In Brazil, Pão de Queijo (a.k.a. Brazilian Cheese Bread) is an airy, cheesy treat that is a great accompaniment to any meal. Just a few simple ingredients are needed to make this traditional bun, which has the added bonus of being gluten-free! The dough can also be sectioned, formed, and frozen for later use.
Where Does Pão de Queijo Come From?
It is likely that Brazilian cheese bread originated in the Minas Gerais region in the 1700s. Then a Portuguese colony, the area underwent a population boom after the discovery of gold in Ouro Preto. Wheat was not yet cultivated, so cooks replaced it in bread dishes with starch made from local cassava root, as taught to them by the indigenous Tupiniquim.
The original recipe used this starch and a hard cheese, known as “Minas” cheese, similar to parmesan. Today, the starch and cheese used can vary from region to region. In place of the traditional “manioc” cassava flour, many recipes use tapioca flour. Both are made from cassava, but tapioca starch contains less fiber. The most common types of cheese are the Minas cheese, parmesan, and mozzarella cheese.
Today, pães de queijo are enjoyed as a popular breakfast food or snack in Brazil. They are often paired with an afternoon coffee. Pre-made mixes are sold, or the dough can be bought frozen in many grocery stores. Some bakeries offer stuffed versions, with delectable fillings like dulce de leche or goiabada, a favorite national dessert made from guavas and plenty of sugar.
How to Make Brazilian Cheese Bread
Pão de Queijo is simple, delicious and very easy to make. The consistency is less like bread and more like a “puff,” with a crispy outside and a chewy, almost hollow center. Each roll is about 50 kcal and made with tapioca starch, which makes them light and gluten-free.
Recipe for Simple and Delicious Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Puffs)
Makes about 30 cheese puffs
- 16 oz tapioca flour
- 8 oz whole milk
- 2 oz vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1.5-2 tsp sea salt
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a saucepan, bring your oil, milk, and salt to a boil.
- While the milk and oil mixture heats, put all the tapioca flour into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Once the milk and oil mixture begins to bubble, pour it over the tapioca flour. Mix together thoroughly on medium speed. The mixture will be sticky and clumpy.
- Allow the mixture to cool so that it is warm, not hot, to the touch (about 5 minutes). Once it has cooled enough, add your eggs one at a time with the mixer going at medium speed. The mixture should now look smoother.
- When the eggs are fully incorporated, add the grated parmesan cheese. Mix to combine.
- To form the dough balls, wet your hands with a little cold water or grease them with vegetable oil. Shape the balls to be about 2” across, about the size of a ping pong ball. Alternatively, you can scoop the dough into a greased mini muffin pan. The puffs will not be the traditionally round shape, but will still taste delicious.
- Place the balls at least 2” inches apart on a lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until crisp and golden-approximately 30 minutes. Enjoy right away with hot coffee or as a side dish with a delicious grilled-meat entree, like Brazilian-style flank steak.
Note: if you do not want to bake off all your dough, you can freeze a portion of it. Pre-form the dough balls, place them on a cookie sheet, and freeze them. Once they are frozen, place them in a container, and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you are ready to use them, allow them to thaw and bake them according to the above instructions.
Try Brazilian Cheese Bread at Texas de Brazil
Texas de Brazil has over 50 locations in the US and overseas. We offer an array of delicious meats cooked in the churrasco style, and a vast selection of traditional accompaniments, including Brazilian black beans, moqueca fish stew, fried bananas, and the famous pão de queijo. Visit our site to find a location near you.