Perfect Gluten-Free Snack: Brazilian Cheese Bread

In Portuguese, the name is pão de queijo. I heard a lot about this authentic Brazilian cheese bread from my gluten-free friend. She’s a celiac, and therefore no wheat.

I recently met a lady from Brazil at a conference. We got to talking about food, and I asked her if I could share her recipe for authentic Brazilian cheese bread – pāo de queijo on this blog. She readily agreed. I am now very excited to share it with you.

ONE OF THE PLUSES IS THAT IT’S GLUTEN-FREE.

It’s made with tapioca flour, which according to Claudia is a popular baking ingredient throughout Brazil. I wondered out loud if it was because at one point in time, there was no wheat flour available.  She said “No, this is just the way it’s always been.”She also told me about a cake she makes with tapioca flour. Yes, the recipe will appear on this blog at a later date.

two black plates with cheese bread and a wooden bowl of cheese bread on the top

The use of tapioca doesn’t come as a surprise. Since yuca root makes tapioca flour, and Brazil has them in abundance. Of course it shows up in a lot of their cooking. Basically, yuca is a tuber. Don’t confuse it with yucca, the dessert plant. They are not botanically related. Anyhow, this tasty tuber can be prepared in many different ways. The outer covering is not edible, so it needs to be removed before eating. The inside has a center that is fibrous, and also needs to be removed once cooked.

a black plate of cheese bread with a cup of coffee on the left and a big bowl of cheese bread in the back

Authentic Brazilian cheese bread – pão de queijo is so easy to make, especially because you don’t even have to worry about it rising, or flopping. Claudia even told me that you can freeze the bread once it is formed into balls. Do not freeze after baking! To me anything that you can make ahead of time is a plus. You can form the balls using a cookie scoop.

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Although these are normally eaten as a snack, feel free to eat them any time you like.

a black plate with cheese bread and a bowl of cheese bread in the back

SO, WHERE IN BRAZIL DO THESE LITTLE CHEESY GEMS COME FROM?

Well, from the Minas Gerais, a state in the west of Brazil. During colonial times this area was known for its large deposits of diamonds, gems, and gold. The traditional cheese used to make this cheese bread is Minas cheese, a local cheese that has been produced in the region since the 18th century. Claudia told me that the closest thing in the US is Parmesan.

HERE ARE THE VISUAL STEPS TO MAKE PÃO DE QUEIJO:

A collage of photos showing steps to make pão de queijo on a stove and then a mixer.
  1. In a saucepan stir and mix the milk, oil and salt on medium heat until it just starts to bubble. Remove from the stove.
  2. Slowly add the flour to the milk mixture in about 1/4 increments and mix.
  3. Keep mixing until it forms a ball and it will be a bit shiny.
  4. Transfer the dough to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and allow to cool. Using the paddle or beater blade, beat in the egg until well combined.
  5. Add the cheese until well combined.
  6. Using a small cookie scoop form the dough balls.
  7. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes in a 400°F  oven or until golden brown. Enjoy!
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups tapioca flour
  • 1 egg large, beaten
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400’F.
  2. In a saucepan mix milk, oil, and salt on medium heat until the mixture starts to gently bubble. Remove from stove.
  3. Slowly mix in the flour  in 1/4 increments until the mixture comes together like a ball. The mixture will be somewhat shiny.
  4. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand up mixer, and using a paddle attachment beat on medium until the dough becomes smooths and cools down a bit. 
  5. Add the beaten egg slowly, and continue to beat until well combined.
  6. Next, add the cheese and beat until the mixture is fully combined.
  7. The dough will be a bit sticky, an similar to the consistency of batter.
  8. Using a cookie scoop, make balls and place them about 1 ” apart  on a parchment lined baking sheet. *
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until they begin to turn golden. 
  10. Remove from oven. Enjoy while they are still warm.

Recipe Notes

You can freeze the raw dough balls, but don’t freeze once baked!