Cheddar Cheese Puffs

To make cheese puffs, first you make a pâte a choux dough (pronounced “pat ah shoo”), which, if you’ve never made it before, can seem a little weird. Weird because most of us who bake are used to mixing dough ingredients together and then plopping them in the oven. With a pâte a choux dough, you essentially half cook the dough first, by adding flour to boiling water and butter, and stirring like a madman until you have a ball of dough the consistency of playdough. Then you mix in eggs and then the dough goes in the oven, where it puffs up as the water in the dough turns to steam and expands into air pockets. The dough is used for making cream puffs, eclairs, cheese puffs (gourgères), beignets, and even churros. David Lebovitz has a recipe for making a French tart crust with what looks to me to be essentially a pâte a choux dough, that has been getting raves. So, it’s a useful technique, and pretty easy, though the dough can be a little stiff to work by hand.

These cheese puffs are made with cheddar cheese and a little bit of thyme. You could add crumbled bacon to the mix, or use sage or rosemary. You could use goat cheese instead of cheddar, or Gruyere or Emmenthaler (more traditional for a gourgère). Feel free to experiment with the cheeses. By the way, Michael Ruhlman has an excellent chapter on pâte a choux and gourgères in his Ratio book.

These cheese puffs? Excellent as dumplings in split pea soup. Use instead of croutons. Or devour them as they were intended, as a savory, addictive appetizer.

Cheddar Cheese Puffs Recipe

  • Yield: Makes about 2 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter (8 Tbsp or 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or rosemary)
  • Freshly ground pepper

Method

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1 In a medium sized saucepan, add the water, butter, and salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2 Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once. Stir rapidly. The mixture will form a dough ball that will pull away from the sides of the pan. It helps to use a wooden spoon to stir as the dough will be rather thick. Continue to cook for a couple minutes.

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3 Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. Stir so that the dough cools more evenly. You want the dough to be warm, just not so hot that when you start adding eggs they cook as they hit the dough. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition until the eggs are incorporated into the dough. (Do this part in a mixer if you want, or by hand with a wooden spoon.) The dough should become rather creamy.

4 Stir in the grated cheese, thyme, and a few grinds of pepper.

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5 Preheat oven to 425°F. Spoon out small balls (about a heaping tablespoon) of the dough onto a Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet, with at least an inch separating the spoonfuls. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes at 425°F. Lower heat to 350°F and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until puffed up and lightly golden.

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Links:
Pâte a Choux and explanation by Michael Ruhlman
Jalapeño cheese puffs from Anne's Food
Gougères by David Lebovitz
French tart dough made by using a pâte a choux method, by David Lebovitz
Sage and gorgonzola cheese puffs from Dara, the Cookin' Canuck
Wikipedia on choux pastry

67 Comments

  1. Jackie Van Zanten Richardson

    We use these (without the cheese and spices) as egg dumplings — we call them Danish Dumplings — in a stew made from leftover pot roast. It is a huge family favorite.

  2. Bethany

    Cook, then bake — you’re right, it does seem a little odd! I’ve been afraid of trying to make pâte a choux…. but these cheese puffs look yummy and very versatile, given all the variations one could make and all the different uses you mention.

  3. Gaelle@whatareyoufeedingyourkidsthesedays.com

    I love Gougeres and make them a lot! The bite size are ideal for children!
    The key to succeed is to have everything ready before you start making them as you want to move fast, but smoothly.
    You could also shape them larger (size of a bagel) and serve them alongside a green salad. It makes a great easy entree…

  4. arugulove

    These look great. Once, I was at a party, talking to a French woman and telling her about a restaurant that had wonderful gougeres. She had never heard of them. She kept thinking I was talking aboug gruyere. We had a very who’s on first conversation about it, and I left thinking I was crazy. I’m glad to know others know about gougeres and she was just an anomoly!

  5. Moira

    I’ve made pate a choux since I was a small child. Such a versatile dough. You can deep fry it or bake it. If you use a piping bag and just do a small dab of dough (teaspoon size) you have a terrific one bite size when baked for a small amount of cream, ice cream, a savory filling such as ham or clams with cream cheese or making a petite version of a St Honore. For the cheese recipe above, I also add about 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard when beating in the eggs.

  6. Nancy Buchanan

    I love this dough – easy, quick and versatile!! For those who like to plan ahead (yeah, that would be me!!) you can make the puffs ahead of time – they will soften but if you pop them into a 350 degree oven for 3 – 5 minutes, they crisp right up!!

  7. Carrie

    I saw this picture this morning and immediately had to make a batch of these! I baked half the batch and fried the other half in little nuggets. They’ve been the perfect snack while being lazy around the house and watching the Olympics. It’s my first time making pate a choux – it was really easy. I’m definitely going to be experimenting with this recipe!

  8. Dara

    Gougeres are one of my favorite snacks. We love to eat them as a side to a hearty soup. The first time I made them, I was surprised at how easy the pate a choux dough was to make. Yours look absolutely perfect!

    Thanks so much for linking to my recipe!

  9. Liza (Jersey Cook)

    Elise – these look wonderful and can’t wait to make them!

    One question though: Is it 1 cup or 4 ounces of sharp cheddar? 1 cup is 8 ounces, so I am thinking you meant to write 1/2 cup?

    Thanks for the great recipes!

    16 ounces (1 lb) of cheese grates up into 4 cups, so 4 ounces grates up into 1 cup. 1 cup of fluid is 8 ounces of fluid, but here I’m talking about weight, and when you grate cheese, there is a lot of air in there. ~Elise

  10. puglia4foodies

    I love pate a choux, but I always made with sweet dressings.
    I will definetely try with my favorite cheese (parmesan) and may be also with some mortadella cubes…Thanks for sharing!

  11. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Even when you do know how to make these, pate a choux always seems like a bit of magic as the dough comes together in the pot. Love the idea of using these as giant croutons for soup!

  12. lindsay a

    Love this recipe :) Quick! Is there a tool on this website to cut the recipe in half?

    (p.s. yes I know how to MENTALLY cut it in half, but that invariably turns disastrous when I forget to cut ALL the ingredients in half :( thanks!)

    No tool, sorry! ~Elise

  13. Sarah L

    How timely, I just made gouda gougères last weekend! I had a little trouble though, since the recipe I used suggested to bake them for 30-35 minutes at 375 degrees…They ended up much darker than yours and when I pulled one batch out early at 25 minutes, so they wouldn’t color as much, they deflated, like I had read would happen if you pulled them out too early. Next time, I’ll try your method of a high heat for a short time, and then dropping it down. Hopefully I’ll have more luck and thanks for another great post!

  14. Di

    Yummy! They look so good! Thanks for sharing the recipe. :)
    Do you think they can be made with gluten-free flour?

    Don’t know, but if you try it, please let us know how it turns out. ~Elise

  15. Thom

    Merci Mille Fois! I just made a batch of these and, yes, even a boob baker like me can make them. (The only scary part is when you start adding the eggs.)
    The possibilities for other flavors are as big as your imagination.
    And thanks for the link to the tart dough by Lebovitz.
    All of a sudden, I feel like a real baker!

  16. Jennifer

    Does anyone know if these are the same thing as pao de queijo (cheese bread in portugese)from brazil? I’ve been looking for a good recipe for those…

    Hi Jennifer, not the same. Pao de queijo is made with tapioca flour, and it isn’t cooked first the way this recipe dough is. But they sure look the same! ~Elise

  17. Hannah

    Wow, these look good, and don’t sound too tricky either. I wonder if they’d work well with blue cheese?

    I think they would be excellent with blue cheese, though you might want to use a little less cheese to compensate for the more intense flavor of the blue compared with cheddar. ~Elise

  18. Mary Jo

    Too funny. We just ate Valentine’s dinner at Fogo De Chao where they serve these delicious cheese puffs. I was thinking they must be so easy to make, they’re just cheesy “cream puffs” really. I am making gumbo tonight and these would be perfect with that. Too bad I already bought a great loaf of bread :-( I am going to make them this week though. So excited!!!

  19. Joe

    I just saw these this morning (I always watch your website for new recipes) and I made them but for some reason mine didn’t really puff up that much. I think it might be because my dough looked a little drier than yours after I put the eggs in. Do you have any suggestions as to what I might have done wrong?

    No idea. Maybe your eggs were old? Maybe your oven temperature is off? ~Elise

  20. Dan

    Just made these tonight with our dinner and they were fantastic! Also, very easy to make. I had never made this dough and will be experimenting…I was thinking a little brown sugar or cinnamon chips and enjoy them with Sunday brunch.

  21. Lynn

    The cheese puffs are calling my name — I would love to be having one with my wine right now. I am wondering if my altitude (3800 feet) might cause problems?

    Hmm. Good question. I think 3800 is still low enough that there shouldn’t be a problem. That said I wouldn’t know if there would be a problem at a higher elevation. ~Elise

  22. Bob

    @Lisa:

    Gougeres will be more airy than the Red Lobster biscuits, but a savory treat nonetheless. Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio also discusses making biscuits, and that would be a good starting point for what you’re trying to do.

  23. Amber

    I love gougeres and frequently make them for parties. I sometimes make the traditional kind, but I often make them with cheddar and chopped fresh chives, along with some mustard powder and cayenne. Delicious!

  24. Sweets at Vicky's

    My pate a choux al;ways ends up as cream puffs! I’ve never tried it savoury before but I love it’s airy tender texture so I’m bound to enjoy these. :) Thanks for a great idea!

  25. Purvis

    Like Jennifer, I thought these were pao de queijo, but these are much drier, and are really good dropped in soup. Thanks for the recipe–these were great, and SO. EASY. I tried not to think of the fact that I was eating something that’s basically made up of flour, eggs, butter and cheese, lol.

  26. Mrs.TeaPie

    I made these and they were delish!
    Of course I made a few changes :-)
    Instead of just boiling the butter and
    water, I browned the butter first.
    http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_brown_butter/
    Waited for it to cool and then added
    the water.
    To the water, I added my thyme and heated
    it in the microwave and made thyme tea.
    When the butter cooled enough, I added the
    water and brought both to a boil and
    proceeded with the rest of the recipe.
    Since I had a piece of unnamed hard cheese
    in my fridge, I grated about a 1/4 of it
    (probably romano) and added it to about 3/4 c.
    of white cheddar.

    These turned out wonderful. I will be making
    this recipe again.

  27. Christine

    This looks super intriguing, and I intend to make it very soon. One question; would I be able to use whole wheat flour and still have it behave correctly?

    Thanks!

    Great question. I don’t know, but if you try it, please let us know how it turns out. ~Elise

  28. Patricia

    Elise,
    To say you changed my life is an understatement. I have become a better cook because of your recipes and tips. I constantly refer to your as my go to “what’s for dinner” guide. I recommend your site to anyone who will listen. Your recipes never disappoint. I made these cheddar puffs tonight and they came out perfect! Thank you for your insight, your website is my absolute favorite! Thank you! Thank you!

    Wow. Thank you! I’m so glad you are finding the site so useful. Happy cooking! ~Elise

  29. Jackalyn

    These were amazing, although I messed up and thought I could use wax paper which made them stick, my fault. I will definetly be trying these again as I couldn’t get them out of the oven fast enough to satisfy my guests. I may try to make garlic and cheese ones next time! YUM!

  30. Danica

    WOW ~ I LOVE it! Your Cheddar Cheese Puffs look so simple to make and sound delicious.

    I definitely need to try them.

    Funny that we used to live in the same town. My house is still in Carmichael, but, I moved to the Bay area a few years ago :)

    Have a great weekend!

    Danica

  31. elizabeth

    Does anyone know if I could make these and then freeze the leftovers for another occasion? There are just two of us and I’m dying to try these. I am afraid that if they’re as good as everyone says we’ll eat them all ourselves! Thanks.

  32. Garrett

    Made these using some aged New Zealand cheddar. They lasted about two hours between three of us. Filled some with some slow braised chili pork that we made a few days before which made for some delicious sliders. Super easy recipe and great results, Elise.

  33. greyeagle

    Just wonderful! Came out so light and soft/crispy.
    Haven’t made a pate a choux in a long time, forgot how simple and quick it can be and so versatile.I used the mixer for the egg additions and really didn’t add or take away anything. We had these with just plain old spaghetti and sauce and they sure did turn a regular old meal into something a bit more special. Simple, dependable recipes are what we need in this depression and yours fit the bill nicely.

  34. Amy

    Hi Elise, maybe a dumb question–what if I don’t have parchment or silpat? Can I use foil or something?

    Good question. Foil should work. You might want to grease it first with a little oil. ~Elise

  35. Amy

    Well, I decided to run out and get parchment since every single other cheese puff recipe on the web also called for it. I’m glad I did because there was absolutely no sticking. I’d have to say that they didn’t have as much cheese flavor as I’d expect and I felt like I could taste the egg flavor a bit. I wonder if I let the dough cool down too much before adding the eggs…I’ve had custard traumas, so I was super carefuly about that…still warm, but not hot, but maybe not warm enough? I dunno! They were absolutely light and airy! I loved that!!

  36. Regina

    OK – made these today, and I had a friend tell me I should open a bakery! I didn’t have any cheddar, so I used Swiss…. I think they could stand up to a more flavorful cheese than Swiss – maybe even a good Bleu cheese or feta…. if I did feta, I would probably do oregano for the herb…. Bleu cheese, maybe dill…… hmmmmm…. time to hit the cheese case @ the grocery store!

    SUPER easy, by the way!!!

  37. Joy

    I normally love your recipes but this one was far too eggy for my taste. I guess I didn’t expect it even though there are 4 eggs in the recipe because it was called a Cheese Puffs. My husband liked them for his breakfast though. And the idea is very cool.

  38. Steve

    Hi Elise,

    As a couple other peoples above commented on the egg-y taste just like my fiance did. Are you supposed to be able to taste egg in them? Thanks so much for the delicious recipes!

    Good question. I guess cheese puffs are a little eggy. The eggs are the leavening and they provide structure to the cheese puffs. Perhaps with a stronger cheese like gruyere you don’t notice it as much. Just make sure you are using large eggs, and not extra large or jumbo. If so, then reduce the number of eggs. ~Elise

  39. Leslie

    Hi Elise,
    I am new to your site and just love it! These cheese puffs are wonderful and are so simple! Thank so much for sharing your recipes! For those that don’t have silpat or parchement paper, I just LIGHTLY greased my baking sheet with Crisco and they turned out light on the bottom with no sticking!
    Thanks again!

  40. Melissa

    I was so excited to try something completely new tonight, but… although the apartment smells great and my puffs are crispy and browned, the inside of the puffs is still a bit wet and doughy, even after cooking for 20+ minutes. The outside is so perfect that I probably will stop cooking in a little bit and maybe just dry them in the oven overnight. Any guesses as to what might have gone wrong? They taste okay, I’m just a bit worried about the whole 4-eggs-not-cooking situation.

    I would just cook them longer. ~Elise

  41. Esther

    Tried these a couple days ago… LOVE them! Soooo much easier to make than what I imaginged, and turned out awesome!

  42. Shirley

    Yours came out puffy and beautiful! Mine were closer to discs. I was a little disappointed. I also like your use of cheddar, instead of the Parmesan and gruyere my recipe called for. If I ever make them again, I’m using your recipe!

    Hi Shirley, I found that of all the cheeses I tried (Parmesan, cheddar, queso fresco) the cheddar ended up the most dense, and the queso fresco the fluffiest. Still they all tasted great. ~Elise

  43. Stephany Brisco

    I made your cheddar cheese puffs along with your split pea soup and it was just awesome! They are super easy and are truly what you call them, puffs! I made the same two recipes the next day for a friends who wasn’t feeling well. I just love your web sight! It’s all I cook from now.

  44. ronna

    Mine turned out to be more like mini-popovers… definitely too eggy for my tastes. Any suggestions on how to modify these to be less eggy, other than adding more cheese? Maybe using fewer eggs and a touch of baking powder?

    • Sandra Paul

      I tried this receipe, and I do have the same comment of adding a little baking powder. I added more cheese, and I reduced the eggs because during mixing it smelled eggy after the third egg.
      I did not read all the comments, but I was hoping someone mentioned something abouth the puff. As soon I removed them, the puff disappeared within a minute and the became flat. Did anyone experienced this?

  45. Dawn Bagnetto

    These Cheddar Puffs had excellent flavor – I used fresh rosemary and the results were amazing! Unfortunately I didn’t cook them long enough and when they cooled down, they collapsed! I was very aggravated at myself! I will try again, though – thanks for all the wonderful recipes!!

  46. Dawn Bagnetto

    I’ve made these Cheddar puffs twice now (see my comment posted on 8/17/2010) and the second time I made them, they crisped up & browned nicely and were absolutely delicious. After cooling and storing in a zip-top bag, they became soft and rubbery – no crispness left. Is it possible I didn’t cook them long enough, or that I made them too large? Thanks!

    Hi Dawn, great question. Yep, the cheddar cheese puffs are meant to be eaten immediately. As with anything crispy, if you seal them in a plastic bag, they will lose their crispiness. Actually this is a good trick with overly hard cookies. If you want to soften them up a bit, just put them in an airtight plastic container. ~Elise

  47. jennyblue

    Made these today for a little get together. They were still a bit wet in the middle at the end of the time so I popped them back in the oven. Brushed them with some garlic butter when they were cool. So yummy!

    One question. Some of the puffs puffed more than others. I tried to make them as uniform as possible, but did have two trays in the oven at the same time. Do you think the two trays might have hindered the puffiness?

    Yes, the two trays may have interfered with the movement of heat around the trays to make the cooking less even. ~Elise

  48. Vicky

    I made a half batch of these to test them out and they were all gone in minutes! After I took them out of the oven I brushed them with some melted butter and sprinkled with some grated Parmesan cheese.

  49. Dana

    Our neighborhood pub serves these as a bar appetizer….we just love them! These sound lovely! I’m making them to nibble on for Christmas! Can’t wait!

  50. Sarah

    Just made these today and they turned out great! It was an interesting recipe. Very easy to put together. They are great as a salty snack with garlic butter but if you left out the cheese and spices and did something more sweet and desserty they’d be just as good. I like a recipe that can go either way. Thanks!

  51. Tamara

    Lovely, light, and kid-friendly! I made these with leftover cheese — a mix of queijo minas (like queso fresco) and parmesan. Also did not have parchment paper, so I oiled the pan for the first batch, but these were so buttery, I’m not even sure that was necessary. I baked one batch with minced garlic on top–gorgeous!

  52. Star

    I have a little tip for the collapsing. When I take puffs out of the oven I set the tray on the oven top for them to cool. Because when you take puffs out of the oven and the cool air its them, most likely they will collapse. So if you set them on the oven top to let them cool as the oven cools off from being on, the puffs will cool at the same time. Mine have never collapsed doing this trick.

  53. Thang

    This looks like a really good recipe, but I’m an amateur chef and I can’t make these the way shown! They end up burnt on the outside and still quite raw on the inside. I’ve tried making smaller balls but that doesn’t help. Can anyone help me?

  54. Melissa

    Thanks for another great recipe, Elise. I have always been scared of making pate a choux but the photos in this recipe convinced me to try. I can’t believe how easy it was! What was I scared of all this time?

  55. S Mckay

    Can you please advise if these cheddar puffs will freeze? I am thinking of making them for a cocktail party with about 125 guests.
    Appreciate any feedback. – Thanks

    I think this question may have already been asked in the comments. I do not know the answer, as I have not attempted to freeze them yet. ~Elise

  56. Edel

    I’m cooking for 50 people this Sat and wonder if I made these the day before and reheated the next would they crisp up ok? Also if anyone has an idea for one other canapé that is possible to prepare the day before and won’t take too much time. I have a mammoth amount of preparing for the main and dessert!
    Sleepless and panicking in Ireland!
    Thanks in advance

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