Extremely addictive, this 3-ingredient Paçoca is one of Brazil’s most beloved treats. Very popular at the Festas Juninas, these candies are truly a peanut lovers dream!
Welcome to Festa Junina Week!
This week we are going to visit some of the dishes served during the festivities called “Festa Junina” in Brazil. Some of the most indulgent treats can be found at these parties, so be prepared for a lot of yumminess!
I decided to start with the easiest: paçoca.
If you’ve never tried paçoca, you’re in for a treat. And if you have, then you will be amazed at how simple it is to make them at home!
What is Festa Junina?
Festas Juninas are Brazilian winter festivals that happen in the months of June and July. They celebrate Saint Anthony, Saint John and Saint Peter, and the beginning of harvest.
Even though they are a catholic tradition brought to Brazil by the Portuguese in the 16th century, their true origins are pagan and adapted from the European Midsummer (Summer Solstice).
Since the church couldn’t extinguish these traditions, it “christianized” them by setting June 24th as a holy day to celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist, hence why these parties are also called “Festas de São João“.
I hope you get the chance to experience it at least once in your life! They are so fun and a big part of Brazilian culture.
Think bonfires, traditional dances, costumes and hearty food, like corn, popcorn, canjica, curau, pamonha, roasted pine nuts, pé de moleque and quentão (which is our version of a mulled wine).
You might be thinking I’m crazy to do a themed Festa Junina Week here on the blog when some of these dishes are served warm and it’s summer here in the States.
But don’t worry! I curated recipes that can be eaten cold, so you can enjoy them year round. After all, why should we be missing out on all the fun just because it’s 100 degrees outside?
What is Paçoca?
Paçoca de amendoim is a traditional Brazilian treat made of peanuts, sugar and salt, popular in the Southeast of Brazil. Not to be confused by the paçoca nordestina, which is a savory dish made in the Northeast, consisting of carne de sol, manioc flour and onions.
The name, pronounced pah-sso-kah, comes from the indigenous Tupi word “posok”, which means “to crumble” or “to smash”. And that’s because this sweet treat was traditionally made using a mortar and pestle.
In Brazil, they can easily be found sold commercially in supermarkets and candy shops. If you’re in the U.S. and happens to live in an area with a heavy Brazilian population – like Florida, Newark NJ or Queens NY – you probably have a Brazilian supermarket near you and will most likely find them there. You can also find it online.
But no need to go looking for them when you can make them at home!
How to Make Paçoca
While you can make paçoca by crushing the peanuts with a mortar and pestle, I happen to enjoy modern technology and choose to use my food processor instead.
The method is similar to making peanut butter, except you have to stop way before that stage. We want the peanuts to start releasing their oils, and the mixture looking like wet sand. The right consistency is when it clumps together when pressed with your fingers, like in the photo above.
This mixture is then used to fill cookie cutters to form the paçocas. The traditional shape for this type of paçoca is a cork shape. I didn’t find a cork shaped cutter, so I went with a small round cookie cutter instead. Plus some heart ones just for fun! :)
If you are a paçoca lover, you will notice that this paçoca is moister than the commercial version. For a drier version, you can add one or two tablespoons of toasted manioc flour to the mixture.
There’s also a version that calls for sweet condensed milk and Maria cookies, usually cut into squares. But that’s a whole different beast and the subject for a separate recipe post!
How to store homemade peanut candies
Homemade paçoca can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container, for several days.
Other uses for Paçoca
The little peanut candies are great enjoyed as-is. But you can crumble them and add as a topping to ice cream, milkshakes, yogurt and smoothie bowls.
We brazilians love paçoca so much that we’ve created several recipes using it as an ingredient. Cakes, flans, ice cream, popsicles, mousse, pies, brigadeiro, you name it, we’ve made it!
Are you crazy for paçoca? Which paçoca dessert would you like to see here on the blog? Let me know in the comments below!
See you tomorrow with another Festa Junina treat!
- 2 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
- 1 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Combine all the ingredients in the food processor. Pulse - stopping every now and then to open and stir - until the mixture is fine and resembles wet sand. Be careful not to overdo it, or you'll end up with peanut butter!
- Fill a small round (or the shape of your choice) cookie cutter, firmly pressing down with your fingers until it is level and compact.
- Carefully unmold, using your fingers to help each paçoca push through the cookie cutter.
- Repeat with the remaining mixture to make around 15 peanut candies total.
- Enjoy! You can store them in an airtight container at room temperature.