Empanadas de yuca or cativías are gluten-free empanaditas made with cassava flour – from which they borrow their name. Crispy and tasty, they can be filled with something as simple as cheese or more sophisticated fillings for a picadera that everyone will surely love.
By- Last reviewed . Published Oct 26, 2012
Why we ❤️ it
Cativías – or catibías – are, by far, my favorite savory cassava recipe. Given the choice of this or any other kind of empanadas, I'll always pick empanadas de yuca. They maintain their crispiness longer than flour empanadas, and have an interesting flavor that's difficult to describe if you've never had yuca before.
This is an excellent gluten-free empanada recipe and a paleo empanada. If you want, you can use these gluten-free empanada shells with the stuffing of your choice.
What is Catibía?
Catibía is the name for the tapioca flour empanadas that can be bought more often than not from street frituras, or 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.
Tapioca flour empanadas (catibías) filled with beef.
Gouda cheese (queso Geo in the Dominican Republic), Cheddar cheese, and Ground beef filling are the most popular fillings for yuca empanadas. I have also encountered them filled with lambí, shredded beef, or pulled chicken.
Check out all our empanada filling recipes for more options. You'll find two vegan fillings too.
- 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 catibía: I 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 and kept its shape better. The result was also much more attractive, and the taste was a lot better.
- Baked yuca flour empanadas: Yes, you can bake the empanadas. I did it by heating the oven to 400 ºF [200 ºC] placing the empanadas on a silicone baking mat and baking until lightly golden. They were crunchy and had good texture but were very pale (see video).
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.
Serving is two empanadas per person (8 in total), and the approximate nutrition content is calculated with beef filling.
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Empanadas de Yuca [Recipe + Video] 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
1. Make the 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.
2. Make the 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.
3. 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).
4. 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.
- 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 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.
Nutritional information is calculated automatically based on ingredients listed. Please consult your doctor if you need precise nutrition information.
More yuca recipes
Yuca is the most important root vegetable in our diet. You can find many yuca recipes in our collection. You can't miss Casabe – a millenary food, or Yuca al mojo, with a lovely garlic sauce, Yuca encebollada, which combines it with our lovely sauteed Red onions with vinegar.
Check out our complete yuca guide to learn more about Dominican's favorite vívere (root vegetable)