Over the years, I have eaten my weight in packaged cheese crackers—you know, the ones in the red box. I love their texture, saltiness, and strong cheesy flavor. Then I stumbled upon cheese straws and my snacking life changed forever.
I grew up in the South, the homeland of the cheese straw, but no one in my family made their own. I’d sometimes nibble on one at a friend’s house or, more commonly, a potluck, but I never tried to make them myself. Until now.
What Are Cheese Straws?
Cheese straws are squarely between a cheese cracker and a savory shortbread in a fun, straw-like shape. You’ll most commonly see cheese straws with a ribbed shape, but they’re sometimes made by twisting the dough. No matter how you shape them, they’re a fun snack that’s sure to disappear fast.
Homemade cheese straws just require a few ingredients and a quick mix, making them surprisingly easy to make while looking and tasting impressive.
The Many Shapes of Cheese Straws
Most store-bought cheese straws are formed using a cookie press fitted with a star disk. This creates uniform, thick straws with crunchy ribs.
If you don’t own a cookie press, don’t worry. You have options. My favorite method for forming cheese straws is to roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and use a pastry cutter or pizza cutter to cut into thin strips. As you transfer the strips to the baking sheet, twist the dough for a playful shape.
Finally, you can divide the dough in half and create two logs that are 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Slice them into 1/4-inch coins using a sharp knife.
Why Self-Rising Flour?
I like to use self-rising flour for cheese straws because I always have it on hand. This is, I think, a Southern thing. My grandmother used self-rising flour for biscuits and self-rising cornmeal for cornbread, and I’m carrying on the tradition.
The added baking powder and salt give the straws a superior texture and flavor. The leavening means they won’t have an incredibly defined shape, but I think it’s a worthy trade-off.
If you don’t have self-rising flour, simply substitute with all-purpose flour and add 2 teaspoons baking powder and an extra 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- Cheese: Sharp cheddar cheese is traditional, but a number of cheeses work well in this recipe. Try shredded gruyere, Monterey Jack, or even smoked gouda.
- Spices: Increase or decrease the spices to suit your tastes. This recipe is mild and cheese-forward, so amp up the cayenne if you like spice. I sometimes add a generous dusting of freshly ground black pepper to the mix.
- Flour: Swap up to half of the flour for whole wheat or white whole wheat flour for a heartier texture and slightly different flavor. You may need to add more water to the dough since whole wheat flour can be drier.
How to Serve Cheese Straws
Cheese straws are a fun snack for a party and will please adults and kids alike. Pile them up in a bowl or stand them up in cups for a fun presentation. They go especially well with wine.
While they need no accompaniment, you can serve them alongside a mild dip like a white bean dip or hummus or as part of a cheese board. They also make a nice gift—I sometimes add them to cookie boxes as a much-needed savory break.
More Crunchy Cheesy Snacks
If you don’t have self-rising flour, use all-purpose flour, add 2 teaspoons baking powder, and double the salt.
For the best results, freshly grate the cheese instead of using pre-grated.
1 3/4 cups (228g) self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 to 4 tablespoons water, or as needed
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, paprika, cayenne, and salt until combined.
Make the dough:
Add the freshly shredded cheese and softened butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. You can also do this in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer.
Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed to combine. If needed, add the water, a teaspoon at a time, until a dough forms. The dough should resemble play dough—soft, not dry, but not sticky.
Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the dough and let it rest while the oven preheats.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Line 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper.
Form the cheese straws:
Once the oven has preheated, scoop the dough into a cookie press fitted with a large star disk. Pipe onto the baking sheet in 2- or 3-inch lines, leaving about a 1/2 inch between each straw.
Alternatively, roll out half of the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle 1/8-inch thick. Use a pizza or pasta cutter or sharp knife to cut into 1/2-inch strips. Twist them several times or leave them as plain strips, and arrange on the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough.
You can make the straws whatever length you want. As long as they are the same thickness, the bake time remains the same. A word to the wise: don’t make them more than 4 inches long, since they are more apt to break after baking.
Bake the cheese straws until they are crisp, brown on the bottom, and light brown on top, 14 to 17 minutes. If you’re baking 2 baking sheets at once, rotate them halfway through.
To help the cheese straws keep their signature ridges or twirl, place the baking sheet in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking. You may need to add a minute or 2 to the bake time.
Let cool on the pan. Cheese straws can be a bit brittle when they’re warm, so handle them gently to avoid breaking them in half. Cool completely before serving.
Store for up to a week in an airtight container. If your cheese straws lose some of their crispness, re-crisp them briefly in a toaster oven and cool before serving.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 14g||18%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||42%|
|Total Carbohydrate 15g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||2%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|