Very easy Pao de Queijo, Brazilian cheese bread via Japan

pao_de.sidebar.jpgThis may not be well known outside of the two respective countries, but there are pretty strong historical and cultural ties between Japan and Brazil. There was a wave of emigration from Japan to Brazil in the early part of the 20th century and later on around the '50s and '60s. And in the last 30 years, many Brazilians of Japanese descent (people of Japanese descent born in another country are called nikkei-jin) have in turn emigrated to Japan to fill labor shortages. Perhaps because of this, a few years ago one of the staples of the Brazilian diet, pao de queijo, little cheese breads, became very popular. While their popularity may have descended a bit from their peaks (Japan tends to be periodically swept up by big food or fashion trends, which after a time get dropped without warning when people move onto the next thing, but that's another story), they are still made by bakers throughout Japan.

I think that pao de queijo appeals so much to the Japanese palate because they are small, round and cute, and have a distinctive gooey-sticky-glutinous kind of texture inside. This texture is called mochi mochi, after mochi, the very gooey-glutinous rice cakes.

Traditionally, pao de queijo are made with a sour casava flour (here's a good recipe, but that's not that easy to find here. Looking around on some Japanese food sites, many recipes called for a readymade mix (!) or using rice flour...which isn't that easy to get here either. Then, I found a recipe (not online...) that uses a regular mashed potato. If a potato is mashed up while it's still hot, it does indeed get rather gooey, as anyone who's tried to mash them in a food processor can attest to. Sticky, gooey mashed potatoes may not be ideal for straight up eating but here it serves its purpose perfectly.

The one thing I was missing though was the slightly sour taste in a traditional pao de queijo. I added some sourness by using some well drained feta cheese. The rest of the cheese should be a pretty sharp one like Parmesano or Asiago, aged Cheddar or Gruyère.

So, there's plenty of faking going on in this recipe , but they are dead easy to make with ingredients that are widely available. So, if you are Brazilian please don't beat me up. :) They're still very good, I promise. And so cute. No one can have just one. They also happen to be gluten free (if you use potato starch; cornstarch may have a small amount of gluten) and vegetarian (no eggs) too.

(Note: I have acknowledged from the beginning these are not authentic. Please stop telling me they're not. It's just an attempt to recreate a flavor using ingredients that are available anyway. Thanks and have a nice day.)

Very easy Pao de queijo

  • 200g / 7 oz potato, cut into small chunks (about 2 medium-small potatoes, but it's best to weigh them after peeling)
  • 90g / about 3 1/4 oz cornstarch or potato starch
  • 100g / about 3 1/2 oz grated cheese - half feta and half a sharp cheese like cheddar, parmesan or gruyere (you can also try all feta, which would make them more sour)
  • Salt for cooking the potatoes

Suggested equipment: food processor

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Boil the potato chunks in salted water, until they are almost falling apart. Drain well, return to the pan and shake around until the potatoes have dried out.

Put the hot cooked potato chunks in the bowl of a food processor, and process until it's pasty and gooey. Add the cornstarch or potato starch and the cheese, and pulse until all mixed. Take the dough out of the food processor and knead a little bit. It should be a non-sticky and very pliable dough - sort of like Play-Doh. If it seems too loose add a bit more corn/potato starch. (Note: the amount of cornstarch or potato starch required seems to differ for some people. I suspect this has to do with how well you drain and dry off the potatoes, and what kind of potatoes you are using. I use a firm boiling type of potato, such as Charlotte, Nicola or Bintje. In the U.S. Yukon Gold is a good kind to use here. Baking potatoes may be a bit too floury to achieve the slightly gummy texture you want from the mashed up potato.)

If you don't have a food processor, mash up the hot potato chunks with a masher, then mix in the other ingredients while it's still hot, being careful not to burn your fingers. Knead well. It's almost as quick to mix by hand as by food processor.

Divide into 12 to 16 equal pieces, and form into balls. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned on the outside. (They won't really puff up much since they have no leavening.) Best eaten while still warm.

You can vary this by adding sesame seeds, sprinkling grated cheese on the top (brush the tops with egg white or milk to make it stick), and so on.

Troubleshooting notes

A few people have had trouble with the consistency of the dough. I've added some notes about the type of potato to use, and the necessity of drying the potatoes off well. If the amount of cornstarch/potato starch indicated in the recipe is not enough, add a little more by spoonfuls until the dough ceases to be sticky.

Filed under:  bread cheese japanese potatoes vegetarian quickbread brazilian fusion gluten-free

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ML, I've already browsed many of the great recipes on your pages. What a great resource for Brazilian food, something I'm just fairly recently gotten into. Thank you!

As a brazilian, I was seriously considering beating you up, but sending me some samples of this one will sure do wonders for my mood.

Now seriously, japanese immigration in Brazil, especially to the south of the country, is quite strong. I am from the state of Minas Gerais, where pão de queijo is from, and whenever I travelled southbound, like to São Paulo, the first thing I would notice would be how strongly the japanese would feature in the racial mix.

Hi Maki, I tried this recipe but unfortunately my batch flopped. Could it have anything to do with my adding cottage cheese instead? My potato balls turned out tasting like any regular potato, and they took about an hour to star browning, at 175C. :( Suugestions? Thank you!

xY, cottage cheese would be too watery and too bland-tasting I think. You'd need a fairly strong, sharp cheese, like feta or an aged cheddar or gruyere or parmesano etc. (A mix of cheeses would work too.) Even with a strong cheese the potato seems to neutralize the cheesy taste quite a you do need something that's strong enough to stand up to the potato, so to speak.

Hi it's me again. The balls turned out great this time - I used cheddar and parmesan. Yayy! And the onigiri was wonderful too. Thanks for your amazing recipes! :)

Interesting. I did try another recipe for pao de queijo because I decided that cheese mochi balls and pao de queijo would be pretty close, but it didn't turn out that way--I used Melissa at Traveler's Lunchbox's recipe.

I'll have to try yours this weekend. I looooove these.

Batch didn't work, way too sticky. used careful measurements and went with Corn Starch. Maybe 4 Small potatoes weren't enough? hmm... I'll once more

be sure you drain the potatoes very well, and to weigh them after peeling. I did make this just the other week using these measurements so it should work!

I tried this recipe, and mine came out fine (yay!), but I don't have anything to weigh with. So after I food processed the potatoes, I just added a bunch of tsp's of cornstarch to it every time in order to make it more doughy. Now I know I added a lot of cornstarch, but I'm just wondering, can you provide the actual amount of cornstarch in cup sizes or tablespoon measurments?

It's about 1 U.S. cup (220 ml) of cornstarch, though weighing it is rather more accurate.

I've added some notes to the recipe - I think that the reason why some people have some trouble with the dough, i.e. it's too loose or sticky, may have to do with the type of potato used and how well it's drained off. Adding more corn or potato starch to the dough is perfectly fine to compensate.

[quote=maki]It's about 1 U.S. cup (220 ml) of cornstarch, though weighing it is rather more accurate.

I've added some notes to the recipe - I think that the reason why some people have some trouble with the dough, i.e. it's too loose or sticky, may have to do with the type of potato used and how well it's drained off. Adding more corn or potato starch to the dough is perfectly fine to compensate.[/quote]

hi there! as a brazilian, i found it a little surprising that you introduced potatoes into this pao de queijo recipe... i think we're more used to making it without potatoes. but i will try this next time nonetheless :)

thanks for all your wonderful recipes in this website!

Hi! Another Brazilian here! Great to see our recipes sipping into your blog...
I also use a recipe that asks for a potato, but it still uses the tapioc starch and I have to say that's the first time I see pao de queijo with no eggs...
The funny thing is that I don't live in Brazil and the only place I can usually find tapioca starch is on the local Asia Market!
(Love your Japanese recipes btw, opening a whole new, and delicious, world to me....thanks!)

I just made this for dinner with whatever I had on hand - grated tasty cheddar cheese, potato, cornstarch and chicken boullion (for flavoring the potatoes). When I added cornstarch to the mashed potatoes, the mixture turned out too dry at first, so I had to add some water. It could have been because I did not cook my potatoes long enough (?) Anyways, my 2 cousins weren't too amused at first (because I made them try natto xD). It was later when they were in the oven.. Ha! They just couldn't wait, so I had to take them out 5mins early before I managed to brown them a little more.

The cheese melted all the way through and made a bit of mess. Fortunately, my pizza pan (which I used) was non-stick.
These balls tasted just like the ones I had at a brazilian meat buffet restaurant - equally excellent. And guess what, I only had 3 out of the 12-13 yummy balls. Thank you for the recipe!! Will try this with sweet potatoes soon!

I have lived in Brazil for 12 years and I am a food lover, so I understand the eagerness to learn making "Pao de queijo". Since I have prepared it myself a number of times, you may want to follow the recipe below which does not need the addition of starch:


1 lb (450 - 500 g) Polvilho azedo (Sour or fermented Tapioca/Cassava flour)
1 cup (240 mL) whole milk
1 cup (240 mL) filtered water
3 medium eggs beaten
1 tsp (5 mL) common salt
1/2-cup (120 mL) cooking oil
6-8 oz Parmesan cheese (grated)


1. Mix milk, water, oil, and salt well in a large metallic container.
2. Bring it to boil. Turn off heat.
3. Mix polvilho well with a wooden spoon/spatula. Let it cool so you can knead.
4. Add beaten eggs and knead until smooth. It'll be too sticky. Have patience.
5. Gradually mix cheese until the dough stops sticking in your hand. Knead well.
6. Make 1-inch balls and place them on a baking pan with some space between them for expansion.
7. Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and put the pan on the bottom rack.
8. Let it cook for 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the ball until slightly brown.

Serve hot with breakfast or as snack to go with tea, coffee, or soft/hard drinks.

Please, please....DO NOT name "PAO DE QUEIJO" a recipe you make with CORN STARCH!!!! that is NOT how we make Pao de Queijo in Brazil, for an authentic PAO DE QUEIJO You have to use Cassava flour ( Polvilho Doce ou Azedo)...I appreciate your efforts, and I appreciate how much You like Brazil....but please no cornstarch...that's why your recipe doesn't work as it should......

You can make delicious cookies with cornstarch...research and You will be more amazed.....

Thank You

Nice article! I like the history you gave of the relationship between Brazil & Japan, and I'm making Pão de Queijo right now! I'm using the Yoki mix though, cheating a little!

Hmm...pao de queijo its quite a regional recipe...indeed most people in Brazil like it. But its quite regional, i think.

There are so much between Minas Gerais and Japan like Japan and Angola ?!

I can say, most japanese that came from Japan lived in Sao Paulo, Parana, most south states. There are few japanese descendents in Minas. Maybe this is why Minas Gerais´ people just love foreigners ha ha.

What about pastel, empada, coxinha etc? This really comes from south states where japanese people are in Brazil.

Just got back from Brasil and still have the taste of these little monsters :)) Googled for queijos immediately and found your receipe..Hope it will work because it sounds so easy..Wish me good luck :))
And yes I will see the potatoes dry well :))

I made this at home. Totally eyeballed everything, until i had a nice cheesy playdough type thing. Let me just say this: TRY THIS RECIPE it's amazing. Thanks!!!

Sounds interesting, as a girl with a Brazilian background I have to say this recipe is a bit different from what I got from my mom's recipes for it but I'm sure going to give this a try ^__^ Looks super tastey, you should put up a recipe for Braziliam Manjioca Frito, Fried Yucca it's extremely popular and easy to do as well, I'm not sure if it's popular in Japan or not though

please, im Brazilian, your recipe is completely wrong ^^

Yes I know, this is 'completely wrong'. I guess it should be titled 'Pao de queijo style bread made by homesick Brazilian people residing in a country where they have a hard time getting the proper ingredients'? As an expat who struggles to get the 'right' ingredients myself, I love this recipe.

I'm a Brazilian currently living in Osaka and, even though I haven't been here long, seeing this recipe again in a different context made me almost tear up. Even if it is very different from the original, it looks delicious. And it really isn't as simple to find all those Brazilian ingredients anyway... I may just cheat and ask my brother to send me some batter from Brazil!

I not Brazilian nor Japanese, I'm Greek and I've tried your Pao De Queijo and they were really good. I am on a gluten free, yeast free diet and I'm always looking for new recipes to entertain my palate It's not easy! Thank you for giving us this recipe. I cannot make the original because there is no way I can find cassava flour where I am now so potato is a perfect alternative.

You are so clever! I wish I had thought of it many years ago. You see, I am Brazilian and live in the US, not very easy to get the original ingredient (polvilho) for pao de queijo, at least not in the area where I live. It look so yummy! I cant wait to try it. Thanks for posting it :)

Thank you Maki for this recipe. I've never had these (fake or not), but would like to make them for my super-picky son (who might be allergic to tapioca) -- it sounds like you found a really good substitute! We don't think he's allergic to potato (that we know of), but are waiting on allergy test results... I'm not sure if you have experience cooking with Mochi rice flour -- I've wondered if that might work as well (I've seen recipes where people make pao de queso by combining tapioca flour with glutinous rice flour), but have not seen them cook the rice flour. I've made mochi before, and wondered if I cooked the water & rice flour if it might not develop a gooey dough that would yield a chewy roll... Anyway, thanks again for your potato recipe -- I can't wait to try it!