and usually butter. Some, if not most, brigadeiros are chocolate-flavored, whereas truffles are always chocolates.
Brigadeiro comes from the English word 'brigadier,' which is a commander of a brigade. The original brigadeiro is actually thought to be named after a popular Brazilian brigadier named Eduardo Gomes.
Yes! It’s as easy as replacing the chocolate or cocoa powder with white chocolate chips or bars that have been chopped up into small pieces.