Dough and cheese: it’s a patterning of existence so fundamental to the natural rhythm of life that entire nation-states could probably be formed out of all the world’s cheese dishes.
Since the discovery of cheese in the Fertile Crescent 8,500 years ago, humans have flourished in their capacity to invent new ways to consume it. Today, you can eat cheese out of an aerated can, but we’d recommend sticking to what’s tried and true; in other words, combining it with some variety of bread.
Here are 17 cheese dishes — and 17 takes on this culinary trope — from just about every continent.
Grilled Cheese — United States
An American version of “bread and cheese” wouldn’t be complete without a thick, good old slice of processed American cheese. But it’s our history, and own our history we will. The classic grilled cheese sandwich of U.S. lore was born in the 1920s, but it was served open-faced initially. It became very popular during the Great Depression because of how affordable it was.
Gordita — Mexico
Mexico is not shy about its use of cheese. In fact, the iconic quesadilla could have easily gone on this list as well (as could the empanada, though the latter might have originated in Spain). Here’s a variation you probably haven’t heard of though: the gordita (meaning “little fat one” in Spanish). The masa corn dough is often stuffed with cheese, though they come with meat and other fillings, too. The gorditas are then fried to perfection.
Pandebono — Colombia
According to legend, pandebonos got their name from an Italian baker living in Valle del Cauca who would walk the streets yelling “¡Pan de buono!” — meaning “good bread” in Italian. They’re made with cassava flour and cheese (specifically queso costeño), and they’re often paired with hot chocolate for a salty and sweet kick.
Tequeños — Venezuela
Move over, mozz sticks. This Venezuelan version of fried, breaded cheese sticks uses queso blanco, a close cousin to mozzarella that’s reminiscent of all your favorite Latin American food memories. Some tequeños are even made with plantains instead of wheat flour, but we suppose those still count.
Pão De Queijo — Brazil
These little puffs of baked cheese bread (the name literally means just that — cheese bread) are often eaten for breakfast (or a snack) in Brazil. They’re usually made with tapioca flour, creating a crispy exterior and a creamy center. Former Brazilian president Itamar Franco loved them so much, he made it mandatory to serve them at all government meetings, and his term in office is now called the “Republic of Cheese Bread.”
Briouat — Morocco
These puff pastries can be either sweet or savory, but the kind we’re interested in are either filled with cheese, herbs and spices, or stuffed with chicken or lamb and a combination of cheese, lemon and spices. It’s an adaptable format for a quick and easy appetizer (or an after-meal snack).
Qatayef — Egypt
This sweet take on stuffed pancakes is a classic staple of Ramadan in Egypt. The little crescent-shaped dumplings are made with yeasted pancakes, and they can be filled with cheese (as well as cream, nuts, fruits or Nutella). Not to be missed: a generous dousing of sugary syrup.
Khaliat Nahal — Yemen
Also known as honeycomb or beehive bread, this eye-catching pastry is kind of like a pull-apart bread made from individual balls of cheese-filled dough, which is then doused in orange blossom syrup. Some recipes call for feta, and others call for cream cheese. Either way, it’s delicious.
Pogacha — Turkey/Balkan Region
Variations of pogacha can be found in the cuisines of Turkey, Slovenia, Slovakia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Austria and more. Long story short, it’s a pastry usually made with wheat flour (and baked in a similar manner to focaccia bread). It’s stuffed with various ingredients like cheese, potatoes and meat, and some come with sesame seeds or dill sprinkled on top.
Tiropita — Greece
These little cheese pies are made with buttered phyllo dough and filled with a mixture of egg and feta cheese. And because everything in Greece is ancient, these appetizers have a long and storied history. It was actually the Romans who expanded on the existing cuisine of the Greeks after they conquered Greece in 146 B.C., bringing us phyllo dough and everything that came with it.
Lángos — Hungary
Lángos is essentially Hungarian pizza. Commonly served as street food, it’s made with deep-fried dough that’s sometimes mixed with potatoes, sour cream or yogurt. The little flat breads are then topped with sour cream, grated cheese, ham or just a sprinkling of garlic or garlic butter. Some are simply doused in garlic water.
Pizza — Italy
How could we forget about pizza? Though it’s become a worldwide phenomenon (with its own special variety that’s native to the New York area), Naples, Italy, is considered the birthplace of modern pizza. Originally, it was eaten by members of the working class, who favored it thanks to its inexpensiveness and convenience. Their eating habits were called “disgusting” by more upper-class members of society — that is, until the Queen made it cool.
Croquetas De Jamón — Spain
The Spaniards are big on ham (and tapas), so it’s little wonder that these little fried, breaded balls of serrano ham and manchego cheese would be so popular. They’re usually filled with a creamy béchamel sauce to boost their cheesy essence.
Pierogis — Poland
Pierogis are an Eastern European staple, but they are rightly considered the national dish of Poland, eaten with gusto since at least the 13th century. The classic pierogi is a boiled or fried dumpling filled with farmer’s cheese, but they can also contain potatoes, meat and/or onions.
Khachapuri — Georgia
Here, a bread-bowl vessel is filled with cheese and topped with an egg to carry you to cheesy bliss. Usually, Georgians use a mixture of imeruli and sulguni cheese. The khachapuri is eaten from the outside-in by tearing off pieces of the crust and dunking it into the pool of cheese in the middle.
Rasgulla — Southeast Asia
Most commonly found in Bangladesh and India, this Southeast Asian staple is comprised of spongy cheese balls boiled in sweet syrup, made with semolina dough and an Indian farmer’s cheese called chhena. There’s some disagreement over where they actually originated, though they’re also a part of the legend of the goddess Lakshmi.
Cheese Ensaymada — Philippines
Essentially the Filipino version of brioche, cheese ensaymadas are a soft, sweet bread that’s covered in butter, sugar and grated cheese. And to top it all off, they’re usually paired with hot chocolate or coffee (and traditionally eaten during Christmastime).