It’s always a challenge to find homemade hors d’oeuvres that are easy to make and impressive, but won’t weigh your guests down. You want something satisfying but not overpowering; easy to eat but not boring. Enter pao de queijo, the Brazilian cheese puff snack that’s quite similar to a French gougere or cheese puff.
Like its French counterpart, the cheese puffs come together easily: mix dough, shape dough into balls, pop balls into oven. Unlike its French counterpart, it’s made with tapioca flour instead of your everyday all-purpose flour. (And tapioca flour is fairly easy to find at most grocery stores these days given its popularity as a gluten-free flour substitute.)
Pao de queijo, pronounced “pow-duh-kay-joe,” are easy to pile up on your favorite platter, and fun to watch as your friends take them down. We’ve included the recipe below (adapted from Kitchn) along with ideas for how to make them even more exciting.
Pao de Queijo Variations
While this classic batch of pao de queijo will quickly win over your family, you might be looking to win points for creativity, too. Here are a few fun ways to spice them up.
Chives and Black Pepper
Fold some chopped chives and freshly cracked black pepper into your dough before balling them up for a peppery, garlicky kick.
Add Meat Bits
Fold bits of ham or bacon into the dough, or add some finely chopped chorizo for a Brazilian flourish.
Once they’re baked, slice the puff in half and turn them into mini BLTs or eggy breakfast sandwiches, or whatever your heart desires.
Tiny Breakfast Sandwiches!
Scramble an egg, then portion them into tiny egg sandwiches with a dab of hot sauce.
Hello Soft Cheeses
If you want to get real fancy, use a pastry bag to pipe in herbed goat cheese, ricotta, or any other soft creamy thing into the airy centers of your pao.
Add herbs like rosemary or thyme to your dough, for a depth of flavor and some green flecks in the finished product.
Still hungry? Try these easy appetizers that use puff pastry and our favorite dessert ideas.
Photos by Mia Reade Baylor