Pao de queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread, is a naturally Gluten Free delicious snack that uses tapioca flour. I have adapted the recipe to make it Dairy Free, too. It’s easy to make and so tasty when it’s fresh out of the oven!
Pao de queijo (in Portuguese, “bread made of cheese”) is the perfect Gluten Free snack bread. It’s crisp on the outside and super chewy on the inside. It’s perfect just as it is for a snack or a starchy accompaniment to a meal. I don’t think anyone would ever turn down a bag of freshly made pao de queijo!
Pao de queijo follows the same technique as French pate a choux (the batter used for cream puffs, eclairs, and gougeres). It’s a twice-cooked dough, because you cook the dough first in a pot on the stove, and then you cook it a second time when you bake it in the oven. Please, please, please pay careful attention to technique in this recipe. It makes a big difference, so please read through the instructions below carefully.
Now, where does pao de queijo come from?
Pao de queijo began as a food made by African slaves in Brazil. It was made from the manioc root (otherwise known as cassava, yuca, or tapioca). Yuca is a tough root, but when peeled, soaked, grated, and dried, it can be used for a variety of dishes and is very starchy and thus very filling. The residue left after processing was viewed as inedible by the landowners, but the slaves rolled it into balls and cooked them, blessing the world with the ingenuity of pao de queijo.
There was no cheese or milk added to the humble little breads until the end of the 19th century when slavery ended, and the Afro-Brazilian population had access to a wider variety of foods. In Minas Gerais, a region of Brazil which is known for its dairy production, cheese and milk were added to what was essentially pan de yuca and became what we now know as the beloved pao de queijo.
These breads are also found in the northeastern part of Argentina, where they are traditionally made by the indigenous Guarani people and are called “Chipa.” It is also apparently found in Bolivia and Paraguay, although I can’t vouch for that myself as I have not visited either of those two countries.
In Colombia, both versions of this cheesy bread are readily found – with cheese (pandebono) and without cheese (pan de yuca). The former is usually made in a doughnut shape with a hole in the middle, and they are just as divinely delicious as pao de queijo. The addition of milk and cheese makes the bread very tender. Without the milk or the cheese, the yuca bread is very crisp and kind of squeaks on your teeth when you eat it. Cali, Colombia, is famous for its salsa music, but it is just as famous for its pandebono. Although, truth be told, my absolute favorite pandebono was found in a corner bakery in Popayan.
But no need to travel so far to enjoy this delicious bread when you can make it quickly and easily in your own home.
If you can find sour cassava flour (“povilho azedo” by the brand Amafil), then use that, because it will give the bread an extra tangy-ness that is scrumptious. However, regular tapioca flour works just fine, too, and is generally much easier to come by in the US (unless you live in Miami or near Framingham, Massachusetts – these areas have the two largest concentrations of Brazilian immigrants in the US).
I hope you’ll give homemade pao de queijo a try. It’s a great recipe to get acquainted with the pate a choux method. It’s a fairly simple recipe, but it’s one that needs to be done with the correct technique. Don’t worry about making them into perfectly smooth balls – that’s hard to do without the dairy ingredients. Just have some fun and enjoy baking something new. Happy baking (and eating!)!
Why You’ll LOVE this Recipe:
- Naturally Gluten Free
- Dairy Free Brazilian Cheese Bread!
- Quick to make
- Crispy outside, chewy inside
- Low Cholesterol
Ingredients for Pao de Quiejo:
- Coconut milk
- Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
- tapioca flour (or sour cassava flour)
- Dairy Free shredded mozzarella cheese
Notes on Ingredients:
Coconut milk – Using coconut milk provides extra fat which makes these bread balls just the right amount of fluffy and tender.
Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks – This shortening gives the best flavor as well as texture and helps to keep the bread from getting too oily (as opposed to using grapeseed oil or another neutral-flavored oil, for example).
Salt – For flavor, always.
Tapioca flour (or sour cassava flour) – If you can get your hands on some sour cassava flour (that’s tapioca flour that has been fermented and is usually labeled “Povilho azedo”), use that, because the flavor will be just a touch more complex. Otherwise, just use regularly tapioca flour. *Note: Tapioca, cassava, yuca, and manioc are different words for the same thing. **Another note: Tapioca flour and tapioca starch are the same thing. ***Final note: Tapioca flour can make a mess of your kitchen, so be prepared.
Eggs – The eggs bind the little breads together, but they also help to create the steam in the oven that puffs the bread balls up.
Dairy Free shredded mozzarella cheese – I have used Daiya, Violife, and Chau brands with success.
How to Make Pao de Quiejo From Scratch
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
Get all of your ingredients ready (this is called your “mise en place” in the culinary world). Things move fast in this recipe, and you want to have all of your ingredients (namely, the tapioca starch, the eggs, and the cheese) all measured out and ready to go.
In a medium sized pan, bring the water, oil, and salt to a boil.
As soon as it boils, remove the pot from the heat and dump all of the tapioca starch in at once. With a wooden spoon, stir vigorously. Really use your arm muscles.
Return the pot to the burner on medium heat briefly and stir until the mixture smooths out a little.
Remove the pot from the heat and let the batter cool for about 5 minutes.
Now, add the eggs one at a time. Stir well to fully incorporate each egg.
Then, add the cheese, and stir to incorporate fully.
Using your hands, shape the dough into 1-inch balls. It helps to lightly coat your hands with oil before doing this.
Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes. Eat and enjoy!
Store leftovers (if there are any!) in an airtight container at room temperature.
Pao de Queijo – Brazilian Cheese Bread – Dairy Free Gluten Free
- 1 cup coconut milk
- ½ cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (1 stick)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ¼ cups tapioca flour (or sour cassava flour)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup Dairy Free shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium sized pan, bring the water, oil, and salt to a boil.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Add the tapioca flour all at once, and stir vigorously.
- Return the pot to the burner on medium heat briefly and stir until the mixture smooths out a little.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let the batter cool for about 5 minutes.
- Now, add the eggs one at a time. Stir well to fully incorporate each egg.
- Add the Dairy Free cheese, and stir until completely incorporated.
- Using your hands, roll the dough into 1-inch size balls. Knead the dough between your hands a little before rounding into a ball to make it as smooth as possible. If the dough is sticking to your hands a lot, coat your hands with a little vegetable oil.
- Place the balls on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 25 minutes.