Pão de Queijo: easy cheesy

Are you living a gluten-free lifestyle? Do you LOVE cheese and garlic? If you answered yes to either (or both) of these questions, this is your lucky day. Because I’m going to show you how to make Brazils’ Pão de Queijo, light-as-air, crusty/tender cheese and garlic buns.

They’re fast. They’re easy. They’re certainly cheesy.

And they’re absolutely, positively, 100% gluten-free.

How can this be, you ask? Read on.

One of the regular readers of this blog, Ricardo Gonzalez, writes us often from his home in Brazil, most recently to tell us about one of his favorite breads:

“Here in Brazil we have a nice and loved bread, all the Brazilians love ’em! I’m talking about Cheese Bread (Pão de Queijo) a nice soft delicious balls made of cheese and manioc starch. I promise to send recipe of this delicate bread to you PJ, but I think will not be easy to find manioc starch (we call it here POLVILHO) in USA markets. It’s the same that occur here in Brazil with Maple Syrup, difficult to find here. Anyway, these cheese soft ball breads, are common here freezed and sold in plastic bags. All of Brazilians and tourists who come visit Brazil loves a lot, Pão de Queijo!!! Hope you could visit Brazil and taste one of them in future!”

Brazil's favorite bread snack, warm, cheesy Pão de Queijo, is a gluten-free baker's dream come true. Click To Tweet

Since a trip to Brazil isn’t in my near future, I asked Ricardo to send along the recipe. Which he quickly did – thanks again, Ricardo! I love having some vague idea of where I’m headed before taking off on any baking trip, so I Googled up a few pictures of Pão de Queijo.

Ah. I see. Round, puffy, light-gold rolls, looking very much like smooth-skinned cream puffs. (Try searching Google images for Pão de Queijo. You’ll see a wonderful gallery of photos.)

Now I know where I’m going. Come along with me: let’s bake Pão de Queijo – Gluten-Free Brazilian Cheese Buns – together.

Tapioca flour (a.k.a. tapioca starch, cassava flour, manioc flour; all the same thing) is “the tie that binds” here. Extracted from cassava root, this pure starch is gluten-free, and nearly protein-free. We’ve always used it to thicken puddings and pie fillings, but never knew it could make great buns.

One caveat: all tapioca flours are NOT created equal. I learned this when a friend baking gluten-free test-baked this recipe for me.

“They were delicious, everyone devoured them. But the dough wasn’t scoopable; it was more like cake batter,” she said. I know Dani is a good baker, and almost certainly hadn’t measured wrong; so I quizzed her on what brand of tapioca she’d used. It wasn’t the brand I’d used; I had to assume that was the difference. So caveat emptor; depending on which tapioca flour (or starch, same thing) you use, you may have to make a minor adjustment along the way.

But for now, let’s get back to the recipe.

Pão de Queijo

Preheat your oven to 375°F. These buns come together quickly, so give yourself enough time for the oven to come up to temperature.

Gather your ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups gluten-free tapioca flour or tapioca starch
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmesan, Romano, or aged Asiago cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Make the batter

First, put the tapioca flour in a mixing bowl.

Cut the butter into pats. Put it in a saucepan with the water, milk, and salt. Heat until the butter melts, then bring to a boil. Pour into the bowl of tapioca flour.

Pão de Queijo via @kingarthurflour

Beat the mixture at high speed until it’s cohesive and elastic; this won’t take long, probably less than 30 seconds.

Beat in the grated cheese and garlic.

Drizzle in the eggs with your mixer running.

Pão de Queijo via @kingarthurflour

You’ll have a viscous, fairly thick batter/dough.

We’ve found that tapioca starch/flour varies in its absorption capabilities. If you’ve gotten this far and the batter is thinner, more like cake or pancake batter, beat in additional tapioca flour/starch until it’s thick enough to hold its shape when you scoop some onto a baking sheet. It should be the approximate consistency of cream puff batter: when you plop it onto the pan, it should settle slightly, but not spread into a puddle.

Pão de Queijo via @kingarthurflour

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, to gather everything into the center. This makes it easier to scoop.

Pão de Queijo via @kingarthurflour

Scoop the batter

Scoop golf ball-sized mounds of batter onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet; you’ll need two sheets. A tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.

Pão de Queijo via @kingarthurflour

The mounds will settle gently.

Bake until golden

Bake the buns for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans – top to bottom, bottom to top — and bake for another 10 minutes, until the buns are barely beginning to brown. They’ll be light gold, speckled from the cheese, and have an interesting “crackly” appearance.

Remove the buns from the oven.

Pão de Queijo via @kingarthurflour

Enjoy!

Now for the good part. Grab a hot bun, and take a bite. No butter necessary – these are complete unto themselves.

Ahhhh…. SO good.

Offer them to your family, friends, or whoever happens to be with you in the kitchen. I promise you universal acclaim for these little gems. Share the recipe with your gluten-free-diet friends. They’ll weep with joy.

It’s unlikely you’ll have any leftover buns. But if you do, wrap them in plastic and store at room temperature. Rewarm briefly in the microwave and be prepared for another one of those “ahhhh” moments.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Pão de Queijo, a.k.a. Gluten-Free Brazilian Cheese Buns.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Wilma Jean

    You’ve posted the best recipe, instructions, and photos I’ve found in my search for details on making pão de queijo. Providing the ideal internal temperature (210°F) and egg volume (1/4 cup each) is immensely helpful for ensuring consistent results. My only criticism is that you mention weighing the tapioca flour in one of your responses, but then do not go on to give a recommended weight. Since most cooks outside the U.S. and many people involved in GF cooking are in the habit of measuring flours by weight rather than by volume, this seems like an unfortunate oversight. Thanks for writing about this versatile and delicious staple of Brazilian cuisine!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for pointing that out, Wilma! This blog post includes step-by-step directions, while the recipe itself can be found at this link. All of our recipes allow bakers to toggle between volume, ounces, and grams, so that they are able to use whatever measurements they feel most comfortable with. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

  2. Annette

    I am experimenting with gluten-free baking for a gluten-sensitive family member and was excited to try this recipe, but the rolls didn’t really come out well this time. My dough was crumbly after adding the milk/butter and never did look like dough until I added the eggs. After baking, the buns were nice and crispy on the outside but gelantinous inside (not that appealing!). Any thoughts on what went wrong?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like perhaps the buns weren’t baked for long enough, Annette. If you happen to have an instant-read thermometer, consider using it to take the internal temperature of the buns to see when they’re done. To ensure they’re fully baked, they should reach about 205°F to 210°F. They may also have had a slightly off interior texture if there were any ingredient substitutions made. If there was something that was tweaked or adjusted, consider reaching out to our Baker’s Hotline (855-371-2253) to talk about ways to ensure the final results are still enjoyable. We’re here to help. Kye@KAF

    2. Annette Schloss

      I didn’t make any substitutions but it may be that the rolls weren’t baked long enough. After a day stored in a ziplock bag, they were more dry and I froze the rest. I am finding that I can cut them in half and toast them in the toaster oven and they look fine and are quite tasty!

    3. Helena

      Check out videos of “receita de pao de queijo”
      One video “Vitrine Revista Londrine”.
      2 c. sweet tapioca/manioc starch
      2 c. sour tapioca/manioc starch
      2 c. milk
      1 c. oil
      salt to taste depending on how salty is cheese.
      3 eggs
      4 c. cheese of preference depending on taste desired.

      Some people in Brazil even cook potato and add to ingredients and they say it makes the little breads more moist and don’t harden to eat the next days after baked.

  3. Emma

    Looking forward to trying this recipe. As someone who works professionally with cassava flour and tapioca starch, please note that they are NOT the same thing.
    Both come from the tapioca root. The starch is removed from the root and then dried to be sold as tapioca starch or flour, but cassava flour is the entire root ground up and dried. You will get very different results if you try to use cassava flour instead of tapioca starch in this recipe

    Reply
  4. rex bertoli

    Love these cheese balls. Very easy to prepare and cook. On question though, as I am on a gluten free diet it is very difficult or near impossible to get decent G/F bread. How would your receipe go if we eliminated the cheese and made it into bread rolls or indeed a bread loaf. Appreciate any comments. Regards Rex

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Removing the cheese shouldn’t create a problem, Rex, so feel free to eliminate that and the garlic to create more of a “blank-canvas” bread. We are however a little concerned that if baked as one single loaf, the results would be quite dense. If you happen to have mini loaf pans, or grab some mini disposable aluminum loaf pans from the grocery store, they may be more successful than a larger, standard loaf. Gluten-free breads tend to rely heavily on clinging to the sides of the pan to stay risen, so having very little surface area of visible dough/batter is ideal. No matter which pan you bake in, you want the internal temperature to reach 210°F. It isn’t something we’ve tested out, but you’re more than welcome to experiment! Annabelle@KAF

  5. Kimberly Cooper

    So hopeful…but they turned out dry. Followed the directions of adding more tapioca flour to get it to the right consistency. Too much apparently… 🙁

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sorry to hear this recipe didn’t come out quite right for you. To achieve a moist interior texture, we recommend measuring your flour by weight using a scale or like this (if you’re not already doing so). Otherwise it’s easy to pack the flour into the cup and end up with dry dough. Also, you might want to try reducing the amount of time you bake the buns for to help retain moisture. The internal temperature should reach about 205-210°F when they’ve finished baking. We hope that helps! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Richard, rather than experimenting with this reverse substitution, what about trying one of our cheesy bun recipes that are designed for wheat flour? Our Cheese Brioche Buns would be really tasty with a little added garlic: http://bit.ly/1rXJ28d Mollie@KAF

  6. Amanda

    Your “pães de queijo” look awesome, although I must say that they are originally made with SOUR tapioca flour (polvilho azedo), which adds a totally different dimension of flavor. Unfortunately I can only find it on Amazon for a steep price, so I stock up every time I go to Brazil.

    Reply
  7. Ellen Friedman

    I have made these buns at least 8 times and they are different almost every time. The dough ranges from stiff to very runny and I am using the same tapioca starch each time and am using the called for amounts of ingredients. I thought the difference might be in the light beating of the eggs that I do with a whisk, so I tried beating them more and the next time beating them less but nothing changed with that. I then looked at the boiling of the butter mix. I am using a small stainless steel sauce pan and the most success I was at getting the right consistency of the dough ( the buns were actually too dry and flour-like tasting) was when I boiled the butter mix the most. However, I lost some of the mix to it being stuck to the bottom of the pan. At what heat setting do you recommend I boil the mix? Mine never comes to anything other than a slightly rolling boil. It does not look anything like the pics on your website. I am using Lactaid 2% milk. I could try Lactaid whole milk if you think it would make a difference. Tonight I decided to measure the liquid ingredients after the boil and I had just under 1 cup. I wish I had measured what I had when the dough was dry enough to form into balls. i thought I would have had more evaporation which could have been the difference between stiffer dough and what I got tonight. Tonight I baked the mixture in the popover pan (regular sized– not mini) I got from KAF a while back. They came out fine. When I out the butter mixture into the tapioca starch, it does not perfect- nice and elastic. Everything goes bad when the eggs are added. This recipe has become a challenging experiement for me. Any suggestions are welcome.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Measure the eggs at 1/4 cup each to make sure you have the right amount. Check for a full rolling boil. Are you at altitude? Any other ideas out there? Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

    2. Ellen Friedman

      Trying them again this morning. No altitude issue here in MA. Just lightly beat the large eggs and will mesaure them to see if I have 1/2 cup for the two of them. Would rather have the batter a little dry and add liquid than too liquid. When it was really bad one time i kept adding the tapioca flour a little at a time and the rolls were way too floury. Thanks for the response.

  8. Lillea

    I’m curious about freezing and reheating in an oven, rather than in a microwave as previously advised in the comments. Any tips?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Lillea, try reheating the buns in a 350°F oven, lightly tented with foil, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re warm all the way through. Enjoy – PJH

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