Mbejú is a buttery, gluten-free, cheese flatbread with crispy edges that is enjoyed all over Paraguay with a cup of coffee or cocido.
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Mbejú: A cheese flatbread for cooler weather
As the cold weather arrives in Paraguay, people start sharing their mbejú pictures with cocido (yerba mate tea) or coffee on social media.
The cold makes you want to eat richer, more hearty foods. Mbejú is one of those dishes.
Cheesy and buttery, with crispy edges. It goes perfectly well with a hot drink.
I started making this recipe 14 years ago while traveling in the US for a year.
My husband and I shared some mbejú with people we visited with, introducing them to Paraguayan cuisine, which is not very well known.
What is mbejú?
Mbejú (pronounced bay-joo) is a savory flatbread, made with cassava or yuca starch/flour, lots of cheese and bound together with a splash of milk.
Because of the use of cassava flour, this flatbread is naturally gluten-free.
What kind of cheese is used for this gluten-free bread?
Traditionally a fresh cheese called Paraguay cheese is used to make this cheesy, gluten-free bread.
Depending on who you talk to, this cheese can have a subtle or a more aged flavor.
For this mbejú recipe, we used a dry cheese with a mild flavor.
Other options are mozzarella, Parmesan, or cheddar cheese.
Or you can add a mixture of mozzarella, Parmesan, and blue cheese, which makes for a very tasty mbejú.
Not traditional, but delicious nonetheless.
What is cassava flour or starch?
Cassava, tapioca, manioc or yuca are some of the names for this popular root that is grown all over South America.
This cassava flour should be a fine powder, similar in consistency to corn starch.
How to serve Paraguayan mbejú
Mbejú is served with a cup of cocido (yerba mate tea) or coffee for an afternoon snack.
It can be served with red wine as an appetizer for a cookout too.
How to make my mbejú recipe
This recipe is very simple; easy to make with little ones and great to try with your classroom as you learn more about Paraguay.
Get all your ingredients out and a big bowl.
Start adding cassava flour, butter, salt, and cheese to the bowl and rub with your fingers until the mixture becomes like crumbs.
If you are using a dry cheese, this mixture needs a little bit of milk. Start by adding 2 tablespoons and then add 1 more at a time.
If you are using fresh cheese, like queso fresco, which has more liquid, you may not need to add milk.
Now is the time to try a little bit of your mbejú mixture to see if it needs more salt. The amount of salt in this recipe works great if you use a less salty cheese.
How to cook mbejú
Choose whatever size frying pan you like. I prefer using a small one because it’s easier to flip my mbejú. I used a 5-in. / 13 cm. pan with a lid.
Heat up your pan on low, and add enough mbejú mixture to cover the bottom of the pan, about ¾ cup.
Use a spatula to bring the little pieces around the pan together with the rest of the mbejú mixture.
Cover the pan and let it cook for a minute, flip the mbejú and cook for a minute and a half without the lid.
How to keep mbejú fresh
Anything made with cassava flour needs to be eaten while it is still hot.
There are a few things you can do to help you with that by preparing ahead.
Make your mbejú mixture and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. It doesn’t take long to cook them, but you can skip the messy mixing part and wow your friends as you flip your mbejú.
This mbejú mixture freezes well for up to 3 months. 10 minutes before cooking it, take it out of the freezer and it’s ready to go.
Mbejú (Paraguayan Gluten-Free Cheese Flatbread)
- 3 cups (366g) cassava flour
- 1 1/2 cups (169.5g) shredded cheese (like mozzarella, Parmesan, or cheddar)
- 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 Tbsp (74ml) milk
- Using a big bowl, add cassava flour, cheese, butter and salt. Mix with the tip of your finger until it resembles crumbs.
- Add 2 tablespoons of milk, mix until it resembles small pebbles. Adding more milk if needed.
- Heat a small frying pan on low to medium-low heat. Add ¾ cup of mbejú mixture, and with the help of a spatula, bring the little pieces around the pan together, pressing them with the rest of the mbejú mixture. Cover the pan and let it cook for a minute, until lightly golden in spots and easy to flip. Flip the mbejú and cook for an additional minute and a half without the lid.
- Serve with a hot drink.