Cheese Panela


There is a restaurant in Dallas, Texas, called Javier’s, that specializes in gourmet Mexicano cuisine. No nachos at this restaurant.

I discovered Javier’s in 1979, after moving to Dallas for my first job. Since marrying 36 years ago, we go Javier’s whenever we’re in Dallas, which can be quite often. It’s that good. I just checked the website for Javier’s, and learned the restaurant opened in 1977. And, it’s still open.

Not only is the food exceptional, but also the ambiance and service. The key to its continued success, in my mind, is the fact that the owner, Javier, is always at the restaurant. Saturday, Tuesday, whenever, he’s there.

One entree we’ve always enjoyed is steak Cantinflas, which is a filet stuffed with cheese, topped with an Adobo-style sauce, and served with fresh avocado. There’s also roasted chicken mole, shrimp Guaymas, great margaritas, and coffee drinks made and flambed at the table. Spectacular.

When you’re seated at Javier’s, you are given warm chips served with two warm salsas – a thin tomato salsa that almost tastes like tomato soup, and a thicker green salsa. We’ve never been able to decide which is better. Oh, and there’s fresh butter in case you want to first dip your chip into the butter, then the warm salsa…

As an appetizer, my husband and I have often shared the Cheese Panela, which is prepared at the table. It’s melted cheese with chorizo and green chiles served in warm tortillas. It doesn’t sound extraordinary, but it is.

I never thought about why the appetizer’s name is cheese panela, until I came across the same word in a blog I discovered, Nancy’s blog called Mexican Made Meatless. Her blog is “dedicated to transforming classic Mexican dishes into modern vegan, vegetarian, and pescetarian delight.”

To quote from Nancy’s blog: I was born and raised in a traditional small town Mexican environment, in which my education in Mexican food preparation began early by watching the passion that my mother, grandmother, and aunts all put into their cooking sessions. Though the culinary bug took time to fully infect my soul, when it finally did it instilled in me a fiery passion that has lead me to devour everything about the culinary arts and helped me get to where I am today.

So while perusing her blog, I saw the word panela, and learned that it’s the actual name of a cheese. Because of my memories of cheese panela at Javier’s, I knew I’d be making this recipe, interestingly also reminiscent of the Argentinian baked provolone I made called Provoleta, topped with chimichurri.

Who can go wrong with spicy melted cheese?!!

Cheese Panela
or, Baked Panela Cheese that will Knock Your Socks Off!
printable recipe below

7oz panela cheese
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
2 teaspoon parsley (I used fresh)
1 teaspoon thyme (I used dried)
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano (I used dried)
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoon olive or avocado oil

Drain the cheese and set aside.

In a bowl combine the oil and all of the herbs and spices. Poke little holes all around the cheese to help the seasoning absorb better. Place the cheese in with the oil and spices mixture and coat the cheese, cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight if desired.

Because I purchased a 3-pound wheel of Panela, I trimmed it to fit the gratin pan.

Preheat the oven to 190℃ or 375°F for 10 minutes. Place the cheese in the oven-safe dish and bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes.

The cheese will become soft and gooey but not melt completely. Allow to cool slightly.

Serve with either corn chips or country bread or any rustic bread. I baked some tortilla triangles.

As the cheese cools it will firm up again, so try to keep warm when enjoying.

The cheese is definitely reminiscent of what we used to order at Javier’s, although not as melty.

However, this cheese panela recipe is absolutely incredible. I love the aromatics, the spiciness, and the parsley.

The next time I made this recipe I used half panela and half Monterey Jack to make it more melty, which worked, but it’s best served over some kind of warmer.




55 thoughts on “Cheese Panela

  1. Javer’s is a fantastic place. It’s been a number of years since dining there, but I still remember the food. Glad to hear it’s still around.
    Queso Panela is a great cooking cheese and your rendition of the classic Mexican dish is spot on in my mind.

    • Oh I love that you’ve been there. Honestly it’s just as perfect now as it was when I first went. Why did I never know that Panela is an actual cheese?!! Live and learn. Blog and learn even more!

  2. What a wonderful dish for sharing around the table as a starter! I very rarely get to Dallas, but Javier’s is now on my list! Thanks, Mimi!

  3. bonjour Mimi, such creative, imaginative and mouth-watering dishes…all recipes always make me hungry! :) and I thought about to send you a recipe of “Roasted Potatoes”, as a Local “Recette”!:) because requires “Guérande” :) Coarse Salt and quite a lot of Salted butter too ;-). Let me know and I will send you recipe + images. Enjoy a wonderful day! Solveig

    • It was fun to buy the authentic cheese and use it, but it sure doesn’t have a texture like the dish at the restaurant. It was more like mozzarella, seizing up after 5 minutes at room temperature. the next time I made it I just mixed it with Monterey Jack, and the texture was better. Some king of warmer thing underneath would help, also.

  4. I’ve never heard of a cheese panela before, but I love what I see. I love all types of cheese and the toppings are wonderful!

    • I asked Richard. He wasn’t so keen on it as I remember. Don’t really remember his reasoning, but I think he was more about Tex-mex and Southwestern cuisine than true Mexican perhaps? Because this restaurant is only about authentic Mexican cuisine. Not sure, though.

    • Oh, you must! It’s an overall treat – not just the food but service and ambiance…. a perfect place, just like Gordon Ramsay owned it!

    • It’s like baked Brie on crack! This topping was fantastic – something I never would have dreamed up!

  5. I was salivating just reading about Javier’s. Then you mentioned Cheese Panela. I’d never heard of it before, but you mentnioed it was made with chorizo. One of my most favourite ingredients! No you can’t go wrong with spicy melted cheese! Not sure where I would get panela cheese from though…….but this does look delicious!

    • Well, if what I purchased was truly authentic, which it seemed to be, I wouldn’t bother using it. There was no real flavor there, and it never stayed soft. The second time I made it I mixed 50-50 with Monterey Jack and it was better, but still seized up. Or perhaps I should have served the dish over a hot plate! Anyway, this turned out to be less about the cheese, and more about the lovely topping.

  6. Next time I’m in San Diego, I’ll look for panela cheese- this recipe looks fantastic! Don’t think I can find panela in Adelaide, though, but I’m sure Monterrey would make a passable substitute.

    • Just use the best soft, melty cheese, whether is domestic or Mexican. The topping is what makes this appetizer outstanding!

  7. I know that restaurant! We lived in Dallas a few years in the 80s. So much good food in Dallas. This is a wonderful dish — it’d be dinner for me. Thanks!

    • Oh cool. It’s a great place still. This cheese dish was fabulous, but I was disappointed in the cheese not being soft enough – it acted more like fresh mozzarella.

    • Exactly. I really feel it one of the major keys to running a successful restaurant. I got the cheese on Amazon from a Mexican mercata. But maybe Javier imports his cheese from Mexico? It tasted good, it was just chewy! Like a bowl of Halloumi!

  8. Nancy’s blog is great, I’m a big fan. I adore queso fundido with chorizo but this does looks like a great way to enjoy that wonderfully gooey melted cheese without the meat.

    • Glad you know about it already! Gooey melted cheese is just fabulous – and definitely with chorizo.

  9. This is really making me with I lived close to Javier’s. While we do have some authentic Mexican restaurants here, I’ve not seen this particular dish and now I want it. Thank you for sharing!

  10. I don’t know how I missed this post because I LOVE cheese and anything spicy!! I’ll have to make this for snacking this weekend. Don’t know if I can get panela cheese here, so do you think I could use all Monterey Jack?

    • Yes, you definitely could. What I bought wasn’t nearly as melty as what i experienced at the restaurant in any case. Enjoy!

  11. Javier’s wonderful place. Decor is a little dated but the food is still outstanding. After 40 years on the road, still in my list of top 10 Restaurants.

    • I agree! I only went there because a guy I dated for a short time was friends with Javier! I’m so happy he took me there!

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