Puerto Rican Alcapurrias With Beef Picadillo

making alcapurrias

Submitted by Michelle Ezratty Murphy

”My memories of alcapurrias are from parties when I was growing up in Puerto Rico,” says MIchelle Ezratty Murphy, one of our favorite Puerto Rican food homecooks. ”The first one I ever tasted was at a childhood Christmas fiesta. Appetizer trays piled high with flavorful beef picadillo-stuffed fritters were being passed around—and gobbled up just as quickly.”

”One bite—and I knew that I would be a lifelong alcapurria fan,” she says.

”I was still a kid and hadn’t learned how to cook, so I couldn’t really make them for myself. All year long I’d look forward to fiestas and weekend gatherings where alcapurrias just might be on the menu.”

”Once I met my Puerto Rican husband, Pat, I was lucky enough to become part of his family, and all their delicious cooking and eating. His aunts and cousins gathered regularly, and I remember watching them work together, sitting around the kitchen table—often making alcapurrias, familia-style. Theirs were made with yautia (taro root) and green-banana masa, stuffed with garlicky picadillo, cooked with achiote oil and sliced olives—and then fried in vegetable oil. (Pat’s family also gathered around that same kitchen table whenever Pat’s Titi Rosa made this incredible arroz con pollo.)”

Alcapurrias
The whole familia gets happy when Titi Rosa makes her famous alcapurrias every year for Christmas.

”They would first prepare the sofrito-sauted beef. Then the masa. And then, working together in a sort of family-kitchen-table assembly line—fueled by strong coquito if it was the holidays, or ice-cold beer if it was summer—stuff the fritters. Some were fried right away to enjoy hot and right then. Others were prepared to save for later and went straight into the freezer. You see, Puerto Ricans are famous for stopping by unannounced during the holiday season or on weekends. Or pretty much any time. That’s why there must always be a few dozen alcapurrias in the freezer, ready to be dropped straight into hot oil and served—all in under 20 minutes.”

”When I asked my husband about his Puerto Rico-childhood alcapurria memories, Pat remembered how he’d regularly make a quick lunch of alcapurrias during breaks from school, by picking up a couple from the street vendors in old San Juan. The food sellers would quickly fry the fritters and hand them to my husband super-hot, wrapped in paper towels to absorb the extra oil.”

A Puerto Rican street vendor frying up a
My husband Pat loves buying beef-picadillo alcapurrias from Boricua street-food vendors like this one.

”Pat’s all-time favorite alcapurria memory, though, was when he’d watch one of his tías—who lived in the small town of Utuado in the central mountains of Puerto Rico—fry big batches to sell to friends and neighbors. That’s his aunt, above, in the top post photo.”

”Pat laughed when he told me the story, because he is still amazed by how fast his aunt could make them and how easy she made it all look. Titi would tell him “practice makes perfect.” To this day, she still whips up a batch or two or three with the same passion. I’m sure if we looked in her freezer today, there would be a few dozen wrapped alcapurrias, at the ready to heat up and welcome surprise guests.”

”Titi makes her alcapurrias picadillo with sofrito-sauted ground beef, but another one of Pat’s cousins prefers to make his with canned corned beef. Pat remembers them both being mouth-wateringly good. Below is Titi’s family recipe, which calls for either—it’s up to you. I’m going with the canned corned-beef.”

Ready to Make Titi’s Alcapurrias With Beef Picadillo?

Titi’s Puerto Rican Alcapurrias With Picadillo

5 from 3 votes
Recipe by Michelle Ezratty Murphy Cuisine: Puerto Rican
Servings

24

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

40

minutes

Ingredients

  • The Masa
  • 2 lbs 2 yautia root, scrubbed and peeled

  • 2 2 green plantains

  • 5 5 very green bananas

  • 1 package 1 sazón with achiote

  • 2 Tbsp 2 achiote oil (see Michelle’s achiote oil recipe here)

  • 1 Tbsp 1 salt

  • 1 to 2 cups 1 to 2 canola oil, to shallow-fry the alcapurrias

  • The Picadillo Filling
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1/2 lb 1/2 ground beef or canned corned beef

  • 1/4 lb 1/4 cooked ham, minced

  • 1/2 1/2 onion, medium

  • 2 Tbsp 2 sofrito

  • 1/2 1/2 green bell pepper, minced

  • 6 to 8 6 to 8 pimento-stuffed olives, chopped

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 sazón with achiote

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 salt, or to taste

  • 1/4 tsp 1/4 pepper, or to taste

Directions

  • The Alcapurria Masa
  • Scrub and peel the yautias. Peel the green plantains and green bananas.
  • In a food processor fitted with the grating blade, grate the yautia, plantains and bananas together. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  • Change the food processor blade to the chopping blade. Place half the grated yautias, plantains and bananas back into the processor. Barely purée the mixture. You want it thick, like porridge.
  • In your bowl, gently mix together the puréed and grated blends of yautias, green plantains and green bananas.
  • Place the grated and puréed mixture back in the blender. Add the sazón, achiote oil, salt and pepper. Pulse just a few times until all the seasonings and spices are mixed in nicely, and the masa is light orange in color.
  • Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight (or no less than 3 hours). Don’t skip this step, even though you may be tempted. Refrigerating the masa firms it up so it becomes easier to work with and forms into a ball around the beef filling.
  • The Picadillo Filling
  • To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat.
  • Sauté the sofrito, onions and green pepper for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the minced ham, the ground beef (or corned beef: your choice!), sazón, salt and pepper. Combine well by stirring. If using ground beef, make sure the beef is cooked through.
  • Stir in the sliced olives and mix well. Set aside. The picadillo is ready.
  • Make Your Alcapurrias
  • Lightly grease a flat work surface (sheet tray or large swath of tin foil—or lay down a long piece of parchment paper).
  • In the cup of your hand, place a heaping serving spoon of masa. Form it into round ball.
  • Place two fingers in the center of the ball and form a cup with a center hole large enough to spoon in about 1 to 2 Tbsp of the picadillo.
  • Flatten the meat filling with the back of the spoon and carefully closed the cup back to its original ball form, pinching and forming the masa to make a seal with the meat inside.
  • Set the rounded masa down on your greased surface or parchment paper. Lightly roll the meat-stuffed ball into a flat cylinder. Just a couple of rolls will do the trick. Make sure that the masa is intact all the way around and that no meat is peeking through.
  • Place the stuffed alcapurrias in your fridge for at least an hour to chill and firm up before frying.
  • Fry Your Alcapurrias
  • Pour canola oil into a large skillet, so that the oil is about 1 inch high—enough to shallow-fry the alcapurrias.
  • Heat the oil, set to medium heat. Once the oil is 350°—hot enough for frying—carefully place 2 to 3 chilled alcapurrias into the hot oil. Don’t crowd them and work in batches.
  • Cook each alcapurria for about 5 minutes or so per each side, or until both are golden brown.
  • Drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Serve warm.

Notes

  • Refrigerating the masa firms it up so that it is easier to work with and form into a ball around the beef filling. Don’t skip this step, even though you may be tempted to. It really makes a difference in your alcapurria success.
  • The reason you grate the yautia and the banana and then put them back in with the chop blade to run through in half batches is to help give the masa mixture a better consistency.
  • Recommended: Make enough alcapurrias to freeze an extra dozen or two (or three?)—you’ll be so glad (and ready!) the next time an impromptu fiesta breaks out in your house. When you want to serve them, take them out of the freezer. Don’t defrost them. Fry them frozen—they’ll come out as delicioso as you remember.
making alcapurrias
My husband Pat’s tía works up a mouth-watering batch of her famous alcapurrias, made with yautía and green-banana masa with ground-beef picadillo.
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