A sweet but salty taste greets me as I bite into a piece of paçoca de amendoim. The Brazilian candy is basically ground peanuts, sugar and flour, and it tastes similar to the inside of a peanut butter cup. Not to be confused with the paçocadish in the north of Brazil made of beef, flour and onions, paçoca de amendoim is a dry candy that requires a drink by your side so you’re not parched after eating it.
Paçoca de amendoim is one of the most traditional Brazilian dishes you can have. The name reportedly comes from the indigenous word (tupi-gurani), which means to crumble. Years ago, a mortar and pestle crumbled the peanuts and mixed in the sugar and flour to make the dry sweet filling. These days it’s more common to make it at home with a food processor.
Brazilians used to eat the candy mainly during Lent, on Good Friday and on Easter. The peanuts were thought to give additional energy when abstaining from meat. Today, the candy is a common year-round treat that can be found in many stores.
Cookbook author Leticia Moreinos Schwartz uses paçoca de amendoim in a chocolate truffle recipe she developed more than five years ago. “I’m crazy for the combination of peanut and chocolate, and this recipe, in my opinion, is the glory of this combination,” Schwartz says.
Author of From Brazil To You, Denise Browning agrees with the chocolate and peanut combination. She uses paçoca de amendoim to create an ice cream that she tops with chocolate and bananas.
There are two types of paçoca. One is drier, crumbles easily and typically comes in a cork shape. The other is dense, moist and is shaped into squares. The difference is due to the type of cassava flour used. You should be able to find paçoca de amendoim in specialty Brazilian stores or online. Try a piece with a cup of coffee first, and if you like it, use Schwartz’s recipe for Trufas de Paçoca (Peanut Truffles) and Browning’s for Paçoca com Banana Frita e Calda de Chocolate (Paçoca Ice Cream with Fried Bananas and Chocolate Sauce).