These vegan empanadas are a simple and delicious flavor-packed finger-food for parties, snack, appetizer, or a light meal. They have a crisp, corn flour pastry shell and delicious (customizable) veggie filling. Plus, this recipe uses gluten-free empanada dough and contains oven-baked, fried, and air fryer empanada cooking options!
What Are Empanadas?
If you’ve spent much time on my blog at all, then you’ll probably have realized that I’m fairly obsessed with Latin American cuisine, particularly Mexican recipes, and in veganizing them all. So, it’s no surprise that here I am again with another veganized recipe for you – this time, delicious vegan empanadas.
If you’ve never had one before – then I’d compare it to a turnover/ Cornish pasty.
The small hand-held pastries are stuffed with various fillings (savory and sweet), and are most popular across Spain, Latin America (especially Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico), but also in the Philippines, and many other countries.
The name actually comes from the Spanish word ‘empanar,’ which means bread wrap, though they are usually made with dough. The origins are also somewhat contested; some believe that Indian samosas originally influenced them, others trace them back to Spain and Spanish immigrants to Latin America.
While traditionally the dumplings are made with meat (mainly beef or chicken) and/or cheese fillings, there are several vegetarian empanada fillings too, and the type of dough and filling options differ by region. This recipe uses a Colombian empanada corn flour dough but is 100% dairy, egg, and meat-free. Instead, the veggie filling is made up of potatoes, lentils, and various veggies.
Plus, while the traditional pastries are deep-fried, this gluten-free empanada recipe contains oven-baked and air fryer methods too! This means you can make it low-fat too! So whether you’re wanting a healthy empanada alternative or a vegan take on the traditional – I have options.
Here you can see the empanada filling ingredients:
The Step-By-Step Instructions
Step 1: Prepare the vegetarian empanada filling
First, peel and chop the potatoes and cook in a pot of salted boiling water until fork tender (about 12-15 minutes). Drain the water and mash the potatoes with a potato masher, then set aside.
Heat oil in a pan/skillet over medium-high heat and add the chopped onion and bell pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the minced garlic, all the spices, and sauté for a further minute.
Lower the heat to medium and add the peas and cooked lentils. Cook for a couple of minutes until the onion and pepper are softened. Turn off the heat.
Add the mashed potatoes and vegan cheese (optional) to the pan and use a fork to mix everything. Taste it and adjust seasonings if needed, then set aside.
Step 2: Prepare the vegan empanada dough
In a large bowl, combine the precooked corn flour with garlic powder and salt (or vegetable bouillon powder). Stir with a spoon.
Slowly pour in hot water, stirring as you do. Once it cools a little, use your hands to knead it for 1-2 minutes. If it’s too dry, add a little more water, and if it’s too wet, add more flour (the flour brand, climate, and humidity can all affect this) until play dough consistency.
Divide the dough into 14-16 portions and form each portion into a ball by hand.
Place a dough ball between two sheets of plastic wrap or lightly oiled parchment paper and press the dough with something heavy (e.g., a pot or skillet) to ‘flatten’ it until it’s about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. It shouldn’t be too thin, about 1/4 inches (0.6 cm).
Remove the top sheet of plastic/parchment paper and place about 1/2 tablespoon of the filling into the center of the dough disk.
With the plastic/parchment paper’s help, fold the dough over the filling, forming a half-moon. Seal the edges with your fingers or a fork. Alternatively, you can place the rim of a medium-sized bowl or mug on the outer edges of the dough and press it down firmly to seal the edges (see next set of photos). Do this with the remaining dough.
Step 3: Cook the vegan empanadas (3 methods!)
There are three options for cooking these veggie empanadas, including:
Option 1: Air Fryer Empanadas (my favorite method)
Brush the dumplings carefully on both sides with oil. Place about 5-6 into the air fryer basket, at 390F/200 C, set the timer to 15 minutes, and then press start. There is no need to turn them, just wait 15 minutes, and they will be crispy with browned edges. If you prefer them even crispier and browner, then set the timer to 17 or 18 minutes. Serve the air fryer empanadas warm!
Option 2: Oven-Baked
Preheat oven to 375F/190C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Brush the dumplings carefully with oil and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Chef’s note: Unfortunately, I’ve found that they won’t crisp up as much in the oven, and I’ve experienced some bursting/cracking on occasion. This is likely because they are gluten-free empanadas.
Option 3: Frying Method
This is the fastest and probably most delicious method; however, not exactly healthy empanadas, If that’s what you’re looking for.
Add enough oil to a large frying pan for it to be about 2½ inches deep. Heat it to 360F/180C.
Add a few dumplings at a time (don’t overcrowd the pan) and fry for about 3-4 minutes, turning as needed. Place the fried pastries on paper towels to soak up excess oil, then enjoy!
For the full ingredients list, ingredient measurements, and nutritional information, read the recipe card below.
How To Serve
These vegan empanadas can be served as a snack, appetizer, party food, part of a main meal, or even as a light lunch. They’re also perfect for school and work lunch boxes.
They taste delicious alone, but I love to serve them alongside dips/ sauces such as tomato salsa, guacamole, or my favorite Vegan Cheese Sauce.
How To Make Ahead & Store
To make ahead of time:
You can make the fillings for these vegan empanadas 1-2 days in advance (perfect if you want them as party food). The dough can also be prepared 1-2 days in advance and kept in the fridge (wrapped in cling film or plastic). Just allow it to rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before completing the recipe.
You can also freeze the fully prepared dumplings precooking (for up to 3 months) and thaw small amounts as and when needed. They can be cooked from frozen or allowed to thaw first.
To store leftovers:
Once baked, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. They are also freezer-friendly, though the pastry may be affected.
Useful Recipe Notes & Variations
- Flour: It’s important that you use precooked corn flour (masarepa), NOT regular corn flour or corn meal. The brand I use is called “Donarepa.” However, masarepa from Goya is great too. P.A.N. is another popular brand. All of these are precooked corn flours, made from 100% corn. They can be used for tamales, pupusas, empanadas, and tortillas.
- I saw that some people also use masa harina from brands like Maseca or Bob’s Red Mill with success. To learn more about the differences between masa, masa harina, and masarepa, check out this article.
- Veggies: You can use different veggies of choice in these healthy empanadas. Spinach and mushrooms, spinach and vegan cheese, vegan mince with carrots and peas, potato and leek, or your favorite veggies. It’s also fine to use refried beans instead of cooked lentils for these veggie empanadas.
- Make apple empanadas: I love to stuff them with apples and cinnamon, for a sweet version, similar to my Apple Cinnamon Crepes. For this version, leave out the salt and garlic powder in the dough.
- As a super quick ‘cheat’ vegan empanada dough option- you can use pre-prepared vegan puff pastry or shortcrust (though it can be hard to find pre-prepared pastry that is vegan AND gluten-free. Goya also sells several pre-made pastry shells. They, of course, won’t be Colombian empanadas (empanadas Colombianas) but will do in a pinch.
- Vegan Pot Pie
- German Potato Dumplings
- Vegan Lentil Enchiladas
- Savory Stuffed Crepes
- Oven-Baked Vegetable Fajitas
- Chickpea Tacos
- Oven-Baked Spinach Tacos
If you try this vegan empanadas recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan and #elavegan – I love seeing your recreations.
Vegan Empanada Dough:
- 2 cups (260 g) precooked corn flour yellow or white (*see notes)
- 3/4 tsp sea salt or vegetable bouillon powder
- 1/2 - 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 1/2 cups (360 g) hot water (more if needed)
Vegan Empanada Filling:
- 2 large (400 g) potatoes (use Yukon Gold or Russet)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 medium (100 g) onion diced
- 1 (140 g) bell pepper diced
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup (150 g) cooked lentils or beans
- 3/4 cup (100 g) peas frozen and thawed
- 3/4 - 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- Salt pepper, and chili powder, to taste
- Vegan cheese to taste (optional)
- You can watch the video in the post for visual instructions.Peel and chop the potatoes and cook in a pot with boiling water and salt until fork-tender, about 12-15 minutes. Drain the water and mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a pan/skillet over medium-high heat and add the chopped onion, and bell pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, then add the minced garlic, all spices and sauté for a further minute.
- Lower the heat to medium, add peas, and cooked lentils. Cook for a couple of minutes until the onion and pepper are softened. Turn off the heat.
- Add the mashed potatoes and vegan cheese (optional) and use a fork to mix everything. Taste it and adjust seasonings if needed. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine precooked corn flour with garlic powder and salt (or vegetable bouillon powder). Stir with a spoon.
- Slowly pour in hot water. Stir the dough with a spoon, then once it cools a little use your hands to knead it for 1-2 minutes. If it's too dry add a little more water and if it's too wet add more flour. Depending on the brand of the precooked corn flour (and your climate i.e. humidity) you will need more or less water. I live in the tropics with about 90% humidity and 1 1/2 cup of water was perfect. The dough should have the consistency of play dough.
- Divide the dough into 14-16 portions and form each portion into a ball by rolling it between your hands.
- Place a dough ball between two sheets of plastic (I used a sheet of parchment paper, lightly oiled). Press the dough ball down with something heavy (e.g. a pot or skillet), until it's about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. It shouldn't be too thin, about 1/4 inches (0.6 cm).
- Remove the top sheet of plastic/parchment paper and place about 1/2 tablespoon of the filling into the center of the dough disk.
- With the help of the plastic/parchment paper, fold the dough over the filling, forming a half-moon. Seal the edges with your fingers or a fork. Alternatively, you can place a medium-sized bowl or mug on the outer edges of the empanada and press it down firmly to seal the edges (see step-by-step photos in the post above). Do this with the remaining dough. Now you have 3 options to cook them:
Air-Fryer (my favorite method)
- Brush the empanadas carefully from both sides with oil. Place about 5-6 into the air-fryer basket, choose 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) and set the timer to 15 minutes, then press start. There is no need to turn them, just wait 15 minutes, and they will be crispy with browned edges. If you prefer them even crispier and browner, then set the timer to 17 or 18 minutes. Serve warm!
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Brush all empanadas carefully from both sides with oil. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes. Unfortunately, they won't crisp up that much and it can happen that they burst.
- This is the fastest and probably most delicious method, however, not the healthiest. To a large frying pan or pot add enough oil (to a depth of about 2½ inches) and heat it to 360 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Add a few empanadas (don't overcrowd the pan) and fry for about 3-4 minutes, turning as needed. Place the fried empanadas on paper towels to soak up excess oil.
- Serve with salsa and enjoy!
- Flour: It's important that you use precooked corn flour (masarepa), NOT regular corn flour, polenta, or corn meal. The brand I use is called "Donarepa", however, Masarepa from Goya is great too. P.A.N. is another popular brand. Please note (if you have celiac disease) that some brands may contain traces of gluten (if they were processed in facilities that also process wheat).
- All of these are precooked corn flours, made from 100% corn. I saw that some people also use masa harina from brands like Maseca or Bob's Red Mill with success (though I haven't tried that).
- Veggies: You can use different veggies of choice. It's also fine to use refried beans instead of cooked lentils.
- To make the recipe perfectly, please check out lots of step-by-step photos in the post above.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically
IF YOU ARE USING PINTEREST, FEEL FREE TO PIN THE FOLLOWING PHOTO:
My comment is totally unrelated to your recipes, which I love, but rather to my interest in genealogy, and mostly Jewish at that. I just keep wondering about that.. I find it interesting that you live in a German-speaking country, yet you spell your last name in non-German spelling. I have seen such phenomenon when I researched the Jewish community in Hungary. Then again, I do not speak German. Of course, this is none of my business.
Hey, I actually don’t live in Germany but was born and raised there. My parents are Czech, that’s why my name doesn’t really sound German.
Interesting! Thank you for clarifying 🙂
Hi Ela, what would you recommend as a corn (and gluten) free flour substitute please?
Hello Annika, the precooked corn flour (masarepa) has specific characteristics and makes the dough pliable and soft. It would turn out completely different with a different flour, and you would need to add a lot of vegan butter. So, right now, I don’t have a different recommendation for a gluten-free version. 😊
Hello, Ela. I’m wondering what could we do if we only have fuba. I don’t know but I think it’s not precooked, so it’s common flour. Maybe it would work with some psyllium and ground flaxseeds?
Hi Maria, I never heard of Fuba before, so I am really not sure if it will work. You could definitely experiment with psyllium. 🙂
Here in Brazil we call Fubá a very thin corn flour and we prepare polenta with it. (I hope you know what polenta is! :D) So I’m going to try it with pysillium and let you know! That might be useful for others, as I saw the commentaries searching for how to do without the precooked flour.
Yes, definitely let me know. However, you should be able to buy precooked corn flour in Brazil, since it’s even available in the Dominican Republic where I live. And the DR is so much smaller than Brazil. 🙂
Would maseca be a good alternative to the precooked corn ???? flour you recommend, since I’m unable to find it.
Hi Sarah, I mentioned it in the recipe notes. 🙂
Has anyone tried baking the empanadas without oil?
It does work, however, they won’t turn out as crispy and good. 🙂
Hi! Just discovered your page and LOVING IT!! Do you think I could make these ahead and freeze?? If yes, at what point would you freeze? Then I’m thinking just put in air fryer frozen?? Help lol 🙂
Hi Pam, you could freeze them after cooking, that should be fine. Maybe decrease the cooking time by a couple of minutes, then let cool and freeze. 🙂
Thanks so much for replying! Awesome! I will try that. I think it would be nice to have on hand for impromtu/last minute guests.
You are very welcome! 🙂
Another Colombian here!!!
I’m extremely happy with this recipe. Thanks Ela for the good appreciation of this delicious treat from our culture and thanks for coming up with this great vegan version. You are amazing!!! Quick question: Do you have a book with all your recipes?
Thanks so much for your kind compliment, Erika! So glad you like it. I don’t have a book yet, but I am working on it. 🙂
Thanks for getting back to me. Looking forward to the book. ????
I was about to ask the same question. Although I have to eat more grain free.
Do you have recipes with cassava flour? Or hemp milk. Not sure if hemp milk is grain free?
Hi Janet! I don’t have recipes with cassava flour, as I can’t buy it where I live. I do have some recipes with chickpea flour though, which is grain-free. 🙂
You can use hemp milk if a recipe calls for plant-based milk (or dairy-free milk). 🙂
Which model of airfryer do you use? Thank you.
Hi Olga, this is the one I use (affiliate link): https://amzn.to/3p29x9L It’s currently not available, but you should be able to find a similar one.
Thank you! I used the only filling I had on hand – potatoes- and it came out great! I hope to find a good gluten free and vegan dough, but I used a vegan puff pastry as a cheat and it was still delicious.
Thanks for sharing, Alyssa. I hope you will try out my gluten-free and vegan dough recipe next time. 🙂
What could I use instead of precooked cornflour? Maybe normal cornflour with extra starch-like „maizena“?
I am living in Austria! Thank you so much ????
Hi Magdalena. 🙂 No, that won’t work. Please read my German Blog Post where I share more info in the recipe notes.
This recipe looks amazing but we have corn allergies have you tried a different flour with success?
Thanks, Katie! I tried chickpea flour with tapioca flour and even though the dough looked perfect, the result was hard and dry (made in an air fryer). I guess you would need to add quite a lot of vegan butter to make them as good as these. 🙂
Sara Marcela Gutierrez Parra
As a Colombian and vegan, 100% recommended recepie, it really taste like it came from Colombia<3
Aww, thank you so much dear Sara! I really appreciate your kind comment. 🙂
Much love, Ela