I’m a big fan of any kind of food cooked in dough, but I especially love these plant based beef empanadas. Meals wrapped in dough are delicious and filling. You can fill them with vegan meat, vegetables only, or even fruit for dessert empanadas. Empanadas originate from Spain and Portugal. Like another favorite of mine, beirocks, from Eastern Europe, empanadas can be a total meal. They can also be a main dish with sides. For a complete meal, give each guest or family member two empanadas; for a side, serve them one empanada.
I love this vegan dough recipe, adapted from The Spruce Eats light empanada dough, which is made with full fat Greek Yogurt and regular butter. Here, I’ve substituted coconut milk yogurt and vegan butter. It totally works! This dough is perfectly elastic, can be rolled thin, and is easy to work with when folding the empanadas. And the dough flavor is delicious.
Empanadas typically contain a meat or protein. Beans would work just as well in these, and mushrooms would also be a great substitution for meat. With so many vegetable and plant based meats in the markets now, I decided to use one in my empanadas. I also used my own homemade vegetable broth to give the filling extra flavor and keep it moist. Corn, diced potatoes, or diced carrots are the most common vegetables used in empanadas.
Although this recipe is a little bit time consuming, it isn’t difficult and is so worth the time! Even making the dough is simple. To make the vegan butter extra cold, place it into the freezer (no need to cover it) for 10 minutes before adding it to the flour.
I always use ice water when making any dough that calls for cold water. Simply put a few cubes into a measuring glass and add water. Use only the water and never any pieces of ice when adding it to the dough bowl. You might find it tricky getting the dough to form a ball when adding the ice water, but don’t give up on it! If 4 tablespoons of water aren’t enough, add a little bit more, trying not to use more than 5 tablespoons. Once, I was impatient and went as far as adding 6 tablespoons of ice water. It worked out okay in the end, by adding more flour when rolling out the dough circles. But the dough was a little bit sticky before I rolled it out.
Just as there are many variations on empanada fillings, there are variations on baking them right away or making them ahead. You can freeze empanadas before baking, and then place them directly into the oven while still frozen. To freeze them, place them on a baking sheet, and put them in the freezer until frozen. Then remove them from the baking sheet and place them in a zipping freezer bag. Just bake them still frozen at 400° F for 45 minutes. You can keep the empanadas, covered, in the refrigerator for two days. Bake refrigerated empanadas at 375° F for 40 to 45 minutes. Another variation is to refrigerate the empanadas on the baking sheet 20 minutes before putting them into the oven, to set the dough.
Serve these empanadas with your favorite sauces, from salsa, to bean dip, or even just plain yellow mustard. Try it with your favorite sauces and see what you like!
Plant Based Beef Empanadas
Amazingly delicious Spanish empanadas made with plant based "beef" and vegetables. Eat with your favorite sauces and dips.
To prepare the dough:
Place the 3 tablespoons of vegan butter into the freezer for 10 minutes (no need to cover the butter).
In a medium mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt together.
Add the butter to the flour mixture, using a fork to cut it into the flour. Immediately add the coconut milk yogurt.
Stir the dough until it is completely made up of about quarter-sized chunks of dough and most of the flour has been combined into the wet ingredients.
Add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, being sure that no ice gets into the dough. Combine with your hands until the dough has formed a ball and all of the flour is in the dough ball.
Knead the dough a few times just to form into a ball. Do not overwork it.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Dough can sit in the refrigerator overnight.
Prepare the filling during the last 45 minutes to an hour that the dough is in the fridge.
To prepare the filling:
Put 1/2 pound of Beyond Beef into a skillet with the onions and carrots. Sauté until the meat is cooked thoroughly, cutting it into small pieces as it cooks. The veggies should be starting to soften.
Put the diced potatoes on to boil with water that just covers the potatoes. Once they are tender, drain them, dry them slightly with a paper towel, and add the potatoes to the skillet.
Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin and cinnamon. Cook for 1 minute until the spices become fragrant.
Add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Add the peas to the skillet.
Continue to simmer the filling over low heat until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
To assemble & bake the empanadas:
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide the dough into 10 even pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 6-inch round circle.
Add 1/4 cup of the filling to the center of the dough circle, slightly to one side.
Using your finger dipped into water, wet the edges of the dough circle with water. Fold the dough over the filling and crimp the edges of the empanada with a fork dipped into water (to prevent sticking) or with your fingers. Place each folded empanada onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet.
** If you wish to freeze or refrigerate your empanadas, do so at this point. They can be refrigerated up to 2 days, covered. Extend the baking time to accomodate the empanadas being cold.
To freeze the empanadas, first place them in your freezer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once they are frozen you can transfer them to a zipping freezer bag. Frozen empanadas will keep for up to three months. To bake the frozen empanadas without thawing, bake at 400° F for 45 minutes. **
Once a baking sheet is full, brush the top of each empanada with plant based milk (to help the dough brown). Place the pan into the oven immediately and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the empanadas are starting to turn golden brown. If using more than one baking sheet, add each sheet to the oven once it is filled, being sure to note the time.
Remove the finished empanadas from the oven and let cool 10 minutes. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces. Empanadas are also good served at room temperature.
Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days. They can be reheated in the oven or the microwave.