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Easy Brazilian Brigadeiro Recipe

David experiments with new formulations while working as a chemist, and he experiments with new recipes while at home in his kitchen.

Brigadeiro is a necessity during all special occasions in Brazil, whether it be a children’s birthday party, an adult’s birthday party or even a wedding.

Brigadeiro is a necessity during all special occasions in Brazil, whether it be a children’s birthday party, an adult’s birthday party or even a wedding.

Brazilian Chocolate Balls: Brigadeiros

Brigadeiro is pretty much a staple in Brazilian cuisine. These little delights would literally be number one on the list of traditional Brazilian desserts. The word ‘brigadeiro’ is obviously Portuguese, and in English, these treats go by a couple of names, including Brazilian chocolate balls, Brazilian chocolate truffles or simply Brazilian truffles.

I was introduced to these spherical fudge balls of joy, and Brazilian food in general, by my Brazilian friends and family here in Ireland. In case you don’t know, Ireland is a top destination for Brazilians seeking to learn the English language.

Brigadeiro is a necessity during all special occasions in Brazil. You will often find them being sold at markets, street stalls, supermarkets and even in hair salons. These are definitely one of the simplest Brazilian desserts to make. A typical brigadeiro recipe will just contain three basic ingredients; condensed milk, cocoa powder and unsalted butter.

The Science Behind the Recipe

On a serious note, there is actually a lot of complicated science behind the production of brigadeiro. When you cook this at home on your humble kitchen stove, you are actually partaking in an organic chemical synthesis. Coming from a chemistry background I find this very intriguing. The condensed milk contains a high concentration of sugars, both naturally occurring lactose sugars from the milk and also added sugar. The milk itself also contains amino acids. During the cooking process, when temperatures exceed 140°C (285°F), a chemical reaction occurs between these sugars and the proteins to produce a concoction of different flavour molecules, you also get the browning effect. The chemistry of this I will not bore you with, or maybe I’m just saying this because I don’t actually know it that well. This reaction is called The Maillard reaction, also known as Maillard browning, named after the French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard.

If I haven't bored you already, and you still wish to make these lovely little treats, then please see below my step-by-step guide on how to make brigadeiro.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

10 min

40 min

20 chocolate truffles

Brigadeiro ingredients ready to go!

Brigadeiro ingredients ready to go!

Ingredients

  • 1 400g can condensed milk (sweetened)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp (optional) vanilla essence
  • 20 mini baking cups (optional), in Brazil it is typical to serve brigadeiro in mini cups

Instructions

  1. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a heavy-based pan and warm up on a medium heat. This is to help dissolve the cocoa powder.
  2. When warm, remove from the heat and stir in the unsalted butter, the cocoa powder (sieved) and the vanilla essence (optional).
  3. If the cocoa powder forms lumps, then blend using an electric mixer. Even if I don't see any lumps, I often perform this as a precaution.
  4. Cook on a medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes. Continuously stir the mixture to prevent the bottom from burning. The mixture will gradually thicken and darken in colour.
  5. After 10 minutes, the mixture should have a much thicker consistency and be darker in colour. The cooking is complete when the mixture easily comes away from the surface of the pan and you can make a trench through the mixture which holds.
  6. Allow the brigadeiro to cool and stiffen on a cold surface or in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. When ready, the brigadeiro should be easy to hold and malleable like a soft fudge.
  7. Roll small portions of the mixture between the palms of your hands until you get a perfect sphere with a glossy shine. Place your Brazilian truffles onto a non-stick surface. If you like them plain, then you may finish at this step and enjoy! If you wish to be more adventurous, please continue to Step 8.
  8. (Optional) Roll your truffles in a coating of your choice. In Brazil, it is very common to see brigadeiro coated in chocolate sprinkles. Hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, coconut or even plain old cocoa powder also work very well. You can really be as adventurous as you wish.

Photo Instructions

1. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a heavy based pan and warm up on a medium heat. This is to help dissolve the cocoa powder. 2. When warm, remove from the heat and stir in the unsalted butter, the cocoa powder (sieved) and the vanilla essence

1. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a heavy based pan and warm up on a medium heat. This is to help dissolve the cocoa powder. 2. When warm, remove from the heat and stir in the unsalted butter, the cocoa powder (sieved) and the vanilla essence

3. If the cocoa powder forms lumps, then blend using an electric mixer. Even if I don't see any lumps, I often perform this as a precaution. 4. Cook on a medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes. Continuously stir the mixture.

3. If the cocoa powder forms lumps, then blend using an electric mixer. Even if I don't see any lumps, I often perform this as a precaution. 4. Cook on a medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes. Continuously stir the mixture.

5. After 10 minutes, the mixture should have a much thicker consistency and be darker in colour. The cooking is complete when the mixture easily comes away from the surface of the pan and you can make a trench through the mixture which holds.

5. After 10 minutes, the mixture should have a much thicker consistency and be darker in colour. The cooking is complete when the mixture easily comes away from the surface of the pan and you can make a trench through the mixture which holds.

6. Allow the brigadeiro to cool and stiffen on a cold surface or within the refrigerator for 10 minutes. When ready, the brigadeiro should be easy to hold and malleable like a soft fudge.

6. Allow the brigadeiro to cool and stiffen on a cold surface or within the refrigerator for 10 minutes. When ready, the brigadeiro should be easy to hold and malleable like a soft fudge.

7. Roll small portions of the mixture between the palms of your hands until you get a perfect sphere with a glossy shine. Place your Brazilian truffles onto a non-stick surface.

7. Roll small portions of the mixture between the palms of your hands until you get a perfect sphere with a glossy shine. Place your Brazilian truffles onto a non-stick surface.

Toppings for brigadeiro

Toppings for brigadeiro

© 2016 David Branagan