Five famous Brazilian sweets you must try!

March 2021

Brazilian food is a melting pot of three major cultures. For nearly three centuries, Portuguese explorers, enslaved Africans and native peoples incorporated, adapted, and interchanged their cultural backgrounds, helping shape Brazilian cuisine's foundations. The migration waves between the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century also contributed to the vibrant Brazilian cuisine. Newcomers from Japan, Italy, Germany and the Middle East brought their cultural traditions and eating habits to communities established in different parts of the country once they set foot in the New World. 

Among the country's many multicultural representations, sweets are a clear example of the syncretism that took place in the kitchens enjoying a special place in any family cookbook. Many traditional desserts originated from the marriage between Europeans, Africans and Brazilian Indians. The arrival of the royal court to Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 19th century also boosted the exchange of an abundance of recipes and cooking techniques. Once in tropical lands, traditional European preparations were inevitably adopted and adapted. Using local ingredients like coconut and peanut, Brazilians created new interpretations of puddings and other classic recipes from the Old World.

Here are five famous sweets you must try on your next visit to Brazil.


Paçoca comes from the Tupi word paçoc, which means to crumble or shred. In his book História da Alimentação do Brasil (Global Ed.), Luís da Câmara Cascudo explains that paçoca was a type of food prepared with dried meat and manioc flour, crushed together in a wooden mortar. According to Câmara Cascudo, one of the most influential researchers of Brazilian folklore, paçoca constituted a preserve suitable for travels in the outbacks of Brazil. An indigenous heritage, paçoca was popularized in the 18th and 19th centuries by the tropeiros, traffickers who roamed the country buying and selling everything, from slaves to clothes.

The sweet version of paçoca originated over a century ago in Paraiba Valley, an area encompassing parts of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro states. It is made the same way as the original paçoca but uses roasted peanuts and sugar instead. With its distinct cork-like shape and the surprising taste of peanut butter cups, sweet paçoca has a special place at Festa Junina, a popular festival of national proportions celebrated in June.

Legend tells housewives created this beloved national sweet in Rio de Janeiro. They started selling it during the fund-raising campaigns for Brigadier Eduardo Gomes in 1945. He didn't win the presidential elections, but his brigadeiros (bree-gah-day-ros) found a special place at every kid's birthday party. This simple recipe uses only three ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, butter and chocolate powder, slowly cooked until a smooth texture. Then they are hand-rolled into balls and covered with chocolate sprinkles.

Quindim originates from a Portuguese conventual sweet known as brisa-do-lis, made with sugar, eggs and almonds, and named after the Bantu word for sweetheart. Instead of almonds, ground coconut is used to mix with sugar and eggs. Coconut and sugar were abundant in Northeast Brazil, where quindim first appeared in the 17th century. Like a custard with a shiny vivid yellow top that makes it irresistible to the eyes, quindim is another example of the cultural marriage of the Brazilian kitchen.

The Brazilian version of custard pudding is enriched with condensed milk. All the ingredients are slowly cooked, and the pudding is topped with a shiny caramel sauce. A favourite dessert loved by both kids and adults.

An authentic example of the African contribution to Brazilian confectionery, this simple and delicious sweet arrived in the country with the enslaved Africans forced to work in the sugarcane fields in the northeast. The combination of sugar and coconut can display different colours and textures, ranging from hard to soft.