greens and cheese empanadas

Happy Cinco de Mayo – Empañadas Two Ways

We hosted an early Cinco de Mayo party at our house last night with three other couples: guacamole, flan, tamales and chiles rellenos were brought, and we made (another) flan and empañadas. I made two fillings — a traditional picadillo made from beef, and a greens and cheese one — the latter mainly because we have a vegetarian in our dinner group, but they came out very tasty.

I know I’ve had greens-and-cheese empañadas, but most of the recipes I found online were distinctly not Mexican in flavors: using mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, for instance.  So I started with some of those, a little reference to Rick Bayless, and some imagination. I might mince a fresh chile next time, but these came out delicious.  The picadillo filling is mostly the recipe in Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca Al Gusto — a beautiful coffee-table book with a terrible index, except I started with ground meat instead of stewing cubes of beef and pork, spiced it up a bit, and left out the raisins.

The dough comes from our most reliable cookbook, Nicole Routhier’s Cooking Under Wraps — there’s not a single dish we’ve made from that book that isn’t an instant success, and the doughs in particular are nearly foolproof. We made a double batch of dough which proved about 25% more than I needed to fill the empañadas, but I was a little short on the filling for the greens — the recipe below should use up all the dough.

Recipe: Empañadas of Beef and Greens


5 cups (1183ml) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10ml) salt
2 tsp (10ml) sugar
2 sticks (1/2 lb or 225 g) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
4 egg yolks
4 tbs (60ml) white vinegar
2/3 C (157 ml) ice water

  1. Combine the dry ingredients and butter in a food processor, and process with the metal blade until it looks like crumbs.
  2. Beat together the yolks, vinegar and ice water.
  3. With the motor running, add the wet ingredients through the top, and process until it just holds together, around 10 seconds
  4. Add a little more water if it’s crumbly.
  5. Press together in a ball, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least a half hour

Sorry, no pictures, Sue was making the dough while I was making the fillings.

Beef Picadillo Filling

2 tbs (30ml) bacon fat or oil
3/4 lb (340 g) 80% lean ground chuck
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped fine
salt and pepper
1 tsp (5ml) mexican oregano
1 tsp (5ml) cumin
1 tsp (5ml) cayenne pepper (I used Chimayo sun-dried powdered chile)
1 tsp (5ml) ancho chile powder
4 oz (120g) grape tomatoes, chopped fine
3 oz (90g) fresh plantain, diced small
8 or so pitted green olives, diced
1 heaped teaspoon (7ml) capers, minced
1 tsp (5ml) )sherry (or other) vinegar
1/2 C (120ml) chicken stock
1 tsp (5ml) sugar
salt to taste (I used just a pinch, it probably depends on your capers and olives)

  1. Heat the fat in a large pan on medium
  2. Add the meat, onions and garlic, with the oregano and a pinch each of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is well browned and the onions very soft (about 15 minutes)
  3. Add the cumin and powdered chiles and stir to combine
  4. Add the tomatoes, plaintain, olives and capers, and cook until it looks somewhat dry, about 10 minutes
    picadillo cooking
  5. Add the sherry, stock and sugar, continue cooking until just barely moist, about another 10 minutes.  If it starts drying out too quickly, add a little water and/or cover the pan.
  6. Allow to cool completely before using to fill empañadas
    finished picadillo

Greens and Cheese Filling

2 tbs (30ml) olive oil
2 cups (450ml) kale, chopped
2 cups (450ml) chard, chopped
1 jalapeño chile, minced (optional — I didn’t do this but probably will next time)
1/4 C (60ml) white wine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (60ml) cilantro, chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp (5ml) mexican oregano
3/4 lb (340g) queso fresco, crumbled
1/4 cup (60ml) pine nuts
1 egg

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium
  2. Add the onions, garlic and greens (and chile if using), a large pinch of salt
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until it’s all collapsed and softened (about ten minutes). Toward the end, add the white wine, to keep things from drying out and add a bit of acidity.
  4. Remove from heat to a bowl
    cooked greens
  5. Add cilantro, cheese, pine nuts and oregano, and stir to combine well
  6. Add the egg and stir until mixed through (don’t add it earlier or it may cook somewhat)
    finished greens and cheese
  7. Allow mixture to cool completely before using to fill empañadas


  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper
  3. Using 1/4 at a time, roll dough out to 1/8″ (3mm) on a well-floured surface
  4. Cut circles of 3 1/2″ (9cm) diameter
  5. Whisk two egg yolks with 2 tbs water (30ml) note: we forgot to glaze the dough entirely, and they still came out nicely browned, but not shiny
  6. Put a heaping tablespoon of dough on each circle of dough.
  7. Wet the edges and seal in a half-moon shape
  8. Repeat until filling is gone (note use of Duplo to stack pans)
  9. Brush egg yolk mixture over the top of the pastries (note: we forgot to glaze the dough entirely, and they still came out nicely browned, but not shiny)
  10. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until nicely browned
    greens and cheese empanadas  picadillo empanadas
  11. Serve with guacamole, sour cream and/or salsa

Do-ahead: Assemble the pastries and freeze them. The baking time does not change significantly. They also reheat in the oven if they’ve already been baked.



2 thoughts on “Happy Cinco de Mayo – Empañadas Two Ways

  1. My dad lived in Argentina from age 13-26 and we made traditional empanadas. My uncle, who also lived there many years made a filling he called ‘humita’ basically, black beans (I use the canned flavored with chili and lime), frozen fire-roasted corn kernels, some salsa and shredded cheeses for the vegetarians. Quite tasty and easy to make!

  2. Pingback: Morel Season Part 1: Bachelor Chow Pasta | GiantFlavor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s