Empanaditas de Yuca or Catibías (Cassava Pasties)

Empanaditas de yuca o catibías (Cassava pasties)

It was love at first sight with Mr. Queso de Hoja, the cheese vendor, whose, uh, balls of cheese were always the freshest…

Oh, how I miss the street vendors. All vendors really, but in particular, and in no small part due to their multitude, the food vendors, of course. The travelling hair accessories guy is great, and the baby-clothes dude was an ally, of sorts. But unless you owe these folks money, you can’t be certain of when or where you’ll see them next. I could set my watch on my 5 o’clock empanaditas de yuca or catibías (cassava pasties), however. Without fail, the pastelitero would appear with his hot, savoury pastries, clanking the lid of his big tin and cachú (ketchup) in tow.

Empanaditas de yuca o catibías (Cassava pasties)

Also a welcome sight was Mr. Lambicero, ambling down the street with his giant tupperware full of conch salad, served to you in a styrofoam cup, complete with lemon wedge; a nice treat on a Sunday.

There are too many other snack vendors to mention further (the boiled egg kids, the chicharrones guy, the old man and his corn-on-the-cob etc., etc.), to cater to your every craving.

Empanaditas de yuca o catibías (Cassava pasties)

Let us not forget the other food vendors too, the ones who mould your family’s menu into shape. What you have for your lunch could well depend on who happens to pass by. “Berro! Berro!” Hey, a watercress salad for lunch might be nice… “Guanduleeees!” Mmmmm, guandules guisados today sounds like a good idea. And who can resist the travelling fishmongers, proudly displaying their largest catches of the day? Much simpler than racking your brain in the supermarket, searching for ideas, they bring the supermarket to you (and less overhead too, making them that much cheaper).

Empanaditas de yuca o catibías (Cassava pasties)

Now if only they would adhere to some standard of decency in regards to the volumes of their loudspeakers, it would be a perfect street vendor world.

Jill Wyatt

Jill, a member of our original team (where we knew her as Aunt Jane), and contributor to our book, is Canadian, mom to two Canadian-Dominican boys and resided in the Dominican Republic for several years.

This delicious, gluten-free empanadas de yuca or catibías / cativías (Cassava pasties) are made with the ingredient from which it borrows its name: cassava flour.  In this recipe, since we assume you won’t be able to buy cassava flour at your local store, we obtain the same results using a different method.

Empanaditas de yuca o catibías (Cassava pasties)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6 servings
For the filling
  • 4 tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
  • 1 sprig of parsley (optional)
  • ¼ lb [0.12 kg] of ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
For the dough
  • 1 lb [0.45 kg] of yuca (cassava), peeled
  • ¼ cup of water
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 4 cups of oil for frying (plus extra for covering tray and hands)
For the filling
  1. Place the tomatoes, pepper, onion, garlic and parsley in the food processor and pulse until it turns into a coarse paste (see notes).
  2. Place the ground beef in a bowl, mix with the seasoning paste, add pepper and salt.
  3. In a shallow pan heat a tablespoon of oil. Brown beef. Cover and simmer over medium heat. Stir often.
  4. Once all the liquid has evaporated, remove from the heat. Reserve.
To make the dough
  1. Cover a large tray or cooking surface with oil.
  2. Grate the cassava into a fine paste.
  3. Using a piece of clean cloth squeeze the grated yuca to get rid of as much moisture as possible. Reserve.
  4. In a deep-bottomed pan mix in water and salt, Once the water breaks the boil add the grated yuca and cook over very low heat stirring vigorously until most of the yuca has turned a slightly darker, transparent-looking color.

  5. Remove from the heat and stir. Place the mixture on the oiled tray. Cool to room temperature.
  6. Oil the palm of your hands and knead the dough until it it is elastic and retain its shape. If it looks too fragile or sticky reheat in the microwave for 5 seconds and knead again once it's cooled. Repeat if necessary.
  7. Divide the dough into 12 balls of equal size. On a lightly oiled surface roll out the balls forming thin disks.
  8. Put a tablespoon of the beef in the center, double over in a semicircle and seal the border pressing it with a fork.
  9. Deep fry the them submerged in very hot oil until they are golden brown. Place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

If you do not have a food processor, chop the ingredients for the seasoning, making sure that it is as tiny pieces as possible to avoid breaking the dough disks.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 empanadas

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{ 30 comments… add one }

  • Aliisa August 8, 2014, 4:54 PM

    Could you tell me how to make the dough with yuca flour? I have access to it.


    • Aunt Clara August 14, 2014, 11:17 PM

      Unfortunately I haven’t tested it that way, I am not sure how to use yuca flour for this.

  • Christy February 4, 2014, 8:23 PM

    Can’t wait to try these! I was curious how you would be able to make these if you did have cassava flour, which I understand to be the same thing as tapioca flour?

  • sherod July 7, 2013, 6:26 PM

    Hello, I have yucca flour pre-made and was wondering if I can use this for the dough?

    Thank you

    • Aunt Clara July 9, 2013, 1:12 PM

      It’s possible, but I haven’t tested it. You will have to do this yourself. Please let me know how it turns out.

  • alida March 20, 2013, 2:23 PM

    Delicious, I was looking for this for long time, I will be making them today can wait to tasted. thank you so much for all those recipes.

  • Fallon March 17, 2013, 4:04 PM

    How do I choose a good Yucca root when shopping.

  • Aida January 7, 2013, 11:26 AM

    I made these this past week. They were yummy. I didn’t get the dough right. I think I had too much grated yucca for the 1/4 cup of water the recipe called for. The dough was so sticky. I just kept oiling my hands and that’s how I got through it. My hubby was so intrigued I was making something that didn’t start off in a box, he helped to make them. It was fun. My resolution is to attempt 1 recipe a week. 1 down 51 more to go:)

  • Eva November 3, 2012, 1:07 PM

    That’s got to be the most photogenic yuca I’ve ever seen…this looks really interesting, I’ve never had yuca empanadas.
    @Nancy, Here in Brazil, cassava flour (tapioca starch) is used a lot and it DOES turn into rocks when you add water initially, you just have to use your fingers to break up the rocks until you have a bunch of little crumbs. What I don’t know is if you would have to add more liquid or oil at the point to make a dough like what’s pictured here, I am curious to try, though…

  • Kankana November 1, 2012, 3:12 PM

    This is quite new to me. I love that it’s savory and such an interesting unique dough recipe!

  • The Squishy Monster October 28, 2012, 10:26 PM

    I’ve always wondered how to make these–thank you for showing us =)

  • Suzanne Perazzini October 28, 2012, 3:33 AM

    Perfect lunch food at work. We have a Hari Krishna woman who once a month brings around the offices a basket of homemade vegetarian samosas and they are to die for, and so cheap. I wish she came more often but she services many different suburbs and the other food shops in the area don’t like her so she doesn’t come too often.

  • Nancy Sokoloski September 30, 2012, 10:25 PM

    I can get the cassava flour and found that it gets hard as a rock when mixed with water. Please tell me how to mix so I can use this way. The empanadas look good. Thanks

  • Ana June 6, 2012, 11:13 AM

    Por favor alguien que tenga experiencia como hacer las empanadas de yuca que me aclaren como deve de quedar la masa cuando se cocina Blanca o transparente como cuando se cocina en agua. Gracias
    Nota yo las hice por mucho que las cocine hasta dorarlas no me quedaron muy tostaditas como esperaba

    • Aunt_Clara June 6, 2012, 11:29 AM

      Ana, no entiendo muy bien tu pregunta. ¿Seguiste los pasos de esta receta? ¿En qué paso fue el problema?

      • Ana June 6, 2012, 11:57 AM

        El problema esta cuando cocino la masa como deve de ser la consistencia transparente o se deve quedar toda blanca. Yo sigo la receta bien pero cuando cocino la masa con el agua hirviendo y la sal en pocos minutos la masa se me pega y siempre La estoy moviendo, lo que se pega se pone transparente y se mescla con el resto de la masa que todavia esta blanca
        Digame aproximadamente cuantos minutos despues que se seca el agua. Gracias por su rapida respuesta.

        • Aunt_Clara June 6, 2012, 1:22 PM

          Ana, te aconsejo que vayas a nuestro blog en español, quizás esto te pueda aclarar las cosas.

  • Ashley February 22, 2012, 6:53 AM

    Is there any way that I could bake the pastries as opposed to frying them? If so, what are your recommendations: temperature, time, should I add oil to the outsides?

    Also, can I freeze any leftovers?

    Thank you!

    • Aunt Clara February 22, 2012, 7:35 AM

      No, baking would not work unfortunately.

      Yes, freeze before you fried them. Separate them with wax paper.

  • Aunt Clara November 7, 2011, 8:38 AM

    Yes, it is a pretty sticky gruel. Cover your hands in oil or flour so it doesn't stick to your hands. However, if it is too sticky it means that it was either over-cooked or undercooked.

  • laura November 7, 2011, 8:29 AM

    intenté hacer las catibías (o cativías) pero el resultado al cocinar la yuca rayada es una masa completamente pegajosa y dificil de manejar. Es esto normal?

  • Mimi September 3, 2011, 9:15 PM

    Hello!! I will like to make TORTA(Jarabacoa), please give me the recipe..Thank You…

  • him April 23, 2011, 7:00 AM

    um where can u by yucca in the indiana

  • Aunt Clara April 12, 2011, 7:37 PM

    I've never done this myself, so if you try it let us know if it works.

  • Fb April 12, 2011, 7:32 PM

    I wanted to know if I can do this with frozen grated yucca I bought from the supermarket I wanted to find another use for it other than the arrañitas. It's already grated but I would need to defrost it.

    • angela November 4, 2011, 9:21 AM

      when you use frozen ingredients that need to be dry or at their regular temperature, you should usually pat them dry. It might work better this way.

  • karina castillo soto April 12, 2011, 12:13 PM

    como puedo hacerlas con harina de yuca .No tengo recetas para hacerla con harina .

    • Aunt Clara April 14, 2011, 12:56 AM

      I've never used harina de yuca, maybe a little experimenting will be in your future. :) Let me know if you try it.

  • shirley March 11, 2011, 2:26 PM

    i want to say i love all the recipes you post, specially this one. i love to make empanadas it was delightful to find this one made from yucca. i’m actually making it as i write . there’s one thing that i found confusing how long do you cook the yucca for ?do you cook it until it becomes translucent. how many minutes? please,could you be more specific?


    • Aunt Clara March 11, 2011, 4:20 PM

      A few minutes. You'll notice the change right away.