Cheese Straws are a popular snack in Guyana. While this treat may not be unique to Guyana, it is definitely a Guyanese staple, especially at parties. What makes these cheese straws Guyanese Cheese Straws, is the use of New Zealand Sharp Cheddar (a popular type of cheddar in Guyana) and the addition of wiri wiri pepper for a little heat.
The best Guyanese birthday parties or family gatherings I've ever attended always had cheese straws. I learned how to make cheese straws in high school as part of my Home Management (HomeEc) class. My Home Ec teacher, Mrs. Reid taught us how to make light, buttery, melt in your mouth cheese straws that somehow still had a bit of a crunch. Thank you Mrs. Reid! I've made this same recipe over the years and today I am sharing it with you.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese (I prefer a white aged cheddar, like a New Zealand, Australian or Irish cheddar, but an aged Vermont cheddar also works)
- Softened butter
- Mustard (I prefer spicy brown mustard)
- Pepper (wiri wiri, scotch bonnet or even some cayenne will do)(not pictured)
- Pinch of salt (optional) (not pictured)
See recipe card for quantities.
Instructions for making Guyanese Cheese Straws
Step 1: Add the butter, cheese, mustard and pepper to a food processor and blend until a smooth paste forms. You can also do this step without a food processor. Simply grate the cheese on the smallest side of a cheese grater. Then add the finely shredded cheese, butter, mustard and pepper to a mixing bowl and mix using a fork or a hand mixer, until it is a smooth paste with no lumps.
Step 2: Add the flour and a pinch of salt (if using) to the cheese paste in the food processor and blend together until it forms a smooth dough. The dough should not be stiff but spreadable.
If you are not using a food processor to make your Guyanese cheese straws, simply add the flour to the cheese paste mixture, folding in a little at a time until you have a smooth, spreadable dough.
Step 3: Once you have your dough, the next step is to prepare it for piping. I use a pastry bag with a star tip, to give the cheese straws their signature texture. A great way to fill a pastry bag is to put it into a tall glass, then open the top of the bag over the glass. Add your dough into the bag by pushing it into the opening with a spatula.
Step 4: For this batch of pastry dough I used an open star tip (also called a french star tip) in the size 4B. You can also use a closed star tip for a more defined pattern on your finished cheese straws. You can size up or down when choosing your pastry tip, totally up to you.
Step 5: On a greased baking sheet, pipe your cheese straws into pieces that are between 3-6 inches long. I prefer longer straws, so I made them half the width of my sheet pan. You can also pipe them into long strips then cut them into your desired length before baking.
Step 6: Bake your cheese straws at 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes. Or until they start to get brown. I typically check them at 10 minutes, then if they are not yet brown, I let it go for 3 to 5 more minutes. Do not over bake them or they will be dry.
Hint: I've tried baking these on a silicone baking mat but they do not brown as well, so I highly recommend directly on a greased baking sheet to get that nice brown color on the bottom.
- Butter - You can use margarine or other dairy free butter if you like. You may also replace ¼ cup of butter in this recipe with ¼ cup of vegetable shortening if you want a really light tasting cheese straw.
- Cheese - Aged white cheddar makes the best cheese straws, but if you can't find that you can use extra sharp white cheddar and as a last resort, regular extra sharp cheddar. I haven't tried this with dairy free cheese substitutes.
- Pepper - Replace wiri wiri pepper with scotch bonnet pepper, habanero, cayenne pepper or even some hot sauce.
- Mustard - You can replace the spicy brown mustard in this recipe with yellow mustard or even ground mustard (mustard powder).
The hardest part about making cheese straws is piping out those neat little straws. Some people pipe them into whatever shapes they like. I love pipping them into stars or rosettes or flowers. I learned this tip in high school from Mrs. Reid. This is also the way we make those butter cookies that were always at every kid birthday party growing up.
To achieve these little rosettes, I used a large swirl top pastry tip and just pressed down as I piped the dough, until I achieved the size of flower that I wanted.
These are the most perfect little party bites!
You may also use a large closed or open star tip to make cheese rosettes.
Best Pastry Piping Tips for Cheese Straws
Guyanese Cheese straws have a signature pattern/texture. To achieve this texture we use a star pastry tip when piping the cheese straws out. Pictured above is an open star tip (also called a French star tip) in the size 4B. You may also use the closed star tip in this same size or you may size one up or down, but I wouldn't go any bigger or smaller than that.
How to store your Cheese Straws
Store your cheese straws (if you manage to have any leftovers) in an air tight container or ziplock bag at room temperature for no more than 5 days. Toss after 5 days. You may also store them in the refrigerator, although this tends to dry them out.
Tips for the best Guyanese Cheese Straws
Having a perfectly smooth cheese paste. If there are lumps in your cheese paste, it may be hard to pipe. Some pieces may even become stuck in the piping tip. To achieve this I grate my cheese first, on the fine side of the cheese grater. Then I add the cheese to the food processor. Of course you could dice your cheese up and then add it to the food processor, but I don't want to take any chances with having chunks in my batter. If you are mixing it without a food processor, continue to mix until smooth.
Getting the dough right is essential. Too soft and the straws will spread and will not bake right. Too stiff and your cheese straws will be dry. Please follow this recipe as written for the cheese, butter and flour proportions. However if for some reason (maybe improper measuring) your dough does not come out right try the following:
- Dough is dry and stiff: Add a tablespoon of butter and mix it into the dough until it is smooth and spreadable
- Dough too soft: Add flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is smooth and spreadable.
Printable Recipe Card
Guyanese Cheese Straws
- ½ lb Sharp (Extra Sharp) Cheddar Cheese (Use aged cheddar if you can)
- ¾ cups Butter, softened (6 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
- 2 wiri wiri peppers (remove seed and veins if you do not want the heat)
- 2 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon of flour (11 ounces or 312 grams)
- Pinch of salt Optional
- Preheat oven to 400 °F
Making the dough in a Food Processor
- Finely grate cheese, then add to a food processor, followed by the butter, spicy brown mustard, wiri wiri pepper
- Blend together until you are left with a smooth, lump free cheese paste
- Then add the flour and salt and continue to mix until fully combined into a smooth spreadable dough
Making the dough without a food processor
- Grate the cheese using a the fine shred side on a box grater, combine cheese, butter, mustard, pepper and salt (if using) and mash together with a fork until completely smooth. You may also use a hand mixer to mix it into a smooth paste
- Then add the flour about ½ cup at a time and fold into the cheese paste until a smooth and spreadable dough forms
Piping and Baking
- Add the dough to a pastry bag with a star tip (I used an open start tip in size 4B), then pipe onto a greased baking sheet into 3 to 6 inch strips
- Bake at 400 °F for 10 to 15 minutes, or as soon as it starts to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving
- See section above for substitutions and different ways to shape your cheese straws
- You can replace a ¼ cup of butter with ¼ of vegetable shortening for a really light cheese straw. I prefer it with all butter because the cheese straw isn't as crumbly but if you like that really melty cheese straw try this substitution.
- The consistency of the cheese straw dough, is soft and smooth and easy to work with. If it is hard to get through the pastry tip, then it is too stiff. If it comes and looks oily, your cheese straws will spread and be mushy.