Brigadeiros Are The Chocolate Confection You Need To Add To Your Holiday Cookie Tins

Roll these chocolate truffles in any number of toppings, from shredded coconut to chopped hazelnuts to the traditional chocolate sprinkles.


Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Truffles, fudge, buckeyes… I have tried them all. I am a sucker for a bite-sized piece of chocolate, or three. It was this drive for finger-food confections that led me to the brigadeiro.

What Is a Brigadeiro?

In 1945, Eduardo Gomes, a Brigadeiro ran for president in Brazil. His campaign slogan “Vote for Brigadeiro, he is handsome and single” was the siren call among Brazilian women who campaigned for Gomes in the first Brazilian national election after they won the right to vote. Lavish parties were organized to raise funds for his political campaign, and a signature sweet emerged from these festivities, the brigadeiro. 

At the time, milk and sugar were hard to find, so they decided to use condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter to make the treat.

Chef Paula DaSilva, director of culinary and beverage for the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale, Florida remembers brigadeiros as staples growing up in Brazil. “They were on every table at every party or holiday. My sister and I even attempted to make them a few times. She loves to make sweets, whereas I prefer the savory,” DaSilva said.

How To Make Brigadeiros

The brigadeiro is one of the easiest chocolate desserts to make. No oven, only six ingredients, and it can be rolled in any number of toppings from shredded coconut to chopped hazelnuts to crushed up red hots. But the traditional topping (and the one I love) is good quality chocolate sprinkles, not the ones made with vegetable oil, but real chocolate sprinkles.

Chef chocolatière and Callebaut ambassador in Brazil, Renata Arassiro gave some insight into the current recipe: “A few years ago Brazilians re-interpreted this treat adding a high-quality, traditional Belgium chocolate in the recipe instead of cocoa powder, and rolling them in real chocolate sprinkles. It raised the status of this confection to Gourmet Brigadeiro.”

DaSilva cautions though, “They are much like making risotto; you can’t leave them unattended. It takes constant stirring and mixing fairly fast so it does not stick or burn on the bottom. Once it all comes together nice and thick, you must continue working quickly to roll them. While you want it to cool down just enough so you can handle it, if you cool it down too much you will have a hard time rolling perfect balls. So, get your hands ready for a bit of heat! Roll them around in the chocolate sprinkles and place them in the little paper cups. They are a decadent bite of sweet and rich chocolate with chocolate sprinkles that are eaten way faster than they take to make.”

I replaced my traditional fudge with brigadeiros in my holiday cookie tins I make for friends and families, and now they are my most requested sweet. It’s best if making a large batch to make the fudge the week before. The fudge stays supple for seven days in the refrigerator. 

Once you roll and top them, you have five days in an airtight container before they lose their elasticity. You can also freeze them for up to a month. I like to make them a few days before, distributing the holiday cookie tins to take some of the stress off the day-of baking. 

I’ve also included these in my annual children’s holiday cookie decorating party. It’s fun (and a little messy) to let the kids roll and top the pre-made fudge into brigadeiros. Be careful though—it’s like strawberry picking; they eat more than they put in the baskets.

“I have such good memories of my mom preparing brigadeiros for my birthday parties—me and my three sisters seated around the table watching every movement. And the best part, was us scraping the pan with spoons! That’s a wonderful taste memory, a simple bite or scent of chocolate transports me right back there,” Arassiro said.

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