Queijo Coalho, Receita da Thais (Thais’ Recipe for Brazilian Grilled Cheese)

30 Aug

Queijo Coalho
This is a recipe for traditional grilled Brazilian cheese, but Thais’ version gives it an American twist, a dipping sauce of maple syrup.

This recipe is by our lovely Brazilian friend Thais Pompeo de Pina. My husband and I first met her parents, Sandra and Rene, in 1968 when we were neighbors in married student housing at the University of Colorado. Although we only see each other on rare visits back and forth to the U.S. and Brazil, we have remained very close through the years. And we have enjoyed getting to know their daughters Thais and Taina and watching them grow up. A few years ago, Thais and Taina visited us here in Massachusetts and we learned that they love American pancakes with maple syrup. So it made me smile to see maple syrup as a key ingredient in Thais’ recipe.

Thais’ recipe (a receita da Thais):

In Brazil, queijo coalho comes in packages, with cheese in sticks and already skewered.  Make sure the cheese is very cold. Grill at 250 to 300 degrees Farhenheit (120 degrees to 150 Celsius). You can use an indoor grill. Cook for about two minutes, turning until each side is browned.  Watch carefully, looking for the cheese to brown a little on the edges.

Take the cheese off the grill. Let it cool for a minute or two so it can be handled and will hold its shape.  Gently pull out the skewers. Cut into squares. Pour maple syrup into a shallow plate, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep.  Add the cheese squares to the plate.  Serve with toothpicks (flags optional).

This is great with drinks, especially caipirinha!

Thais at the grill

Thais Pompeo de Pina at the grill

Tia Randi’s Notes on Cheese for Grilling in U.S.

It may be a bit of a challenge to find queijo do coalho in the U.S., but try Brazilian grocery stores. In the past, queijo coalho has been sold at Costco and sometimes is available through Amazon.com. You can order it from Orrna Foods (Orrna.com) based in Florida. On their site, search for “Coalho Cheese”.

If you can’t find queijo coalho, you can use other types of grilling cheese available in the U.S. Only a few kinds of cheese will hold their shape when grilled. I list a few suggested types below. Most grilling cheeses are made with rennet.* Follow time and temperature directions on the package of whatever cheese you are using. The substitutes will not taste identical, but all are mild, slightly salty cheeses, like queijo coalho.

Buy an 8 to 10 oz block of the kind of cheese you are going to use and cut it into sticks, 1″ x 1″ x 4″. None of the substitutes listed below come with skewers. If you want to use skewers, you can buy wood ones and soak them for 20 minutes before you insert them into the cheese.  But you don’t need the skewers; you can just turn the cheese sticks with tongs. Then slice the grilled sticks of cheese into squares and proceed as above.

Possible substitutes in the U.S.:

–Tropical Brand, a New Jersey company with Cuban origins, makes a grilling cheese and frying cheese, both of which would work. Tropical is carried at Costco, BJs, Walmart, and Market Basket (Boston area), as well as in Latin American groceries. I bought Tropical’s frying cheese (Queso de Frier) at BJ’s and cooked it on the grill for this recipe. It worked well at medium high heat.

–Yanni Grilling Cheese (Karoun Dairies in California) is a Mediterranean grilling cheese. You may be able to find it at Whole Foods; you can order it from Amazon. If you want a kosher* and/or vegetarian option, Yanni grilling cheese is made with a kosher (and plant-based) rennet and all Karoun brand cheese is kosher.

–Halloumi cheese works on the grill and is available at Whole Foods. There are kosher versions of halloumi cheese but they may be hard to find.

*Most grilling cheeses are made with rennet.  If the rennet is not plant-based and/or kosher, the cheese will not be kosher.
Original recipe created by Thais Pompeo de Pina;
“Tia Randi’s Notes on Cheese for Grilling in the U.S.”
by Randa Dubnick
Illustration “Queijo Coalho” by Randa Dubnick. All rights reserved
Photo: “Thais Pompeo de Pina at the grill” by Randa Dubnick. All rights reserved

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