Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Breads)

by Karen on Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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Cassava, also known as the yucca or manioc, is a tuber originally from South America and is a staple throughout most tropical places in the world.  This root is so versatile that it has been dubbed 'the bread of the tropics'  and is particularly important in many African countries where it is used in a meal much like bread is.  The root is boiled and then pounded resulting in a sticky paste that is the base for various stews and soups.  Prepared in different ways, the cassava yields different textures.  Cut into pieces and fried, as it's done throughout Central America (yucca frita), the cassava is like a starchy potato.  When the cassava is treated, dried and rolled into tiny balls the result is tapioca, the gummy “bubbles” in boba tea.

In Brazilian food culture, the tradition of using the cassava root stems back to the foods of the indigenous people, who used this plant extensively.  When the Europeans arrived, they used the cassava as a replacement for other starches such as potatoes or wheat.  Pão de queijo is a popular cheese bread and recipes typically call for the use of cassava flour.  There are also recipes that use potatoes or corn flour, but cassava flour is the most common.  The dough is formed into balls and baked giving the bread a crunchy exterior and very chewy interior.

You can make these ahead of time by rolling the dough into small balls, but instead of baking them off just place the tray into the freezer.  Once they're hard, put them in a ziplock bag and keep them in the freezer until you're ready to bake.  Pão de queijo served straight out of the oven is highly addictive with its wonderful texture, melted cheese aroma and convenient “pop-able” size.  Guaranteed, you will eat more than you can handle!

Makes about 20-25 little breads

– 2 1/4 cups of tapioca flour, aka tapioca starch or manioc starch (You can find this in Asian markets or health food stores that carry gluten-free products, eg. Whole Foods)
– 1/4 cup of vegetable or canola oil
– 1/2 cup of whole milk
– 2 large eggs, at room temperature
– 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano*
– 3/4 cup of freshly and coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese*
– 1 tsp of kosher or sea salt

*I liked this combination but feel free to use whatever cheese you like.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees with the rack placed in the middle.

In a bowl combine the tapioca flour and salt.  In a small pot, heat the milk and oil until scalding and turn off the heat.  Slowly incorporate the tapioca flour into the pot while stirring with a wooden spoon.  At this point your dough will be very dry and lumpy.

Wait a few minutes for your dough to cool down and add the eggs, one at a time, breaking up the eggs with a wooden spoon and kneading them into the dough.  Mix until just incorporated, then turn the dough out onto a clean surface and with wet or oiled hands lightly knead the grated cheese into the dough.  The dough should be very tacky and lumpy, so don't overmix.

Using wet or oiled hands, start pinching off little ping-pong ball-sized pieces and roll them between your hands so they are smooth.  Place them on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.  The breads won't really expand so you just need a little space between them.

Bake them at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the outside is starting to become firm.  Lower the temperature to 325 and bake for another 15-20 minutes so the inside is cooked through.  Enjoy!



Nelly Rodriguez June 7, 2011 at 7:41 am

Love this, I’ve posted on my blog about it (Spanish Post) and I made the Colombian version, called Pandebono. Yours look amazing! I loved mixing that dough, the tapioca flour leaves your hands silky soft!

Karen June 8, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I saw the Colombian version– they look much denser and chewier inside than pao de queijo, almost like a mochi right?

Belinda @zomppa June 7, 2011 at 8:13 am

This is one of my absolutely favorites!! When I was in Brazil, I could not get enough.

deana@lostpastremembered June 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

Can I just say.. the pics are glorious!!!!! I LOVE the texture of fabrics when they have wrinkles… positively artful. I had a decorator who once told me not to polish silver too much… it shot better with lots of dark bits… I feel the same about cloth and those photos prove me right. Great post (as always) and fun recipe.

Karen June 8, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Thank you Deana! good tip about the silver and I loved that fabric so when I saw it I just made dish towels out of them

MdAmor June 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I have tried yucca, but not as a bread. I would like to have it.

Joyti June 8, 2011 at 3:53 am

Delicious. I’m familiar with cassava – we boil and slice it, then quickly pan-fry it, but in South India they mash it, like mashed potatoes. I’ve never seen it in bread form. It sounds absolutely delicious – and I’ll have to try it one day 🙂

Karen June 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Such a versatile vegetable– I’ll have to look into the South Indian treatment of the cassava!

shayma June 8, 2011 at 8:48 am

cheese and carbs- one of my most favourite combinations. like a simple pasta dressed w olive oil and lots of grated parmiggiano. x shayma

Sasha (Global Table Adventure) June 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm

These rolls look scrumptious. Especially with the cheese… By the way, I made yucca frita this last week, but for a West African menu (Guinea & Guinea Bissau), where they are also much adored. I just called them Yucca Fries. It was the first time in a long line of projects that I had any sort of success with Yucca. I’ve been plagued with bad luck until now 🙂 Maybe, now that I’m doing better, I can brave these rolls 🙂

Karen June 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm

O I’m sure you’ll be just fine with them! Good thing is that it comes already in a starch/flour and no need to mess around the actual root

Kathryn June 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I think I tried these recently at the Brazilian steak house Fogo de Chao. LOVED them- they were so soft and fluffy (plus anything with bread and cheese is awesome by definition) Never tried making them myself, though. I’ll definitely have to try it!

Karen June 8, 2011 at 6:40 pm

yes! they’re popular with Brazilian BBQ restaurants and I’ve often filled up on them before the meat even comes around

Luciana June 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Hi Karen! I’m Brazilian and your pães de queijo look amazing!

Karen June 8, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Thank you, coming from a Brazilian that means a lot!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen June 8, 2011 at 11:28 pm

I can’t stop looking at that last photo! The light is stunning.

Nadia June 9, 2011 at 8:42 am

I remember you tweeted about how you couldn’t stop eating these and I can see why. Yummy and I love your photos as always. I am awful at making breads 🙁 but I would love to give these a try!

Karen June 9, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I made 4 batches of these while testing recipes too… needless to say i had WAY too many, but they’re irresistible!

Marcela June 11, 2011 at 11:27 am

Hi Karen, I’m also Brazilian and your pão de queijo seems delicious. I would just like to comment that here in Brazil we use a cheese that’s called “queijo de minas meia cura” (it’s a cheese from a state called Minas Gerais and it’s very fresh and different from any other cheese), Parmigiano and cheddar have a more sharp flavor. ut nice substitution and pão de queijo is really addictive!

Karen June 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Wow thanks! I wonder if I can find it in LA?

Francisca June 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Haha, I am from Brazil and was puzzled until I realized that what I have always called “polvilho” is actually manioc starch!
I guess cheese bread is a national passion. My mom would do these for me when I was at school – such good times. The “queijo meia-cura” Marcela mentioned are hard to find here in the south of Brazil so we usually end up with Parmigiano. It is very good but the other cheese produces a more delicate taste indeed.

Love your blog!

Karen June 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Thank you so much Francisca! I can see why they’re a national passion– they’re so addictive.

Maria November 18, 2011 at 7:11 pm

These photos are delicious! A fabulous recipe I plan to make this weekend. Thanks for sharing!

Jojo February 6, 2012 at 9:09 am

Hi Karen,
Thank you for this beautiful article and the photos!!! I would love to know where did you get the towels, they are super stylish.
I grew up in the heart of the Pão de queijo culture, milk and cheese production in Brazil…Since college, I moved to Switzerland and couldn’t find a cheese which could blend and taste as good as the Pão de queijo of my childhood, so I started my quest. After many desastrous atempts to get the right cheese to work out for a real Pão de queijo. Today I use Gruyère (Swiss) and Grana Padano (Italian). I use 250 mg of Gruyère and 400 gm of Grana Padano for 2 bags of tapioca flour (25o gm each bag). Friends and family from Brazil came to visit and tried my ”Swiss Pão de queijo” they were impressed (loved!!!) how the mix of these cheeses makes an almost perfect (the geographic distance 🙂 ) Pão de queijo. Thank you again for your website.

Daniel June 5, 2012 at 5:37 am

Yes, here in Macapá, Brazil, we eat Pão de queijo every breakfast. Was kind of wondering myself if, in fact, they have anything of the equivalent in the USA.

Pamela March 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Lovely, now that my exchange year it’s almost over, I can have a wonderful recipe to recreate the “Pão de Queijo” 🙂

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