These irresistibly delicious seeded cheese straws have it all: vivid color, unexpected flavor, buttery texture, and the nutty crunch of your favorite seeds. Mix and match flavors and seeds to create your own!
I’ve often envied families with set holiday menus and traditions. My own family has a much more fluid approach. Our motto seems to be only: be together and make good food.
While the menu for our holiday celebrations is never set, we do like our Christmas Eve fare to be decidedly southern. In the before times, when house guests were common, we’d order half an Edward’s Country Ham and have that with buttermilk biscuits and pimento cheese, and set it all out with a big plate of mustards, Duke’s mayo, pickles, crackers, cheeses, and of course, cookies. Such an easygoing spread was just the thing for a day when people come and go, as the day shifts from last minute errands and running around, toward friends, family, and real deal Christmas.
Whatever we end up making, these very seeded cheese straws will be a part of the menu. Crowd pleasing cheese straws are a staple of southern holiday celebrations – our own family’s beloved Mama E made delicious ones with a big kick of spice. Along with her famous Chex mix, cheese straws were always a highlight of Christmas Eve.
Wonderful as a standalone app, but also nice served alongside a festive stew or braise, these cheese straws are the perfect holiday snack.
Seeded Cheese Straws: A Playful Spin on the Classic
Seeded cheese straws take the southern classic just a little further, adding layers of flavor and a bit of crunch to the classic snack. I made my cheese straws in three distinct flavors: Poppy seed and sesame with curry powder; nigella and mustard seed with spicy paprika; and sesame and smoked paprika. Each flavor is totally unique and a pleasure to eat.
With the poppy seed and sesame cheese straws with curry powder, it’s the fragrant curry powder that hits first, while the seeds lend a nutty finish. The nigella and mustard seed cheese straws are deeply savory with the nigella seeds lending an onion-y pop and the black mustard seeds lending a kick of heat. The sesame and smoked paprika are the simplest of the bunch, and probably hew most closely to the flavor of a traditional cheese straw. But the addition of smoked paprika and lightly toasted sesame seeds give the flavors a playfulness that makes them extra fun to eat.
Mix and Match Your Own Flavors
You can make your cheese straws just like I did, or use the flavors above as inspiration to create your own multi-flavored seeded cheese straws. Just make the base cheese straw recipe, and add the seeds and spices to each batch.
Aside from the chia and poppy, the seeds below are best lightly toasted. Since they’ll toast further as the cheese straws bake, toast them in a small pan over medium heat, just until they blush with color or turn fragrant. For the mustard seeds, remove from heat as soon as the first couple start to pop, then gently shake the pan to distribute the heat.
Try mixing and matching these seeds:
- Poppy seeds
- Nigella seeds
- Black and White sesame seeds
- Black, brown, and yellow mustard seeds
- Chia seeds
- Cumin seeds
And play with these spices:
- Curry powder
- Chinese five spice
- Ground cumin
- Ground coriander
- Smoked, sweet and/or spicy paprika
- Red pepper flakes
- Ground cayenne
- Black pepper
- Chili powder
Cheese Straw Dough: Surprisingly Forgiving
Cheese straw dough can be a bit crumbly, but it’s also very forgiving. If the straws break apart or cracks form, just patch the dough as best you can. Roll the dough out on floured parchment. As you cut the straws, use a bench scraper to make sure the dough isn’t sticking underneath, and keep both the scraper and the knife clean and well-floured. Once the straws are cut, gently press the seeds into the dough and dust with the spices of your choice. Use the bench scraper to move a couple straws at a time to the parchment-line baking sheet.
These irresistibly delicious seeded cheese straws have it all: vivid color, unexpected flavor, buttery texture, and the nutty crunch of your favorite seeds. Mix and match flavors and seeds to create your own! Base cheese straw recipe adapted very slightly from The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook.
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature, sliced
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 ounces good cheddar, shredded
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 tablespoon nigella seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 teaspoon spicy paprika
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
Working ahead, lightly toast seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Shaking often, toast just until seeds take on color, become fragrant, and start to pop. Remove from heat and let seeds cool.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine the butter, flour, cheddar, salt, and spices, just until mixture is uniformly crumbly. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon milk and pulse twice. Pinch mixture: if it holds together easily, it’s ready. If it still feels crumbly, add another ½ tablespoon of milk, pulsing once or twice.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide dough into 3 sections. Wrap each tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Dough can be made ahead and chilled for 3 days; set very cold dough on the counter for 20 minutes before rolling.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough sections into an 8 x 10-inch rectangle, about ⅛-inch thick. If dough cracks or breaks, just patch the holes with extra dough, pressing it in gently. As you work, use a floured bench scraper or large spatula to make sure dough isn’t sticking underneath. With a very sharp, floured knife, parallel to the short side of the dough, cut the straws into ⅓-inch wide strips.
Gently press seeds into the dough and dust with spices.
Working in batches with your bench scraper or spatula, lift straws onto the prepared baking sheet.
Bake until the edges are golden, 12 - 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully remove to a rack to cool completely. Cooled cheese straws keep in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.