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Empanaditas de Yuca (Cassava Empanadas)

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Servings 16 empanadas

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I like avocado oil)
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 1 lb (454gms) lean ground beef
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, any colour finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped manzanilla olives (stuffed green Spanish olives)
  • 1 tablespoon juice from the olive jar
  • teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup (240ml) tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro optional

Empanada Dough

Instructions

Make the Filling First

  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent (3-4 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Add the ground beef and cook until completely browned and the liquid has evaporated, stirring and breaking up any chunks as the meat cooks.
  • Add the bell pepper, olives, olive juice, salt, and pepper. Stir in the tomato sauce and cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the meat mixture is fairly dry.
  • Stir in the cilantro, if using, and leave the filling to cool completely.

Then Make the Empanada Dough

  • Combine the cassava flour, salt, and 1 tablespoon of oil in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Pour 2 cups (480ml) boiling water into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add about ½ cup (120ml) of the water at a time to the flour, mixing well after each addition, until you have a crumbly, slightly dry dough. This should only take about 1½ cups (360ml) of the water, but you may need a bit more, depending on how absorbent your cassava flour is. The dough will be quite hot. After you've added the 1½ cups of water, see if you can squeeze and knead the dough into a ball. If it's still too crumbly, add a bit more water at a time until you can form a ball.
  • Knead the dough into a smooth ball (it should be like playdough), then roll it into a thick log, 8-9 inches long (20-23cm). Cut the log in half and work with one half at a time, keeping the unused dough covered with plastic food wrap or a damp towel.
  • Cut the log half into 8 equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others also under the wrap. Roll each dough piece into a ball, then use a rolling pin (or empty bottle) or a tortilla press, roll out the ball into a 4½-inch circle (11-12cm). If the dough sticks to the work surface or rolling pin, dust it lightly with cassava flour.
  • Wet the edge of the circle all the way around using a finger dipped in water.
  • Place a heaped tablespoon of the filling onto one half of the dough circle. Fold over the other half of dough and press the edges firmly together to form a half-moon shaped empanada, pressing out any air before completely sealing it.
  • Press the tines of a fork over the sealed lip of dough around the curved side of the empanada. Trim off a thin strip of dough all around the crimped edge to make a neat border.
  • Repeat the procedure with the rest of the dough pieces, and then the 8 pieces from the other half of the log, to make 16 empanadas.
  • Heat 1-inch (2.5cm) of oil in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot (large enough to hold 3 or 4 empanadas without crowding). The oil is hot enough when it reaches 365°F (185°C) on a thermometer, or when you stick the dry handle of a wooden spoon into the oil and after a few seconds it starts to make lots of small bubbles around the handle. (If it doesn't bubble, it's not hot enough yet.)
  • Add 3 or 4 empanadas to the hot oil - they should be able to float without touching each other. Fry for about 3 minutes, then flip them over and fry the other side for 3 minutes, or until they turn light golden at the crimped edges. Empanadas made with cassava flour are done when light golden (they don't darken as much as flour empanadas).
  • Remove the fried empanadas to a plate covered with several layers of paper towel to drain for a few minutes.
  • Serve hot.

Notes

This recipe makes 16 empanadas. They are best eaten immediately while hot. If you need to reheat them, do so in a microwave. They won't be as crispy, but will still be delicious. If you reheat them in the oven, the cassava flour crust can become dry and harden somewhat.
Cassava empanadas freeze very well. Lay the uncooked empanadas in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid, then put the frozen empanadas into a ziptop bag or sealed container and store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Defrost and fry as per the recipe, or fry them from frozen (cooking them for 1 minute longer on each side).
You can re-use your frying oil several times, as long as it hasn't burnt. Allow it to cool, then strain it through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth.