I came across these addictive cheese puffs at the United Nations Christmas Fair in Vienna. Every December, many countries prepare and sell their nation’s typical food and the money goes to charity. The Brazilian stand is always popular for its cheese puffs which originally comes from the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. In Brazil, they are typically eaten at breakfast, as an afternoon snack or at parties.

Traditionally, the puffs are made with the cheese from Minas Gerais, but as this is hard to come by, Emmental cheese works well for its gooeyness and mature cheese flavour. If Emmental is not easily found, Monterey Jack or a mature Cheddar are good substitutes.

The dough is typically made with tapioca starch – Brazil being the top exporter of this starch. If you can’t find tapioca starch, potato starch gives the same result for that crunchy shell and soft, fluffy interior.

Nutmeg is not a traditional ingredient, but I feel it brings out the flavour of the cheese in the puffs. Feel free to leave it out if you are not a fan of nutmeg or want the authentic version of Pao de Queijo.

This recipe makes between 25 to 28 bite-size puffs, perfect as a snack or to serve with drinks at a get-together or party. Children love these too, so give these a go at their next birthday party as a savoury snack.

Brazilian Cheese Puffs (Pao de Queijo)
  • 150g Emmental cheese, grated (or Monterey Jack or mature Cheddar)
  • 200ml milk
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 250g tapioca or potato starch
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, heat the milk, oil, salt, white pepper and nutmeg on medium heat for 7 minutes. It should reach 90°C/195°F. If you don’t have a food thermometer, after 7 minutes you will know it has reached the right temperature as the milk mixture will appear frothy with some light bubbling.

2. Add the tapioca starch and mix well using a wooden spoon until the mixture is just combined. Don’t be put off if you notice the dough looking straggly and crumbly.

3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

4. Add the eggs and grated cheese to the tapioca mixture. Beat well for around 5 minutes using a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. You could use a bench stand mixer for this step if you prefer.

5. Cover the pot with a tea towel and rest for 20 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

7. Line several baking trays with baking paper or silicone mats. Using a small 4cm ice-cream scoop or large tablespoon, place each dough ball 5cm apart.

8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden. The bottom of each puff should have a nice crisp finish.

9. Serve immediately as a snack or a side to salads or soups.
  • Makes 25-28 small puffs
  • Best eaten on the same day
  • Can be reheated in the oven for 5 minutes covered with foil
  • Suitable to freeze unbaked dough balls. No need to defrost. Can be baked straight from frozen
Try different fillings by adding small pieces of ham, green olives or small pieces of pickled artichoke together with the cheese. If you fancy some spice, adding some chopped pickled jalepeños will give a nice heat.