Pan de bono is a magic combination of crumbly cheese, corn flour, a starch, and an egg. It might be the easiest, naturally gluten free bread you’ll ever make.
Naturally gluten free bread
When I first started baking gluten free, I was desperate for a recipe that was easy and would work. I had tried baking mixes that I special ordered from who-knows-where, and even those failed.
I was completely overwhelmed by the variety of flours, and tired of baking with stinky garbanzo bean flour. So when I discovered that there were ways to bake simply, like this pan de bono, that were already naturally gluten free, it was like the heavens had opened up. ✨
There are two flours in this recipe, masa harina corn flour, and tapioca starch/flour, but the crux of the recipe is the cheese and the egg. Together, they make a bread that has layers of flavors — from the crusty outside, all the way to the salty sweetness of the cheesy inside.
How to make and handle the dough
The dough for pan de bono is made in a food processor, but you don’t need a high-powered or fancy machine. Even a miniature machine will do, but you might have to make the dough in batches.
First, the cheese is made into crumbles by pulsing in the food processor. I’ve made this recipe with queso fresco cheese, feta cheese, quesito, and even dairy-free cheese (see the Ingredients and Substitutions section below for full details). The saltier the cheese (like feta), the less salt you’ll add.
Then, the flours are added and combined quickly and easily with the cheese. With the food processor running, you’ll add the egg and process until the dough comes together into a ball. It will happen suddenly, and you’ll know it’s ready.
The dough is super easy to handle, and could certainly be made into other shapes. It will be tacky to the touch, but shouldn’t be truly sticky (unless you’re using dairy-free cheese). If it is sticky, just cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Bake the rolls for 10 minutes in a hot, 375°F oven. A final brushing with melted butter (vegan butter if you’re making the rolls dairy free) helps the rolls brown as they finish baking—and adds some extra, rich flavor.
Ingredients and substitutions
Dairy-free: Pan de bono is naturally gluten free, but naturally dairy-containing. But I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully made it dairy free by making the following substitutions:
- 8 ounces of Daiya brand dairy-free cheese in place of dairy cheese
- an additional 1/3 cup tapioca starch/flour for a total of 1 cup (120 g)
- an additional egg, for a total of 2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell)
- melted nondairy vegan butter in place of melted unsalted butter
- the dough will be stickier, so handle it with wet hands during shaping
The rolls don’t brown as well as the original recipe, but they puff perfectly and taste amazing.
Egg-free: There are very few eggs in this recipe (just 1), but since the recipe is so simple that any substitution is risky. It’s worth trying with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel) in place of the single egg.
Corn-free: Masa harina corn flour is a precooked cornmeal (Maseca brand is widely available and is certified gluten free) that’s essential to this recipe. There are some recipes where cornmeal can be replaced with ground millet, but I don’t believe that would work here. I wish I had better news about making these rolls corn free!
Pan de bono | Naturally Gluten Free
8 ounces queso fresco (Mexican), quesito (Colombian), or feta cheese (Greek)
1/3 cup (44 g) masa harina corn flour
2/3 cup (80 g) tapioca starch/flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if your cheese is very salty)
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell), at room temperature
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and set it aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, place the cheese and pulse until all the large pieces are crumbled into a uniform bunch of pebble-sized pieces. Add the masa, tapioca starch, and salt, and pulse until well-combined. With the food processor on, add the egg and blend until a very smooth, integrated ball forms (about 2 minutes). You might have to stop the food processor halfway through to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the food processor. If it’s sticky to the touch, place it in a medium-sized bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 15 minutes).
Divide the dough into 8 to 10 pieces, roll each into a round between your palms, and place about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Place in the center of the preheated oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, brush the rolls with melted butter and return to the oven to continue baking until puffed, lightly golden brown all over and golden brown underneath and on the edges. Allow the rolls to cool briefly before serving.
Originally published on the blog in 2011. Adapted from this recipe. Recipe largely unchanged, photos, video and most text new.