Yuca or cassava is a dense, starchy food that is rich in carbohydrates. It is a good source of fiber, folate, vitamin C and potassium. There are also many health benefits and can be used medicinally for arthritis relief as well as topically to treat skin conditions and wounds. However, that's not why I eat it. This was a traditional food for the Taino Indians in Puerto Rico and if you're Puerto Rican or Latin American this root vegetable is a staple. We eat it as a side dish with pickled red onions, alcapurrias (delicious little torpedo looking finger foods filled with meat), bread, cheese balls, empanadas, etc.
This is what the yuca root looks like. When buying the yuca make sure to hold and squeeze through the yuca and check for any soft, mushy spots. If you find any mushy spots, pick another yuca. Yuca should be hard and a clean white color, with no black lines running through it. If you pick a bad yuca it could be really bitter.
If you are doing weight watchers this root vegetable is a bit higher in calories and points but keep in mind that its not only about the points and calories. That is a great system to keep you on track but lets not forget that ultimately it is about eating whole foods. Root vegetables have a low glycemic index. A glycemic index measures how fast and how far blood sugar rises after you eat a carbohydrate. If a food has a low glycemic it means your food is digested slower, which will raise your sugar slowly. What does that mean? It means you will stay full longer! you won't feel so hungry within the hour, like you would with a food that has a high glycemic index, like white rice.
This is a traditional food for me, and I can make this with my eyes closed if I was going to fry them. The challenge was to make the dough so that it bakes nicely. I made this six times and each time they were good but had issues baking. Some opened up and the filling spilled out in the oven, others were too soft. These are in between. I plan on making them again but I thought this was delicious enough to post, although I would've liked them a bit crispier. So stay tuned.
I filled them with picadillo which was delicious. But I have made these with shrimps, pork and chicken. These were like a lighter version of an alcapurria.
Did you know you can make your own cassava/yuca flour? This is not the same as tapioca starch, so do not use it in place of the flour. Cassava/yuca flour is extracted from the whole root, simply peeled, ground and dried. Tapioca is only the starch extracted from the yuca. It's easy to make but it's a process. I bought an additional attachment, a fine grater, that was worth every penny! I think I paid around $35.00 for it. I can't believe I never owned this before. This attachment would have made OUR lives so much easier. Growing up my grandma had us all at the table during the holidays, GUAYANDO! that's another way of saying grating for the pasteles (a traditional food that requires lots of grating) It wasn't always fun because we would all have bloodied fingers, but I wouldn't trade those memories for anything in the world!
In any event, check out the yuca flour on the left. That was grated, strained and then left to dry overnight or even 2-3 days. It comes out perfect! If you grate it on a box grater use the very fine side. You can purchase yuca in any supermarket for about $0.79/lb or buy the yuca flour in the bag for about $9.00/lb I prefer to make my own. You have to cook half of the yuca and grate some of it. The cooked portion has to go through a food mill, see the picture before this one. You could probably use a potato ricer but the food mill is best. Also, the flour has to dry overnight. I have seen people use a blender to make yuca as well, this has NEVER worked for me. The yuca became a giant ball of glue. So after several attempts to take shortcuts, I have to say the traditional way is still the best way.
I used an empanada press to get the right thickness. Also, plastic wrap is your best friend when making any gluten free empanada. Even when you use the fork to get the edges, keep the plastic wrap on it and do it over the plastic wrap.
and this is what they looked like before they went into the oven. Perfect! As I said the results are delicious but the empanada was not as crispy as I would've liked. Hope you enjoy!
- 14 oz raw yuca (401g)
- 1/4 cup raw yuca flour (54g)
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp achiote oil
- 2 garlic cloves, mashed
Peel two yuca roots about 2lbs total. you will be grating one and cooking the other. You will only be using 1/4 cup of the dry grated yuca but I like to save the yuca flour for other recipes, which I will be posting later.
Grate 1lb of yuca with a fine grater. Once all grated, using a kitchen towel (not one with fuzz cause it will stick) drain as much liquid as you can. It will release a lot of liquid, starch. keep sqeezing until no more water releases. let the dough dry overnight, I like to place the bowl in the oven because its dry. The goal is let the flour dry. This works even better if you let it dry 2-3 days.
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees
Bring a pot of water to boil and add 1lb of the yuca and 1 tsp salt to water. Split in 3-4 pieces. cook till fork tender, about 22 minutes. drain the water and let cool. Once cooled remove the fibrous core, open it up carefully because it's easy to miss some of the core. mash with a fork then put it through the food mill to remove any lumps and soften the dough. made about 513g of dough
Combine only 1/4 cup of the dry flour with the mashed cooked yuca (the rest you can refrigerate for future recipes) add the achiote oil, garlic and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt. knead well
Build your empanada: line a sheet pan with parchment paper
This recipe made a 534g ball of dough. I divided the dough into twelve 1.6oz (44g) balls, then form little discs out of them
Wrap your empanada press with the plastic wrap. place a disc between two pieces of plastic wrap in the empanada press and flatten. if it still looks a little thick roll it a bit with a rolling pin.
Add 3 scant tbsp of your filling, picadillo
fold the empanada over and seal pressing down around the edges, leaving the plastic wrap in place use a fork to press around the edges. place on the baking sheet. repeat till all empanadas are done. spray the tops of the empanadas with pam
Bake for 10 min or until browned. add a minute or two more if it's not brown but be careful not to over bake or they will open up in the back. Enjoy 😊
Dough Yields: Servings: 12, Serving size: 1 empanada, Smart points: 2, Calories: 61.2, Total Fat: .3g, Saturated Fat: 0, Cholesterol: 0, Sodium: 290.8mg, Carbs: 14.5g, Fiber: 0, Sugar: 0, Protein: .3g
I used my Picadillo recipe for the filling which would total 1 Smart point per tbsp. So your total Smart points for one Empanada is 5. I used 3 tbsp to fill each one.