If you’re Brazilian, you probably grew up eating these little pieces of heaven. If you’re not, it will only take one bite for this bread to win your heart. Brazilian cheese bread - also known as pão de queijo - is probably the best gluten-free snack in the entire world, and you are minutes away from learning how to make this deliciousness.
What is Brazilian cheese bread?
Brazilian cheese bread is a gluten free cheese snack. It's like a choux pastry combined with a cheesy dinner roll.
This bread is stretchy and chewy, but somewhat puffy and light at the same time. Tapioca starch is one of the 2 main ingredients of the recipe, and what gives this snack its unique characteristics.
What is tapioca starch?
Gluten-intolerant, rejoice, this recipe is especially for you! These cheese balls are made exclusively with tapioca starch, cheese, vegetable oil and water, nothing else. But what is tapioca starch?
Tapioca starch is a very fine white flour made from the crushed pulp of the cassava root. Here in Canada, as well as in the United States, tapioca starch can also be sold sometimes as tapioca flour. You can see a photo of the tapioca starch below to make sure you’re using the right ingredient.
Tapioca starch is a great gluten-free alternative for baking, as it creates a crisp crust and gives a chewy texture to baked goods. This ingredient is what gives these cheese puffs their stretchy texture.
Classic Brazilian cheese bread always uses tapioca starch, and it’s always gluten-free. You can't substitute this ingredient for any other kind of starch or flour.
How to make it
Brazilian cheese bread is not a difficult recipe, but it can be a bit tricky if it's your first time doing it.
- Boil water and oil. Start by boiling water with oil and a pinch of salt.
- Scold the tapioca starch. Pour the hot mixture over the tapioca starch and mix it using your mixer or a spoon. Mix until the dough looks crumbly and all the liquid is incorporated into the starch.
- Let the dough cool. Let it cool for 10 minutes or until you can hold your finger against it. You need to do that to avoid cooking the egg when mixing it into the dough.
- Preheat the oven. Preheat it to 350° F, rack in the middle.
- Add the egg. Mix until it is incorporated into the dough. It will look like it won't combine, but it will. If you don't have a mixer and find it too hard to do it with a spoon, you can use your hands.
- Add the cheese and knead the dough until it's fully incorporated. The final dough will be similar to a cookie dough in consistency, not too sticky and easy to shape with your hands.
- To shape the dough into balls, use a spoon or a scoop and shape them a bit smaller than a golf ball. If you find the dough is too sticky to shape, wet your hands with cold water or pour some oil in your hands to help.
- Place the cheese balls on a baking sheet. Line it with parchment paper or a silicone mat to avoid a too brown bottom. Leave about ½ to 1 inch of space between each one.
- Bake for 25 minutes on 350°F. Bake them until they’re puffed and golden on top.
If your dough is too sticky to work with, refrigerate it for 1 hour. That happened to me when I used a different brand once.
Now I stick with Bob's Red Mill tapioca starch (this is not a sponsored post). This recipe never fails with it.
What kind of cheese should I use?
About the cheese: you can make this recipe with lots of different cheeses. But I would stick with cheddar, Parmesan, and mozzarella.
Choose always a more ripened cheese: fresh cheese like ricotta is no good for this bread. In this recipe, I use a combination of Parmesan and old white cheddar.
Tips for always getting the best cheese bread
- Choose good quality ingredients. It seems obvious, but in this recipe, good ingredients make all the difference - especially when it comes to the cheese. Choose a brand you really like, because your bread is going to taste like it. Bland cheese makes bland Brazilian cheese bread.
- Don’t under-mix. After adding the hot water and oil to the starch, you have to mix it until everything is well combined. Do it again after adding the egg, and again after the cheeses. A homogeneous dough is essential for a great Brazilian cheese bread. You can see what the dough looks like below.
- Preheat your oven. For this snack to have a crispy crust, it needs an already hot oven. Turn it on at 350° F and preheat it for at least 15 minutes before baking your cheese bread.
Storing and Freezing
Brazilian Cheese Bread is best when fresh out of the oven! But they're also great when reheated. Store in an airtight container after they have cooled, and use your oven on low temperature or microwave to reheat them. They're good for up to 2 days.
You can make the dough in advance and store it covered in your refrigerator - or store it already shaped if you prefer. Just make sure it's well covered. For baking, just place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and don't forget to preheat your oven.
You can also freeze these cheese balls. But freeze them already shaped, stored inside a freezer safe bag. For baking, just place the frozen shaped dough in a prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 to 2 minutes longer than you would bake unfrozen dough.
After baked, you don’t need to refrigerate Brazilian cheese bread.
Can I substitute any of the ingredients?
Although I follow this recipe most of the time, there are days I bake my cheese bread using butter instead of vegetable oil, and milk (whole milk or skimmed) instead of water.
You can also bake using only Parmesan cheese, or the cheese of your choice. Just don't substitute the tapioca starch, nor the egg.
What to serve with pão de queijo?
If you're asking what goes well with Brazilian cheese bread, my answer is: EVERYTHING!
I love to spread butter or dulce de leche on them, and I love having my cheese bread along with a large cup of black coffee. Hubby likes it with cream cheese and always saves some for dipping in his soup - if there's any left for dinner.
Got a question about Brazilian cheese bread? Let me know in the comments!
More bread recipes
Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo)
- 1 ¾ cup tapioca starch
- 1 cup packed grated parmesan
- 1 cup packed grated cheddar
- 1 large egg
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- pinch of salt
- Start by boiling the water with the oil and a pinch of salt.
- In a large bowl, add the tapioca starch and pour the hot water mixture. Watch the recipe's video if you're having any doubt.
- With a spoon, or using your stand mixer on medium-low, mix it until there’s no more dry tapioca starch left. The dough should be grainy and gelatinous. Let it cool for 10 minutes or until you can hold your finger against it.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F, rack in the middle.
- Add the egg, and mix with your mixer on medium-low or with a spoon until it is incorporated into the dough. It will look like it won't combine, but it will. If you don't have a mixer and find it too hard to do it with a spoon, you can as well use your hands.
- After the egg is incorporated, add the cheese and knead the dough until the cheese is fully mixed. The final dough will be similar to a cookie dough in consistency, not too sticky and easy to shape with your hands.
- To shape the dough into balls, use a spoon or a scoop and shape them a bit smaller than a golf ball. If you find the dough is too sticky to shape, wet your hands with cold water or pour some oil in your hands to help. Don’t add more tapioca flour!
- Place the cheese balls on a baking sheet prepared with parchment paper or a silicone mat, leaving about ½ to 1 inch of space between each one.
- Bake for 25 minutes on 350°F until they’re puffed and golden on top.
- Serve them warm.