Vegan Brigaderios

Fran Costigan's Vegan Brigaderios

I was glued to the TV coverage of the 2016 Olympics in Rio last week. Swimming and gymnastics have always been my favorites of the summer competitions, but this year I marveled at the white water rafting, volleyball, and pretty much everything else.

So with Brazil, and Rio in particular, on my mind, I was thinking about my friend and colleague chef Daniel Biron and his brand new restaurant Teva in Rio. Opened just a few days, it is already garnering raves. I was very interested when Anna Paula, another Brazilian friend told me about about brigadeiro, saying this very sweet fudgy confection is a staple sweet at children’s birthday parties in Brazil.

Since brigaderios are typically made from sweetened condensed milk, cocoa powder, and butter, then rolled into balls and coated with sprinkles, it seemed easy to do – and it was, once I made the vegan sweetened condensed milk. I couldn’t see why butter was needed in the mixture or to coat my hands before rolling, which is typically done, so I left those steps out. I did use more cocoa powder than most recipes specified.


vegan dulce de leche
Sweetened Condensed Milk is becoming more like Dulce de Leche.

The vegan sweetened condensed milk was easy but it does take time, as the milk has to reduce for over an hour. I decided to take the condensed milk to dulce de leche by reducing it further, thinking the thicker, taster cooked milk would work best. Then, making the fudgy base was easy.

Anna Paula’s mother who was visiting from Brazil, gave these thumbs up. I hope you will too!


Fran Costigan's Vegan BrigaderiosVegan Brigaderios

The National Truffle of Brazil

Yield: about 1 cup fudge base, 12 to 14 brigadeiros

There are many recipes for brigadeiros. Even with the large amount of sugar, this version is still less sweet than traditional versions. This recipe is long, but trust me, it’s just dulce de leche and cocoa. The dulce can be made ahead and refrigerated in a covered container for two weeks.

Tips for Success
Freeze the brigadeiro mixture before shaping the truffles. If they get too soft to shape at any point, put them back into the freezer. Plan to wash and dry your hands a few times. Keeping the fudge very cold, and using plastic wrap to push the fudge into balls is helpful.

For the Dulce de Leche

  • 3 1/4 cups soy milk
  • 1 1/4 cups organic cane sugar (or use coconut sugar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Brigaderios

  • 1/4 cup Dutched or natural cocoa powder. Here it is a matter of taste. I used Dutched.
  • 1/2 cup vegan sprinkles, coconut flakes, and chopped nuts to coat, or as needed
  • small paper candy cups


Make the Dulce de Leche

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the vanilla in a large heavy bottom saucepan. The wider the saucepan, the faster the milk will reduce. Have a 4-cup measure ready near the stove.
  2. Bring the milk, sugar, and salt to a low boil over medium low heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low, adjusting heat as needed to maintain an active simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, whisking often.
  3. After about 30 minutes you will see the bubbles in the milk get more active and bigger, even on lowest heat, while the milk gets darker as it caramelizes.
  4. At 45 minutes, pour the milk into the measuring cup. Whisk until the bubbling stops and measure. You want 1 cup, so cooking longer is likely. It took 1 1/4 hours until my milk was fully reduced. Cook as long as needed. Once the milk has fully reduced, remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
  5. Either proceed to making the brigaderios, or cool and refrigerate the dulce de leche in a covered jar until needed.


Fran Costigan's Briagadarios – Cooking the Mixture

Make the Brigaderios

  1. Whisk the cocoa powder into warm dulce de leche in two additions. Chocolate mixtures burn easily, so stir constantly with both a silicon spatula and whisk, reaching the sides and bottom of the saucepan. The bottom of the saucepan will film but it should not burn.
  2. Cook at an active simmer for 5 minutes until the fudge is thick and shiny. Put a very small amount into a little dish and refrigerate 10 minutes to test. Cover the saucepan to keep the mixture warm. If the test can be pushed into a ball, albeit a soft and sticky one, scrape it into a shallow container lined with plastic wrap, and allow to cool. Freeze a few hours. If the test is much too soft, cook a minute or two longer.


Fran Costigan's Vegan Brigaderios

Shape the Brigaderios

Traditional recipes call for pulling off pieces of the fudge and rolling into balls in buttered hands. I am not buttering my hands, not even with vegan butter.

  1. Have bowls of sprinkles, shredded coconut and chopped nuts ready.
  2. Spoon teaspoon size pieces into the palm of your hand and roll them into balls.
  3. Drop the balls into the sprinkles, coconut flakes, or chopped nuts. and serve in little candy cups. Store the finished brigaderios in the freezer.

I’d like to know if you’ve ever eaten this confection. And if you make these, or the sweetened condensed milk, please let me know.




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    • Hi Kristina, Almond milk will work but you may need to add a teeny bit, maybe 1/6 tsp guar gum to the reduction. If you don’t mind flavor of coconut, and many of these confections are made with coconut, use canned coconut milk. Let me know how it goes!!

    • Oh, so sorry, I thought I had answered you Kristina. Canned coconut milk will work but of course, you will get a coconut taste. I’d tray almond milk, reduce it very slowly and if it does not thicken enough when fully reduced, add a PINCH of guar gum. Let me know how it goes.

  • Thanks for sharing this!
    I tried making vegan brigadeiros with condensed coconut milk (store bought) and it became very stringy. I will try making the condensed milk from scratch next time. I also wanted to try using melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder, newer, fancier brigadeiros are made that way in Brazil these days. Do you think it would work?

    • I haven’t tried that and you’ll have to add the chocolate gently. If what you are asking is can you coat the brigadeiros with melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder, definitely. Check out tips on coating truffles in my Vegan Chocolate Cookbook.

  • Hi Fran,

    This sounds like a new truffle recipe to me. I try to avoid sugar of any kind. Do you think agave/date or any other low glycemic index syrop would work instead of sugar?

    • Brigaderios are a very typical Latin American treat that varies by region and country. You cannot use a liquid sweetener. Coconut sugar is considered low glycemic and you could try date sugar. IF uou avoid sugar, you are better off with a standard no sugar added truffle; high precentage chocolate as found in my cookbook. Search the blog.

  • Hey! I just made regular Brigadeiros and I love them. I want to make them for a vegan friend of mine and wanted to ask, if they become as good as yours with oat milk? I think it would be too thin, so I’d be happy for any advice you may have for me. Thanks a bunch! I’ll follow your blog for more recipes, they sound amazing!

    • Hi Amanda,
      I have a recipe on my webiste for vegan brigadeiros and they are really great! Why don’t you try those? I can’t say about the oat milk, not having tested that, but my recipe will work! My Brazilian friends and readers tell me they love them.

  • Hi Fran- aside from the way you state to test if the brigadeiro is cooked enough or not, can you use the same parameters to test if it is ready as you do for non vegan brigadeiros( the chocolate mixtures pulls away from the sides of the pan, or starts to move in the pan as a solid mass, etc) or does this cook differently from non vegan brigadeiros? Can you cool the vegan brigadeiros and store them at room temperature? Is the reason for freezing them to make it easier to roll them into balls or because they will not hold shape unless frozen?

    • Hi Michelle,
      I have not made non-vegan brigadeiro. As you can see from the photo in the blog of the brigaderio cooking, you can see that it is not solid.
      These are firm but chewy and it is easiest to roll the mixture when cold. I am encouraging you to do a test when you make this recipe. Cool and store a portion at room temperature and see what happens. You’ll have your answer definitively. Let us know. Thanks for your question

  • Trying this idea out with another recipe that came up in search before yours. Similar, though sweetened condensed coconut milk, coconut milk, and I added chai spices. simmered then strained into small copper pot. The SCCM took for ever to thicken even the tiniest bit. Have in fridge now – may freeze and try to roll as I do with chocolate truffles. Was hoping to have something chai – vegan – sweet to bring to a Diwali dinner tonight. Fingers crossed. I suppose it can be a caramel sauce for a vegan dairy dessert…

  • Hi Fran,

    I made these brigadeiros and the sweetened condensed milk turned dulce de leche turned out great! However, I am not sure that I even really had to freeze the fudge (which was surprising since my kitchen is pretty warm). I say that because I did freeze it and it was really hard and I think that made it difficult for the coconut flakes and sprinkles to stick to the brigadeiro balls. Perhaps if the freezing is necessary, next time I should use some vegan butter when forming the balls to make them sticky for the coconut and sprinkles?

    Anyways, I am gifting these to my friend from Brazil who is vegan, I’ll share her feedback soon! Thanks for this recipe! I also am thinking of making the dulce de leche this way again to make alfajores!

    • Hi Alicia,
      I’m so happy that you had success with the Dulce de Leche and Brigaderios. I really like those recipes. As to their getting too cold and hard for the coatings to stick, I’d say all you had to do was to leave them out at room temperature for a while to let them get a little softer. Because the consistency of homemade Dulce de Leche seems to vary by person, some Brigaderios will be softer, or firmer than others. Yours sound good. I would not add butter. But that is up to you. Yes to alfajores!
      Thanks for writing. Follow up with your Brazilian friend’s take on these.

      Take care,

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