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).
One of many brands of requeijão cremoso.Photo by , Catupiry
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.
Taryn Pire is an associate editor and food writer at New Jersey Family magazine. A graduate of Ithaca College, she's covered all things food at GOOD, Taste Talks, and ANNA Magazine. Tacos are the way to her heart and she makes a mean Old Fashioned. Follow her foodie adventures on Instagram @soundbitesnj.