Holiday Cookies From South America

In many parts of the world, Christmas and New Years are traditional times for serving festive cookies, whether at parties, after Christmas dinner, or at a neighborhood cookie exchange, as well as packaged up as gifts for friends and family. In South America, panettone (Italian-style fruitcake) is the most popular food gift, but holiday cookies are often served at parties.

Instead of the typical decorated sugar cookie, bring something different to your holiday celebration this year. Alfajores (caramel sandwich cookies) are always a hit, as are the Brazilian chocolate truffles called brigadeiros, which are easy and fun for kids to make. Or let the kids have some fun decorating llama gingerbread cutout cookies. Whichever you choose, the cookies are sure to be a hit at your Christmas party.

  • 01 of 07

    Holiday Alfajores

    Zoryana Ivchenko / Getty Images

    The alfajor is a classic Latin American cookie made of two delicate sugar cookies with a dulce de leche (caramel) filling. The cookies can be left as is, but it is also fun to decorate alfajores for Christmas with sprinkles and/or icing, or dipped into chocolate. They are a wonderful addition to the holiday cookie plate and keep well enough (in a tin) to be sent in the mail as gifts.

  • 02 of 07

    Brigadeiros: Brazilian Chocolate Fudge Truffles

    Brigadeiro: Brazilian Chocolate Fudge Truffles on a table

    Samba Photo / Paul Fridman

    The name of this truffle comes from Brazilian Brigadier General Eduardo Gomes, a fan of this treat who ran for president in 1945. Once the mixture is chilled, kids will enjoy helping with this easy recipe that combines caramel and chocolate flavors. Sweetened condensed milk is cooked along with cocoa powder until it is thick and shiny; after it is combined with butter and vanilla and refrigerated, the mixture is rolled into balls and coated in chocolate sprinkles. Brgadeiros are traditionally served in little paper cups.

  • 03 of 07

    Panettone Cake Truffles

    Panettone cake truffles

    Getty Images / Tania Mattiello

    As panettone is a common holiday food gift in South America, using the cake to make a cookie-like treat is a resourceful idea. Panettone cake truffles are an excellent and delicious way to reinvent your excess panettone cake into pretty bite-size truffles, perfect for giving. Simply mix crumbled panettone with some frosting and a dash of rum, and roll into balls and coat with chocolate or frosting. You can decorate the cake truffles with sprinkles, nuts, or shredded coconut.

  • 04 of 07

    Gingerbread Llamas

    Child cutting gingerbread cookies

    Getty Images / Tatiana Kolesnikova

    Llamas are native to the Andes, so Llama-shaped cookies are the perfect South American treat! Use your favorite gingerbread cookie recipe or sugar cookie recipe to make the llamas. Then enjoy decorating them—since llamas are a variety of colors and patterns, you and your kids can make your favorite combinations. (Llama cookie cutters are available online, or you can trace a cardboard llama to use as a template when you cut out the cookies.)

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  • 05 of 07

    Cocadas: Coconut Macaroons With Dulce de Leche and Chocolate

    Coconut macaroons with chocolate

    Getty Images / Carl Tremblay

    Cocadas are the South American version of a coconut macaroon dressed up with dark chocolate for the holidays. They have dulce de leche in the mix, giving them a bit of Latin flair and an extra rich butterscotch-caramel flavor. Both sweetened and unsweetened dried coconut work in this recipe, so choose depending on your preference. The ingredients are mixed together and then dropped onto a cookie sheet into little mounds. After baking until golden the bottoms are dipped into chocolate and chilled until set.

  • 06 of 07

    Suspiros: Meringue Kisses

    Meringue kisses

    Getty Images / Blossom Peaches

    The word suspiro in Spanish means "sigh" as these pretty little cookies have just a sigh of sweetness to satisfy. You can simply flavor these meringue kisses with vanilla, or add food coloring, a little peppermint or other flavorings, ground nuts, or mini chocolate chips for a festive touch. Another variation is to create sandwich cookies by dipping the flat edge of one cookie in melted chocolate and then marrying two cookies together.

  • 07 of 07

    Quindin: Brazilian Coconut Custards

    Quindin: Brazilian coconut custard cookies
    By Felipe LM (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

    Quindin are mini coconut flans that are very sweet. A mixture of butter, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla and coconut flavoring is combined with fresh coconut, which rises to the top of the individual custards as they bake. When done, the quindin are turned upside down onto a plate, resulting in a sweet, chewy coconut crust and shiny top. Feel free to use holiday silicone baking trays to create festive designs.