These vegan empanadas are filled with zesty black beans and wrapped in flaky puff pastry. They’re packed with flavor and surprisingly easy to make!
I’ve wanted to share a recipe for vegan empanadas on this site forever! Seriously, for years and years now they’ve been on my to-make list.
So, what held me back? Like many delicious recipe ideas, I figured they’d be complicated and a huge pain to make. Anything involving homemade pastry dough is a bit of a pain as far as I’m concerned.
I was just getting ready to tell myself to suck it up and make those fancy empanadas already when an awesome shortcut occurred to me: use puff pastry.
I used store-bought puff pastry in place of the from-scratch pastry you’d find in most empanada recipes. Is this an authentic way of making empanadas? Hell no! Is it easy and delicious? You bet!
Puff pastry is French, for one thing, while empanadas are Latin American. The texture of puff pastry isn’t exactly the same as that of empanada dough, but for my purposes, it works!
Black Bean Filling
Although I don’t think there’s a specific filling that makes an authentic empanada, most recipes I’ve seen call for beef and cheese. Obviously we can’t have that here.
Black beans are my go-to substitute for meat filling in lots of Latin American-inspired recipes. They work great in burritos and tacos. They’re delicious, satisfying, and go great with the spices you’d normally find in this cuisine. So that’s what I used as the primary ingredient in my vegan empanada filling.
How to Make Vegan Empanadas
We’re using frozen puff pastry here, so make sure you let it thaw out before getting started.
Make your filling first. Heat up some oil in a large skillet and add some onion and red bell pepper. Cook the veggies until they start to soften up, and then add some garlic and spices. Cook everything for a minute more, until the garlic becomes very fragrant.
Now add the beans, some water, and tomato paste. Let everything simmer for a few minutes until the beans soften up and most of the water cooks off.
Finally, stir in some (thawed) frozen corn, scallions and cilantro. Season your filling with some salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
Now grab one of your puff pastry sheets and roll it out. You’re going to want it large enough to cut six circles, about 4 1/2 inches each in diameter.
Now cut those circles. If you have a pastry or cookie cutter of the right size, great — use that! If not, take a look around your kitchen to find something you can trace with a knife. I found a little bowl that worked perfectly.
Assemble the Empanadas
Oil up some baking sheets. Now grab one of your pastry circles and place a couple of spoonfuls of bean filling in the center. Use a finger to smooth some water over the edges of the circle, then fold it over and pinch the dough to seal. Use a fork to crimp the edges.
I like to brush my empanadas with a bit of almond milk before popping them into the oven, and then brush them with a tablespoon or so of olive oil about 5 minutes before they’re done baking. This helps them to develop a beautiful golden brown color while baking.
Vegan Empanada Tips & FAQ
- Where can I find vegan puff pastry? It’s probably right there in your regular supermarket’s freezer. Lots of brands happen to be accidentally vegan. Just check the ingredients lists! I used Pepperidge Farm.
- Make sure to let your puff pastry thaw before getting started. This can take a couple of hours. If you forget (as happens to the best of us), take the puff pastry out of the package and sit it close to the oven while it preheats. It’ll thaw much quicker this way.
- Make-ahead option: The filling for these can be made up to two days in advance. However, I recommend leaving the scallions and cilantro out and adding them just before stuffing the empanadas.
- Leftover empanadas can be stored in a sealed bag or airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The puff pastry will lose it’s crispness as they sit, and I haven’t found a way to get that back with reheating, but they will continue to taste good.
- For cheesy vegan empanadas, feel free to add a pinch of your favorite shredded vegan cheese to each empanada. Just sprinkle it right over the filling before folding and sealing.
- You’ll have some leftover puff pastry scraps after cutting the dough. I like to throw them on an extra baking sheet, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake for about 20 minutes.
Easy Black Bean Vegan Empanadas
These vegan empanadas are filled with zesty black beans and wrapped in flaky puff pastry. They're packed with flavor and surprisingly easy to make!
For the Filling
- 2 tablespoon, olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Pinch ground cloves
- 1 (14 ounce or 400 gram) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce* (such as Cholula)
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 (8.7 ounce or 245 gram) sheets puff pastry (you'll need 1 1/2 packages if you use Pepperidge Farm brand)
- 1 tablespoon unflavored and unsweetened non-dairy milk
Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil and place it over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the pepper and onion. Cook them for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pepper is tender and the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, and cloves. Stir everything and cook the mixture for about 1 minute, until the garlic becomes very fragrant.
Add the beans, water, and tomato paste. Stir everything to blend the tomato paste with the water.
Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, until the beans have softened up a bit and most of the liquid has cooked off.
Remove the skillet from heat.
Stir in the corn, hot sauce, scallions, and cilantro. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, and adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
Preheat the oven to 425°F and oil two large or three medium-sized baking sheets.
Place one of your puff pastry sheets on the counter, and use a rolling pin to roll it into a 9x14 inch rectangle.
Cut six circles in the dough, about 4 1/2 inches each in diameter. To do this you can use a large cookie or biscuit cutter, or find an appropriately-sized bowl and use a knife to cut around it. You can also just eyeball it, if you're comfortable doing that.
Repeat the process until all of your dough has been rolled and cut. You should have eighteen circles.
Fill a small bowl with water.
Grab one of your dough circles and spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center.
Wet a finger with the bowl of water, then spread a thin layer of water around the edges of the circle. Fold the dough in half to enclose the filling, and pinch the edges tightly to seal. Place it on a baking sheet and crimp the edges with a fork.
Repeat until all of the filling and dough circles are used, arranging the empanadas evenly on the baking sheets with about an inch separating them.
Use a fork to poke a few holes in each empanada, then brush the tops of the empanadas with the milk.
Place the empanadas into the oven (you can bake them in batches if they don't all fit), and bake them for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove the baking sheets from the oven and brush the empanadas with the remaining tablespoon of oil.
Bake the empanadas for about 5 minutes more, until golden brown.
Let the empanadas cool for just a few minutes before serving.
* I don't recommend skipping the hot sauce, as it adds a lot of flavor. If you absolutely must omit it, try adding a dash of vinegar or lime juice to help balance the flavors.