How to Make Tequeños (Venezuelan Cheese Sticks)
The day has finally arrived. Yeap, the day I’m finally adding this beloved recipe to The Cookware Geek recipes. Today I’m going to make Venezuelan tequeños 🙂
How’s that? Let me explain:
In Venezuela, tequeños are serious business. I mean, you cannot have a respectable party —wedding, birthday, graduation, any special occasion— that doesn’t involve these tiny fried cheese sticks wrapped in dough. They are the most awaited appetizer in any meeting. If you accompany these beauties with pink sauce (mayo and ketchup)… well, you probably will have a long line of Venezuelan grabbing tequeños nonstop. Yes, we are CRAZY about them.
Note: please never say to a Venezuelan that tequeños are similar to a cheese stick or mozzarella sticks. THEY ARE NOT (they are better). We use white hard Venezuelan cheese. Also, our tequeños are wrapped in an elastic puff pastry that gets super crispy when is fried. They honestly don’t even have a similar taste.
So the big question is…
How to make tequeños?
The right type of cheese
First, you have to choose the right type of cheese. It must be a low-fat cheese to hold the high temperatures without melting in excess. Also, the cheese must be hard and white and rather salty. The cheese, in addition, must be dry to avoid a soggy tequeño.
As you may notice the cheese is kind of particular to find. I will give you two choices:
If you are living in the USA, especially in Florida —bad mouths say Miami is the capital of South America— there are a few local Latin stores that sell Venezuelan white cheese. Or you can buy it online through this page.
If there is no chance you can get Venezuelan cheese, and unless you own a South American cow and have amazing milk skills, I highly suggest you use feta cheese. It’s quite similar; it’s less salty — you will have to add an extra 10 gr of salt to the dough —, but the consistency is good for tequeños. Another difference is that it’s less stringy because it has even less fat than Venezuelan white cheese. This is the cheese that I have to use here in Portugal to calm my tequeños cravings.
The tequeños’ dough
After you get the perfect cheese for your tequeños, the next step is the dough. This must be elastic, as you are going to wrap the dough around a cheese stick without breaking it. This means that the dough will use eggs, specifically egg yolks.
The other ingredients are the basics for any dough: flour, butter — room temperature—, milk and salt.
At the moment of kneading the dough, there is one trick that will give you the perfect and crispy tequeño’s dough: folding the dough. You can fold the dough from 6 to 8 times to give it a puff pastry effect. You can see it on the video at the top.
Then comes the wrapping business. It is kind of tricky to explain it in writing — for that reason I made a video so you can see exactly how it is (min 1:15). But it’s more or less this way:
After you cut the flattened dough in strings, which must be three times longer than the cheese sticks, you have to flatten even more one tip of the dough and then wrap with it one tip of the cheese. Then, gently wrap the rest of the cheese overlapping the string of dough while you cover the entire cheese stick. Make sure to cover well the cheese or it will be a mess when fried. When you get to the other tip, wrap it covering the end.
It sounds difficult, but the dough is pretty elastic so you don’t have to stress much about its length. It’s not easy to break.
After all this, all is left is frying. Enjoy!
You can also wrap the tequeños in transparent foil before frying and keep them in the fridge for up to 1 month and have tequeños ready for the action anytime. That’s what I like to do!
Now let’s jump into the classic tequeños recipe:
- 500 gr all purpose flour
- 10 gr salt note 1
- 200 ml milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 200 gr unsalted butter room temperature
- 200 gr hard white cheese note 2
- Vegetable oil
In a big bowl, mix the flour and the butter with your hands until the texture is kind of sandy.
Mix the milk, the egg yolks, and the salt. Pour it in the dough and keep kneading.
When the dough is homogeneous, put it on a flat table and flatten it with the help of a rolling pin. Fold the dough 6-8 times (see the video)
Flatten the dough and cut strings (1,5 Inch width; 9 Inch long)
Cut the cheese into sticks (1,5 Inch width; 3 Inch long)
Wrap the cheese sticks (see the video)
Fry the tequeños and serve them with pink sauce (note 3)
- If you use feta cheese add an extra 10 gr of salt.
- In Venezuela, we use a type of cheese that is hard and salty that works really well grated. In the USA you can find it in some Latin American supermarket, or in some Venezuelan small businesses. But in case that you can’t find it (like in my case in Portugal), you can use feta cheese. The finish will be less stringy but the taste is much similar.
- Pink sauce: 50% ketchup 50%mayo.