Gluten Free Tapioca Cheese Biscuits (Pao de Queijo)

18 Oct

A few weeks ago, I was lamenting the fact that my boyfriend still insists on ordering his burgers with a bun. I decided to look up options for gluten free buns to make for burgers at the house that would still give him the experience of a bun (since we all know how tiring lettuce wraps can get). While conducting this research, I accidentally stumbled across something that has changed the way my boyfriend looks at gluten free eating, and changed my world as well.

Pao de queijo is cheeserollicona traditional Brazilian recipe. They are little buns, similar to a popover, made from egg, cheese, milk, butter, tapioca flour, and salt. That’s it. No tricky combinations of specialty flours and arrowroot. Just whole foods. What’s interesting is that this is a “natural” gluten free recipe, so if you google it you will come up with many different recipe variations and techniques. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them recommend ingredients like canola oil and skim milk. When I saw those I was like, “PSSSSSH, EFF THAT!!” and starting playing around with the recipe by replacing such bullshit ingredients with the original, high fat ingredients they were meant to replace.

The recipe I am sharing with you today is one that I’ve been developing over the last couple weeks. I’ve started making these regularly for my weekly RPG game-night dinner and they are popular with gluten-free and non-gluten free people alike. Our GM absolutely adores them, which is I think one of the only reasons my character is still alive.

But be warned. These things really do need to come with a warning label because they are addictive. As. Balls.

First some background info you’re probably wondering about. For starters, what’s up with the tapioca? Tapioca flour is another name for tapioca starch which is extracted from the cassava or yuca root, a traditional food source and major source of starchy carbohydrates across the developing world. When cooked, it has a natural stickiness that mimics the chewyness of wheat-derived gluten, which has made it popular in gluten free cooking. But is is paleo? Some sources point to yes, with the caveat that while it is a minimally-processed traditional food source, it’s pretty low in vitamins, minerals, or really any other nutrient besides carbohydrates. So unless you are specifically trying to up your carb intake for athletic reasons, it’s probably best to consider it a treat rather than a staple. Sourcing tapioca flour is getting easier, but be careful. A lot of suppliers apparantly cut their tapioca flour or starch with wheat flour. Sometimes it’s labelled, but I read some stuff out there warning that it might not always be. Bob’s Red Mill, however, has specifically gone to lengths to provide many gluten free flour options (including flours from gluten free facilities) and their tapioca flour is top-notch.

And then there’s the dairy. I do incorporate high-fat dairy like butter and hard-cheeses into my regular diet, but this recipe uses a lot of dairy even for me. So is it paleo? ….Probably not, no, but like I said, great for a special treat, or just as a general gluten free baking option.



  • 1 cup tapioca flour/starch
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular whole milk)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • about 1/4 cup grated fresh farm cheese, such as queso fresco
  • about 1/4 cup grated strongly-flavored hard cheese, such as medium sharp cheddar


Preheat oven to 400ºF



  • You don’t have to be exact with your measurements on this. As a rule of thumb, though, more is better, and grate some extra if you want to sprinkle some extra bits of cheese on top (recommended).



  • Protip: If you have just melted your butter (in the microwave or on stovetop), do not pour it in over the raw egg. The hot oil will start to cook the egg. I like to put the egg in first, then the rest of the ingredients, leaving the butter for last.
  • Warning: tapioca flour is VERY LIGHT AND FINE, even finer than cornstarch. The first time I tried this there was tapioca flour everywhere. I’ve gotten better about managing the mess with practice.
  • Blend these ingredients together for a minute or two, until you make a smooth, thin batter.


  • You want to disperse the cheese through the batter but you want it to still be chunky.



  • If your muffin pan is old or dirty you might want to lightly grease it before pouring in the batter.
  • Fill each cup about 1/3 to 1/2 full.
  • Sprinkle extra bits of cheese and kosher salt on top (optional, but recommended).



  • Biscuits are done when they are poofed up and crispy on top and lightly golden all around. If they’re lightly brown on the bottom, they were cooked a little longer than necessary, but will still be delicious.
  • If you are using a full-size muffin tin, they might be a little under-done in the middle even after 15 minutes but I do not recommend cooking them longer. They will still be delicious even if they’re extra-doughy.

Serve immediately, while warm. I recommend slicing a little cut in the top and sticking in some butter to melt and fill the internal nooks and crannies with delicious melty goodness. They are wonderful to dip into soup, sauce, gravy, or whatever you miss dipping bread into.


These do not reheat well so I only ever make them fresh. But, frankly, I find it hard to conceive of there being any leftovers, they’re that good.

5 Responses to “Gluten Free Tapioca Cheese Biscuits (Pao de Queijo)”

  1. Angela-Chicken Scoop October 22, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    I think these would be great for Thanksgiving dinner! (If I decide to cook that day…) Thanks for sharing!

    Oh, and I just bought Paleo Comfort Foods because *I* insist on having a bun on my burger 🙂

    • Colleen October 22, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      I have that book! Is there a bun recipe in there? Damn, right in front of my face and didn’t even know it! *Runs to her bookshelf*

      • Angela-Chicken Scoop October 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

        Doh, I was mistaken. It is in Primal Cravings (totally recommend!)

  2. Ruby Browne November 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    We finally got around to making these to go along with our chili tonight. So delicious. I made the batter ahead of time and stuck it in the fridge while the chili cooked and we took in a movie. Transferred really well into the mini muffin tin cold and cooked up wonderfully.

    • Colleen November 4, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      Awesome! I’m glad to hear it was able to keep for a bit in the fridge. I’ve read some things that indicate that it will sort of separate and settle out if left too long. I’ll have to start doing this as well to save time for game night 😉

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