As a lifelong Jersey girl, I know my way around a bagel shop cream cheese bar. Strawberry is one of my go-to choices, especially if there are French toast bagels left. If I’m feeling fancy, it’s all about the sun-dried tomato spread, or cinnamon raisin if I have a hankering for something sweet. Lox spread and scallion are my salty staples, and I’m a big fan of veggie cream cheese, too (just leave your diced carrots out of it).
But no spread comes close to requeijão cremoso.
Colloquially referred to by many as Brazilian cream cheese, this spread is both mildly sweet and salty and beyond creamy. The texture and thickness is similar to condensed milk minus the stickiness, a contrast to standard requeijão, which is closer to queso fresco.
I tried it for the first time after my boyfriend’s mom, a Rio native, brought us a jar from a grocery run to Newark, a city chock-full of Brazilian and Portuguese churrascarias, markets, and bakeries. I spread it on a piece of honey-wheat toast and topped it with vibrant raspberry jam. The rest is history.
My favorite way to eat this is with a roll of Goya Maria Cookies and a slab of guava paste. My abuela and I used to munch away on these sweet-and-salty sammies when I was a kid, but always used whipped cream cheese. Using requeijão cremoso instead makes these easy bocaditos more sweet-forward and silkier on the tongue.
If you want to keep it authentic, go the route of the Brazilian dessert Romeu e Julieta(yes, that’s Romeo and Juliet). It’s typically a thick layer of queijo minas (named after the state Minas Gerais)—which is similar to requeijão in taste but solid instead of creamy—topped with a layer of guava paste.
Want to go savory? Try making coxinha, a drool-worthy Brazilian fried dumpling stuffed with shredded chicken and savory, melty Catupiry, a brand of soft, processed requeijão-like cheese.
Requijão cremoso can also be used to make rich pasta sauces, queso dip, pancakes (see ya later, ricotta), creamy rice, and even pizza. Spread it on a sandwich, mix it into mac and cheese, whisk it into eggs, or eat it straight from the jar. I won’t judge.
My latest take? Requeijão and sausage–stuffed mini sweet peppers. Like a cross between a jalapeño popper and chile relleno with equal parts meat and cheese, these poppable handhelds are a total cinch to prepare and make for a hearty, utensil-free appetizer.
If there aren’t any Brazilian markets near you, don’t worry: The Internet has your back.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6
Olive oil, for frying sausage
4 to 5 Italian sausages, mild or hot, removed from casings
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
8 to 10 ounces requeijão cremoso
Salt and pepper, to taste
20 mini sweet peppers, tops cut off and ribs and seeds removed
Breads crumbs, for topping
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a skillet over medium heat, cook and crumble the sausage in a little olive oil. Once cooked, remove from the pan.
3. Sauté garlic and onion in the sausage drippings until golden and aromatic. Add sausage crumbles back in. Remove and drain.
4. In a large bowl, combine the sausage and requeijão. Fold until combined. Add salt and pepper if desired.
5. Stuff each mini pepper with the cheese mixture. Line peppers on a baking sheet. Sprinkle breadcrumbs atop the open ends of the peppers.
6. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until peppers have softened and browned.