Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas

vegetarian sweet potato and black bean empanadas

To me, food and mood are related. When I’m feeling worried or upset (not seldom about world politics…), I start cooking. Preferably something more elaborate. I put on my favorite sing-alongs, turn up the volume, and lose myself in the process of creating something delicious, like these empanadas. When it’s time to clean up, my mind has cleared, at least it has most of the time. Cooking can be like a free and very rewarding mindfulness session.

Making empanadas is a bit of work. But when you have a little extra time to kill, that’s just the fun!

vegetarian sweet potato and black bean empanadas on tray

I won’t lie. Making empanadas is a bit of work. But when you have a little extra time to kill, that’s just the fun! This is quite an old recipe which I created several years ago when living in Washington, DC. Of course, empanadas were not hard to find at all in the US. I remember we used to buy them at Union Market in DC (when visiting DC, do stop by at this vibrant indoor marketplace!). But I needed to create my own vegetarian version. Its recipe ended up in the Kitchen Table Food Cookbook, which I wrote together with my friend Petra the Hamer. A cookbook about our lives and food experiences in foreign countries.

In the Netherlands empanadas are not that common. Sometimes you find them made with puff pastry, a version I don’t really like much. For me, empanadas must have a pie dough crust. Plus, I prefer them out of the oven instead of deep fried.

My dough contains wine! Why? Because it makes it beautifully soft and pliable. If you are not into alcohol…no worries, you won’t taste it once cooked.

Hungry for more vegetarian Mexican snacks?

Check out my Mexican Salsas or my Veggie-loaded Tacos with Roasted Chipotle Carrots.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas

You can make these vegetarian empanadas well in advance and store them in the fridge or freezer. Warm them in the oven right before serving. I love to serve it with a cumin-lime crema (see note) and some hot sauce.
Prep Time50 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Servings: 16 empanadas
Author: Tal Maes – Kitchen Table Food

Equipment

  • food processor, bee's wax wrap (see note), rolling pin, baking tray(s), parchment paper, pastry brush

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 250 grams / 8.8 0z all purpose flour plus extra
  • 250 grams / 8.8 oz fine wholewheat flour
  • tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 175 grams / 6 oz cold butter diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 ml / 3.5 fl oz chilled white wine
  • 100 ml / 3.5 fl oz cold water

For the filling

  • 400 / 14 oz grams cleaned sweet potatoes finely diced (about 500 g / 1.1 lb unpeeled sweet potato)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper seeds removed and finely diced
  • tsp dried oregano
  • tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce finely chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (about 400 g / 14.5 oz)
  • 1 can black beans (about 400 g / 14.5 oz) rinsed and drained
  • a large handful of fresh cilantro finely chopped

Serve with

  • cumin-lime crema see note
  • hot sauce

Instructions

  • Prepare the dough. In a food processor, mix the flours, salt, sugar, and butter. Pulse until everything is well combined and the mixure resembles very fine breadcrumbs. Add 1 egg, the wine, and water, and pulse until the dough comes together. Briefly kneed the soft dough and shape it into a ball. You might need to add some extra flour if the dough feels a bit sticky. Wrap in bee's wax wrap (a sustainable alternative to plastic wrap, see note) and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Make the filling. Cook the sweet potatoes in salted water for 5-6 minutes until soft, then drain.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion and garlic 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper, oregano, cumin, and chipotle peppers and sauté for 1 more minute. Mix in the sweet potatoes and chopped tomatoes. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes, stir regularly. The mixture should be fairly thick. If not, let simmer without a lid. Finely, add the beans and cilantro and season with salt and black pepper. Remove from the heat. 
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 16 small balls. In order to make balls of the same size, you can first cut the ball into four pieces, then into 8 pieces, and finely into 16 pieces.
  • To make the empanada disks, roll out each individual ball to a 15 cm / 6 inch diameter round disk (it doesn't need to be perfectly round). Alternatively, you can use a tortilla press to flatten the dough balls between two layers of bee's wax wrap (or sturdy plastic).
  • Spoon several tablespoons of the filling onto one side of the disk. Wet the edges with some water and fold the dough over the filling. Seal the empanadas by pressing the edges with your fingers. For extra sealing use a fork to press down the edges (see the video).
  • Place the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I bake the empanadas in two batches. I use two large baking sheets and I bake the first batch while preparing the second. In a small bowl, whisk 1 egg. Brush the empanadas with the whisked egg.
  • Bake the empanadas 20-25 minutes until golden. Serve warm with cumin-lime crema (see note) and hot sauce.

Notes

Cumin-Lime Crema
Toast 4 teaspoons cumin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute. Use a pestle and mortar (or a spice grinder) to finely grind 3/4 of the seeds. In a bowl, whisk 250 ml / 1 cup sour cream with the ground cumin, zest and juice of 1 lime. Season with salt. Sprinkle over the whole cumin seeds
Bee’s wrap wax
Bee’s wrap wax is a durable solution for sustainable food storage and a great alternative to plastic wrap. It’s not cheap but it’s reusable and just beautiful. Check the link (in subtitle) for more info.

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