m. c. de marco: The New Kitchen Cookbook

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Although pão literally means bread, I’ve listed pão de queijo as an appetizer because you should eat it hot as soon as it’s baked rather than keeping it around for a day like bread (and it’s gluten-free). If this isn’t convenient, you can freeze the balls until you want them.

The main ingredient is tapioca/manioc/cassava/yuca flour/starch. All of those words mean the same thing; the only difference between them is whether the tapioca starch (polvilho) is sweet (doce) or sour (azedo). Goya, Bob’s, and other earthy/crunchy brands make sweet tapioca flour that you can find in your average American supermarket, but you will need to find a Brazilian grocery store to get an imported Brazilian brand of sour tapioca flour, such as Yoki or Amafil. Or you can overpay for them on the internet.

This recipe is somewhat altered from the one at Leite’s Culinaria, which is about as strict as you get on the cheese bread front. They include both kinds of tapioca flour, lots of steps, chill time, and lecturing about what you MUST do to get the bread to come out right. If you’re short on time, you might want to consult the rest of the internet, which thinks that cheese bread is actually pretty forgiving. (See Variants, below.)

Makes about 40, best eaten hot out of the oven.



  1. Grate any ungrated cheese.
  2. Mix cheese and eggs with an immersion blender or other device. Set aside.
  3. Mix flour and salt in an optionally heat-proof bowl. Set aside.
  4. Bring liquid ingredients (milk, water, oil) to a boil in a small saucepan.
  5. Pour boiling liquid ingredients into the flour mixture (or the flour into the pan).
  6. Mix with a spoon until it has cooled enough to knead.
  7. Knead by hand in the bowl until it’s well-mixed.
  8. Add cheese mixture and spices to the bowl and knead for 10 more minutes in the bowl. (You can stir here or use a pastry cutter if it’s too sticky to knead.)
  9. Cover and chill 2 hours or overnight.
  10. Preheat oven to 350°.
  11. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. (Don’t use a mini-muffin pan.)
  12. Scoop and/or hand-roll the dough into 1 inch balls. (Optionally, freeze them at this point.)
  13. Bake 14 minutes or until they’re a nice light golden color. (Add a couple of minutes if they were frozen.)


Pão de queijo is often made with a mix of parmesan and mozarella, or instead with a Brazilian hard cheese called Minas, which comes in a variety of hardnesses. (The one you want is probably queijo padrão.)

Most recipes in English replace the sour tapioca starch with sweet tapioca starch for lack of Brazilian grocery stores.

Most recipes don’t require that you pause to chill the dough.

Most recipes specify a dough hook, food processor, or blender. This isn’t really necessary as long as your cheese is grated finely enough.

Some people make a watery dough and pour it into muffin tins instead of struggling to incorporate the proper quantity of starch into the proper quantity of liquid.

Some even go as far as to omit the cheese and milk to make the recipe non-dairy. This is not as wacky as you think; cheese and milk are thought to be relatively recent additions in the history of tapioca starch rolls.

A cup of packed mozzarella is about 130g.