Tequeños (Venezuelan Cheese Sticks)

published Sep 16, 2022
Tequeños (Venezuelan Cheese Sticks) Recipe

These dough-wrapped, spongy cheese sticks are fried to crispy perfection and by that logic, they're way better than mozzarella sticks.

Makes12 sticks

Prep40 minutes to 50 minutes

Cook20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Venezuelan Cheese Sticks on ceramic plate with avocado dipping sauce.
Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Let’s start off by setting the record straight: Tequeños, Venezuelan cheese sticks, are not mozzarella sticks. Spongy cheese is wrapped in dough and fried to crispy golden perfection, which, in my biased opinion, makes them undeniably better.

Tequeños are thought to have originated in the city of Los Teques when a cook got creative with scraps. Although I’ve only ever seen and enjoyed tequeños made with cheese, or cheese and guava, it’s reported that they’ve also appeared with a variety of fillings. They’re one of Venezuela’s favorite snacks and a staple at any party. When I was growing up in Caracas, I didn’t have a single birthday without a tray of this irresistible pasapalo, aka tasty snack. 

Credit: Photo: Paola + Murray; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

The Perfect Dough

The dough can vary quite a bit. Some recipes opt for cold, cubed butter while others call for melted butter or oil. The great Venezuelan gastronomer and cookbook author Armando Scannone used oil in his famous red book, Mi Cocina, but my recipe (which yields a perfect dough, if you ask me) calls for melted butter.

Like any recipe that includes a homemade dough, there is some level of extra effort involved — but the result is absolutely worth it. The no-frills dough is easy to roll out and cut into strips that wrap around cheese batons before taking a dip in hot oil.

The Cheese

The cheese is key here. Queso blanco or queso de freir are the best choices for tequeños because they have a high melting point and will hold their shape while frying. Halloumi is an excellent substitute. Mozzarella doesn’t work well for tequeños and can often result in hollow cheese sticks.

While queso blanco, queso de freir (frying cheese), and halloumi are now widely available in supermarkets, a white mature English or Irish cheddar will work in a pinch. (Just know the cheese will be very melted versus spongy and soft).

Don’t be afraid of the moisture from fresh cheese — it makes for better tequeños. Simply pat dry with a paper towel before cutting into sticks.

The Sauce

While tequeños are incredibly tasty on their own, they’re often served with an avocado sauce called guasacaca. It’s similar to guacamole but it’s punchier and looser, thanks to the splash of vinegar. Garlic aioli is another common dipping sauce, and I also love them with salsa rosada, which is basically a mix of ketchup and mayonnaise.

Tequeños (Venezuelan Cheese Sticks) Recipe

These dough-wrapped, spongy cheese sticks are fried to crispy perfection and by that logic, they're way better than mozzarella sticks.

Prep time 40 minutes to 50 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Makes12 sticks

Nutritional Info


For the guasacaca (avocado sauce):

  • 1

    large avocado (about 8 ounces)

  • 1/2

    medium green bell pepper

  • 1/2

    medium yellow onion

  • 1 small clove


  • 6 sprigs

    fresh cilantro

  • 6 sprigs

    fresh parsley

  • 2 tablespoons

    red wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons

    neutral oil, such as rapeseed or vegetable

  • 1 tablespoon


  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the tequenos:

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1

    large egg

  • 3 tablespoons

    room temperature water, plus more as needed

  • 8 ounces

    queso blanco, queso de freir, or halloumi cheese

  • 4 cups

    neutral oil, such as rapeseed or vegetable, for deep frying

  • Aioli or guasacaca (recipe above), for serving (optional)


Make the guasacaca (avocado sauce):

  1. Halve and pit 1 large avocado. Use the tip of a knife to make a crosshatch pattern in the flesh of both halves, making sure not to cut through the peel. Scoop the flesh into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to the food processor as you complete it: Trim and coarsely chop 1/2 medium green bell pepper (about 1/2 cup). Peel and coarsely chop 1/4 medium yellow onion (about 1/4 cup). Peel and crush 1 small garlic clove against the cutting board with the flat side of a knife. Pick the leaves from 6 fresh cilantro sprigs until you have 1/4 cup. Pick the leaves from 6 fresh parsley sprigs until you have 1/4 cup.

  3. Add 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons neutral oil, 1 tablespoon water, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through, about 30 seconds total. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the tequenos:

  1. Place 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center.

  2. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop. Add the butter, 1 large egg, and 3 tablespoons room temperature water to the well. Working from the center out, stir and combine with a fork until mostly combined and a dough begins to form, adding more water a teaspoon at a time if the dough is too crumbly.

  3. Starting in the bowl and then transferring to a work surface after it comes together, knead with your hands until the dough is smooth and pliable, 3 to 5 minutes. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. Meanwhile, pat 8 ounces queso blanco cheese dry with paper towels. Cut into 12 (3-inch long, 1/2-inch wide, 1/2-inch thick) sticks.

  4. Uncover the dough and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a rough 12 1/2-inch square about 1/8-inch thick. Trim the edges to form a 12-inch square. Discard the dough scraps or use them to test the oil temperature later.

  5. Cut the dough into 12 (1-inch wide) strips. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

  6. Heat 4 cups neutral oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until 350°F. Meanwhile, fill a small bowl with water. Dust a baking sheet with all-purpose flour. Form the tequenos.

  7. Dust a work surface generously with all-purpose flour. Holding 1 cheese stick and 1 strip of dough vertically, fold over about 1 inch of dough over the top 1/2 inch of the cheese stick to cover the top end. Continue to wrap dough around the cheese stick on a diagonal, overlapping the dough (this prevents the cheese from escaping while frying) and gently stretching the strip of dough as you go, until the cheese stick is completely covered with the strip of dough and the other end of cheese stick is covered and sealed. Pinch and press to seal the other end using damp fingertips. Press gently all over (with dry hands) to seal seams to avoid them opening when frying.

  8. Place on the baking sheet and roll tequeño gently into the flour to coat and help to seal seams. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Repeat wrapping the remaining cheese sticks.

  9. Using tongs, add 4 tequeños to the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat frying the remaining tequeños, making sure the oil returns to 350ºF before each batch. Keep tequeños warm on a separate baking sheet in a 225°F oven, if desired. Serve warm with aioli or guasacaca.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The guasacaca can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage: Leftover tequeños can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 225ºF oven until heated through, about 10 minutes.