Brazilian cheese bread, or pão de queijo as we call them in Portuguese, are a true gift to the universe! This typical Brazilian snack is lightly crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and has a cheese flavor that just hugs your mouth. This Brazilian cheese bread recipe is easy to make and yields about 30, so you can make a stash for now, and freeze the rest for later. Check out the easy step-by-step below!
Yuca Series Post 4 – Brazilian Cheese Bread Recipe
Welcome back to another post on our yuca series. To catch you up, so far we’ve talked about how to work with whole yuca, and how to make crispy yuca fries and creamy mashed yuca. Then, we talked about the difference between yuca flour and yuca starch and I showed you how to make farofa, one of the most important Brazilian side dishes.
This time, our main ingredient is the yuca starch, just what we need for for our pão de queijo Recipe.
Where did the Pão de Queijo recipe come from?
Ok, so, as most Brazilian things, the real origin of these yummy cheese bread is unknown. It’s believed that they became a thing around the 18th century in the state of Minas Gerais, which totally makes sense, since production of milk and cheese is higher in that state. Anyway, the other important thing to note is, at that time, Brazilians had long mastered processing yuca into different forms, including flour, while processing wheat flour in the other hand wasn’t a thing then.
Looks like wheat flour wasn’t really produced locally until the beginning of the 20th century. So, if wheat flour was even to be considered for making Brazilian cheese bread, people at the time would have had to rely on flour imported from Europe. And in 18th century Minas Gerais that would have been… complicated. Also, apparently, the quality of the wheat flour coming from Portugal wasn’t the best to begin with, so, that didn’t really play in favor of wheat as a first option anyway. Too hard to get, too low quality.
With that, Minas’ savvy locals, decided to do the logical thing and stick to the better, local ingredient *drum roll*, yuca starch. Yuca startch is what we call, polvilho, which you might know as, wait for it…. tapioca flour! And just like that, with a little bit of milk, a little old/hardened cheese, and some eggs the pão de queijo recipe was born.
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How to Make Brazilian Cheese Bread
Good News Alert!!! You can buy tapioca flour pretty much anywhere. I usually buy mine at Whole Foods, but I have seen it in other grocery stores here in Los Angeles as well. And remember, when in doubt, Amazon!
This recipe is super easy. We’ll start by whisking together the tapioca flour and the salt in a bowl, then, in another bowl, we’ll combine the cheeses and the eggs. All measurements and quantities are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Now on to some technical steps:
Step 1 – Simmer the milk and the oil, then pour it hot into the bowl with the tapioca flour.
Step 2 – using a wooden spoon, mix it to combine. You’ll notice that the mixture will not be homogeneous, it’ll be gummy and clumpy, which is totally normal. At this point, we need to let that mixture cool off a bit, about 10-15 minutes. If you add the cheese and egg mixture to the hot tapioca, the cheese will melt, the eggs will cook and curdle, and we want none of that.
Step 3 – After the tapioca mixture cooled off, you can go ahead and mix it with the cheese and egg mixture.
Step 4 – Keep mixing and massaging it until you have a homogeneous mixture that comes together as a ball. You’ll still see some white tapioca specks in the dough – don’t worry, that’s also totally normal!
Time to roll your Brazilian Cheese Bread!
Step 5 – Oil your hands!
Step 6 – Scoop about 2-Tbsp size portions into your hand. I use a 2.5 tbsp scoop to get the same size portion every time, which isn’t just for a perfect look. This helps them bake more evenly, too! I like to also give the dough a little squeeze, to make sure there aren’t any dry/unmixed spots inside. Those little unmixed pockets will break the balls as you try to roll them, and that’s a bit annoying.
Step 7 – roll, roll, roll!
Step 8 – Ta-da! A perfect little ball!!
Ok, now, this isn’t ideal, BUT, if you’re feeling a little too lazy to hand roll the little balls, there’s a way around it. You can just use an ice cream scoop and scoop the dough directly into the baking sheet.
However, you can see from the photo below they don’t come out smooth. This, plus the absence of the oil from your hands that would coat the outside of the breads if you were to hand roll them, causes them to bake a little more ‘rough.’ This also makes them get crispier outside, too. So yeah. Can you do it? Yes. Is it great? Not exactly.
Prepare your Brazilian Cheese Bread recipe to bake or Freeze
To freeze. Arrange the little pão de queijo balls in a baking sheet side by side. Then, pop the baking sheet in the freezer so the cheese breads can start to hold their shape. After about 10-15 minutes you can just place them into ziplock bags and freeze to bake later.
To bake. Just arrange your perfect little balls (or your lazy scoops) in a baking sheet approximately 2″ apart from one another to allow for air to circulate around them while they bake. Bake in a preheated oven until they’re lightly golden and enjoy!
These Brazilian Drinks pair great with this pão de queijo recipe!
Other Brazilian Recipes You’ll Love:
Brazilian Cheese Bread
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 10oz round of Queso Fresco, crumbled *see below for option
- 1 cup full fat milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil plus 1 Tbsp for oiling your hands
- 2 eggs
- 1 lb tapioca flour also known as tapioca starch
- 2 tsp kosher salt
Prepare the Dough:
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Add the tapioca flour and the salt to a large bowl, whisk to combine and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cheeses and the eggs and set aside.
- Add the milk and the oil to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on stove top over medium heat.
- When the liquid simmers, remove the pan from heat, and immediately pour the hot liquid into the tapioca mixture and using a wooden spoon, stir to combine – the mixture will not be homogeneous, it'll be gummy and clumpy. See step by step images above for reference.
- Wait 5-10 minutes until the tapioca mixture is cool to touch, and only then add the cheese and egg mixture to the tapioca mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon, or your hands to combine. Now you should have a homogeneous mixture and it should come together as a ball. You'll still see some white tapioca specks in the dough – don't worry, that's totally normal!
Roll the Little Balls:
- Oil your hands, then scoop a Tbsp to 2Tbsp size portions, roll them into balls, and arrange them in a baking sheet approximately 2" apart from one another. *For freezing instructions see section below!
- Bake until golden brown, approximately 30-35 minutes.
Make-ahead Freezer Instructions:
- To freeze your Brazilian cheese bread for later, follow all steps up until rolling the little balls and placing them the baking sheet. Then, just place the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes for the balls to set (just enough for them to hold their shape).
- When the balls are set, you can place them in a freezer safe ziplock bag and freeze for up to 3-4 months.
- To bake them, no thawing needed! Just preheat the oven to 350F, then arrange the little frozen balls in a baking sheet about 2" apart from one another and bake until golden brown – approximately 40-45 minutes.