Easy meatless empanadas

These savory baked empanadas can be served as an appetizer or as a light meal along with a green salad.

Contributed by Nadia Borchardt, RD

Easy meatless empanadas

Sweet or savory, fried or baked, flaky or doughy — these are just a few of the multiple variations of flavorful empanadas. For some, it is an appetizer; for others, part of a main dish. And when it comes to fillings, your imagination is the only limit!

This recipe combines traditional Panamanian empanadas, which I grew up eating, and a plant-based version of the filling. The filling is made with textured tofu, which is lower in calories and fat than ground beef, while not compromising flavor and texture.

If making the dough from scratch, empanadas could be fairly labor intensive, but you have more control of the crust you want to achieve. To save time, you may purchase premade empanada dough or puff pastry. Want some for later? These empanadas freeze well for up to 3 months.

Servings: 24

Prep time: 2 hours


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 pound textured tofu or tempeh
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped, seeded tomato
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Dash of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting work surface
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar


  1. In a medium skillet, heat the oil. 
  2. Add the tofu to the skillet and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened, for about 5 minutes. 
  4. Add the tomato, tomato paste, and broth and simmer over moderate heat until the liquid has nearly evaporated, for about 3 minutes. 
  5. Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Let cool.
  6. In a food processor, pulse the flour with sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.
  7. Beat the eggs with the wine and vinegar and drizzle over the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough just comes together.
  8. On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the dough until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  9. On a generously floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. With a 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, stamp out as many rounds as possible. Reroll the dough scraps and stamp out additional circles if possible. You should end up with a total of 24 rounds. Brush the excess flour off the rounds and cover with plastic wrap. 
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  11. Working with one round at a time and keeping the rest covered with plastic wrap, form the empanadas. 
  12. Spoon 2 teaspoons of the filling on one side of the dough circle. 
  13. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling and crimp the edges with a fork to seal. 
  14. Cover with plastic wrap while you form the remaining empanadas.
  15. Transfer empanadas to a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the crust browns. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Serving size: 3 empanadas
  • Calories: 277
  • Total fat: 15 g
  • Saturated fat: 8 g
  • Cholesterol: 77 mg
  • Sodium: 134 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 28 g
  • Protein: 6.4 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 4.7 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.5 g

For filling only:

  • Calories: 33
  • Total fat: 2.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 1.2 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 77 mg 
  • Carbohydrate: 2 g
  • Protein: 1.5 g

Note: if dough was purchased elsewhere, please use nutrition facts for that particular product.