Pao de Queijo – Brazilian Cheese Bread – Delish!


    Well, first of all, I think I may need to change the tagline on my blog from seasonal, sustainable, delicious to carbs! carbs! carbs!  Friends, I am your carb queen with a smattering of seasonal goodness.  It should be the other way around I know…..but whatever that gap is between knowing what you should do and doing it, well, I’m not making the leap.  Energy ebbs and flows with me during these hot days.  And they are all hot.

As of right now, I’m making pao de queijo for the second time in three days.  And I’ve made it countless times before and I tinker with the recipe each time.  I’ve been pouring through Brazilian cookbooks but most importantly I’ve been talking with Luiza, my Brazilian friend and she gave her wholehearted stamp of approval on these little breads.

From what I understand, Brazilians eat a little bread with each meal and it’s also required to have when guests visit.  Obviously, I learn this from reading Brazilian cookbooks and have no first hand knowledge….. but I must say I’d be very happy to visit each Brazilian household to sample their pao de queijo.

The flour in these beauties is cassava aka manioc aka tapioca.  There’s no all purpose or any other type, so they’re happily gluten free which makes up for the fact that I’m overloading on carbs and not eating my greens.  Right?  Right.  Now, there are numerous brands of tapioca flour on the market – the two brands I’m happy with are Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill.  I made the error of buying a brand (not Brazilian or American) that made me feel so bad I couldn’t eat or function the rest of the night.  I highly doubt you’ll run into this brand because it’s found in “ethnic” specialty stores and it’s not generally at the supermarkets.  However, Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill have never made me sick.  I just tell you this to warn you of the quality variations between brands.  You’re fine and I’m fine eating these addictive breads.

There’s also different kinds of tapioca flour.  Sour, sweet, granular, and other types I have no idea about.  I use sour and sweet, but they are equally delicious if you use all sweet – which I often do – and is the type you find in the stores.

I make my pao de queijo in a muffin tin, it’s easy and fast.  Two of the great food qualities in my life.  They bake up quite poofy almost the size of a popover which makes them larger than, from what my understanding, most people make them.  Truly, a mini-muffin tin would be more “authentic”.  I think.  Who cares?  Easy, fast, good.  Some batters are thick enough you can spoon it on a baking sheet, but most of the time my batter is thinner and a muffin pan suits it quite well.

Short bake – 20 minutes
Medium bake – 25 minutes
Long bake – 40 minutes

Depending on how long you bake your pao de quijo it can either be slightly dense and chewy, and slightly gooey in the center.  I make it sound bad, but its not.  I guarantee it’s a pleasing chew.  However, if you bake them longer they are fluffier, darker, and more popover-like.  As with most things in life, I’m down the middle on this one.  I bake mine slightly golden on the top and sides with some chew in the middle.

I like adding some chopped green olives to the top of my batter.  Again not traditional, I know. It’s just good.  These babies can be seasoned or filled how you like.  I’ve seen them (untraditionally) filled with dulce de leche, cream cheese, flavored cream cheese, cut open and stuffed with pork.  – I like them with chopped olives and smeared with cream cheese or crema.  Or plain.  Or used and the bread in a sandwich with meat.  I prefer savory to sweet, but that’s just me.  Sweet is very tasty too.  Yep, even with parmesan in the recipe.

There are some criteria that I think make or break your pao de queijo (other than questionable tapioca flour).  Here are the rules:

  1. Thou must finely grate thy cheese with the food processor blade.  I’ve tried grating with a box grater, using a microplane, but nope only the food processor does a good enough job getting the sandy granular parmesan that disperses and melts throughout the dough the right way.  Think like the store bought stuff from the green can.
  2. Thou must sift thy flour.  Tapioca flour is clumpy and it makes for a lumpy batter.  I’m over-mixing adverse (even though there’s no gluten) so I sift the flour each time.
  3. Thou must spray/butter the muffin pan with abandon.  These slide right out of the pan with no problem when the pan is sprayed.  I use the spray that is has flour in it too, supposedly.  Hmm, I wonder if that makes them not gluten free for celiacs.  If it’s a concern use the flourless spray or only use butter.
  4. Thou must mix the batter in a blender.  It contributes to their airiness and overall structure.  If you do it by hand the recipe works, but the rolls collapse more and don’t get as airy.  Still tasty though.
  5. Thou must sprinkle a little cheese on the top.  In my last batch I sprinkled a little too much on top and that made for the dough to collapse a little after being removed from the oven.  It’s not a big deal, it’s still delicious.  That being said, it’s only happened once.  It really makes a huge difference in flavor to sprinkle some of the cheese on top.  Even Luiza agrees with me.
  6. Eating them hot is best.  They reheat in a toaster oven easily and quickly.  Smear with cream cheese.

This recipes comes from the soon to be daughter in law of my cousin Donna!  She’s from Brazil and she graciously shared her recipe, but the sprinkle of cheese on top is aaallllll me.  Oh yeah.

Note: If you find yourself some sour tapioca flour, use 1 C sour tapioca and 2 C regular tapioca flour.  As for the oil, I’ve used olive oil and grapeseed oil because recipes can’t decide which to use.  I think either is nice, but I almost exclusively use the grapeseed oil though.  If you want to sprinkle olives in yours, finely chop up your desired olive (I use Castelvetrano olives) and sprinkle on top (or bottom).  The amount you need depends on the olive you choose.  I chopped up about 6 for a half batch.

Pao de Queijo

Makes about 14 rolls depending on how high you fill the muffin tin

1 C milk

1 C grapeseed oil

3 eggs

a three finger pinch of salt

3 C tapioca flour

1 C parmesan cheese, divided

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease the muffin pan.
  2. Mix together oil and milk in a blender.  Add in the eggs and mix.  Then the salt and mix.
  3. Sift the flour(s) into a bowl or over the blender and blend into the batter.
  4. Blend in 1/2-2/3 of the parmesan cheese.
  5. Sprinkle a little of the remaining cheese on the bottom of each muffin hole in the pan.
  6. Fill the batter 2/3 of the way up.
  7. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Maybe some olives if you’re using them.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes for light and chewy rolls.  I bake them for 25-27 minutes for medium rolls.  Bake for 40-45 minutes for darker airier rolls.


    1. Dana says:

      These are a great recipe to dip your toes into with Brazilian cuisine. So many of their ingredients are difficult or impossible to come by or replicate but everyone I speak to or read about approves and uses parmesan…..and it tastes good! I hope you try these and love them! Let me know how they work out!

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