Empanaditas de Yuca (Cassava Empanadas) are delicious, gluten-free empanadas made with cassava flour, and that has a surprising crunchiness.
Why we ❤️ it
It was love at first sight with Señor Catibías, the Cassava Flour Empanadas seller, and complete infatuation with Don 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. I could set my watch on my 5 o’clock catibías. And without fail, at six, the pastelitero would appear with his hot, savory pastries, clanking the lid of his big tin and cachú (ketchup) in tow.
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 a 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. 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.
What is Catibía?
Catibía is the name for the tapioca flour empanadas that can be bought more often than not from street frituras, or from street vendors. Technically, though, catibía is the cassava flour from which the yuca empanada dough is made, but over time the empanada de yuca also came to be called catibías, possibly because it is the only thing traditionally made from tapioca in the Dominican Republic.
About our recipe
Our recipe is made with ready-made tapioca flour, which you can buy at the supermarket, or you can make it from scratch using our recipe. The homemade tapioca recipe in our blog worked better than the store-bought yuca flour for two reasons: The homemade one is fresher, and thus produces an empanada with better taste, the second is that empanadas made with fresh, homemade tapioca were much prettier and crispier.
The recipe also gives you many ways to adapt these empanaditas to different tastes and diets. This is an excellent gluten-free empanada recipe, as well as a paleo empanada. If you want you can use these gluten-free empanada shells to fill with other stuffings of your choice. And it's, by far, Aunt Clara's favorite savory cassava recipe.
Our guest: Jill is Canadian, mother of two Dominican-Canadian children. She lived in Sosua, Dominican Republic for many years, so she gives us an unusual insight into our culinary culture.
[Recipe + Video] Empanaditas de Yuca (Cassava Empanadas)
For the beef filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, [10g]
- 1 red onion, (small-sized, minced [40 g])
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed [15g]
- ½ pound minced beef, [113g]
- ½ cup tomato sauce, [60g]
- ½ bell pepper, (diced [76g] )
- ¾ teaspoon salt, (or more, to taste)
- ½ teaspoon pepper (freshly-cracked, or ground), (or more, to taste)
- 1 sprig cilantro, (optional)
For the dough
For the cheese filling
- ½ cup diced cheddar
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For the filling
- Make filling: Find instructions and video for filling here. We're using plain beef filling without the optional ingredients. Notice that for this recipe we're halving the ingredients. Set aside.
To make the dough
- Make dough: Heat water to boiling point. Leave simmering over low heat.Mix cativía, salt, and ½ tablespoon of oil. Pour ¼ cup of boiling-hot water and mix with a spatula. If the dough looks too dry, add more boiling water by the tablespoon, mixing each time until you have a coherent dough, but slightly on the dry side. Make sure not to add too much water.
- Knead dough: Knead the dough until it is elastic but neither too sticky, nor too crumbly. It should resemble regular flour dough. If at any point it is too dry, or not elastic enough, add very small quantities of water and knead (see notes).
- Make empanadas: Divide the dough into 8 balls of equal size. On a lightly oiled surface roll out the balls forming thin disks. You may need to grease the rolling pin too if sticks too much.Put a tablespoon of the beef (or a few dices of cheese) in the center, double over in a semi-circle, and seal the border pressing it with a fork. Cut into a semicircle using a small bowl.
- Fry: Heat oil in a small pan (so you have at least 2 inches [5cm] of oil) over medium-high heat. Deep fry the empanadas submerged in very hot oil until they are golden brown. Don't overcrowd the pot so the temperature remains evenly hot. Place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
- Serve: Serve immediately after frying. You can store the empanadas prior to frying by placing them on greased wax paper and covering tightly with plastic film. I haven't tried freezing them, so I am not sure if they can be stored this way.
Tips and Notes
Empanadas with store-bought catibía (fine tapioca)I used about ½ cup of boiling-hot water, adding small amounts (by the droplets), as I advanced into the preparation and the dough got drier and harder to work on. I also tested Asian-style tapioca, which has a coarser texture, and bits the size of demerara sugar. This did not work very well, as it broke down easily, and didn't taste the same.
Empanadas with homemade catibíaI used a little over ⅓ cup of water in total, following the same procedure. I found homemade cativía easier to work with, and the dough was more pliable, kept its shape better. The result was also much more attractive, and the taste was a lot better.
How to make baked yuca flour empanadasYes, you can bake the empanadas. I did it by heating the oven to 400 ºF [200 ºC] and placing the empanadas on a silicone baking mat and baking until lightly golden. They were crunchy, had good texture, but were very pale (see video). You can also use these egg-free, gluten-free empanada wrappers and fill them with cheese, it's not as common as the traditional beef filling, but it's also a great choice. For non-traditional options, go with your favorite filling, as long as it's not too wet.
Nutritional information is calculated automatically based on ingredients listed. Please consult your doctor if you need precise nutritional information.