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Yuca Empanadas ( Using Cassava Flour)

Why Cassava Flour?

Cassava flour is an exciting flour alternative for those of us who avoid gluten and grains and look for more nutrient-dense options in our food. I absolutely love this flour, but it seems like it’s still a bit misunderstood or intimidating to some.

Cassava flour is gaining more and more popularity as the go-to replacement for regular flour when it comes to grain-free and gluten-free diets. Normally people on restrictive diets coming from a Whole30 or going paleo have to replace what feels like dozens of different ingredients when it comes to their meals: sugar, cheese, black beans, brown rice, peanut butter, lentils, ugh! But once you’re used to it, it all becomes second nature. And the best part? You feel amazing.

One of the main replacements of substitutes in these plans is flour. When on restrictive diets people typically have to blend several flours to achieve the same consistency as wheat flour. No one is ever really a huge fan of this, but cassava flour gets about as close to being the ultimate replacement for flour in these cases as you can. This may just be a godsend in the way of grain-free flour, but let’s cover just a few things before making a full-on proclamation.

How Cassava Flour is made

Cassava flour is made from the whole root of the cassava plant. The root is peeled. Then it is dried. Lastly, it’s ground up to make a flour substance. Grate the roots into a fine mash using a hand-held grater or food processor. Then, press and dry the roots. Get the roots as dry as possible, then spread them onto a drying rack. The substance left is the brilliance that is cassava flour. It could be the answer to all of your substitute flour needs.

Are Tapioca Flour and Cassava Flour The Same Thing?

No. Cassava flour and tapioca flour are not the same things. Many will sometimes interchange the terms cassava flour and tapioca flour there are definitely differences between the two. Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava root. This happens using a process of washing and pulping. The wet pulp is then squeezed to extract a starchy liquid. Once all the water evaporates the flour is left over is the tapioca flour. On the other hand, cassava flour is the entire root. The only thing done for the cassava flour is the root is peeled, dried, and ground. This process also means that cassava flour has much more dietary fiber in it than tapioca flour.

Is Cassava Flour Gluten-Free?

Yes. Cassava flour is gluten, grain, and nut-free. The cassava plant originates and is a major crop in South America and parts of Asia and Africa. The cassava root is also known as yuca or manioc. It is starchy and high in carbohydrates. This is similar to yams, taro, plantains, and potato. Not only is this gluten, grain, and nut-free but it is also vegan, vegetarian, and paleo.

What makes cassava flour the most similar gluten-free flour to wheat flours?

Cassava’s grain-free flour twindom is the main reason cassava flour is gaining so much momentum at the moment. It is the most similar to wheat flours when it comes to gluten- and grain-free options. One reason, unlike other gluten-free flours such as almond or coconut flour, is that cassava flour is very mild and neutral in flavor. It’s light and fine, not grainy or gritty in texture. Instead, it’s soft and powdery much like regular wheat flour. As mentioned earlier, it is also nut-free (!!!). You can usually use cassava flour in a 1:1 ratio when substituting wheat flour or all-purpose flour, but unfortunately, that won’t always work the way you want.

How Do You Bake With Cassava Flour?

While you can usually swap cassava flour for wheat flour and all-purpose flour using a 1:1 ratio, it is not perfect for every recipe. Cassava flour has a very similar consistency but it is lighter than all-purpose flour. This means baking with it can be tricky. Cassava flour is lighter, yet it absorbs more liquid. Just like any recipe, you make substitutions for you may have to experiment a little to find the perfect amount for each recipe. It’s best to start out working with a recipe you already know and are very familiar with. The more you can hone in on exactly where and why a recipe went wrong the better. Baking something you have been successful with in the past makes you more likely to identify exactly what needs to be changed to yield the result you want.

Tips For Baking With Cassava Flour

  1. It might say you can substitute a cup for a cup, however, cassava flour soaks up more water and therefore is denser than others may be. You may end up needing to use slightly less cassava flour than you may think.
  2. Recipes that require large amounts of flour have a tendency to bake faster on the outside while the inside may still be rather “doughy”.
  3. Cassava flour is quite dusty. Be aware of this when wanting to throw it around like you would with all-purpose flour. If Julia Child compels you to add a bit of flair to your food preparation, be prepared to dust the top of the fridge! Are we exaggerating? Well, maybe a little…
  4. While it isn’t too overpowering, this flour is made from a root so it does leave a bit of a nutty flavor to some recipes. You’ll want to keep this in mind for the final taste of any baking project you choose.

Is Cassava Flour Poisonous?

No. The ingredients in cassava root naturally have cyanide components that can be toxic. However, these are also found in almonds and spinach and it’s only toxic if it’s eaten raw. The process described above to make cassava flour removes the compounds and prevent you from getting sick.

Is Cassava Flour Low-Carb?

Cassava flour has a high-carbohydrate profile. That being said, you should monitor your intake of cassava flour particularly if you are following a low-carb, low-sugar, or paleo-based diet. Cassava flour has double the calories and carbs than a sweet potato per 100 grams. Just like everything else in life, moderation is key. If you happen to get carried away and end up using cassava flour for every meal, you may have an insulin spike on your hands.

Yuca Empanadas

Whether you use the (meat of your choice) filling or the cheese filling, this Yuca empanada recipe is sure to please everyone! Don’t forget to serve immediately after frying for the best results!

Yuca is also known as Cassava because it is a root from the Cassava plant. The shape and size of the Yuca root resemble that of a sweet potato. Its grainy texture and starchy qualities make for a sweet and nutty taste.

The Yuca goes amazingly as a side dish or as a main course. But this root isn’t only good for creating some awesome savory dishes, it’s also done its fair share in the restaurant business. 

These Yuca empanadas aren’t filled with Yuca, rather the dough is made with Yuca. The filling is made with vegetables and ground (meat of your choice). Here’s the recipe:

Dough Ingredients Needed

  • 1 cup of Cassava Flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 cups of vegetable oil (separated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

 Filling Ingredients Needed

  • 1/2 pound of ground turkey, chicken or mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper (diced)
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1 sprig of cilantro
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Cheese Filling Ingredients Needed

  • 1/2 cup of cheddar (or cheese of your choice) (diced)

Instructions

  1. Boil water, then let it simmer over low heat.
  2. Mix oil, salt, and Cassava Flour. Pour in 1/4 cup of boiling water and mix. Add by tablespoon more water if the dough appears dry. The dough should be slightly dry when finished.
  3. Knead the dough until it resembles regular flour dough.
  4. Create 8 equal balls from the dough. Roll out balls to form thin disks on a lightly oiled surface.
  5. Take 1 tablespoon of your meat choice or a few dices of cheese in the center. Double the dough over to form a semi-circle. Press edges together with a fork.
  6. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. You should have 2 inches of oil. Fry empanadas until golden brown. Then place on paper towel.
  7. Serve.

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