Pão de Queijo Fake Out Recipe

You may have noticed the blog is sporting a new theme, wanted to try something different. Let me know how you like it. I can’t believe I’m inching close to 50 blog posts–this is #49! I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but I really didn’t think I would stick with it for this long. My sincere thanks to all of you who stop by, read, comment, and share. Your support means a lot to me ;O)

Today’s post is about pão de queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread traditionally made with sour cassava flour also know as sour tapioca flour or polvilho azedo. The sour cassava flour, as opposed to the easier to find sweet cassava flour, is fermented and has a sour/acidic taste to it that is supposed to impart a better flavor and produce a better crust. There are other Latin American countries that have similar cheese breads: in Bolivia and Argentina they have cuñapes, in Paraguay they have chipacitos, and in Colombia they have pan de bono.

The first time I had pão de queijo it was with a friend who was visiting from Brazil. She took me to an amazing Brazilian restaurant in Tenleytown, next to the Dancing Crab. I don’t recall the name of the place, probably because it went through so many incarnations: Amazonia Grill, Doña Flores, La Vida Loca, A Caravela… In any case, what I do I remember is a pão de queijo with a dense but fluffy interior, a slightly chewy texture, and a crisp golden brown exterior.

For years I have been trying to replicate this at home. I have been unable to find the sour cassava flour that is called for in most recipes. I did find sweet cassava flour and several pre-packaged mixes, all of these yielded doughy pão de queijo with runny/uncooked interiors that refused to set no matter how long I baked them. I recently came across this fake out recipe that uses cooked potato and cornstarch in place of the sour cassava flour. I changed the recipe a bit: added oil, egg, salt, and a bit more cheese.

The results are delicious. It came pretty close to my memory of that first pão de queijo. The best part is that you can make these with ingredients that probably are already in your kitchen. And all it takes is putting the ingredients in a food processor, kneading the final bit of cornstarch in, and shaping the balls. You could substitute mozzarella for the cheese, or a Latin American style queso blanco. I like the feta/asiago cheese combination. It provides some sourness that otherwise would be missing because no sour cassava flour is used.

Although this recipe came out great and more than met my expectations I still plan on making a traditional pão de queijo. I will be trying this recipe from Nando at Cuca Brazuca once I manage to get my hands on some sour cassava flour.

If you live in New York City, Arthur Bovino from Always Hungry New York went to 14 establishments to find the best pão de queijo in the city. You can check out the rankings here.

Do you know of other cheese breads similar to pão de queijo? Anyone knows somewhere in DC where I can find the sour cassava flour?

Pão de Queijo Fake Out Recipe

7 oz/200g potato, peeled and cut into small chunks (about 1 large potato)
4.4oz/125g cornstarch (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large egg, beaten
2 oz/56g Asiago or Parmesan cheese
2 oz/56g Feta cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
Added salt for cooking the potatoes

1. In a small saucepan, place the potatoes, cover with water, add a couple large pinches of salt and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are very tender. Drain potatoes and return to the hot saucepan for a few minutes, or until they are completely dry.
2. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
3. Place the still warm potatoes in the bowl of a food processor. Process until thick and pasty. Add ¾ cup of the cornstarch, oil, egg, and salt and process until smooth. Add the cheese and process until it is well incorporated.
4. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup cornstarch on your kitchen counter. Turn out the mixture from the food processor on the counter. Knead the dough until it comes together. Divide the dough into 16 pieces and roll into balls a bit smaller than golf balls. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the balls on it. Bake for 25 minutes. If the tops of your pão de queijo have not browned (mine didn’t) put them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until the tops are a light golden brown.

They are best freshly baked, but you can re-heat them in the microwave for about 8 seconds. If you re-heat them in the oven they may dry out in the middle.

Author: onevanillabean

I have loved cooking and baking since I was 5 years old. It was the one activity that I would share with all my extended family. Like most people, I love traveling. I love visiting the markets, exploring unknown ingredients, and bringing them back home with me for inspiration. I find that recipes with simple and pure ingredients yield the best results.

16 thoughts

  1. I’m Brazilian and I absolutely LOVE Pão de Queijo!!!! This “fake” version looks interesting and will be worth a try. Here there are many different recipes with both sweet and sour cassava starch. Lately I’ve stuck to a very easy one made in the blender and cooked in a waffle maker. I make a big batch, and then freeze them cooked. Every time I want to eat it, I just put it in the toaster and it will become hot and crispy again… it’s heaven!!! I have posted about it recently here: http://testadoprovadoeaprovado.blogspot.com/2010/05/waffles-de-pao-de-queijo.html

      1. Hi, I’m Brazilian and I am very impressed with your knowledge of the different types of starch. IF you have a store that sells south american produce in your area, it is worth calling and asking about the different types of starch. In London for example we can find both types of starch in a shop that sells primarily Portuguese produce. Even in Brazil the ‘polvilho azedo’is not found everywhere so the sweet type is the most common. With regards to the recipes, there are various diffent ways. Yours seem close enough. The only thing that adds a very different element here is the feta cheese. I imagine that it retains a lot of its texture.

  2. Hi Valentina– The feta cheese gets completely incorporated into the batter by the food processor. I actually just got some sweet tapioca flour today which is widely available at health foods stores here. I also discovered a website that sells the polvilho azedo.I’m going to make the recipe with the sweet type soon. Btw, love your cupcakes!

    1. Hey, great that you got the sour tapioca. i would love to know how you get one. I make batches of cupcake and freeze them. I use whatever tapioca flour I can get. Thank you. The cupcakes blog is a bi abandoned. I have more recent stuff in http//aweebitofsugar.com

  3. Problem is — I’ve lived in Brazil for almost three years and I cannot find (afordable) feta cheese!! Love the recipe idea, but…

  4. Hi Jim–In Brazil you can use queijo minas curado, which is the traditional cheese used in pão de queijo. I know that sometimes catupiry cheese is also used, which is like cream cheese, but I have not tried this recipe with cheese of that texture.
    Valentina–I will look for the link and post it here. Love gooseberries,good looking blog!

  5. valentina,

    i’m brazilian too, and pão de queijo is a traditional food from my state, minas gerais. the best pão de queijo is made of polvilho doce, not azedo. polvilho azedo is cheaper, that is why restaurants use it. try your traditional recipe using polvilho doce and i’m sure you’ll get a better result.

    but your pães de queijo look amazing!

  6. I’ve been wanting to make pão de queijo for a long time, too. In central Texas, there are a couple of stores that serve only Brazilian foodstuff. I have yet to go to one of them and buy some polvilho azedo. Your pães de queijo look perfect! I would have never known that this was a cheater recipe. I love pão de queijo too.

  7. I have to say, I have never had these or even tried pão de queijo. But your recipe and pictures make me want to find it. Beautiful pictures!

  8. It looks like I’m a bit late to the party, but in case you’re still looking for polvilho azedo, try:

    European Foods
    2700 Pershing Dr.
    Arlington, VA

    By Brazil
    11333 Georgia Ave.
    Silver Spring, MD

    European Market
    17605 Redland Rd.
    Rockville, MD

    All of these also sell frozen and dry mix pao de queijo. By Brazil bakes their own and sells them hot in store–highly recommended! The store in Arlington is my favorite overall, though.

    I’ll have to echo the other Brazilians who’ve chimed in with the assertion that it’s normally made with polvilho doce, not azedo. I just made some myself with tapioca starch I bought at Whole Foods and it was tasty and baked nicely inside after about 20 minutes @ 425. There’s a recipe on the King Arthur Flour website that’s good if you take out the garlic (I don’t know who they got that recipe from, but I’ve never heard of garlic in pao de queijo), and they note different brands of tapioca starch behave differently. Your doughy results may have been due to different absorption rates and such.

    I also found a tip elsewhere on how to age fresh queijo minas at home. It doesn’t involve much more than coating the outside with kosher salt and letting it drain for a long time, then drying it off in the fridge. I haven’t tried it myself, but I imagine it can be done with Mexican queso fresco that you can buy at the grocery store here. If you dry it out it should work well for pao de queijo.

    I’m going to make some this weekend with some mozzarella thrown in with the parmesan to see how it tastes.

  9. Summer Chef–Yes, I have, thanks for the tip. I’ve purchased regular tapioca flour at Whole Foods. But the tapioca flour flour that is available in most places in he US is polvilho doce, the sweet kind. I was looking for polvilho azedo, the sour kind that many people recommend using for authentic pao de queijo. I was able to get the polvilho azedo online. And by now I’ve made the recipe with the sweet kind, the sour kind, and cornstarch. I can say that the differences are subtle. And any of the three options will produce great results.

  10. This IS a good fake-out recipe. However, you can buy both polvilho doce (sweet tapioca starch) and polvilho azedo (sour tapioca starch) online on Amazon. They carry the Yoki brand which is widely sold in Brazil. Many Brazilian recipes call for a mix of the two starches.

    The tapioca starch comes from a plant with different names in different countries, particularly cassava and manioc. The tapioca flour sold by Bob’s Red Mill is like polvilho doce. But be careful ordering online or in stores and avoid buying “manioc flour” or “farinha de mandioca” if you plan to make pão de queijo. This is a coarser product with a texture resembling American corn meal and IT ISN’T A SUBSTITUTE for polvilho, or tapioca starch. The product you want is pure white and looks like American flour or corn starch. If it’s marketed as tapioca flour it’s probably the same as polvilho doce. But manioc or cassava flour or meal aren’t what you want — they’re used for different purposes.

    It’s not easy to find Minas cheese in the U.S., but almost every country in Latin America produces a similar fresh cheese. You can substitute Mexican queso fresco for the Minas cheese, or one of the other crumbly fresh Mexican cheeses. They are very similar to the Brazilian cheese and very easy to find in much of the U.S. But I like the feta/Asiago substitute in this recipe, too. By the way, if you use feta, look for the French ones — they’re less salty than the genuine Greek feta, which makes them closer to Minas cheese, which is also not extremely salty.

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