Cheese rolls

Photographer: Adam
Makes 12 rolls

Cheese rolls are something of a southern New Zealand delicacy.  Chances are, if you grew up in Canterbury, Otago or Southland, you have spent time rolling these tasty morsels for family dinners, school lunches or a fundraising event.  Many a South Island community cookbook features the local take on this old classic.

I first learnt to make cheese rolls in home economics at Heaton Intermediate in Christchurch.  To be truly authentic, a cheese roll should really be made using packet onion soup mix and cheese, made into a paste with the addition of a little water.  But I just can’t leave well enough alone and have been playing around with flavour combinations, arriving at the blend of sweet, caramelized onions and sharp, strong cheddar.


1 tbsp butter
2 large brown onions, sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar
12 slices grainy bread
Melted butter or olive oil to brush bread with
2 cups grated cheese – a good strong, cheddar works well
pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat butter in heavy-based frying pan, add onions and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes or until softened.
2. Sprinkle over brown sugar and continue to cook over a low heat until caramelised (around 30mins).
3. While the onions caramelise, roll slices of bread flat with a rolling pin (the flatter you can get it the easier it will be to roll up later). Brush both sides with melted butter or olive oil.
4. Preheat oven to 180ºC on Bake.
5. In a medium sized bowl, combine the onions, grated cheese, cayenne pepper, black pepper and mix with just enough water to make a thick paste.
6. Divide cheese paste among the 12 pieces of bread and spread thinly.
7. Roll each piece of bread up tightly and place onto a lined baking tray, leaving around 5cm (2inches) between each roll.
8. Bake for 15 minutes, turning once, until golden brown.

These can easily be frozen once rolled and then baked at a later date.