Published Friday, August 21, 2020

Expats shares Tico's yummy
gluten-free recipes

By Melissa Pette

Foreigners residing in Costa Rica, we love this country for its friendly people, seeing the sunshine every day, living so close to nature, enjoying the beaches and delicious traditional food.

Three expats, Emma and Margaret from the U.S. and Logan from Switzerland, have told me their stories about how running away from the cold northern winter led them to find this beautiful country, which has everything they need to live happily ever after.

Our three new friends share with all of us three recipes based on Costa Rican traditional cuisine that is usually made with wheat flour. They have adapted it for people with a gluten allergy by replacing wheat flour with yucca flour. Great idea indeed!

The yuca or cassava flour is gluten-free. Just in case any reader doesn't know yet, the cassava is a high-carbohydrate root similar to a potato. As a root vegetable, cassava is gluten, grain and nut-free.

Hot meat cake gluten-free

By Emma Robinson
From Beavercreek, Greene County, Ohio.
Living in Tamarindo Beach, Guanacaste Province

This hot cassava cake is perfect for those of us who are allergic to gluten. The ingredients you will need are:

900 grams of cassava (not flour)

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon tomato paste

120 grams of slices of mozzarella cheese

200 grams of ground beef (you can change for pork or chicken).

1 white onion

1 red sweet chili pepper

1 tablespoon of ground oregano

100 grams of butter

1 cup of red wine for cooking

Salt and pepper

First, preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius (392 degrees fahrenheit) and grease a baking dish or container with butter.

Peel and cut the cassava into medium pieces. Put it in a large pot with boiling water and a teaspoon of salt. Cook until the cassava is soft enough to puree.

Cut the onion and the sweet red chili pepper into very small squares.

In a frying pan with oil, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the sweet chili pepper, oregano, tomato paste, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.

Then add the ground beef. Cook for 20 minutes over medium heat, stirring the meat constantly. After that, pour the cup of wine. Cover the pan and cook for two minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Remove from the heat and reserve.

When the cassava is soft, add it to a bowl and mash it with a fork until pure. Add two teaspoons of butter to make the dough softer.

Spread a layer of mashed cassava in the baking dish or container, on top of it a layer of ground meat and top it off with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella cheese is gluten-free.

Then add another layer of cassava, meat, and cheese. You must be sure that the cheese (on the top) covers the entire surface.

Bake over high heat for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. You must let it cool 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Gluten-free Tico cheese bread balls

Margaret Quinn,
From Cumberland County of Maine
Living in Puerto Viejo, Limon Province

I had these soft delicious tiny bread balls on my first trip to Costa Rica many years ago. The substitution of cassava instead of wheat flour was the idea of a Colombian friend. The best idea ever. If you are allergic to gluten this easy recipe is a must-do.

The ingredients couldn't be easier to find:

250 grams of cassava flour (you buy it in any supermarket)

60 grams of mozzarella cheese

4 egg yolks

4 tablespoons of butter

1 teaspoon of baking powder

Pinch of salt

First, rip the cheese into very small pieces. In a large bowl, add the cassava flour, cheese and melted butter. Mix well to form a smooth dough. Then add the egg yolks and continue mixing for five more minutes.

Add a pinch of salt and baking powder. Mix for 5 minutes. Then rest the dough for 20 to 30 minutes.

After that time, take small amounts of the dough and make small balls, similar to the size of ping pong balls.

Grease a baking sheet with spray butter or stick butter. Place the balls on the platter. You must leave enough space between each ball because they will grow.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius for 5 minutes before baking. Then bake the bread for 30 minutes. The bread is white. Never wait until it turns golden because that is a sign that it was over burned.

Remove the bread balls from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before eating.

Gluten-free Churros

By Logan Egger
From Olten of Solothurn, Switzerland
Living in Santa Ana, San José Province

You will not stop eating these delicious churros with a few ingredients. This recipe allows for you and your children to cook several churros.

The ingredients are:

• 500 grams of cassava

• 100 grams of cornmeal

• 1 spoonful of salt

• 1 egg

• 1 tablespoon of extra-fine sugar

• 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

• 1 corn oil bottle

• 1 pastry bag

Peel the cassava first. Cut it into small pieces. Then boil until it is soft. Let the cassava cool and add it to a large bowl.

Mash the cassava until a dough forms. You must remove the remaining roots. Add a beaten egg and mash again. Then, add the cornmeal and mash the cassava and cornmeal until making a uniform dough.

Add the dough to a pastry bag. Those bags can easily be found at any supermarket. Use a bag that has a star-shaped on the top.

In a large pan add a lot of corn oil, you add the paste that comes out when squeezing the bag. Do not fill the pan with all the paste otherwise the churros stick together. I make five churros at a time.

When they are golden, remove the churros from the heat. Put the churros on a paper napkin to remove the excess oil. Sprinkle it with cinnamon powder and sugar. If you have kids at home, they are going to love it!


Editor's note: Email your comments or inquiries to Melissa Pette at

Share your recipes with AM Costa Rica readers. Send your homemade recipes with a photo of the dish to