Easy Brazilian Cheese Buns
Irresistible little puffy and cheesy bread buns called Pão de Queijo, made with sour Tapioca starch for a perfect gluten-free snack. These Brazilian Cheese Buns are fun to make and a true crowd-pleaser guaranteed!
I first tried these Brazilian Cheese Buns at a kid’s birthday party made by a Brazilian mom called Vanessa. I feel hard! It was the perfect fluffy texture with lovely cheese flavour! A dream snack for a cheese lover but for the kids too! They were all gone within minutes. I’ve asked my other Portuguese friend to help me figure out this recipe… because there are so many different versions. Finally, I’ve ultimately learned that these simple Pão de Queijo aren’t that simple to pull off. Let’s deep dive into the recipe, shall we?
Tapioca, Polvillo Doce o Agrio?
Let’s start with the type of starch we’ll use. Tapioca starch, also called Polvilho doce, comes from the Cassava roots (Yuca, Manioc). From there, they pick up the starch of the origins by rinsing them. The younger batch, or the first collected one, is the ‘Polvilho doce’ (not fermented). The second batch that stays way longer in the barrels gets fermented, and they call it Polvilho Agrio/Azedo (sour type). The bacterial process produces some lactic acid and yeast, making it acidic and, therefore, the best for our cheese puffs or Pão de Queijo.
The sweeter starch (Polvilho doce) would make a firmer, heavier and chewier bread. Most recipes use sour starch (Polvilho Agrio/Azedo) and sometimes a mix of both. So be careful if you buy a simple Tapioca flour/starch pack. It’s probably a sweet starch, which is unsuitable for this recipe.
Tapioca starch comes mainly from South America, although they also started to produce some in Thailand. While researching, I saw this article about Tapioca flours from South America vs. Thailand being put to the test of Pão de Queijo. The Thai one didn’t give the same consistency at all. If you want to make this recipe, a South American brand like Yoki is the standard way.
Type of Cheeses
So, one thing cleared! Now, let’s talk cheese! This part is funnier, with no theory and no rules. You choose your favourite cheese and mix it up with parmesan. The original cheese used in Brazil is the Minas cheese, a semi-soft cheese. Like cheddar, you can find young and mature versions; for this recipe, they usually choose the oldest. I’ve used a mature cheddar for this recipe, which worked wonders, but you could use any cured cheese you prefer. I bet a lovely Gruyere would do magic here.
As for the second cheese used, it’s the good old parmesan. This one is no problem to find around the globe!
At first, I thought it was strange; there was no added yeast to a puffy bread, but, as mentioned earlier, some yeast hides in the fermented sour starch. So that’s why you get this expansion, thanks to the sour Manoc/Yuca starch. They say to work the dough with the end for a few minutes before adding the eggs. I guess it’s to make some air pockets by folding the bread repeatedly. I’ve used my hands, but a hookbread processor would work, too.
In the end, the dough ends up pretty sticky, so to make the balls, I’ve oiled a bit of my hands, which also gives a nice finish to the cheese buns. Most recipes don’t let the dough rest before cooking; I gave it 5 minutes. Let the hidden yeast do a little work to ensure the starch was all well absorbed.
To Serve with
They are, obviously, at their best, freshly baked out of the oven. In Brazil, they serve these Pão de Queijo at all times! Whether for breakfast, on the side of a soup, or sold on the street as a snack. Those cheezy bites go everywhere! Plus, the kids love them! If served at home, butter or cream cheese is served with it. A real crowd-pleaser!
*Thanks to Paula and Vanessa for guiding me into this beautiful recipe. Obrigado!
Can I use a simple Tapioca flour/starch?
No, better not; you need the sour type (Polvilho Agrio/Azedo) or a mix of both if you want the right texture. Tapioca flour is usually the same as the sweet version (Polvilho doce).
Where can I find this sour Tapioca starch (Polvilho Agrio/Azedo)?
Check Latino supermarkets or online. (Yoki brand is the most popular)
Why did my Pão de Queijo deflated?
This is probably because it missed a bit of cooking. All ovens are different, so next time, try one bun to check if it’s well done before taking them out.
How long can I keep these?
The buns will last two days at room temperature. You can keep them in an airtight container for a few days in the fridge. Otherwise, once cooled, freeze them. Add them to the oven at 200°C (400°F) for 5 minutes to revive them. So easy!
Other Snacks Ideas
- 300 g sour tapioca flour equi. sour cassava flour
- 100 g Parmesan
- 100 g mature cheddar any aged cheese
- 250 ml milk
- 125 ml sunflower oil olive oil, or any vegetal oil
- 2 eggs
- Start by bringing to a boil the milk, oil and salt. Whisk the mixture until it boils.
- Turn off the fire, and add the sour tapioca flour.
- Transfer to a bowl and mix with your hands for a few minutes or hooked food processor.
- Beat the eggs and incorporate them into the dough slowly.
- Add the two types of cheeses and mix well.
- Let rest for five minutes.
- Oil your hands and form small balls of 50g each, and add to a baking tray covered with a non-stick sheet.
- Bake them in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for 20 minutes or until golden.
- Let them rest on the cooling rack for 5 minutes.