Quick Brazilian Cheese Rolls: Pao de Queijo

Of all the foods I fell in love with while living in Brazil, Pao de Queijo (literally translated to ‘bread of cheese’) is right up there at the top of my favorites list. If you’ve never had this type of Brazilian cheese roll, it’s not the same type of bread or roll we’re used to here in the US.  It’s made with tapioca flour, as opposed to all purpose flour, so it’s almost more like the texture of a cream puff shell or popover, but with more substance. The outside is slightly crisp and browned and the inside is soft and chewy. In the US, you can find them regularly served in Brazilian restaurants, and in Brazil, they’re in every corner store and bakery.  

Below, I’ll show you 2 different methods of preparing the exact same recipe:

1. The traditional method (shown above, R) where the wet ingredients are first heated and then beat together with the dry ingredients and scooped into little dough balls before baking. This results in: A traditional roll with a slightly crisp outside and a soft chewy center.

2. The shortcut version (shown above, L) where you put all ingredients in a blender and pour the ultra thin liquid batter into a muffin tin.  This results in: A flavorful roll with the same chewy texture, but not as much density. These often puff up with hollow centers, and shrink after baking. The outside is a little thinner, but still delicious.

Here in this photo you can see the blender method roll on the right and the traditional method on the left. Both super delicious!

Ingredients and Equipment List

  • Tapioca Flour– look for tapioca flour in the specialty flour section of the grocery store, or online. I have also found it sometimes in the bulk foods area of stores like WINCO. It’s a naturally gluten free flour. If you happen to be serving these to a person who needs to avoid gluten for medical reasons, avoid purchasing from bulk bins where there can be risk of cross contamination.
  • Egg – Egg acts as a binder and helps produce the chewy texture. I’ve never tried these with any egg substitute.
  • Milk – You can use any milk in this recipe, though I prefer one with a higher fat content, like 2% of whole. If you don’t have those, use whatever is in your fridge, including a plant based option if you need to do that for dietary reasons.
  • Salt – without salt, these will turn out quite bland! I use kosher salt. If subbing table salt, decrease the amount slightly.
  • Cheese – feel free to vary the cheese and discover new combinations. I prefer to use medium or sharp cheddar and parmesan, but most cheeses work well. Stronger flavored cheeses will produce a more flavorful roll.

Instructions

BLENDER METHOD

  1. Put all ingredients except cheese in the blender and blitz it up!
  2. Add cheese and pulse just a couple times
  3. Quickly pour into prepared muffin tin (I say quickly, so cheese stays distributed.
  4. Optionally, you can sprinkle a little more cheese on top
  5. Bake until puffed and just barely golden.
  6. They’ll be a little crispy on the outside and soft, airy, and tender on the inside.  Almost a little chewy.  Some of them are even kind of hollow.  This version is definitely less dense than the kneaded dough variety. The yield is anywhere from 16-24 rolls, depending on how full you fill your muffin pan. I fill  mine pretty full (a good 3/4 full) and I generally get about 16-18.

TRADITIONAL METHOD

Pay attention to the photos and my explanation here, because while I have made these a ridiculous number of times over the years, the finished dough, with the exact same ingredients and measurements (even weighed to be sure) often turns out with completely different consistencies. And it’s okay!

  1. First you’ll heat your milk and oil on the stove until just simmering.
  2. Then you’ll add this to your tapioca flour. You’ll notice in the photos below, I’m adding the flour directly to the pot, but often I put the flour in my mixer, and pour the hot liquid over it and that’s fine too.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Sometimes this mixture comes out smooth and silky like playdough. Other times it’s crumbly like wet sand. You’ll notice the smooth version in the pan below left, and the crumbly batch (with the egg on top) on the right. The lack of consistency has driven me crazy for years, but after trying other people’s recipes and encountering the same thing, I think it’s just part of the fun haha. I know that different brands of tapioca flour have different levels of absorbency, but even with the same bag of flour, I find this still happens, so now I just go with it. Bottom line- either of these outcomes is okay!

3. The next step is beating in the egg, and then the cheese. Ideally, your mixture should look like a wet cookie dough:

Brazilian Cheese Bread dough

4. You can then use a cookie scoop to drop it on a baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden.

SOS!

But let’s say your batter is super runny! There’s no way it will hold its shape. Guess what? Happens to me too! Sometimes it just does that. No problem! If it’s just slightly too wet, you can simply add a bit more tapioca flour and even a bit more cheese. If it’s really loose, simply spoon your batter into a muffin tin (mini OR full size) as opposed to the baking sheet, and they will bake right up and be absolutely delicious. They’ll be a little crispy on the outside and soft, tender, and chewy on the inside. 

The yield is anywhere from 16-24 rolls, depending on how full you fill your muffin pan. I fill  mine pretty full (a good 3/4 full) and I generally get about 16-18.

Pao de queijo in a bowl

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can these be made ahead? These are best eaten fresh, but you can absolutely make the dough/batter ahead of time. With the traditional method, refrigerate dough in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Chilling also helps it set up if it’s a little runny.
  • Can you freeze Pao de Queijo? The baked breads aren’t as good after freezing, but if you use the traditional method of preparation, you can scoop the dough onto parchment and then freeze. Place frozen dough balls in an airtight container or zip top back for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen, adding a few minutes onto baking time.
Pao de queijo in a bowl

Brazilian Cheese Rolls | Pao de Queijo

5 from 4 votes
Traditional Brazilian cheese bread.  These little rolls have a unique texture as they are made with tapioca flour.  They're chewy and flavorful and a perfect snack or side!  This recipe includes 2 different methods to make them. 
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings16

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup tapioca flour sometimes labeled tapioca starch no substitutions
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese preferably medium or sharp
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional: extra cheese to sprinkle on top and any herbs/flavorings you'd like to add. Try rosemary and or garlic powder my favorites!

Instructions

Quick Blender Version:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with non-stick spray or rub with butter.
  • Place egg, milk, oil, tapioca flour, and salt in blender and blend until smooth. Add cheeses and pulse just a couple times.
  • Immediately pour batter into a mini muffin tin , filling each well about 3/4 full. If desired, sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese on top.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes before removing rolls from pan. Serve warm. 

Traditional Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or* spray a muffin tin with non stick spray or rub wells with butter (*see note).
  • Place milk and oil in a small pot and heat until just simmering and remove from heat. 
  • Place tapioca flour and salt in a mixing bowl and pour hot milk and oil over top.  Beat to combine. 
  • NOTE: At this point, your mixture might look crumbly and grainy, this is okay.  
  • Beat in egg. 
  • Add cheese and beat to combine. 
  • Scoop dough into balls (I use a cookie scoop, you can do any size you like, I aim for golf ball size) onto parchment-lined baking sheet* and bake until puffed and set on the outside, just slightly golden. Time will vary depending on size, but usually around 15 minutes. 
  • *NOTE: I've made this recipe a million times and have found at this point, sometimes the finished dough is scoop-able like cookie dough, and other times it's kind of runny like thick pancake batter. Tapioca flour differs in absorption levels and this isn't unusual. If your dough is not scoopable, you can always add a little bit more flour.  But what I usually do is just bake the mixture in a muffin tin as opposed to a baking sheet.  They still turn out great!

Notes

  • *Tip: You can play around with the cheese. I've used Monterey Jack, low-moisture mozarella, swiss, and even gruyere in place of the cheddar. All great- sharper, stronger cheeses will make for a more flavorful roll. 
  • Keep in mind, these actually don't re-heat well, so I recommend making and eating fresh.
Keyword: brazilian food, cheese bread
Author: Our Best Bites
Did You Make This Recipe?Snap a picture, and hashtag it #ourbestbites. We love to see your creations on our Instagram @ourbestbites!
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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. Sara, Do you have to use mini tins? I only have regular sized muffin tins. Will that work? If so how should I adjust temp or cook time. thanks!

  2. I so want to try these rolls…

    I wanted to let you know I got my cookbook Wednesday, I've been looking thru it ever since and it has been REALLY difficult trying to decide what to make first.

    I've made your chicken cacciatore before and I've gotta say it was AWESOME!

  3. Such a great recipe! Thanks. And I do love the ones at Tucanos and Rodizio, so I imagine these will be all the better!!!

  4. Kim- I went to Curitiba too! Ask your hubby what those are called. He could be talking about coxinhas, or pastel, or something entirely different, but I might have a recipe for ya!

  5. Thanks for posting this! I went on my mission to Recife and miss Brazilian food. Every once in a while I make something tasty to remind me of the old days, but it's been a while! This will make it's debut soon!

  6. My husband served a mission in Curitiba, Brazil. I know I will have to make these for him. He LOVES them and talks about them all the time. Thanks for the recipe! He also talks about these mini french bread type of rolls that they would hollow out and stuff with meat and eat as they walked. You don't happen to have recipe for that do you?

    1. Probably a paozinho (literally “little bread”). It’s like your own personal loaf of French bread.

  7. We LOVE Pao de Queijo! We have bought the Chebe mix, but thought it was silly to spend that much money on a mix and STILL have to add all the cheese.
    I have had a number of recipes bookmarked to try for this, but haven't. I will try yours first/today. Have you ever tried to make bread sticks or flat bread/crusts with yours?
    We are a gluten free family and always have a stash of tapioca flour/starch. We get ours from the Asian Market.

  8. I just did a happy dance in my front room! I love these little gems of carbs & cheese. Did you ever eat at Tucano's in Provo or SLC? I'm guessing they are similar (but more likely better) than the "cheese balls" they serve there. I am so happy right now, just made my day! Can't wait to whip up my first batch of MANY!

  9. These look absolutely delish!

    I have a teensy posting suggestion. I know a friend of mine that reads your blog and she has to eat a gluten free diet. My suggestion would be to maybe put it in parentheses in the title, or somewhere at the first part of the post, that these are indeed gluten free. She loves this kind of stuff, and her hubs actually served his mish in Brazil and would love a taste of it at home, but she might otherwise not give much consideration to reading as far down into the recipe to find the gem that it is gluten free! Did I just make that clear as mud?

  10. dani- hugs TO Brazil! You'll have to try it out and see what you think!

    Suzanne- nope, sorry, the tapioca flour is a must.

    Christy- thanks for the cheese tip!

    Leslie- you'll have to do a V-day re-do (and maybe you'll get more chocolates and flowers out of it? haha)

  11. Myrnie- sorry I forgot the yield, I just added it! It makes anywhere from 16-24, depending on how full you fill your muffin pan. I fill mine pretty full (a good 3/4 full) and I generally get 16-18.

  12. Mmmm! That's how we make ours too! Though I can't find the tapioca flour at my grocery store anymore. 🙁 So I haven't been able to make these for a while. Que saudades!

  13. Can't wait to try this recipe. We've made these the old-fashioned way, and are always too busy cleaning up to eat them fresh out of the oven. This sounds like the perfect solution.

  14. THanks for the link to the Bewitching!

    This recipe has been a favorite in our home for a long, long time

    I am so glad I found your blog, it's bookmarked and I'll be indulging in some reading this weekend!

  15. Thank you thank you THANK YOU! Now I don't have to buy the ridiculously expensive box of pre-packaged mix that makes 12 mini balls. Thank you SO MUCH!

  16. Wow! I am so excited about making these! I have tapioca flour in my pantry! My hubs eats gluten-free, so this is perfect! Thank you, thank you!!

  17. Oh my goodness!!!! I can't tell you how glad I am that you posted this recipe! Last year I hunted and hunted for the Tapioca flour because my husband served his mission in Brazil and I wanted to make a special Brazilian dinner for him on valentines day. One of his favorite things from Brazil was Pao de Qeujio. I finally just ended up using cornstarch for a substitute and they turned out fine, but didn't rise much. He still loved that I went to the effort to try. I am so glad I now know where and what brand to look for. Thanks!!!! (BTW I made your Brazilian Lemonade for that dinner also, and everyone loved it!)

  18. Sara,
    I eat about 40 cheese balls when I go to Brazilian restaurants. I happen to live in a heavy populated Brazilian area so these are served all the time at parties. I've gotten the recipe from the Brazilian ladies but it calls for all types of ingredients that I can never find so I gave up. Thanks for this recipe. They say if you use Costco cheese it makes for spongier balls than the regular grocery store cheese.

  19. Sara – you're my hero. I shouted for joy this morning, seeing this recipe on my reader!

  20. I'm super excited to try this out. This is one of my very favorite foods ever. I usually just use the mix from the Asian store but these look even better. Thanks!

  21. could I use regular flour for this? We are in a small town in Costa Rica and whole wheat flour is an exotic thing here LOL

    1. Hi Suzzanne, I’m not Sara, but I just saw your comment and couldn’t help but answer it! You can’t substitute with normal flour, or any other kind of flour for that matter. I am from Brazil and have lived in many south/central american countries. You should try to see if they have local “Harina de Yuca” or “Almidon de Yuca” or “Harina de Casaba”. These are all spanish names for Tapioca Starch. Just make sure it is the white, powdery kind (that looks just like corn starch), and not the toasted brownish colored one. Hope this helps. Good Luck!

  22. We have pão de queijo for breakfast, snack time, dinner, anytime!! It's impossible to eat just one! I have a more difficult recipe but I'll definetly try yours. Isn't it interesting that you're teaching a Brazillian woman how to do it in an easier way? LOL!
    Hugs from Brazil!
    Danielle

  23. I just had the same thing happen to me. I made this out of this world cheesecake years ago and shortly thereafter misplaced the recipe. I have been trying to recreate that magical cheesecake for years (with no luck). And then I go visit my Mom today and pull out her recipe binder to look for a different recipe and low and be hold there is that cheesecake recipe (in my handwriting) that I have so desperately been searching for!

    Anyways, these little rolls look and sound amazing! I have never had Pao de Queijo before and can't wait to make them!