When I traveled recently to Paraguay, we wanted to thank all the hospitality our Paraguayan friends showed towards us with a Puerto Rican dinner. Well… almost Puerto Rican, because we had representation from every member of our group… a little from the Dominican Republic, a little from Brazil, a little that came from inspiration from the Coronel Oviedo market… But amongst the dishes that were typical to Puerto Rico were our alcapurrias.
With the copious amounts of yucca we had at our disposal in Paraguay, we had to make some sort of fritter with yucca and what’s a better example of a Puerto Rican fritter than an alcapurria. I have tried to share with all of you an alcapurria recipe for a long time now. But, I do not make alcapurrias all by myself at home. Usually, this is a group project and even though they’re not super difficult to make, it goes easier if the tasks are shared.
Alcapurrias are traditionally made with a masa made from ground plantain and yautía. Yuca is also very traditional, so we are not deviating too much from a very traditional recipe here. But instead of filling them with ground meat, we will be using mixed vegetables. You could also use a combination of mixed vegetables and textured vegetable protein to resemble more the ground meat filling. These are amongst the most iconic fritters you can find here in Puerto Rico… present in almost every celebration, especially in patron saint festivities and even at the Luquillo Beach kisokos and Loíza.
This recipe comes from Yazmín and Joel, who were the master alcapurria fryers. My title is more master alcapurria eater. The best thing is to make a bunch of these at one sitting… fry some to eat immediately and any left over, freeze them for later frying. As with any fritter, they’re best eaten immediately after frying or else, they get soggy. They’re so laborious that is not something that you can whip up whenever you get the craving. This takes time… you’re all under advisement.
In Paraguay, we were lucky we had a whole team helping with making these alcapurrias, especially to grind the yuca manually. In Puerto Rico, we have the help of a Champion machine where we grind the yuca and the moisture is separated from the dry masa. But if the task of grinding yuca blows your mind, at the stores they sell frozen masa for alcapurrias or pasteles, ready to go. I’ve never used them, but I believe the only thing you need to do is thaw it completely and squeeze it as dry as possible and season it, just like I teach you here…
Ground raw yuca, about 5 lbs of yuca, pealed and washed well 10 cloves of garlic, mashed in a mortar/pestle or in the food processor 2 ½ tbs salt ¼ cup of annatto oil Mixed Vegetables Filling 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed 1 large onion, diced ½ cup of tomato sauce 1 tsp Garlic and Herbs seasoning Salt and Pepper to taste Olive Oil Canola Oil for frying
- If you have a manual grinder use that to grind the raw yuca. If you have a Kitchen Aid with the grinder attachment, use that. If you have a Champion machine, use that. If you prefer to purchase the masa frozen from the supermarket, that’s perfect too.
2. After the yuca is ground, you should wring out as much liquid from it as possible with a cotton cloth or towel. The idea is that the masa is as dry as possible. If you skip this step, the alcapurria might fall apart when frying and that’s no fun after you’ve worked so hard to make these.
3. Season the masa with the mashed garlic, salt and annatto oil. Set aside.
4. To prepare the filling… in a large skillet, add a bit of olive oil and sauté the onions for a while under medium heat until they soften. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add the mixed vegetables and the tomato sauce. Mix everything well. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. Mix once again. Cover the skillet to allow all the veggies to cook well and the flavor meld. Turn the stove off and allow the mixture to cool off a bit before we start assembling the alcapurrias.
6. In another large skillet, add about 1 ½” of canola oil fro frying the alcapurrias in medium high heat. When the oil is ready, you can check it using the wooden spoon method, we start to prepare and fry the alcapurrias.
7. With a large kitchen spoon, pour a spoonful of masa onto our other hand that’s covered with either wax paper, aluminium foil or even the traditional banana leaf. Spread the masa with the back of the spoon leaving some thicker borders. Add about 2 tbs of filling in the center of the masa and using the back of the larger spoon again work the thicker masa you left on the edges to cover over the filling. The idea is to surround the filling completely in masa. You might need to practice this a bit, and that’s perfectly OK.
8. My friend Mai, places the waxpaper on top of a cutting board and folds the paper over so the masa envelops the filling. You almost always finish giving the alcapurria its form with the larger spoon.
9. Helping yourself with the paper you have the alcapurria in, drop it carefully into the hot oil. Don’t touch it much as the masa is still soft and it can break open. With a spoon you can drizzle some of the hot oil over the alcapurria so the tp part that is not submerged in the hot oil can create a bit of a crust and make it less susceptible to the inadvertent touch of a spoon, etc. It’ll also make it easier to turn over later on.
10. When the alcapurria is golden on the bottom side, turn it over so it can cook/fry on the other side. The oil should be hot, but not too hot to allow the masa to cook through. If the oil is too hot, it will get hard on the outside but the masa will remain raw. Not good… This is especially important if you’re cooking an alcapurria that has been frozen.
11. When its golden brown all over, take it out of the oil with a slotted spoon and place it to drain the excess oil on top of paper towels.
12. You can fry as many alcapurrias you can fit comfortably in your skillet. Don’t try to overcrowd the skillet so they do not fall apart when they’re just put into the oil. Two to three per skillet is the perfect amount. When you get the swing of it, you’ll become like an alcapurria-making machine. Keep on making alcapurrias until you ran out of masa and/or filling.
13. Allow the alcapurrias to cool off for about 15 minutes before digging into them. This is a fried food after all and the insides get very hot and steamy. If you want, you could cut them open in half to allow them to cool off a bit faster.
To freeze the alcapurrias, all you need to do is to cut pieces of waxed paper to separate each alcapurria and place them one next to the other in a resalable zipped plastic bag. This way, when you get the alcapurria craving, you take one out and fry them or bake them in the oven, which turn out pretty good indeed. It’s the same principle as when we make tostones or soy meatballs ahead of time and freeze them.
I hope you like alcapurrias as much as Puerto Ricans love them. These alcapurrias as vegetarian, but taste just as traditional as any alcapurria made in Luquillo, Loíza, any patron saint festivity or school verbena fair.