Brigadeiros Vs Truffles: What's The Difference?

Holidays, no matter where they land on the calendar, almost always have one thing in common: chocolate. The format it comes in may vary depending on the time of year and the culture in which it is enjoyed, but there is often overlap. Such is the case with truffles and brigadeiros. Both are round, luscious balls of confectionary joy. Both have a deep, rich chocolate flavor. In fact, some people even consider brigadeiros to be a type of truffle or a cousin of the truffle. While the distinction may become a little bit foggy on the surface, rest assured that there are key differences between a classic chocolate truffle and a Brazilian brigadeiro in both texture and composition of ingredients. If you want to appreciate each of these popular confections to the fullest — and learn some trivia for your next holiday get-together — join us to explore the individual traits and histories of truffles and brigadeiros.

What is a truffle?

A truffle is a confection made from chocolate that is small and spherical in shape. Given their appearance, they often resemble their namesake: truffles — those decadent, savory fungi that many consider to be the peak of luxury and are also a famous culinary item. This is the very reason they share the same name. The ganache-based candy originated in France, though the story of its creation is up for debate. Some give credit to patissier Louis Dufour, who allegedly invented them in 1895 in his rush to provide merchandise to his customers when he had run out of other items. The other narrative grants credit to the famed chef Georges Auguste Escoffier, who crafted the treat through an accidental combination of hot cream and chocolate by a haphazard employee. The story goes that Escoffier yelled "ganache" at him, which back then was an insult meaning "horse's jaw" and implied stupidity. No matter who is responsible for the making of the chocolate truffle, there is no question that it has become a popular confection that is enjoyed all around the world.

What is a brigadeiro?

A brigadeiro is a type of treat that is similar to a truffle in its deep, cocoa flavor profile and its petite, round form. These chocolatey delights are the national dessert of Brazil, and have a storied history, having been named after a general, or brigadier, in the Brazilian military. Brigadier Eduardo Gomes was a candidate who was running for president in 1946. A woman who wished to see him win the election, named Heloisa Nabuco de Oliveira, chose to create the candies as a campaigning and fundraising tool, and their popularity spread like wildfire. While Gomes did not win that election, the brigadeiros had made their mark, and a long-lasting one at that. Since then, they have been a staple at every Brazilian holiday, child's birthday party, family celebration, special occasion, reunion of loved ones, or whatever other excuse one has to bring them along to a gathering.

Brigadeiros use cocoa powder as a main ingredient

Brigadeiros are different from chocolate truffles in that they do not contain actual chocolate. These confections are instead made by heating sweetened condensed milk together with cocoa powder, and usually adding butter. Once the mixture thickens, it is then rolled into a ball and coated with a variety of toppings. The reason for this technique is likely due to the candies being invented during a time when resources like fresh milk and cream were hard to come by and also difficult to keep safe for consumption. Their rich, sweet flavor is proof that even when times are hard, a little resourcefulness can create something delectable.

Meanwhile, French chocolate truffles are an item of luxury, rather than scarcity. They are made primarily from chocolate and cream. This combination creates a thick and luscious product called chocolate ganache. Once the ganache cools and becomes workable, it is then shaped into a ball and typically coated with cocoa or enrobed with even more chocolate. Truffles can also be topped with many different garnishes, and the ganache may have added flavors such as fruits, spices, or nuts. Given their reputation as an indulgent treat, it is no surprise that many truffles use high-end ingredients like fleur de sel or even gold leaf to assert an air of refinement.

Truffles can be hard or soft

Truffles are also unique in their variety of textures. A very basic truffle — cooled ganache rolled into a ball — will end up being soft and chewy; however, another popular style of truffle uses this ganache as a filling, which is then encased in an outer layer of hardened chocolate. This creates an entirely different eating experience, where you first bite into a solid layer before feeling the thick ganache melt across your tongue. While soft truffles are enjoyed by many, the hard version of a truffle has become equally as common, to the point where it may be the version that comes to your mind when you hear the word.

On the other hand, brigadeiros are never enrobed in hardened chocolate. This means that they have a consistently malleable, fudgy texture. While they are sometimes rolled in toppings like nuts or sprinkles, which give the balls an initial slight crunch, this is not enough to entirely alter the consistency of the treat.