Vegan Empanadas

Empanadas are a staple throughout Latin America. They were one of the first Colombian dishes I tried with my husband, who is from Cali, Colombia. After I went vegan, I was a little scared I'd never be able to have them again, but thankfully that was not the case! The other day, I decided to veganize my favourite empanada recipe, and the results were fantastic. My husband - who was born in Cali...the home of Empanadas Vallunas - declared that they were indistinguishable from the "real" thing, which is quite a compliment. 

Empanadas are one of the most common street foods in Colombia. They vary from city to city, and country to country, but in my husband's hometown of Cali, they are always made with yellow corn and fried. Shredded beef, pork and potatoes are the most common filling, but I've adapted the recipe to make it suitable for vegans. 

If you've never tried empanadas before, this vegan version is lighter than the original, which is fairly high in fat and cholesterol. And while these instructions call for the empanadas to be fried, they can be baked in the oven as well if you would prefer to eat a less fatty version of this indulgent Latin American treat. 


Guiso or filling: 

1 pound beef substitute (I use Gardein's Beefless Ground)

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons vegetable bullion powder, or 1 vegetable bullion cube

2 cups diced new potatoes

Masa (dough for the empanadas): 

4 cups pre-cooked yellow cornmeal 

4 cups hot tap water

1 Tablespoon salt

2 quarts vegetable/corn/safflower oil for frying

Sauce, or Hogao, for dipping: 

2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)

1 bunch of green onions

1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

4 tablespoons minced cilantro, or 1 Tablespoon coriander

1/4 cup water

hot sauce (if desired)

1 Tablespoon lime juice


1. First, make the hogao, or dipping sauce. This spicy sauce will add flavour to your empanadas and is a form of "salsa". First, finely mince the garlic and onions and place in a medium serving bowl together with the diced tomatoes. Mix in oil, salt, lime juice, spices and fresh cilantro or coriander. Add hot sauce to taste.

2. Prepare the dough. Place the pre-cooked cornmeal in a large bowl (use a stand mixer, such as a KitchenAid, if possible). Add the hot tap water, salt and oil. Mix thoroughly, until all the cornmeal has become moist and elastic. Divide the dough into approximately 40, tennis-ball sized, balls. Set aside.

3. Cook the filling. Boil the potatoes in a separate pot. At the same time, add oil to a large skillet and soften the garlic, tomatoes, onion and bullion together on medium heat for 10 minutes. 

4. Incorporate the potatoes in the skillet, together with the beef substitute, and combine with the cooked garlic/tomato/onion mixture. Add the turmeric and cumin and cook for 20 minutes. 

5. During the last couple of minutes, begin heating 1-2 quarts of oil to 360°F in a wide, deep saucepan. 

6. When the filling is done cooking (it should be a bit mushy), use your hands to flatten one of the tennis-ball sized balls onto a non-stick surface (plastic wrap on a cutting board or counter works well. Roll until it forms a circle 1/4 inch thick. Add one tablespoon of filling to the centre of the circle. Fold to cover the filling with the dough, and close by pressing both sides together so that they form a seal and the filling doesn't escape. 

7. Lower the finished empanada into the pre-heated oil and cook for approximately 3 minutes, or until the empanada dough has hardened on the outside. Remove the empanada from the oil and allow to sit on paper towels to dry until serving. 

8. Repeat until all of the empanadas have finished frying. 

Serve alongside the dish of hogao! This makes a lovely casual meal for a family to enjoy. It's particularly nice on a hot day with a cool beer!

About the Author

I write about modern vegan living. Join me in curating a beautiful, cruelty-free life. Snapchat: ModVegan