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What is Brigadeiro?

By A. B. Kelsey
Updated May 16, 2024
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Brigadeiro is a simple but delicious chocolate dessert that is very similar to chocolate truffles. It has the distinction of being the most popular candy in the country of Brazil. Brigadeiro candy is traditionally served at all kinds of Brazilian birthday parties, pot lucks, weddings and formal dinners.

This popular chocolate treat was named after the Brazilian hero, Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes. This Brazilian Air Force brigadier general was famous for helping to put an end to a communist coup attempt in Rio de Janeiro in the 1920s and running for Brazilian president in 1946. Legends report that Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes was a handsome and dashing chap bachelor. A group of young ladies in Rio apparently thought the Brigadiero looked good enough to eat, so they created a chocolate delicacy in his honor and named the candy after his military rank.

Before the 1940s, European fruits and nuts were the favorite treats of the Brazilian people. During World War II, however, the European companies had to quit shipping to other countries. During this same time period, the multinational company Nestle® introduced their cocoa powder and canned condensed milk to the people of Brazil. As a result of both of these factors, chocolate products enjoyed a sudden surge of popularity in Brazil.

One of the reasons brigadiero chocolate candies remain so popular is because these treats are easy to make. Traditional Brigadiero recipes call for one 14-ounce (395g) can of sweetened condensed milk, one tablespoon of butter and three heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder. These ingredients should be mixed together in a saucepan until all of the chocolate is dissolved. Then the chocolate mixture is cooked over low heat and stirred constantly with a wooden spoon. The candy mixture should be cooked until the liquid slides easily and doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan when the pan is tilted. This usually takes about ten minutes.

The chocolate liquid is then transferred to a greased plate and let sit until it is cool to the touch. Then the chocolate is molded into small balls and rolled in chocolate sprinkles. The finished candy is placed into a small, paper cup.

European and American adaptions of this brigadeiro recipe sometimes call for adding a bit of brandy or dark rum to the mixture to make the brigadeiro even richer and similar to a tartufo tiramisu. The chocolate balls can also be coated with coconut flakes or crushed nuts.

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Discussion Comments

By Mykol — On Dec 30, 2011

My aunt is from Brazil and she makes these for all the kids birthdays. One thing is for sure - they don't last very long!

She says they are similar to any other kind of candy. Even though she doesn't use a candy thermometer, the biggest key is to never stop stirring.

She can tell by just looking at the mixture when it is ready. I have never made these myself, but have watched her do it. You know the chocolate mixture is ready when you scoop up a spoonful from the pan, let it fall back in the pan, and it keeps its shape.

You don't want the chocolate to be too runny or too stiff. There is a knack to it just like making any kind of candy.

By John57 — On Dec 30, 2011

Many years ago my family hosted a foreign exchange student from Brazil. Brigadeiro chocolate candies are one of the treats she taught us how to make from her country.

Even after all these years, I still have the recipe. I usually only make it during the holidays, but my family looks forward to it every year.

Her recipe included the same three ingredients. I have also made this in the microwave, but just have to make sure and stir it every minute or so.

It also helps if you spray your hands with cooking spray or butter before rolling into balls. This will make the process go much smoother.

By honeybees — On Dec 29, 2011

Being a chocolate lover, this sounds like something I need to try! Even though it sounds very rich, it sounds like something that would melt in your mouth.

I know how a can of melted condensed milk can be very creamy - almost like a caramel flavor. My daughter gave me a recipe she makes in Ireland quite often.

This includes heating a can of condensed milk until it is the consistency and flavor of a liquid caramel. This is then poured over sliced bananas for a delicious dessert that tastes like the perfect combination of bananas and toffee.

Adding some chocolate to the condensed milk would even make it taste better. It sounds like it would be hard to eat just one of these delicious desserts.

By lighth0se33 — On Dec 29, 2011

I'm not a big fan of sprinkles. They are pretty flavorless, so I prefer to roll my brigadeiro in something that will deliver not only a crunch but also a good taste.

I have several large pecan trees in my yard, so I have plenty of pecans to use while cooking during the fall and winter. I like to chop up the pecans into little pieces and roll the brigadeiro in them.

I apply a generous amount of pecans to each piece. It ends up looking like breading rather than a topping. The resulting sweet and nutty flavor adds so much to the brigadeiro, though.

By cloudel — On Dec 29, 2011

@StarJo – It's always fun to put your unique stamp on a traditional recipe. I like to experiment with flavors when making brigadeiro, and I have come up with a couple that have become favorites in my family.

I make it exactly like the recipe in the article says, but I add orange extract to the mix while melting the ingredients together. Orange chocolate is my favorite kind. The citrus and the creamy texture make this brigadeiro so intensely blissful.

Sometimes, I use almond extract instead of orange. This results in a cherry-like flavor. It's almost like chocolate-covered cherries, but without the cherry!

By StarJo — On Dec 28, 2011

I like to make a chocolate-covered cherry version of brigadeiro. This dessert is even richer than the original, and I am all about intensity of flavor.

Once I get the brigadeiro ready to roll into balls, I roll each one around a maraschino cherry. Unlike a regular chocolate-covered cherry, it won't have the creamy liquid in the middle, but it will still have the wonderful combination of flavors.

This type of brigadeiro was so popular at the parties I attended last year that I actually had requests for several boxes of it. I sold them to coworkers, who kept a few and gave a few others as gifts to friends.

By kylee07drg — On Dec 27, 2011

Brigadeiro must be very rich, since it is mostly made up of sweetened condensed milk. I have used this milk in other recipes, and it always results in a dessert that is so rich, I can barely eat an entire piece.

It sounds amazingly simple. Other types of truffles that are made with chocolate chips are harder to melt to the correct consistency. Since this one uses cocoa powder instead of chips, I would imagine it's a lot easier to melt correctly.

I intend to make some in a couple of weeks when my family comes for a visit. They are fans of rich desserts, and I think they will love brigadeiro.

By jonrss — On Dec 27, 2011

I absolutely love brigaderio. I went to Brazil a few years ago and had these delicious candies on my first day there. I am kind of a chocolate addict and so I ended up eating a ton of them while I was down there. They are just so rich and creamy and they really highlight the chocolate flavor.

Now I make them in my only kitchen. I had never tried to make chocolate before but I was so eager to have brigaderios again that I decided to make them myself. It was easier than I thought, and while I can't claim that my version is as good as what I had in Brazil I think it comes close. My friends and family love when I show up with a box of them.

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