Crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, these homemade crusty Portuguese rolls are perfect for sandwiches. If you prefer you could just dunk them in your favourite bowl of soup or stew, or even serve them as dinner rolls.
Ask any South African what their favourite bread roll is, and nine times out of 10 you’ll get the answer ‘Portuguese rolls‘. They are sold by their thousands in bakeries and supermarkets throughout the country This distinctively shaped bread roll also finds its way into restaurants where it is served as a dinner roll or transformed into garlic bread.
Ever since returning to the UK, where these rolls are not readily available, I’ve been on a mission to bake the perfect crusty Portuguese roll. And I think I’ve finally succeeded with this recipe.
The exterior has a satisfying ‘crunch’ as you bite into it. The interior is soft, chewy and slightly spongy, which makes it the ideal roll for soaking up soups, stews and especially the delicious sauce in this Trinchado recipe. They also have a light dusting of flour on the outside, left over from forming the unbaked dough into the characteristic shape.
My secret tip for getting extra crispy Portuguese rolls is to pre-heat the oven with a deep baking tray filled with water on the bottom shelf. Leave this water in the over as the rolls bake, and it will create a steamy environment which aids in crisping the rolls.
These rolls are also known as Papo Secos, which according to Google, translates from Portuguese into ‘dry talk’. Although why these delicious breadrolls could be described as dry is a bit of a mystery to me. Perhaps it’s because of the flour.
How to make Portuguese rolls at home
If you want to make these Papo Secos at home the easy way, you will need an electric stand mixer with a dough hook. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you will have to be prepared for a bit of hard work while you knead the dough by hand for at least 10 minutes. The end result will definitely be worth it though.
You will need all the normal bread ingredients – strong white flour, yeast, sugar and water. In addition, the recipe for these Portuguese rolls calls for butter and milk, which help form the soft texture of the bread.
Start off by measuring the milk and water into a jug. The milk and water mixture should be luke warm. You can pop it into the micowave for a few seconds if you think it is not warm enough. Stir in the sugar and add the instant yeast. Set this aside for a until you have measured the flour, salt and butter into the bowl of your stand mixer (image 1 above). There is no need to mix the butter into the flour. It will mix in once you start to knead.
The instant yeast will have started to froth. Pour the milk and year mixture into the flour. Turn on the stand mixer and let it mix for about 2 minutes on a low speed. Then turn up the speed and leave for at least another 5 minutes. The mixture should have come together in a soft ball, which may still be slightly sticky (image 2 above).
If you are kneading by hand – mix the liquid and flour together with a flat-bladed knife until well combined. Then knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. You may have to add a little extra flour if the mixture is too sticky.
Once the dough has been kneaded, cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave in a warm, draught-free place for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size (image 3 above).
Punch the dough down then form into a flat disk and place on a well-floured surface.
Shape the papo secos
The next step is to form the Portuguese rolls into their distinctive shape.
Divide the dough into 12 equally sized pieces (image 1 above), then roll each piece into a ball.
Flatten each ball (image 2 above) then press the side of your hand into the dough to form a deep indentation (image 3 above).
Finally bring the two sides up and press each end together.
Proof and bake
Place the rolls on a lightly floured no-stick baking sheet. The flour prevents the rolls from sticking to the tray. You could line the tray with baking parchment first or even grease lightly with oil if you are worried about the rolls sticking (image 1 above).
Cover the tray with a clean cloth and leave for another hour to proof. The rolls should double in size. When I took the first photo I tried to get all the rolls on one baking tray, but when they had finished rising they were too close together so I split them onto 2 trays before baking (image 2 above). The lesson here is ‘don’t place the rolls too close together. Leave them enough room to expand‘
Place a deep baking tray, filled with water, on the bottom shelf of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 190C / 375F before putting the rolls in to bake. Then bake the rolls in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes until they are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool uncovered.
Your questions answered
These rolls are best eaten fresh, but will keep for up to 2 days if stored in a plastic bag in your breadbin. If you need to crisp them up a bit you could sprinkle them lightly with a few drops of water and pop them in a hot oven for a few minutes.
Yes – you can freeze them. I normally make a batch, eat what we need and freeze leftover baked rolls in a plastic bag. You can keep baked bread in the freezer for up to 6 months.
When I need them I just heat up the oven and put the frozen rolls onto a baking tray and leave for about 5 minutes. They crisp up beautifully and the inside remains nice and soft.
I haven’t tried this myself, but you could also place the baking tray of proofed rolls into the freezer until the rolls have frozen. Then transfer the frozen rolls to a plastic bag. Bake from frozen according to the baking instructions in the recipe, but allow an extra 2 minutes in the oven to compensate for the rolls being frozen.
Yes, I have successfully doubled the ingredients for this recipe. If you are using a stand mixer you can just follow the instructions for the recipe but double each ingredient. If you are going to be kneading by hand, don’t add all the liquid at once, you will end up with a sticky mess. Start off with about 3/4 of the liquid and then gradually add the rest at it incorporates into the flour.
No – you don’t need to specifically form these rolls into the traditional shape.
You can just roll them into balls and make normal round rolls.
If you want to make smaller rolls to serve as dinner rolls this would also be fine. However if you do make smaller rolls you should keep your eye on them while they are in the oven. You may need to remove them after 15 minutes rather than 20.
What can I serve with Portuguese rolls?
Portuguese rolls are an everyday breadroll that goes well with most things. You could try filling them with ham and tomato, or cheese to make delicious sandwiches for your lunchbox. You could also fill them with my homemade boerewors patties, and turn them into hamburgers.
Or just eat one warm, out of the oven, covered with lashings of butter.
Convert grams to cups
To help you convert your recipes, I have created a handy Cookery Conversion Calculator which will convert ingredients between grams, ounces, tablespoons, cups and millilitres. I hope you will find it useful.
If you live at a high altitude you may find you need to adjust your baking recipes to compensate for this. You can read about how to do this in this post on baking at high altitudes.
Pin for later
Why not pin this recipe for Portuguese rolls to your Homemade Bread pintererst board so you can make it later.
Recipe – Crusty Portuguese rolls (papo secos)
Crusty Portuguese rolls (papo secos)
- Kenwood Chef
- Baking sheet
- 18 ounces (500g) bread flour
- 1 ounce (30g) butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 ounces (140 ml) lukewarm milk
- 6 ounces (170 ml) lukewarm water
- 7 g instant dried yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 10 minutes before you are ready to bake these rolls, place a deep baking tray filled with water on the bottom shelf of the oven and set the oven to preheat to 190°C / 375°F.
- Place the lukewarm milk and water into a jug and stir in the instant yeast and the sugar.
- Place the bread flour, butter and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you are going to knead by hand).
- Pour the milk mixture into the flour – the yeast will have already started to foam.
- Turn on the stand mixer and mix for about 2 minutes on a low speed until the dough comes together and all the flour has been incorporated. Then turn up the speed to medium and leave for another 5 minutes.
- If mixing by hand – mix the liquid and flour together with a flat-bladed knife until well combined. Then knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. You may have to add a little extra flour if the mixture is too sticky.
- Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place for 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.
- Punch the dough down and then form into a flat disk and place on a well-floured work surface.
- Divide the dough into 12 equally-sized pieces, then roll each piece into a ball.
- Flatten each ball slightly and press the side of your hand into the dough to form a deep indentation. Bring the two sides of the dough up and then press each end together to seal (see post for an illustration on how to do this.).
- Place the rolls a few centimeters apart on a lightly floured non-stick baking sheet.
- Cover the tray with a clean cloth and leave for another hour to proof. The rolls should double in size.
- Brush the top of the rolls lightly with milk and place the baking tray in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes until the rolls are golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool, uncovered.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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