Gluten Free Pão de queijo (dough balls) hit Hampstead!

Peeps have you ever found such a great gluten free product that you wanted to keep it all to yourself?

Well that’s exactly how we felt when we discovered Soft Sage’s Brazilian dough balls a few months ago. As usual Niamh & I were having a potter around Hampstead one weekend trying to pretend that we lived in ‘The village’ and not outer London.  Bored of the usual pubs and chains on in Hampstead we decided to pop our heads into Hampstead Community market just near the King IV pub on Hampstead High Street. Normally we just walk past this as at first glance it seems to sell second hand books and olives. Yet this time we spied the words that every Coeliac longs to see when they’re out and about but rarely does, ‘Gluten Free’.

Gluten Free Vegetarian Dough Balls

The low down 

So we zeroed in on this sign and spoke to Helena the stall holder. We asked her the usual 101 Coeliac questions: Was her food really gluten free?  Had it been tested to less than 20ppm?  What ingredients did it contain?  How did she avoid cross contamination with other products?  Were her dips also gluten free?  We’re pleased to say that although she was a bit over whelmed by our grilling she knew her stuff!

Helena explained that she was Brazilian and that her ‘dough balls’ were actually called Pão de queijo [say Pan de K Joo]. Which literally means ‘cheese bread’ in Portuguese.

Helena, cooking the delicious Gluten Free Pão de queijo at Hampstead Market NW3

It turned out that Helena’s son was gluten intolerant which had led her to the idea of making a tasty fun snack which he could enjoy without feeling like he was missing out on the foods his friends enjoyed. She explained that she had made Pão de queijo with a twist. Instead of just making the traditional cheesy bread balls from Cassava flour that are such a hit in Brazil, Helena adds a selection of herbs and flavours to give them an English spin.

All the flavours!

We tried all the dough ball flavours on the stall:

  • Cheese, a classic
  • Cheese & Garlic – delicious
  • Cheese, Basil & Tomato (Margherita) – a great combo like a mini pizza
  • Cheese & Rosemary – one of our favourites

All of which are Gluten Free, Certified Vegetarian by the VegSoc & also Lacto-Free perfect for newbie Coeliacs who can’t tolerate Lactose! Unlike most Gluten Free snacks in the Free From aisle these balls are low in calories, fat, sugar and salt.  Helena confirmed they’re also free from GMOs, artificial additives, colourings, flavourings and Xanthan gum or Codex Wheat starch. Even better she only uses the top grade Brazilian Cassava flour (which is naturally Gluten Free and also called Tapioca in Europe) and fresh herbs to avoid any cross contamination from dried varieties. 

What’s the damage?

Helena sells the dough balls on the stand freshly cooked by the bag for £3.50 a bag or a pack of 10 frozen balls which you can pop in your freezer. Which we think is a bargain as you’d be hard pressed to get a GF cake or sandwich from Starbucks or Cafe Nero for that price!

Niamh loved the gluten free dough balls & fresh fruit juices!

Niamh was especially impressed with the dough balls,

‘They don’t taste gluten free!’

Which we all know is high praise as we’re all looking for products that don’t have that ‘special’ taste just for Coeliacs (which is usually a mix between soft cardboard or high sugar).

So we snapped up the fresh dough balls and then snuck them into PizzaExpress where we grabbed some lunch. We even gave some to our friendly Brazilian waiter who also loved them!

Heaven. Soft Sage Gluten Free dough balls snuck into PizzaExpress

Now if only PizzaExpress sold these we’d be in Coeliac heaven!  The have already nailed a gluten free starter, pizza, dessert plus Green’s Gluten Free beer! But we all know that true PizzaExpress fans really miss dough balls after Coeliac Diagnosis. Imagine if they sold these as well. Mmm Coeliac heaven. We’ve emailed & tweeted PizzaExpress to let them know about how good these Brazilian dough balls are. Hopefully they’ll try them too. Fingers crossed!

Cooking from frozen: 20 – 30 minutes at 180 Degrees C. Simples!

We’ve also cooked the frozen dough balls at home. They’re fail safe. Which is handy if like half of the team here and up North you’re not that great in the kitchen or just don’t have the time.

  • Simply pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C
  • Pop some frozen dough balls on a baking tray
  • Wack into the oven
  • Set the timer for 20 minutes
  • Check
  • Remove & eat whilst still warm and yummy!

The frozen gluten free dough balls Mmm mmm

We opened our oven to check them. We gave them a poke with a finger to check the texture. You see we love them part soft and part crispy. If you like them really crispy cook for longer. We can confirm that they are great with a chilled gluten free beer or glass of wine!

Great gluten free dough balls with a glass of vino

Even better with some garlic butter. If you’re stuck for dip ideas with them Soft Sage has created a lovely Pinterest page too. Just click here for inspiration.


In the meantime, remember tell no one about Soft Sage’s Brazilian Gluten Free Balls. After all we don’t want to find they’ve sold out when we next pop by Hampstead indoor market at 78 Hampstead High St NW3 1RE. Got that?!

PS instead you can order Helena’s frozen dough balls from her website. As the business is new she can only delivery to North London. Visit: And if you wanna stay in touch with dough ball developments then follow her on Twitter & Facebook too. The dough balls are also available from Naturalis Veggie Coffee house in Islington. 



6 Responses to “Gluten Free Pão de queijo (dough balls) hit Hampstead!”
  1. Jen says:

    These look AMAZING! I wish somewhere like Pizza Express did sell these, seeing as before I was diagnosed dough balls were what I went to Pizza Express for, even now when I go for my gf pizza I feel like I’m missing something.
    Next time I’m in Hampstead I’ll make sure I pop in and get some.

  2. Hannah says:

    I’ve noticed more restaurants, mostly italians, are offering gluten free options on many dishes, I think Prezzo allows you to have any Pizza from their menu on a gluten free base. Gluten free doughballs- Delicious!

  3. Rebeca says:


    You can actually find the Pao de queijo on any brazilian shop…either from frozen or ready to eat. let me know if u want me to givce u a list of places.

    this one below you can buy online.

    HOpe u enjoy it ! A Brazilian celiac in London ;-)

  4. Silvia Rodriguez says:

    Thank you Coeliac In The City! This is one of the best information website that I have encountered so far about Coeliac disease, tips, reviews etc!

    I have actually been to Hampstead and have tried the Soft Sage dough balls. They are absolutely A M A Z I N G!!! You all should definitely try those!

    I have tried the Isabel’s dough ball at the Allergy Show and unfortunately my husband and I did not enjoy it much: it was really dry, not much flavour going on and it was a bit hard.

    Also, I could not try some that I have found in Camden as they do not seem to guarantee the pao-de-queijo are gluten free.

  5. Marie Montgomery says:

    I asked my Pizza Express waiter if, as the dough balls are just pizza dough, they could make them from this. He said that they will be doing this soon!

    • Hey Marie are you aware that PizzaExpress don’t make much in their venues most is frozen or reheated ? i.e. they don’t make the GF pizza bases but buy them in from a company in Finland. They are all frozen and each is unwrapped for Coeliac customers. So I think the advice they gave you was duff. Best to email the Head Office and get the proper info from them directly ; )

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