Empanadas Two Ways: Recipe #10

Empanadas are a fantastic portable meal originating in Latin America. Bread in Spanish is pan, so empanada literally means wrapping bread around a filling of meat, cheese or vegetables. There are two variations here: one with mushrooms, rosemary ham, broccolini and mozzarella, and the other one (aka saltenas in Bolivia) with leeks, mushrooms, potatoes, plant-based ground meat, and peas. Feel free to experiment with your own fillings!

This is part of our 1,000 Food Experiments to create sustainable meals for our family and hopefully yours.

Ingredients ($10 total for about a dozen empanadas)

Empanada dough:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter – $1.25
2 cups water – FREE
2 tsp salt – $0.05
3-5 cups flour – $0.48 – $0.80

Ham and cheese empanada:
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 onion, finely chopped – $0.50
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped – $0.15
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, finely chopped – $2.29
1/2 pound organic baby broccoli, finely chopped – $2.79
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – $0.10
1/2 tsp each of cumin, paprika, and chili powder – $0.42
1/4 ball mozzarella cheese, chopped into tiny chunks – $0.62
1/4 pack rosemary ham slices, chopped into tiny chunks – $0.82
Salt and pepper to taste

Plant-based empanada:
2 tbsp olive oil – $0.20
1 tsp each of turmeric, cumin, and oregano – $0.42
1 leek, finely chopped – $1.49
2 packages enoki (or other) mushrooms, chopped – $4.98
3 large potatoes, finely diced – $0.75
2 tbsp brown sugar – $0.06
1 pound plant-based ground meat – $7.99
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen peas – $1.00


1. Make the dough. Mix 2 cups boiling water with the butter in a large bowl. Stir to melt the butter, then cool to room temperature.

Add in flour gradually and stir with a wooden spoon. When the dough starts to come together,  tip it out onto a floured board and knead for 1-2 minutes until smooth and elastic. You may need to add more flour (1/2 cup at a time) if the dough is sticky. Wrap dough in cling wrap and and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to a day.

2. Make the filling. For the meat-based one: Put the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until tender and translucent. Then add the garlic, mushrooms, baby broccoli, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 more minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the mixture is not liquidy. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside or refrigerate to cool. This can also be made up to a day ahead.

For the plant-based one: Put the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the leek, turmeric, cumin and oregano and saute together for 5 minutes until tender and translucent. Then add the mushrooms, potatoes, brown sugar, and plant-based ground meat. Stir and cook for 5-10 more minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the mixture is hot. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add the frozen peas at the end to cool it off a bit for the filling.

3. When you’re ready to assemble the empanadas, take the chilled dough out of the fridge and pinch off balls about 2″ in diameter. Roll each piece into a 4 1/2″ circle and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Put about 2 tbsp of filling in the center of each empanada, adding some pieces of ham and mozzarella as well. Moisten the outer edge of each one with water, then wrap the dough around the filling to form the empanada, pressing the edges together. 

For decoration, you can fold the outer edge back a little and make gentle designs with a fork. These can also be stored in the fridge a few hours ahead of baking.

When you’re ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 375F. Make sure the empanadas are about 1″ apart on the baking sheet. Brush the tops lightly with butter and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm to the table.

Sustainability Score (explained here)

  • Time to make: 2 = 1-3 hours
  • Servings:  3 = >6 servings
  • Cost per person (prices based on Trader Joe’s/Costco): 3 = <$5
  • Deliciousness: 3 = when are we having this again?
  • Environmental impact: 2 = moderate impact
  • Nutritional value: 2 = healthy-ish
  • TOTAL: 15/18

If you tried it, please let me know how it came out for you. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy day!

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