Latin Twist: Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs


Variations on classics are born from many different types of inspiration; these Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs are no exception!

Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs_
First, let’s start with the classic pão de queijo, or “cheese bread.” These sweet yuca-flour and parmesan cheese “balls” are ubiquitous treats throughout Brazil, and here in New York, as many of you know, at my fiestas! Lightly toasted on the outside, cheesy pillowy on the inside, these treats are easy to eat!

Second, let’s talk elaboration on a theme. Dough is a fun canvas to work with…and Brazilian cheese puffs fit the bill. Here, attached, I give you one option, which is a variation on a recipe that I first published in Mambo Mixers many moons ago. Over the years, and thanks to many friends (and students!) I’ve made changes. This, my friends, is one of the adaptations that I’ve made thanks to Brazilian friends!  These Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs have a perfect beef/cheese filling! You can see below that the the cheddar cheese-infused (!) meatball is about the size of a quarter, and it gets blanketed in the dough before baking or frying!) But meat and cheese are not the only filler possibilities!  As you know I love to say, the sky’s the limit! If you don’t eat meat, there are plenty of vegetarian options. Next I might try filling them with garlic-marinated portabellos and roasted peppers. Hmmm…

Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs_meatballStuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs_meatballin hand


I’m still thinking! And finally, what time of year is it? Well, we all know that yes, Super Bowl is around the corner and hosts and guests are looking for special snacks to serve and bring. These, mis queridos amigos, totally fit the bill! And, well, with Valentine’s Day around the corner (am I rushing things?!), tasty, easy to prep, fun and festive snacks are also fun to bake up and share.

I’d love to hear about your Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puff ideas, but in the meantime, hope you enjoy these! ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

Latin Twist: Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs

Yield: Makes about 6 dozen

Latin Twist: Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs

Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs are sure to become frequent guests in your home! One make-ahead option is preparing the meat ahead of time and rolling it into small meat balls, and then freezing it. You can bake or deep fry your Stuffed Brazilian Cheese Puffs. Also, You can serve them with or without a sauce, but definitely with a beverage that complements their hearty/cheese flavors! I vote for a glass of Malbec!


  • For the filling (use all amounts according to taste!)
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Ground beef
  • Sautéed red pepper
  • Sautéed garlic
  • Scallion
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Chile powder
  • Cumin powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the dough:
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 3/4 cups “sweet” tapioca starch or manioc flour (available in large grocery stores and Latin markets) in Portuguese: polvilho doce
  • 1/4 cup “sour” tapioca starch, in Portuguese: polvilho azedo (This I’ve only found in Brazilian markets.)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups freshly grated Sardo (Argentine parmesan), your favorite parmesan, or Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. Prepare the filling: Heat the oil in a sauté pan (just enough to coat the bottom) and add the garlic. Then add the ground beef.
  2. Cook, stirring frequently, until the beef is browned.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to taste.
  4. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature, roll into heaping-teaspoon-bite-size balls, cover and refrigerate (or you can even freeze them!) for at least 30 minutes to chill.
  5. When you're ready to make the cheese puffs,preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  6. In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, water, and milk and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, pour the starch into a large bowl. When the liquid has boiled, add it to the starch and mix well. Let it rest for about 15 minutes. Then stir in the eggs and the cheese.
  7. Let the dough cool so it's easier to handle.
  8. For each cheese puff, take about 1 tablespoon of the dough and flatten it into a kind of pancake.
  9. Put about 1 heaping teaspoon-size meatball (see the picture!) of the meat mixture onto the dough, and fold the dough around it so that it's stuffed.
  10. Repeat with the remaining dough and meat.
  11. Then place them an inch apart on parchment paper covered sheet pans.
  12. Bake in the top rack of the oven, until they start to brown (about 15 to 20 minutes).
  13. Serve immediately.
  14. Keep remaining (if you have any left!) cheese puffs in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  15. Reheat, wrapped in a paper towel, for about 15 seconds in the microwave.




About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!


  1. Can you point to some Lower Westchester-based sources for the Sweet and Sour Tapioca Starches? Would be great to know where I can pick it up rather than searching store to store! thanks…

  2. Hi Steve,
    Great question, and here are a couple of Brazilian markets: Siminho Meat market, 141 Gramatan Ave, Mt Vernon, NY 10550, (914) 668-0530. The second one I know of is also on Gramatan Avenue. It’s another Brazilian market, just a few doors down from there, on the same side of the street!

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