Yuca & Beef Carimañolas— Perfect for Breakfast in Panama

yuca & beef Carimañolas

These carimañolas—deep fried yuca sticks filled with savory ground beef—were Lisa Kear’s absolute favorite breakfast food when she was growing up in Panama. Maria, their family’s housekeeper, taught Lisa how to make these tasty fritters. The blend of spices and olives in her recipe are essential to the carimañolas’ irresistible flavor, says Lisa.

Carimañolas are a go-to breakfast in Panama, much loved for their hearty balance of starch and protein. Lisa has especially fond memories of eating carimañolas the morning after a barbeque. The leftover ground beef and yuca from the barbeque was rolled up into carimañolas and then deep fried for a delicious and easy-to-make breakfast the morning after.

The popularity of carimañolas in Panama is also due to the abundance of the main ingredient: yuca or cassava. When she was growing up, Lisa’s grandmother would go to their yard and dig up the yuca when the plant was mature enough. Since it grows year round, there was always a fresh supply of yuca, recalls Lisa.

How did she wind up growing up on a farm in Panama? It goes back to her grandfather, Lisa says. He grew up on a large farm in Kentucky. Although he was originally a teacher, he enlisted in the Navy and ended up stationed in Panama, where he met and married a local, Lisa’s grandmother. The couple moved to the countryside in Panama, bought 10 acres of land, and planted yuca alongside coffee, plantains and anything else that would grow in the humid climate.

While Lisa currently lives in Tennessee and no longer has access to freshly harvested yuca, this delicious root is available either fresh or frozen at most American grocery stores—and it’s honestly pretty good, she says. Lisa makes her yuca the way her family did– boiling it before tenderizing. Once the yuca is softened, carimañolas and a number of other Panamanian dishes can be made. 

Lisa often pre-boils the yuca, cuts it into strips, and then freezes it. When she is craving carimañolas or any other of the many Panamanian dishes starring yuca, her yuca is ready to go—always a good thing, says Lisa.

For more Panamanian recipes from Lisa’s childhood, check out her family-famous beef empanadas, her Familia Kitchen Recipe Contest-winning Panamanian flan, her sweet guava-and-cheese empanadas, her Panamanian pollo guisado (stewed chicken) with spaghetti, and and her delicious ron ponche, just the thing for celebrations and parties.

Yuca & Beef Carimañolas—Perfect for Breakfast in Panama

Yuca & Beef Carimañolas—Perfect for Breakfast in Panama

Recipe by Lisa Kear
3.6 from 5 votes
Cuisine: Panamanian


Prep time


Cooking time




  • Dough Ingredients:
  • 4 lbs frozen yuca

  • 1 Tbsp salt

  • Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 lb ground beef, lean

  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil, like grapeseed

  • 1 onion, small, chopped

  • 1 red pepper, chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup Spanish manzanilla olives (pimento stuffed), minced

  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 1 tsp dried thyme

  • 1 tsp ground paprika

  • 1/2 tsp ground achiote

  • 1/2 tsp ground annatto

  • salt, to taste

  • pepper, to taste

  • 2-4 cups vegetable oil, to fry (depending on size of your pan)


  • Prepare the Yuca
  • Boil yuca with salt in a large pot and cook until tender. Do not overcook the yuca. Set aside.
  • Make the Filling
  • On medium heat, heat oil in a skillet. Add onion, red pepper and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add in the ground beef and break it apart with a wooden spoon until no longer pink.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, cover and cook for another 5 minutes on low heat.
  • Remove cooked beef to a bowl and cool. Set aside.
  • Putting It All Together
  • While the beef filling cools, drain the yuca and mash with a potato masher. Add salt, to taste, if needed.
  • With damp hands to prevent sticking, take a golf-ball size portion of yuca dough to the palm. Roll between your palms and make a deep indentation in the center of the dough.
  • Place a spoonful of beef filling in this center-indented cavity.
  • Work the yuca dough back around the beef filling, sealing the beef filling with yuca dough. Gently roll it in your palms to make an elongated football-like shape, about 4 to 5 inches long. Repeat until all the yuca dough and beef mixture are gone.
  • Heat the oil in your skillet to medium-high, until it bubbles when you touch it with the edge of a wooden spoon. Place about 3 to 4 carimañolas in the oil at a time, so that you don’t crowd them. Deep fry the carimañolas in batches, first on one side and then the other, until golden brown.
  • Serve warm. Makes 20 to 24 carimañolas.


  • When she can’t find fresh, Lisa buys packages of frozen yuca in Latino or Asian markets.
Lisa, center, with daughter Sarah and Mary-Elizabeth Kear
Lisa, center, with daughters Sarah and Mary-Elizabeth, loves making these beef-stuffed carimañolas. They remind her of her childhood in Panama.

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