Move over goldfish crackers and Cheez-Its. These Cheddar Cheese Straws are a wonderfully savory appetizer or snack that are perfect for parties, cocktail hour, or any other gathering! They are satisfyingly crunchy with a robust cheddar flavor and irresistible!
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Cheese straws are not quite cheese crackers, but are cracker-like and popular in the Southern part of the United States. In particular, they are well-loved by many Mississippians, which is why I wanted to include homemade cheese straws as one of the foods Mississippi is known for in my American Eats series of famous foods from each state.
Interestingly, these golden cheese straws are a popular appetizer, hors d'oeuvre, or snack across the pond in England, too! Next time you are in Mississippi or England, look for cheese straws! Or don't wait and make a batch of my best cheese straws recipe yourself to share at your next cocktail party or with a bowl of your favorite soup!
What are Cheese Straws?
At least once source I found claimed that Southern cheese straws came about before refrigeration as a way of using up leftover biscuit dough. Rather than tossing the unused dough, cooks would knead in cheddar cheese and spices, then roll it out and cut it into strips to be baked into a crunchy snack.
I think of cheese straws as a cross between a cracker and a savory cookie, in terms of texture and flavor. They have a nice crunch that is thicker than a cracker and closer to a shortbread cookie or crunchy breadstick, but with a savory profile of cheese and spice, thanks to the smoked paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Sharp cheddar cheese - For best results, you will want to grate a cold brick of cheese using the small holes of a box grater, then let them sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes before proceeding.
- All-purpose flour
- Salted butter - Use real butter, not margarine. If using unsalted butter, add an additional ½ teaspoon of salt to the dough along with the spices.
- Smoked paprika - We love the extra flavor of smoked paprika, but regular paprika may also be used.
- Garlic powder
- Cayenne pepper - These cheese straws didn't taste spicy, even with the amount of cayenne pepper used. If you want them to have more of a kick, you could double or even triple the amount. If you are really concerned, you can reduce it by half or omit altogether.
- Black pepper
How to Make Cheese Straws
- Grate cheese. To begin, grate a block of sharp cheddar cheese on the small holes of a box grater. Pre-grated cheese from the store is coated with a powder that prevents it from sticking, but that also makes it not work as well as freshly grated cheese in this recipe.
- Beat. Combine softened butter and cheese in a mixer and beat well using the paddle attachment until creamy and light, stopping to scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice. This should take about 10 minutes to really smooth out the butter and cheese into a mostly homogenous mixture.
- Add flour and spices. Once the butter and cheese mixture is well-blended, add in the flour and spices. Mix on low speed until the ingredients start to come together, then increase the speed to medium-low to medium and mix until a thick, almost playdough-like dough forms. You may need to stop the mixture and scrape the bottom of the bowl once or twice to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
- Pipe cheese straws. Transfer a portion of the cheese straw dough to a cookie press fitted with an open star attachment and squeeze out long strips of cheese straw dough. You will get more uniform straws by piping long lengths of rope and using a sharp knife to cut them into even lengths about 3 to 4 inches long rather than attempting to pipe them the same exact length every time.
- Bake. Transfer the cheese straws to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees F until they are lightly browned around the edges. Let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before enjoying.
I couldn't find the exact origin of the name cheese straws, but classic cheese straws have a narrow, long-ish shape that is probably the inspiration for the name "straws".
Cheese straws are perfect for at-home entertaining, but they are also frequently served at weddings, parties, baby or bridal showers, holidays or other special events, especially in the South.
If you don't have a cookie press, you can make these using a sturdy pastry bag and open star tip, although I don't recommend trying it with the thin, disposable piping bags that you might use for frosting which aren't strong enough to contain the firm dough. Instead, I recommend rolling out the dough into a thin ¼ to ⅜-inch thickness with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface or piece of parchment paper and cutting them into narrow ½-inch strips about 3-4 inches long with a pizza cutter.
Tips for Success
- Use a cookie press. I tried pressing these through a regular piping tip using a piping bag by hand and while it is possible, it took a lot of muscle and wasn't nearly as easy as using a cookie press fitted with the correct tip.
- These don't have to just be straws. You don't have to be locked in to the classic straw shape. I wanted to use this same dough to make savory cookies using my other cookie press attachments that I typically use for spritz cookies and I loved how they turned out. They are like cheesy, crunchy flowers and bake in the same amount of time as the regular cheese straws.
- Don't underbake. If anything, you might want to slightly overbake these a bit so they are crunchy. I underbaked a batch and didn't love the softer texture nearly as well as the crunchy ones.
What to Serve With Cheese Straws
Cheese straws are perfect with soups and salads, as part of a grazing board with cured meats, pickles, and cheeses, or all on their own. I don't know if they are ever used for dipping in the South, but I think they would be fantastic with all kinds of dips. These are some of our favorites that I want to try them with.
Storage & Freezing
Cheese straws are best the first day or two after they are made, but will stay fresh in an airtight container on the counter for about 1 week.
You can also freeze any uneaten cheese straws in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Let them come to room temperature before serving.
More Appetizer Recipes
Did you make this recipe?
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Southern Cheese Straws
- 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded (about 4 cups)
- 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheet with parchment paper. Grate the cold cheese on the small side of a grater using the fine holes, then cover it and let it come to room temperature.
- Beat butter and cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 10-12 minutes until creamy and light.
- Add flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and salt. Add to cheese mixture, mixing on medium-low speed until fully combined.
- Transfer dough to a cookie press or piping bag fitted with a large open star tip. Pipe into long strips, then use a sharp, small knife to cut the strips into 3-inch lengths.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring the cheese straws to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Storage: Cheese straws will keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 week.
- Freezing: These can be frozen once cooled for up to 2 months. Let come to room temperature before serving.
- Yield: This recipe makes about 10 dozen cheese straws. I estimate a serving to be about 6 cheese straws per person for purposes of nutrition calculated below, which means this recipe as written makes enough for about 20 people. If you are having a smaller gathering, I recommend halving the recipe or freezing leftovers.