This brigadeiro recipe is so simple and so good!!! They are made with only 3 ingredients — sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter. It's one of the most traditional treats in Brazil, and I'm sure it'll be a hit at your party too.
The Brazilian brigadeiros are called by many names worldwide—Brazilian chocolate truffles, Brazilian chocolate balls, and Brazilian fudge balls, to name a few. But the thing is, no matter what you call them, brigadeiros are always a hit at any party. In Brazil, along with the cake, they are the heart of birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, gender reveals, anniversaries, and any other occasion that deserves a celebration.
- What is brigadeiro
- Ingredients and Substitutions
- How to make this brigadeiro recipe
- Ways to eat brigadeiros
- Tips from a Brazilian
- When is the right time to stop cooking?
- Which cocoa powder should I use?
- Make ahead of time
- Don't miss a recipe! Subscribe to our newsletter.
- 📖 Recipe / Receita
What is brigadeiro
It's hard to describe brigadeiro. It's like fudge and caramel had a baby in a truffle form. It's soft and a little sticky, very chocolatey, and irresistible.
Brigadeiro (bree-gah-day-ro) means brigadier in portuguese. The origin of the brigadeiro recipe is uncertain. Still, according to popular beliefs, a few women created this delicious treat to sell at fundraisers for the politician and air force brigadier Eduardo Gomes, who was running for president at that time. Soon the fudge balls were a huge success at the parties and became known as "the brigadier's sweets." Later, people started calling it brigadeiro (brigadier) for short.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Sweetened condensed milk: it's the base of the recipe, and there is no way to substitute this ingredient. Make sure not to use evaporated milk because they're two very different things. But you can use the fat-free version of sweetened condensed milk if you want.
Cocoa powder: you can choose any cocoa powder of your preference. I like to use dutch processed cocoa powder because of its deep flavor. Read the "Which cocoa powder should I use" section in this post to know more about it.
Butter: I like to use salted butter, so the little salt in the butter can help enhance the flavor of the brigadeiros.
Chocolate sprinkles or grated chocolate: traditionally, people roll the brigadeiros on chocolate sprinkles, but if you want to bring its flavor to the next level, grate some good quality chocolate bar and roll the brigadeiros on it; it'll be heavenly!
How to make this brigadeiro recipe
Ways to eat brigadeiros
The most common way to eat brigadeiros is by rolling and placing them inside candy cups, but if you don't have the cups, you can simply pile them up in a cute bowl.
Other ways to eat brigadeiros often include:
- In a small bowl, without rolling, to be eaten by the spoon;
- As a filling for pastries, crepes, pies, and cakes;
- Spread on top of cakes;
- Piped on top of cupcakes;
- As a hot fudge sauce.
If you'd like it as a fudge sauce or a topping/filling for a cake, you'd need to cook it a little less. Stop cooking when the mixture starts boiling fast. Or, you could cook it normally and add a few spoonfuls of heavy cream or milk after the brigadeiro mixture is ready, mixing until well incorporated. Stop adding when you reach the desired consistency.
Tips from a Brazilian
Never stop stirring
That's the rule for brigadeiros, never stop stirring! Use a heat-proof spatula and scrape the pan's sides and bottom all the time, for the whole time the heat is on, and even for a minute after you turn off the heat.
Use water to roll the brigadeiros
You can either use a little bit of butter or water and spread it on the palms of your hands. Although butter will allow you to roll more brigadeiros at a time, I dislike the feeling of greasy hands, so I keep a cup of water by my side, dip my finger in it, and spread the water on my hands until lightly wet, every 2 or 3 truffles.
Sift Cocoa Powder
Most recipes don't say anything about sifting the cocoa powder, but this is a good practice if you want to avoid little lumps of cocoa in your brigadeiros.
Top it with anything you would like
Traditional brigadeiros are coated with chocolate sprinkles, but I love it even more with grated chocolate. You can also use nuts, shredded coconut, crushed cookies, cereal, or candy. There are no limits here.
When is the right time to stop cooking?
Knowing when to stop cooking is key in a brigadeiro recipe. If you cook too little, it won't get to the consistency where you can roll it. If you overcook it, it can get too hard, like caramel candy, once it cools down. So, how do you know when it's ready?
Well, as you cook, you'll see that the mixture will go through a few stages:
Simmering on the sides > slow boil > fast boil > slow boil again.
When it starts to slow boil for the second time, you can grab a little bit of the mixture with the spatula and drop it. If it falls thick, and you can see what fell from the spatula piled on top of what's in the pan, it means it's ready. Another clue is when you pass the spatula, the brigadeiro will split into two parts and slowly return to its place. You'll be able to see the bottom of the pan.
Which cocoa powder should I use?
Use a good brand of cocoa powder since the chocolate flavor is the star of the show. I think dutch processed cocoa powder is an excellent option due to its deep flavor and color. Here's an article by Cook's Illustrated explaining the main differences between natural and dutched cocoa.
Some people use chocolate drink powder like Nesquick or Ovaltine. Although it works and tastes good, I feel the brigadeiros taste way too sweet due to the added sugar in these drink powders.
Make ahead of time
If you're planning on making this brigadeiro recipe ahead of time, you have a few options:
- Cook it and keep the "dough" in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, until it's time to make the balls.
- Cook and roll the brigadeiros, but hold on adding the sprinkles so they won't absorb humidity and get too soft. Wait until it's closer to the event.
- Get all brigadeiros ready (with sprinkles) and store them in an airtight container.
For all options above, follow the storage guideline in the "storage" section of this post.
Brigadeiros can be stored for about 2-3 days outside the fridge, depending on the temperature you keep at home, or, about 7 days in the refrigerator, inside an airtight container.
You can also freeze the "dough." Just wrap it really well with plastic wrap and store it in the freezer for approximately 30 days. To defrost it, place it in the refrigerator for a few hours before rolling it into balls.
To freeze brigadeiros that are ready and rolled, I recommend placing them on a tray and freezing them individually first, so they won't get squished and lose their shape. Just beware that as the brigadeiros defrost, some water particles can be formed and mess up the topping, melting it a little bit. So keep this in mind if you think about freezing them with the sprinkles on.
If your brigadeiros are too soft, you probably didn't cook them enough. Place them in the fridge, and it should harden enough for you to be able to roll them. Just don't forget that they will be soft as you turn off the heat, but they'll harden more as they cool down.
You overcooked them. If you want to fix it, you can add one tablespoon of cream or milk at a time, mixing very well until completely incorporated into the dough.
Plan on cooking a little less next time.
If you don't stir it really well, scraping the bottom and sides for the whole time, the dough will stick to the pan, and as you stir, parts of it will come out and mix with the dough, giving it lumps. Lower the heat as the mixture comes to a boil, and stir vigorously, scraping the pan for the whole time to avoid burns and lumps.
Refrigeration is not required, but if your brigadeiros are too soft or you don't plan on eating them the same or the next day, you should refrigerate them.
See this post's "storage" section for more information about storage.
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📖 Recipe / Receita
Brigadeiro Recipe (Brazilian chocolate balls)
- 1 small pan
- 1 spatula
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz / 395 grams)
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 3.5 oz chocolate sprinkles or grated chocolate (1 cup /100 g)
- Add sweetened condensed milk into a small, thick-bottomed pan and sift the cocoa powder. Mix everything.
- Turn on medium heat, add butter, and stir the whole time, constantly scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. Lower the heat as it starts boiling. Continue to stir, and you'll see that the mixture will begin to thicken and boil a little slower. Stop cooking when you can easily see the bottom of the pan and the brigadeiro is moving slower.
- Grease a plate with a bit of butter and transfer the brigadeiro mixture to this plate. Cover it with plastic wrap, and wait for it to cool. You can take it to the fridge if you want to speed up the process.
- Once it's cool, set up your working station. Line up the brigadeiro mixture, a shallow dish with sprinkles, and a tray with the candy cups opened. Also, leave a cup of water by your side too.
- Dip two fingers in the water and spread it on the palms of your hands until lightly wet. Spoon a generous teaspoon of brigadeiro, roll it between your hands and drop it on the sprinkles once you've got a ball. Cover it with the sprinkles and place the brigadeiro inside a candy cup. To make it easier, do this process in batches.
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