recipe: pão de queijo

been a while since i got time to post something. after a sudden and draining trip to Boston, i decided to take the weekend entirely for myself. 75% of it was spent sleeping. the rest was cooking and eating.

here’s the recipe i worked up for pão de queijo, a delicious Brazilian cheese bread.


  • 250g polvilho doce (cassava flour)
  • 135g milk (approx. ¾ cup)
  • 41g sunflower or canola oil (approx. 4 Tbsp)
  • 5g kosher or coarse sea salt (approx. 1 Tbsp)
  • 58g beaten egg (approx. 2 large eggs)
  • 62g finely grated Minas, Parmesan Reggiano, Pecorino Romano or mozzarella cheese (approx. ½ cup – see note)


Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C.

Mix the milk, oil and salt in a pan. Heat the mixture until the milk scalds and starts to boil over. Remove from heat immediately and stir briefly. Place the flour in a medium size bowl and pour the milk mixture over it, scalding the flour. Stir until incorporated and no large chunks remain, about 3-5 minutes by hand or 60-90 seconds by electric mixer with dough hook.

Allow to rest until total time mixing & resting is no less than 5 minutes. Dough should be very chunky and crumbly at this point. Mix in the beaten egg until the mixture is consistent but still quite thick. Then, gently stir in the grated cheese. Dough should be sticky and thicker than cookie or biscuit batter, but workable.

Prep a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Dip fingers in a bit of extra oil to prevent sticking and form small balls of batter approx. 3-5cm in diameter and place on cookie sheet. Bake until light golden brown, between 20 and 35 minutes.

Yield 20 pão.

the cassava flour (aka yucca flour, aka “tapioca” flour but not what we know as “tapioca” in western culture) forms a special gluten that is safe for those with gluten sensitivities. the gluten has a particularly cheesy texture, which adds to the actual cheese in the recipe. if available, use 2 parts polvilho doce (regular cassava flour) to 1 part polivlho azedo (fermented or “sour” cassava flour). as far as i have been able to determine, it is not possible to substitute other flour types. find a Brazilian grocer, or get “tapioca flour” from an Asian grocer (it’ll usually be the right product).

classically the recipe is made with oil as a fat source. some variants swap in butter for a “richer” taste. i’d avoid that. you could substitute some olive oil instead of the vegetable oil, but it might not hold up during baking.

the selection of cheese is critical. traditionally this would be made with Minas cheeses from the Minas Gerais part of Brazil. the cheese recipes there were invented locally, but brought over and adapted from recipes from Italy in the late 19th and early 20th century. when not available, freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano is a good substitute. you could add a bit of a higher moisture content cheese to assist with consistency, such as a freshly grated Pecorino Romano, cotija or mozzarella. personally i find an all-mozzarella version strays too much from the original texture and flavour but it’ll do in a pinch. i have seen variants on the ‘net where people insert chunks of cheese in the middle. i tend to prefer the more consistent dough; the magic of this bread is that the dough itself has the cheesy flavour and texture brought about by the flour itself. if you want cheese-filled bread, try making bolinhas instead (recipe to come).

i seem to have eaten them all without taking a picture! they were that good. that said they looked a whole lot like this:

picture of pão de queijo

picture of pão de queijo

inspiration for the recipe came from this amazing article, in which the function of each ingredient in the recipe is analyzed. their conclusions are as follows:

  • viscosity (thickness/density) increases steadily as the milk is mixed with the flour
  • adding the egg drops the viscosity
  • adding the cheese raises the consistency to a level in between before and after the egg was added
  • different proportions of flour and different sorts of cheese had a minimal effect on bread consistency
  • egg and cheese are essential components whose proportions radically effect the outcome
  • the graph below shows the time plot of viscosity during the scalding, egg-mixing and cheese-mixing portions of batter preparation. the 4 different curves represent different proportions of polvilho doce and polvilho azedo: PAFC (100% azedo), PDFC (100% doce), PSFC (70% azedo + 30% doce) and PCFC (50% azedo + 50% doce)
graph of pão de queijo batter viscosity

graph of pão de queijo batter viscosity

i encourage you all to research this and post more experiments, especially with different proportions and ingredients!