Alcapurrias – Immaculate Bites

Alcapurrias are a tasty traditional Puerto Rican snack. Grated yuca (and maybe some mashed green bananas) stuffed with picadillo (a tasty beef filling) come together for pure heaven. This empanada-like snack is perfect for entertaining!

The first thing that may come to mind when you hear alcapurria wrapped in wax paper is the gorgeous beaches in Puerto Rico. If you’ve ever been there, you know this tasty snack is popular street food with the vendors.

They make THE perfect snack when you want to enjoy the tropics in the comfort of your home. And who doesn’t need a tropical vacation now and then? No need for a trip to Puerto Rico because you can enjoy the tropics right now. Are you ready?

Alcapurrias wrapped in parchment paper and ready to enjoy

What Makes Alcapurrias Unique?

Okay, daydreaming aside. What I love about fried alcapurrias is their slightly different flavor profile. Every bite is equally delicious and crave-worthy, and get this, the dough is gluten-free. Talk about bonus points for alcapurrias.👏

Alcapurrias also have a beautiful, toasty orange color due to a spice called achiote in the dough mixture. Achiote is a spice from the bija plant, commonly found in the Caribbean. If you want to keep it traditional, grab a packet at any Hispanic market. If you can’t find it, omit it and season it with your favorite seasonings.

Recipe Ingredients

Masa (Dough)

  1. Yuca – Also called cassava, this slightly sweet root vegetable is also somewhat sticky. You can buy fresh and grate it yourself, or get pre-grated cassava.
  2. Seasonings – Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and sazon with achiote are all the flavor you need.

Picadillo

  1. Ground Beef – The base ingredient for your meaty picadillo. But ground pork, chicken, and turkey will work.
  2. Flavor – Onion, garlic, tomato sauce, smoked paprika, bell pepper, cilantro, olives, oregano, and sazon deliver the classic Puerto Rican flavor profile.
  3. Tomato Sauce binds all the ingredients while adding a touch of acidity for a flavor enhancer.
  4. Canola Oil – for frying.

How to Make Alcapurrias

Grate the yuca and make the dough

Masa (Dough)

  • Prep the Yuca – Cut off both ends of the cassava (yuca) and then cut them in half. Make a shallow cut into the skin and gradually work your knife under the skin to remove it. Split the yuca in half, then remove the inner woody core in the center and discard it.
  • Cut into small chunks and wash immediately to keep them from turning dark. Leave them in cool water until ready to use. (Photo 1)
  • Puree – Pulse the cassava/yuca in a food processor until puree, or use a grater to grate it. You may have to do so in batches. (Photos 2-3)
  • Mix – Pour it into a large bowl, then add the garlic powder, onion, salt, oil, and sazon. Mix thoroughly and set aside. (Photos 4-5)

Picadillo

  • Saute – Add about 2 tablespoons of canola or olive oil in a skillet, followed by onions, garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne, and oregano. Sweat it for about a minute.
  • Veggies – Add tomato sauce and bell pepper, and bring to a simmer. Then add ground meat, and cook for 7-10 minutes while stirring frequently. Pour in a little broth or water as needed to prevent burning.
  • Season with salt, chicken bouillon, or sazon. Finally, add olives, green onions, and cilantro, and adjust for seasoning. Remove and set aside.
Make the picadillo, assemble, and fry

Assemble

  • Scoop about 3 tablespoons of the yuca mixture into the palm of your hand. Then flatten it out until it covers the palm of your hand.
  • Fill – Add about 1 tablespoon of picadillo into the center of the dough. Fold it over the filling to enclose it, then gently fold over the dough and roll it out to form a cylinder about 3 inches long. Place on a plate or clean surface. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling until you have used up all the dough. (Photo 7-10)
  • Heat oil in a heavy, deep pot, saucepan, or skillet over medium-high heat until it registers 350°F (177℃). Add about 3 alcapurria to the hot oil. You could add more but don’t overcrowd the pan so the dough doesn’t soak up too much oil, making it soggy. Repeat until you fry up all your alcapurrias.
  • Fry, turning them with a slotted metal spoon, until the outside of the alcapurria is golden brown. The filling is cooked through with an internal temperature of 165°F. It should take 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of the alcapurria. (Photo 11)
  • Serve – Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Serve warm. Repeat with the remaining dough. (Photo 12)
Alcapurrias in a bowl. One is missing a bite so you can see the picadillo inside

Recipe Variations

  1. Dough Variations: Green plantains, green bananas, taro root, and yams also make great dough. I do like to use some yuca because it sticks together.
  2. Filling Swaps: Of course, it wouldn’t be a true alcapurria, but any thick meat sauce will work. You can even make it vegetarian with grated cheese that melts well. Salt cod is also a nice addition.
  3. Patties: The dough is incredible on its own. Skip the filling and make patties with the dough and fry it up.
  4. Air Fryer Alcapurrias: If you don’t want a deep-fried snack, air fry them. Assemble them, and then instead of frying them, spray them lightly with cooking oil. Air fry them at 350℉/177℃ for about 15 minutes.

Tips and Tricks

  1. After you cut the yuca into small chunks, wash them immediately. Then soak them in cool water until you’re ready to use them to avoid discoloration.
  2. Chill the dough for up to an hour for easier assembly.
  3. Do not overcrowd the pan when frying. It’ll make the dough all soggy.
  4. You may assemble all of it in advance, wrap them in plastic and freeze it for future use. Thaw out and toss in the fryer when you want to indulge in these snacks.

Make-Ahead Instructions

Sometimes, we sacrifice just a little for convenience. So you can assemble the alcapurrias ahead and store them in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. If you decide to fry them ahead, drain them well. Then store them in the fridge for up to four days.

Freezing alcapurrias is a good option. You can assemble and freeze them uncooked for up to 3 months. When ready to fry them, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator and fry them according to the instructions.

And you can reheat leftover alcapurria straight from the freezer. Bake or air fry them at 350℉/177℃ for approximately 15 minutes.

Serving and Storage Instructions

Alcapurrias are best served hot and crispy!🤤 Serve them with your favorite dipping sauce and go to town!

What’s great about these is you can freeze them for three months. Place them in a single layer on parchment paper so they don’t stick together or get soggy.

Biting into a freshly made alcapurria

FAQs

What is similar to alcapurrias?

You can find different recipe variations around the Caribbean. For example, empanadillas (little patties), also called pastelillos, are very popular. They also feature deep-fried dough stuffed with a beef picadillo. And rumor has it that they descended from kibbeh.

Are alcapurrias and pasteles the same?

Alcapurrias and pasteles have similar ingredients. What varies is the method of assembly and preparation. While you fry alcapurrias, you steam pasteles in banana leaves. Alcapurrias are basically the summer version of pasteles.😁

Where can you find achiote?

Any Hispanic market in the States should carry achiote. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. Sazon Goya has a similar taste. You can also use turmeric or smoked paprika for color.

What to Serve With Alcapurrias

Alcapurrias are so good all on their own. But they also go well with Thousand Island dressing or better-than-store-bought homemade mayonnaise.

For a full meal, make a fresh pineapple cucumber salad. And take yourself straight to the tropics with a summery piña colada.

More Drool-Worthy Tropical Recipes to Try

  1. Mofongo
  2. Jibarito Plantain and Steak Sandwich
  3. Pastelon (Plantain Lasagna)
  4. Arroz con Gandules

Conclusion

Alcapurrias are a must-try recipe if you’re craving authentic Puerto Rican comfort food. Are you hungry for more? Check out what’s new on Facebook.

Watch How to Make It

This blog post was originally published in August 2017 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, and a video.

Alcapurrias

This tasty traditional Puerto Rican snack. Grated yuca (and maybe some mashed green bananas) stuffed with picadillo (a tasty beef filling) come together for pure heaven. This empanada-like snack is perfect for entertaining!