Pão de queijo – Brazilian cheese bread

It’s been over 13 years when I first got to know the gooey soft little cheesy dough balls that are pão de queijo when I was in São Paulo on a work trip. The hotel I stayed at had them at breakfast and I have to say I ate my weight in them even if it is not very adviced, they are quite rich… I attempted to make them a couple of times but at that time the tapioca flours needed weren’t easy to source, at least in Finland, where I used to live back then.

A bowl of golden dough balls
Pão de Queijo is a Brazilian breakfast food that also makes a great party food or snack.

When I was diagnosed with coeliacs disease, I remembered again these gorgeous morsels of delight and realised that since they are made of tapioca starch they are naturally gluten-free! I now have a friend that’s Brazilian, and I consulted her about the recipe and how to succesfully make pão de queijo in the UK. I was adviced to get both sweet and sour manioc (tapioca) starches for the recipe and kindly adviced where to get them from.

I happen to have a Brazilian food shop tucked away at the back of a framing shop that is not far away, so I was all set. I suggest you see if a Brazilian food shop would be near enough to you, since they tend to have other lovely gluten-free options. When you shop, double-check the ingredients and allergy statements, though. I have found that the statement of ‘Contém Gluten’ (contains gluten) might be placed somewhere else on the packaging and not underneath the ingredient list as it typically is in the UK so do be careful. Also if you are in an actual shop, it might be that the shop-keeper isn’t aware that even naturally gluten free products might come with a ‘may contain’ statement and give you the wrong advice.

Sweet starch (polvilho doce) and sour starch (polvilho azedo) are available online and in Brazilian food shops
You need both sweet starch (polvilho doce) and sour starch (polvilho azedo) for Pão de Queijo.

If you haven’t got a suitable shop around, you can also purchase the flours online. You need the sweet starch (polvilho doce) and fermented sour starch (polvilho azedo). If there are options on how fine the flour is, I’d pick the really fine one (Yoki bran was nice when I tried) . Last time I bought these ones that cost half the price of the ones I had bought before, and when baking I realised that these ones were more granulated than the ones I had used before. They made nice pão de queijo anyway, but I ended up adding 1/3 more liquid in the dough, since the flour absorbed a lot more.

Pão de Queijo recipe

Here is the original recipe from my friend, which she has adapted to be using cheddar cheese:


  • 1 cup of sweet tapioca (manioc) starch
  • 1 cup of sour tapioca (manioc) starch
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese (I used extra mature cheddar)


Combine the starch flours and salt in a bowl. Put water, milk and oil into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Keep an eye so the milk doesn’t catch. The starch needs to be scoulded, so as the liquid starts to boil, add the starch mixture while constantly stirring to avoid lumps. It will result in a pasty mixture. Take off the heat and set aside to cool down.
After the mixture is cooled down add the egg and cheese. Using your hands knead the dough to make it nice and smooth and form small balls. Bake in a pre-heated oven (220C/200C fan/gas 7) until golden brown. Best served fresh. You can prepare the dough balls in advance and freeze them and bake when needed.

Since you might have not made anything like this before, I’ll add a few pictures as aids to walk you through the process:

Ingredients with extra cheese...
The recipe from my friend says 1,5 cups of grated cheddar but I tend to add more…
Add the starch mixture in the pan when the liquid starts to simmer.
Bring the mixture of water, milk and oil to the boil and then gradualy, while mixing, add the flour mixture with the salt in. Be careful for the liquid is hot!
The starch and liquid will form a thick paste.
When the liquid and starch has combined, you will get a gluey paste. If you find that the flour needs more liquid to combine properly, add a bit of water in and mix while still on the heat. If you feel you still need to add more, add a splash of milk and repeat until the starch is combined and forms a paste. Just be careful not to ccatch the milk so you might want to turn down the heat a bit.

Take the paste of the heat and let it cool down before adding the other ingredients so you don’t cook the egg straight away.

Add grated cheese and egg to the cooled mixture.
Wait until the paste is cooled down (hand warm) before you combine the cheese and the egg in.
Ready dough with cheese and egg combined to the mix
The dough might not look the most uniform there is but it will make beautiful cheesy dough balls when it cooks…
Form the dough into ping pong ball size (or slightly smaller) balls.
The dough is quite sticky, so you might want to use oil in your hands when you roll the balls. I find a bit smaller than a ping pong ball is good, for they will puff up in the oven.
Bake in the oven (220C/200C fan/gas 7) until golden brown. Takes 8-10min or so.

I do encourage you to try out these! I love now to whip them up on a Friday before sitting in front of the telly to watch something nice with hubby. I warn you, they are REALLY moreish and best to be had as an occasional treat if you find self-control in short supply like I do. You can always freeze part of them before baking and bake them in batches for they are best served up fresh.

Do leave me a comment on how you have got on with these. Leave a comment also if you need some help on the recipe. You can also come to IG @gf_lifetweaks and PM me if you need some extra advice.

3 thoughts on “Pão de queijo – Brazilian cheese bread

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