I realize that empanadas aren’t technically Mexican cuisine, but I still think they’re a delicious way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo or any other Latin-inspired event. And lets face it – many of the foods we enjoy on Cinco de Mayo are not traditional Mexican dishes! It’s all in the spirit.
Empanadas actually hail from Spain, but are also popular in American countries like Argentina, Chile, and Belize. They’re essentially turnovers stuffed with savory ingredients. They sometimes contain dairy, but many classic recipes, like this one, do not!
This dairy-free empanadas recipe was originally shared with us by Erika Waz during her stint with a website called Kids Cuisine. She got the recipe from Cooking for Kids with Luis.
Luis is a little boy from Australia with an infectious love of food. His adventures are chronicled almost daily on Noggin in little shorts scattered throughout the viewing day. My children love to watch Luis cook up a storm- and the little boy does it all, from the grocery shopping to the cooking. His show is infectious, and everytime my son watches Luis cook something up he gets inspired to help out in the kitchen.
A few of Luis’s recipes can still be found online, and each one allows for individual taste. His recipe for empanadas indicates vague ingredients like “meat” and “pastry dough” allowing for the at-home cook to tailor it to their tastes (and dietary needs).
Luis is no longer a little boy – Erika wrote this way back in 2007! But we hope that he is still cooking, since his recipes are timeless.
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Empanadas
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, nut-free, peanut-free, and optionally soy-free.
For egg-free, dairy-free empanadas, you can omit the hard-boiled eggs, or swap in some cubed and lightly mashed tofu. Also omit the egg yolk wash, or brush the tops with a little dairy-free milk beverage instead.
For vegan empanadas, follow the egg-free guide and use vegetarian / vegan ground round. Get creative!
For gluten-free, dairy-free empanadas, you can use your favorite gluten-free pie or pastry dough.
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1 pound (give or take) ground beef, turkey, or chicken (or vegetarian ground round)
- 4 hardboiled eggs, chopped (see note above for egg-free option)
- Stuffed Spanish olives, chopped (as many as you like!)
- Black pepper, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Pinch ground cumin
- Pastry dough (dairy-free)
- 1 egg yolk (see note above for egg-free option)
- Wash your hands. Put your apron on. Let’s cook!
- Have an adult heat the oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add the red peppers and onions. Stir them around for 5 minutes. Watch out, it’s hot! Now, slowly add the meat, and mix it all together. Make sure you don’t overcook the meat.
- Stir the chopped eggs into the meat. Pour it all into a big bowl. It smells great!
- Add the olives to the mixture. Sprinkle on a bit of pepper and a pinch of salt (or to taste). Now, add a big pinch of the special ingredient: ground cumin. Cumin gives the empanadas their special taste. It’s going to be great!
- On a dry table, with dry hands, sprinkle some flour and roll the dough flat with a rolling pin. Use a cookie cutter to cut big circles out of the dough. Push and rotate the cutter to get the circles out. Shake the extra flour off. You can use a brush or use your fingers to put a little bit of water right around the edge. It’s like finger painting!
- Add some of the warm mixture to the middle of a pastry circle. Fold it over all the way so the edges touch. For a perfect empanada, use a fork to make marks around the edges. I think 20 should be enough. Do the same for all the empanadas and put them on a baking sheet.
- To make them golden brown, paint them with an egg yolk.
- Then get Mom or Dad to put the tray in a hot oven at 350º F (180º C) and bake for 35 minutes. Yummy! (Let them cool before digging in!)