Exceptionally cheesy Pandebono (Colombian Cheese Bread). Incredibly easy to make, dangerously moreish… And naturally gluten free too.
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Originally Published 10th August 2013… Updated 6th March 2023
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My best-ever recipe for Pandebono (or Colombian Cheese Bread)
These Pandebono (or Colombian Cheese Bread) are one of my oldest (and favourite) recipes and have been on the blog since 2013. Indeed, they became a complete obsession back when I developed them… But over the years, my original recipe has been tweaked and improved so that the Pandebono I share with you today, are without doubt, the best I have ever created.
If you’ve never tried them, they’re good… REALLY good. Originating in South America, these traditional buns are incredibly cheesy, slightly gooey, soft and delicious morsels of yumminess. But be warned, they are also dangerous. It’s genuinely hard to stop at one or two… or even three! To be honest, I could easily eat my way through a whole batch, with or without self-restraint.
But best of all, Pandebono are naturally gluten free and they’re easy to make… No fancy equipment is required… As long as you have some kitchen scales, a large mixing bowl, some baking trays and an oven, you’re good to go.
So what are you waiting for? Grab what you need and bake.
My journey to creating Pandebono with UK ingredients…
When I say I had an obsession with creating Brazilian Cheese Bread back in 2013, it’s no lie. I literally made dozens of batches, week after week, to create a recipe I was happy with. It’s not that there weren’t already authentic recipes on the internet, but I couldn’t make them as written… Why? Because in the UK, I couldn’t get the ingredients. So if I was going to be able to eat them (and I HAD to), then I would need to create a UK-friendly recipe that met the bar.
The particular ingredients that were (at least in 2013) difficult to obtain, were pre-cooked cornmeal (or masarepa) and South American cheese – Colombian Quesito (or its similar Mexican counterpart, Queso Fresco).
In my search for alternatives, I tried many things (including masa harina, pre-cooked polenta and several different cheeses). Ultimately, I settled on a combination of Greek Feta (which is similar to Quesito), grated Mozzarella (the drier supermarket pizza variety) and tapioca starch as the base flour. This seemed to work to replicate both the authentic Pandebono texture and flavour.
I’m happy. Despite a lengthy quest, my Pandebono not only taste great, but have been replicated using local UK-available ingredients.
Why is there baking powder in this cheese bread recipe?
While some of the local recipes for Pandebonos contain no added raising agent, others I found contained baking powder. Initially, I wanted to rely only on heat (and the egg) to rise the rolls. However, this proved to be unreliable… And after one too many flat results, I resorted to seeking a little leavening assistance through baking powder myself. It may have been that the switch to UK ingredients made the mix less stable, but I am not certain. Either way, the added baking powder offered greater consistency to both the texture and the puff.
Pandebono or Pandebonos?
I have tried (and failed) to decide whether the accurate name for this Colombian Cheese Bread is Pandebono or Pandebonos. But it would seem that the spelling is interchangeable wherever I have looked… If you know for certain what they should be called, please let me know.
The wonderful world of South American Cheese Bread
Of course, Pandebono (or Pandebonos) is not the only cheese bread that originates from South or Central America. With many variations, it would seem that every country in the region has its own unique version. The ingredients vary slightly from bread to bread, particularly with regard to the cheese and flours used… But also in terms of the ratios of one ingredient to another.
Pao de Queijo (or Brazilian Cheese Bread) has gained particular popularity around the world and I think is a little ‘lighter’, with a smaller ratio of cheese. And with completely different qualities is the Paraguayan Cheese Bread (Chipa) – for which we have a recipe, which uses cassava flour and 4 different cheeses.
Are Pandebonos safe for people with Coeliac Disease (Celiac)?
Pandebonos are naturally and entirely gluten free. How fabulous is that?! Which means that they are completely safe for people with Coeliac Disease (Celiac).
As always though, I advise checking the labels (particularly for the tapioca starch and baking powder) to ensure there is no hidden gluten or ‘may contain’ warnings. If you are new to label checking, head over to my post on Coeliac Disease + Food for more information about cross-contamination and how to eat gluten free safely.
Tips for making Pandebono successfully
Making Pandebono couldn’t be easier. It’s honestly a case of mashing all the ingredients together, rolling into small bowls and baking. Nonetheless, having obsessed over getting the recipe right, I feel it only fair to highlight what I learned along the way…
- The most effective and consistent way to blend the ingredients is either using a potato masher or with hands, until really smooth. This ensures the greatest control over the final consistency of the dough. While the ingredients can be blended together using a food processor, this can result in a dough which is too ‘liquefied’ and Pandebonos which do not rise as well.
- It helps to mash the Feta cheese in the bowl on its own and before adding the rest of the ingredients. For some reason, the Feta (despite being soft) tends to clump if mixed with everything else. Squishing it thoroughly until smooth at the start helps ensure a more even texture.
- When rolling the dough into balls, it may help to wear lightly oiled, food-safe gloves. It’s what I do. I buy mine from Sainsbury’s. However, they can also be easily found on Amazon.
- Make sure the oven is really hot before putting the dough balls in to bake. The initial heat of the oven supports a good rise.
How to eat Pandebonos
Best eaten warm and fresh from the oven, Colombian Cheese Breads need nothing added. They are super cheesy and do not need to be spread with butter or anything else. Nonetheless, they are also delicious ripped open and stuffed with salami, ham, tomato or even spinach leaves… Perfect for a light lunch.
In Colombia, they are enjoyed freshly made for breakfast with real hot chocolate.
But however you eat them, make absolutely sure you devour them shamelessly!
Can I freeze Colombian Cheese Bread?
Absolutely yes. I often make a double-batch so that there are plenty to freeze for another day. The advice on freezing is this:
- Freeze on the same day that the Pandebono are made and (preferably) as soon as they are cold.
- Store in an airtight container or sealed bag.
- They should last frozen for up to 3 months.
- When ready to eat them, take what you need from the freezer and pop in the microwave for about 30 seconds (no need to defrost)… or until heated through.
If you have any Pandebonos that have not been frozen, but have cooled and need ‘pepping up’, microwave for a few seconds until soft and gooey-hot.
Ready to make Pandebono?
You can find the recipe for my Colombian cheese bread just below. With my love! It’s a recipe worthy of shameless gluttony and enjoyment.
Please let me know what you think with a comment, recipe rating (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) or via social media (Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest (@glutenfreealchemist)).
For all my other recipes, we also have a huge selection that can be explored through my Gluten Free Recipe Index. It’s your gateway to gluten free happiness!
All shared with my love…
More savoury recipes from around the world that you’ll love
- Spinach (Spanakopita) Tart
- Baba Ganoush (Aubergine Dip)
- Baked Feta with Tomato and Red Pepper
- Italian Green Beans and Tomatoes
- Gluten Free Fougasse (French Artisan Flatbread)
- Grilled Tuna Steak with Seaweed Butter
- Saag Paneer
- Real ‘Guac’ – Authentic (no tomato) Guacamole
- BBQ Swordfish with Lime, Pistachio and Coriander
- Fish Bolognese from the Maldives
Pandebono – Colombian Cheese Bread
- potato masher (optional)
- 150 g Feta cheese
- 170 g Mozzarella cheese (the drier grated pizza variety)
- 190 g tapioca starch (NOT cassava flour)
- 2 ¼ tsp baking powder
- 2 large eggs UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’))
- a little olive oil to oil hands
- Preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7.
- Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.
- Weigh the Feta cheese into a large bowl first and mash it (or squish with hands) until it has become a smoothish paste.
- Add the grated Mozzarella cheese and mash this into the Feta.
- Mix the tapioca starch and baking powder together in a separate bowl and then add to the cheese, along with the eggs.
- Mash (or hand-squish) all the ingredients together until they form an evenly-blended, sticky 'dough'.
- Rub a little oil onto your hands (it also may help to wear some food-preparation gloves) and hand-roll the dough into about 26 walnut-sized balls. Arrange these on the baking trays with space between them.
- Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6 (don’t open the door).
- Cook for a further 10 minutes until the rolls are risen and golden.
- Remove from the oven.
- Best eaten fresh and warm. Rolls can be ‘refreshed’ in the microwave on high for a few seconds only if necessary to re-warm. Freeze fresh on the day of making and warm them in the microwave.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
Pandebono shared with
- Fiesta Friday #477 with Angie and The Not So Creative Cook
- Full Plate Thursday #636 with Miz Helen’s Coutry Cottage
- What’s for Dinner #414 with The Lazy Gastronome
Hi Kate. My cheese balls didn’t keep the shape. They started to spread out in the first 5 mins. Why? But they taste really good. Thanks
It sounds like there may have been too much liquid in the cheese, or possibly the eggs were larger than mine?
Next time you make them, drain the feta thoroughly before adding and maybe use one egg slightly smaller. It’s always tricky with eggs as they vary so much in size even when ‘graded’ the same.
Strangely, I’ve had results that spread further in the past when I have used a blender to mix (which is why I don’t recommend using one).
I hope that helps.
Christy Garrett says
These sound delicious. I’ll have to give them a try.
Thanks Christy. I hope you love them x
Helen at the Lazy Gastronome says
Thank you so much for sharing your delicious recipes at our What’s for Dinner party!! Hope your weekend is full of Spring sunshine!
You’re welcome Helen. Have a great week xx
anna campbell says
Hi there! Any chance it could be made dairy free please! Could I use parmesan, and shredded dairy free cheeses. Thanks
If the dairy free cheese has a similar melting capacity, then they should work fine. Let me know how it goes xxx
Sally Orton says
Made these this afternoon – absolutely delicious. Will definitely be making again. Thank you
Thank you Sally. I’m so glad you made them (and more importantly loved them). They are probably the recipe most requested by my family. They never last long. And when I remember the total obsession that went into making them, I’m happy they’re loved. xx
I just made these using corn flour instead of tapioca and they're yummy!!
Gluten Free Alchemist says
That's fantastic. I'll definitely have to give the switch a go. So pleased you enjoyed them xx
I just made these using corn flour, as couldn't find tapioca flour, and they're sooooo yummy!!
Gluten Free Alchemist says
Wow! I'll have to try that. Great that you could sub easily xx
Kate D says
Parmesan? I love Parmesan! I thought it may be a little dry for these, but maybe I should give it a go? I am really hooked on Pandebonos now and think I am ready to try a few variants. Would you suggest any particular proportions?
Mmm, these sound divine! I've made a version before using just tapioca, parmesan and milk (loved it) but yours sounds much more interesting and delicious. I think I will give it a go 🙂
Kate D says
Hi Katie. Sorry for the delay in response….. I have been in Crete for the last week and a half and tried to respond to your query from there….. unsuccessfully! Yes, the polenta is the pre-packed block variety that you find in the supermarket. I use Sunita Organic Polenta. If you need to tweak the recipe at all for your own preference of texture, just add/remove a little polenta or feta and that should do the trick. Well worth the effort! Good luck..
Wow these look really interesting and you've done such a lot of development work. When you say 'wet' polenta, do you mean the home cooked kind that's like mashed potato, or the pre-cooked kind you can buy in a block from the shops?