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Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Brazilian Cheese Bread

Pão de Queijo (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐ̃w̃ dʒi ˈkejʒu]), is a very popular tea and breakfast item in Brazil – sold in bakeries, coffee shops, frozen in supermarkets to be baked home and street stalls.  They are also frequently homemade, especially in Minas Gerais: Brazilian state where my family comes from and also the “Pão de Queijo” home state.

Great gluten free diet option as it is not made of wheat but Cassava (check more about Cassava), more specifically Tapioca Starch.    Quoting Wikipedia: The cassava root produces a very powerful starch which is key to the size and texture of the Pão de Queijo.

Unlike other bread the recipe calls for no leavening of any kind. Small pockets of air within the dough expand during baking and are contained by the powerful elasticity of the starch paste.

The smell of these yummy cheese breads, crispy with a chewy and moist centre always takes me back home.   Living in Australia, it took me a while to develop a recipe of Pão de Queijo as good as the ones I had home.     The problem is, the quality of the bread depends mainly of the quality of the starch you are using.

In Brazil, there are two kinds of Tapioca Starch available, the Sour Starch (oxidized starch) and the “Sweet” Starch (the one you generally find in Asian Stores and good supermarkets). 
Brazilian Cheese Bread You can make the bread with either but using the sour starch will result in a more hollow and “puff” bread, it will also give it some sourness (like a sour dough bread).     The “Sweet” Starch will make more condensed bread and you won’t have the sour taste.    You can also make the bread mixing up the two different kinds of starch in a half/half proportion.

Personally I like to use the Sour Starch as the texture is better and it is more traditional and this was when my problems to replicate it here in Australia started.  You can’t find the Sour Starch easily when living abroad and I just couldn’t find a starch that would give me the right consistence.

After several failures I am pleased to share a recipe “I can be proud of” with you today.    A few important points before jumping into the recipe:

  • Original Cheese Bread does not have baking powder in the dough. I added baking power so I could have some of the texture the Sour Starch would give me.
  • It is very important to pour the boiling liquids all over the starch and knead it while it is still hot – if your cheese bread does not work the mistake was very likely in this point.
  • When you add the eggs and the cheese it will form a very moist paste, beat it really well.   In the original recipe it should be kneaded but this one is extra moist, again to give it a better texture.    DON’T ADD more starch to it as it will turn into doughy horrible bread.
  • You can experiment adding different cheeses to the bread – In Brazil we use a local cheese named Mineiro, that is white and fresh but left to be cured when used to cheese bread.    The important is to keep the proportion of half part of cheese to 1 part of starch.  
  • Pão de Queijo is only good hot! Serve it immediately or freeze the unbaked balls of dough to bake later.     Cold Pão de Queijo makes an awesome Panini – cut it in half, put a slice of salami and press it with a sandwich press… yummmm 🙂
  • You can find easily the Tapioca Starch at Asian/Indian Stores.   If you can put your hands in the Brazilian starch is even better.   In Australia you can check where you can find it at Brazilian Foods .

You can freeze the cheese bread by rolling the balls and putting them in a tray, uncovered in the freezer just until they are holding their shape then transfer the bread to a ziplock bag – they keep well in the freezer for about three months.    To bake the frozen cheese bread just follow the same procedure you would use for the fresh cheese bread – there is no need to defrost before baking it however it will take about five minutes further to bake.

    Now that you know everything about Pão de Queijo, use my recipe to make it to your family.   Bom Apetite!

    Step by Step (full recipe after the step by step)

    This part of the post is new.   I notice some people have been having a hard time getting it right and that’s ok, is a bit of a trick one – it might seen not enough liquid but it is just like we do, promise of someone born in Brazil and raised not only in Brazil but in the state where Pão de Queijo comes from: MG.   Here is a step by step with photos of each one of the measures.   If you still find any problem don’t hesitate in contact me. 

     250 g Tapioca Starch well Measured and 125 ml Milk

    125g Cheese and 1 heaped tablespoon of butter (40g)

    And here we are ready to start!  Put the Milk and the butter to heat over medium heat and leave it until it boils completly

    Spread the Tapioca Starch in a large bowl.    Try to cover as much of it’s surface with the boiling milk and butter

    Work fast, first mashing all with a fork and than with your hands – you can’t wait the dough to cool down.    At first it will be just like the first picture bellow:Crumble.    Continue kneading and you will have it like the second picture.   It will still be too dry though.


    Add the egg and if you are using a food processor, process here a little bit before adding the cheese, otherwise it will incorporate to the dough and it will make it too fat.   If you are making by hand like I am doing here, you can add at this point the cheese.   You will also add the salt and the baking powder here.   In the recipe I put 1/2 teaspoon of salt, in Brazil we like it very savory so for me I always add 1 tablespoon, just adjust it to your taste.    The baking powder is optional, in Brazil we don’t add it, if you are using the “sweet” starch you might want to add it, if you are using the sour starch you don’t really need it.   I always add it when I am making out of Brazil because the quality of the starch is not the same.


    Knead… knead… knead….  You will end up with a sticky dough (I told you it was enough liquid! :-)).      If it is too sticky (it might be more or less depending on the size of the egg), just put in the fridge uncovered for about 5 minutes and will be good enough to roll.


    Pre-heat the oven to 180C (350F) fan forced.    Roll the bread into balls – you can make them small of larger.  We generally make small ones (2.5cm) to eat as an afternoon tea and large ones (3.5-4cm) for breakfast.      Bake for 20-30 min until puffed up and lightly browned.     In the photo above I used Parmesan cheese very finely ground, here in the photo below I used cheddar and more roughly ground so you can see more of the cheese that’s why you see a bit of more color in the surface.  


    Here it is, crispy outside and when you open it has to be gooey and cheesy.

    Brazilian Cheese Bread
    Yields: about 30 Cost:$$ | Difficulty:  Medium | Time:1h
    Author: A Brazilian Classic by 100% Brazilian Rachel Elich

    Brazilian Cheese BreadIngredients

    • 250g Tapioca Starch
    • 125ml Full Cream Milk (If you got plans to freeze part of it you can add a tiny bit more of milk, and I mean, really tiny, 25ml)
    • 1 generous (heaped) tablespoon of butter (40g of butter)
    • 125g Ground Parmesan Cheese
    • 1 large Egg
    • 1/2 Tablespoon salt (less if you want less savory)
    • ½ Teaspoon of baking powder (optional)


    1. Put the Tapioca Starch in a large bowl.
    2. In a small pan bring the milk, salt and butter to boil.
    3. Pour the hot liquid over the Starch, covering the most of its surface you can.   With a fork quickly mix up everything and finish kneading with your hands or with a food processor.
    4. Add the eggs, cheese and baking powder. 
    5. Mix well, if possible kneading with a food processor or a mixer.   
    6. The dough will be very sticky.   Put it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap for about 10 min and you will be able to roll it.
    7. Heat the oven to 200C.   
    8. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
    9. Roll the bread in balls of 2.5cm.  
    10. Arrange the bread in the baking tray leaving about two fingers of space between each.   
    11. Bake for about 20-25 min – until Puff and lightly browned.

    Where to find the Starch in Australia

    In Australia you can buy online the Sour and the Sweet Starch here:  Brazilian Style Food

    Leave a comment if you can recommend any online store to buy the Starch in other countries and I will be updating this list.


    Follow the recipe and the step by step to the letter and it still not good?  Let’s see what can have happened:

    • The Milk has to be boiling  not “almost” boiling – it does make difference in the texture.  We call it in Brazil “escaldar o polvilho”
    • You have to cover most of the surface with the milk  and knead it while hot, that will pre-cook the starch and will give the correct consistence to the bread.  You don’t need to add more milk or butter here.   This is the most important part and when everybody makes mistakes when is learning how to make it.
    • NEVER add more starch after you put the milk
    • If you still fail, try to put your hands in a Brazilian startch, this brand below is not my first choice when I am at home but you can find easily out of Brazil and this is what I am using here in Australia:

    Again, If you still have any problem just contact me.   Bom Apetite! 🙂


    1. There must be an error in your measurements, surely? Have used your recipe to the letter and this is not dough, it is dry dry dry and crumbly – no where near enough liquid??

    2. Hi Lulu, the measures are correct, promise. I make it every couple of days. I even checked the list of ingredients again, Is even too sticky and you have to put in the fridge to let it set. What might have gone wrong because is the part nobody is used to it: the milk plus the butter has to be boiling and you have to try to cover the biggest surface possible with is and it will still be "crumbly" It works a bit like a pastry choux. You will need it while is hot, easiest way of doing it is with a food processor. When you add the egg, continue kneading/mixing. Use a large Egg. About the butter, is a heaped spoon but i promise this week i will measure to know exactly the amount and as this recipe is pretty popular I might be taking step by step photos. x Rach

    3. Dear Lulu, I just posted the step by step for the cheese bread and made it by hand today just to make sure that was alright even kneading by hand (I always make it in the food processor because it is easier). I saw in your site that you doubled the milk. With all respect it makes it easier but is just not the same texture. Giving you my word, from someone born and raised in Brazil that had cheese bread "in the baby bottle". I hope you try it again as I made the step by step today specially for you 🙂 x Rach

    4. Lulu, I have made these several times with Rachel's recipe as it is and they always turn out beautifully. Try mixing for longer. The dough will be wet enough, I always have to sit it in the fridge to firm up before rolling. Trust the locals! This recipe is as authentic as they get, why mess with it 🙂

    5. Hi Rachel, I made these today following your original recipe and they came out beautifully! I used the Magimix for all the kneading. Kids love them, hubby too – everyone happy 🙂

    6. Hi Rachel,

      I'm in Sydney and am wondering where I can purchase that particular starch from? Also, what kind of cheese would you recommend? Thank you!


    7. Hi Tonia, You can easily find Tapioca Starch (not the sour one, the normal) at any Indian grocery store. But If you can find the Brazilian one is the best choice, there is an importer: Brazilian Style Imports that brings both Tapioca Starch and Sour Starch to Australia, you can check their FB page ( and contact them about where to find it in Sidney, I am pretty sure there will be lots of places. By the way, they also bring the Cheese Bread in box but I say DONT buy it 🙂 100% homemade is way better. At home I mix up the sour and the normal startch because i like the taste better but when I can't find the sour starch I use whatever Tapioca Starch I can find in the Indian Grocery Store. Regarding the Cheese, in Brazil we use cured white cheese, more specific one we call Minas but I can't find it here so my advice is, if you want a prettier and more "puff" look use Parmesan cheese… no need to spend heaps, any Coles cheap Parmesan Cheese will do. If you actually wants to have bits and pieces of cheese you can make it with Ground Cheddar – If you chack the post, the first Cheese Bread was made with Parmesan, the last one with Cheddar, you can see the difference. Tastewise both will be great. If you have any problem let me know and thank you so much for following the blog. x Rachel

    8. Hi Rachel,
      finally got round to trying your recipe again and you're right! The dry crumbly texture eventually somehow binds together. Thank you, Lucy

    9. Hi Barbara, you might have boiled the milk but not mixed up quick enough – you can try to add a dash more of butter to the boiled milk to help mixing. When you mix you have to make sure you work very fast so the milk+melted butter will cover as much of the starch as possible and "pre cook" the starch – normally this is the point where we make mistakes and where the recipe fails. Its a bit rough if you don't have some kind of dough mixer because it burns the hand a bit… I've done so many time I don't even feel it anymore :-S Another thing is, the starch: the "sour starch" that you will only find in Brazilian stores makes the Pao de Queijo more puff than the normal starch because it is oxidised. I hope it helps. Happy baking! 🙂 x Rach

    10. Hi, I do want to make these to take to a dinner party – how best to prepare them beforehand? Can I bake them completely earlier in the day then just re-heat them? OR can I make the dough and leave it in the fridge for several hours (or even over night?) then bake at the last minute? Thank you.

    11. My apologies, I just saw you comment now 🙁 It might be a bit late but here it goes… You can prepare before hand, make the balls, put in an open tray in the freezer until they are firm and then transferring them to a sealed bag. I don't recommend you to bake them in advance though, they are not so good re heated – best is to bake a little before the dinner party. You not even have to thaw the dough, just transfer the frozen dough balls to a baking tray and bake it normally.

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