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Friday, February 18, 2011

Buñuelos de Yuca--Cassava Donuts

Hi everyone!  I always feel so rude not saying hi.  I hope that you guys are having a great weekend.  I've been doing a two week no junk food challenge and, let me tell you, it has been very difficult!  I love to bake and when I don't have the time, there is a Cuban bakery (if not multiple) within a mile of most places in this city.  The Cuban bakeries are super affordable, so I wouldn't even feel bad if I went weekly.  I was struggling especially yesterday, the last day of the challenge, because I had the hugest craving for a chocolate señorita (Cuban napoleon topped with chocolate--my photo is from  As good as that looks, the real ones are even better.  More cream, an almost graham cracker colored flaky crust, and a thicker, more solid layer of chocolate.   ::sigh::.  

Anywho, it's Friday and the challenge is over, so I decided (days ago, haha) that I would reward myself today by making buñuelos de yuca, Nicaraguan yuca donuts.  I know, guys, what on earth would anyone want with a yuca donut, right?  Let me tell you, honey, don't mess around with the yuca donuts.  They are delicious!!  I am a huge fan of flavor oppositions and I just love the very slightest salty bite that these donuts have from the addition of cheese, yes, cheese.  Don't start hurling "you're crazy!" insults at me yet.  Just hang tight.  So you've got the yuca and grated white cheese as the donut flavor then you've got this amazingly tasty homemade syrup topping.  The syrup is made of either turbinado sugar or, my personal favorite, piloncillo.  If you use turbinado sure, be sure it's a nice, dark one.  Those are the most flavorful.  I have no idea what piloncillo (aka panela/dulce de rapadura) translates to because I really don't think it exists in the traditional American culinary repertoire.  Just the same, I'm sure it's at any Latin market.  

Piloncillo is used throughout Latin America.  It is the result of evaporated sugar cane syrup that has not been processed.  That means that the rich, delicious molasses taste remains and the sugar is sold in block, not granulated form.  You don't even know what you're missing until you've at least smelled piloncillo.  It's the kind of thing you want to linger in your house, sort of like the smell of freshly-baked cookies.  Anyway, I the syrup is just a basic simple syrup made with equal parts water and one of the sugars I mentioned with three or four good quality cinnamon sticks added in.  I'm telling you guys, you can't even imagine how good this is until you've had it.  There's no need for vanilla or other essences because the sugar's natural, caramelized richness from the molasses is still in tact.  No there's no bitterness like molasses has, just smooth, rich goodness.  

So I'll take a moment to be honest with you guys.  These yuca donuts are traditionally made with Nicaraguan queso seco (what you see by that name in Richmond is not the Nicaraguan one, but it will do).  Well, I have never purchased queso seco for my home before, I've only had it out and I fell in love with it.  I decided that today I would buy it make the traditional version.  Well I decided to get fancy and go for the smoked version rather than the regular because it tastes so wonderful in the heavenly ripe plantains (maduros en gloria) that I get at the fritanga (Nicaraguan homestyle cafeteria).  Guys, talk about failure!!!  That stuff is wayyyyy too salty and wayy too smoky, and it totally ruined my buñuelos today : /.  I also used baking soda instead of powder in my haste; but that was minor. The smoked cheese, however, was a major failure.  :::sigh:::  Whatever...

I've made this recipe before and it is absolutely divine with a mild, white cheese and the piloncillo-based syrup.  As my dear host mom in the Dominican Republic used to tell me, don't expect anything you cook to turn out right if you don't have the time or energy to add the most important ingredient of all--love.  She was so very right.

Don't be like me.  Just get a mild white cheese, such as cuajada, queso fresco, and I would say even mozzarella or ricotta would do.  Just be sure that the cheese is not really salty.  You want a mild, white cheese.  Anyway, mmmmm, what heavenly results you shall obtain from following this recipe and not being a loca like me.  And let me not forget to say, this has to be THE easiest dessert you will ever make.  See the recipe below, and if you know something easier, do share!

This recipe was adapted from a combination of Oswaldo Chamorro's version from Cocinemos Juntos ( and Maria Esther's version on Nicaragua en mi Sazon (  A huge thank you to the both of them for sharing such wonderful Nicaraguan recipes!

*The photos above have been driving me nuts.  I've fixed them 5 times.  If they fail to load completely, click them and the enlarged version shows up just fine.

Buñelos de yuca
tips: yuca is normally cheaper at Latin markets.  Choose the more slender roots, as they are the most flavorful.

Simple syrup
1.5 cups sugar (if it's piloncillo, you can shave it, grate it, or chop it)
1.5 cups water
3-4 Cinnamon sticks
Bring to a boil then turn off
Lime juice, a few squirts up to the juice of one lime (optional--I usually skip it but some people like tangy-ness)

2 cups peeled and (finely, not the big side of the microplane) grated raw yucca
1 cup of shredded or crumbled white cheese --Nicaraguan queso seco (white, not smoked), cuajada or some similar milder, soft or semi-soft cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder (not soda) 

Oil for deep frying

With clean hands, mix all of the ingredients in the donut section and form into either small balls, cylinders, or disk-like pillows.  The shape is simply a matter of personal preference.  Some people even just drop the dough directly from the spoon into the oil.

Fry donuts in pre-heated oil over medium heat until golden brown.  You will know when the oil is ready if you drop a small piece of dough into it and it sizzles.  Place fried donuts on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil.  

Meanwhile, add all ingredients in the syrup section besides the lime juice into a small sauce pot over medium heat.  Stir the mixture occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Bring the sugar mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  At this point, add in the lime.  Let the mixture boil for just a few minutes.  Do not overcook the sugar mixture or it will crystallize.  Just a two or three minutes will suffice.

Serve the donuts with a generous dousing of sugar syrup :).  Mmmm, yes, a dousing ;).  Hey, the donuts themselves don't have sugar, remember?  Enjoy!!



  1. wonderful i make the same recipe! yummy i love!

  2. Could you use finely ground yucca flour?

    1. The texture would be totally different and likely the flavor too.