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gluten-free empanadas on plate with salsa
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Vegan Empanadas

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!
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Latin American, Spanish
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 16

Ingredients

Vegan Empanada Dough:

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)

Instructions

Filling:

  • 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.

Dough:

  • 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!

Oven-Baked

  • 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.

Frying Method

  • 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!

Notes

  • 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 Facts
Vegan Empanadas
Amount Per Serving (1 empanada)
Calories 110 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Carbohydrates 23g8%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 2g4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.