Pão de Queijo, which literally translates to “bread of cheese,” originated during slavery times in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. The cassava root, also known as manioc, yuca, or tapioca, was peeled, grated, and cooked by Portuguese colonizers. The residue from this process, essentially tapioca starch, was gathered by enslaved people, who then formed it into balls and baked it. After slavery ended in Brazil in 1888, people started adding milk and cheese to the recipe, turning it into what is still known as Pão de Queijo. It’s something that every Brazilian household makes and eats regularly. There are even entire stores, like A Casa do Pão de Queijo (“the house of cheese bread”), dedicated to it. Fernanda, one of my closest friends whom I’ve known for over twenty years, was the first person to introduce me to Brazilian culture and cuisine. I later stayed with her and her family in Brazil for a few months and got to eat Pão de Queijo almost every day during my time there. She and another Brazilian friend of ours, Luisa, went vegan a few years ago and thus began our quest to veganize the Brazilian classics they grew up with and I had grown to love as well. This recipe is a favorite that was created in Luisa’s kitchen.
Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread) [Vegan]
Ingredients You Need for Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread) [Vegan]
- 10.5 ounces (300 g) potatoes or arracacha root, peeled (see Notes), cubed
- 11/2 cups (187.5 g) sweet tapioca flour (polvilho doce, Yoki is a common brand; see Notes)
- 1/2 cup (62.5 g) sour tapioca flour (polvilho azedo, Yoki is a common brand; see Notes) (if using)
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) water
- 5 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon prepared yellow or Dijon mustard (optional)
How to Prepare Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread) [Vegan]
- Bring the water, oil, and salt to a boil in a small pan, then pour it into the starch mixture.
- Mix using a fork until you get a crumbly consistency. When it starts looking like a dough, mix in the potato puree and mustard (if using) until the dough turns smooth. If it’s too dry or crumbly, add a splash more water and knead it into the dough.
- Form little dough balls and place them on the prepared baking tray. (If you want to make these in advance, you can also freeze them at this point for later use.)
- Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until light golden.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Cook the potato in boiling water until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, mash until it turns into a puree.
- Mix the tapioca flours, dry yeast, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder in a large bowl.
- Arracacha is a root vegetable that is also known as either mandioquinha (“little cassava”) or batata-baroa. Arracacha is preferred in this recipe, but may be hard to find, in which case you can use equal amounts of either potatoes, sweet potatoes, or cassava root instead.
- Brazilians use a mix of sweet and sour tapioca flours, but if you can’t find these, you may just use 2 cups (230 g) of regular tapioca flour.
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