Come on over for a flaky hot vegan empanada with a juicy mushroom filling. You won’t believe how easy it is the make this healthy-ish comfort food at home. Flaky vegan empanadas are perfect for potlucks, packing for lunch, savory breakfast, or a filling midday snack. These flaky treats are so much fun to fill, and the air fryer will turn them into crispy perfection in just 10-15 minutes.
Hot flaky empanadas have long been one of my favorite treats. When I was a junior in high school I did a summer long study abroad program in Costa Rica. My friends and I made it a routine to always stop into the local panadería (bakery) during our afternoon break to buy ourselves a flaky baked empanada. Back then I wasn’t vegan, but I’ve found away to make vegan empanadas that are equally flaky and delicious, with an incredible meaty mushroom filling.
What are empanadas
An empanada is a type of turnover or hand pie stuffed with a savory or sweet filling. While the exact origin of the empanada is unknown, they are thought to have originated in Spain before making their way to South and Central America where they really became a global sensation. There are many types of empanadas throughout latin America; each with their own style of filling, spices, and dough. They are most often baked or fried. Some empanadas are made with a fluffy croissant like dough, while most are made with a flaky pie crust like dough. They are most often made with a savory filling, but sweet fillings are common too. Empanadas are similar to Jamaican patties, Indian samosas, and East African Sambusas.
Why we Love Vegan Empanadas
- Super delicious
- Flaky homemade crust
- Meaty minced mushroom filling seasoned with garlic, onion, and rosemary
Perfect for the whole family
- The recipe to get your kid to eat mushrooms. Mine is obsessed with these, and she usually won’t touch mushrooms
- Kids can help make them too. It’s such a fun but simple process to make the empanada dough and fill the empanadas.
- Great for meal prep
- Option to cook in the air fryer or oven
Mushrooms: No need to go to a special grocery store to find fancy mushrooms. I use a blend of cremini or white button mushrooms and portobello mushrooms for the juicy mushroom filling. Portobello mushrooms usually aren’t my favorite because they tend to hold a lot of water, but that trait makes them perfect for a vegan empanada recipe. The portobello mushrooms help keep this mushroom filling not only meaty, but also juicy and rich. I also love using mushrooms as a replacement for meat because they have a delicious umami (savory) flavor that most people associate with meat. Both portobello and cremini mushrooms contain polysaccharides which improve gut health, as well as multiple immune boosting compounds.
Walnuts: To add even more of a meaty texture to the filling we add toasted minced walnuts. Walnuts also add a delightful nutty taste to the filling. Walnuts are a great source of plant-based protein, healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants.
How to make them
Empanadas are certainly a process, but each step is simple, and they are totally worth the wait.
Make the dough:
Unless you plan to use a store-bought pie dough, pizza dough, or puff pastry you will need to prep the dough first. There are only a few ingredients, and homemade dough is so much better; so don’t be intimidated. To make the dough combine all purpose flour, sugar, salt and vegan butter in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender or food processor to cut the vegan butter into the flour. Once the butter is combined with the flour, add ice cold water and stir. Gently form the dough into a tight ball. Cut the dough in half, form each half into a thick disk shape, and cover with plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour before using.
I love the texture of minced mushrooms for this empanada filling. It is meaty, juicy, succulent, and irresistible. However, it does take some work to mince ~2 pounds of mushrooms by hand. I recommend using a food processor to do all of the work for you. Even if you have a large food processor like I do––mine is 13 cup capacity––you will need to chop the mushrooms in batches to guarantee consistency. Be careful not to over blend the mushrooms and turn them into mush. The minced mushrooms should be about the size of a sunflower seed.
I also use the food processor to dice the onions and garlic. Might as well, you’ve already got it out for the mushrooms.
Cook the filling:
In a large skillet or dutch oven, sauté the onions and garlic over medium-high heat until tender and slightly golden, then add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms for 16-20 minutes. As they cook the mushrooms will release a lot of liquid. This liquid is great and normal, and most of it will evaporate as the mushrooms continue to cook. However, it is important not to evaporate all of the liquid. The mushrooms should not be dry. The finished mushrooms should be tender and there should be a thin layer of liquid at the bottom of the pot. Too little liquid will make for dry empanadas.
As the mushrooms cook be sure to add the fresh rosemary and dried thyme. You’ll season them with soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. Stir in the minced walnuts. Salt to taste.
Fill the empanadas:
This is my favorite part. Begin by removing one of the empanada dough balls from the refrigerator. Allow it to warm up for about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a floured workspace and use a floured rolling pin to roll it flat. It should be about 1/6″-1/8″ thin. If you have a 6″ round cookie cutter, the dough should be 1/8″ thin. If you are using a smaller standard 4″ cookie cutter, the dough should be thicker because you’ll need to roll it even thinner.
Cut the dough with a round cookie cutter. Make a ball with excess dough, and roll it flat to make a few more empanada rounds. The empanada rounds should be no smaller than 6″ in diameter. If you used a smaller cookie cutter, use the floured rolling pin to flatten each dough round larger and thinner.
Hold one empanada dough rounds in the palm of your hand, and fill with about 2 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture. Fold one half of the dough over the filling, and use your fingers to gently close the edges. Place the empanada onto the counter, and use a fork to seal the edges completely. Repeat this with the remaining dough and filling. Remember, you have another dough ball in the fridge.
Air Fry the Empanadas:
While you are filling your empanadas, preheat the air fryer to 350° for 5 minutes.
Place as many empanadas into the air fryer basket as you can fit. Avoid overcrowding, and space the empanadas no less than 1/2 inch.
Before air frying, make a quick vegan egg wash to brush over them. Mix together 1/4 cup of soy milk and 2 tsp of maple syrup. Stir, and brush over the tops of the empanadas before baking to give them a nice golden sheen.
Air fry the empanadas for 10 minutes. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes, or until golden brown and flaky. Transfer the cooked empanadas to a plate and serve immediately while you air fry the remaining. If you want to keep them hot before serving, transfer the air fried empanadas to the oven set to 200°.
Sauce it up:
While the empanadas are air frying you can make a quick red pepper aioli dipping sauce. Simply add vegan mayo, roasted red bell pepper, garlic, lemon juice or red wine vinegar, and salt to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. This creamy aioli will make the empanadas even more irresistible!
Tips for success
The minced mushrooms should be no smaller than the size of a sunflower seed. Too small will make for a mushy filling.
The mushroom filling should maintain some liquid so that the empanada filling is juicy and succulent. As the mushrooms cook they will release a lot of liquid. Most of that liquid will evaporate as they cook, but allow a thin layer of liquid to remain at the bottom of the pan.
The empanadas will need to be air fried in batches (not necessarily so if you are baking them), so plan to fill the second batch of empanadas while the first batch is cooking.
Can I use store bought dough?
Homemade empanada dough is so easy to make. However, you can use store bought dough if you prefer. Use a vegan pie dough or puff pastry. As far as I can tell, most large grocery stores do carry puff pastry that is vegan friendly. Even the common Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry is vegan. Follow the instructions on the package for thawing and preparing. You will still be able to cook them in the air fryer.
*Pizza dough is also suitable for this recipe, but may make a fluffier crust, not flaky.
If you have a gluten-free pie crust recipe, or know of a store bought gluten-free pie dough or puff pastry, that can be used in place of the wheat based crust.
How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat Vegan Empanadas
Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, but I’m sure they won’t last that long 😉
You can freeze the cooked empanadas for up to 2 months. Double wrap them in 2 freezer bags, or a good freezer safe container.
To reheat the empanadas, preheat the air fryer to 350° for 5 minutes. Add the empanadas to the air fryer basket. Refrigerated empanadas should be cooked for ~2 minutes. Frozen empanadas should be air fried for 15 minutes.
Try these similar recipes!
Flaky Vegan Empanadas with Mushroom Filling
- 1 food processor I recommend this one
- 1 1/2 lb cremini or white mushrooms minced by hand or use a food processor
- 2 large portobello mushrooms minced by hand or use a food processor
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 yellow onion minced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary minced
- 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 cup toasted walnuts minced to size of sunflower seed
- 2 tbsp tamari soy sauce or regular soy sauce
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- salt to taste
- 1 batch of empanada dough see recipe below
- 1/4 cup soy milk
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- oil spray
- Warm the olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot add the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions start to turn golden and have softened. Add the mushrooms, rosemary, thyme, and a pinch of salt.
- Stir well and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the mushrooms have reduced in size and are tender. There will be a lot of liquid from the mushrooms in the pot. Let the liquid evaporate as the mushrooms cook, but be careful to not cook off all of the liquid. The mushrooms should remain moist and juicy, without being bathed in liquid.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the toasted minced walnuts, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. Season with salt to taste.
- Set the mushrooms aside to cool while you prepare the dough for the empanadas.
- To ready the empanada dough, take one of the dough balls out of the refrigerator and transfer to a floured workspace. Flour a rolling pin and your hands, and roll until it is slightly flatter than a pie crust. Use a large cookie cutter (6" is preferable, but see notes below if you have a smaller cutter), to cut rounds out of the dough. Once all of your dough has been cut, preheat the air fryer to 350°F. Then combine the soy milk and maple syrup in a small bowl. This will serve as your egg wash for the empanadas, so make sure you have a pastry brush to apply it. This step is optional.
- Pick up one empanada round at a time and place about 1 1/2-2tbsp of mushroom filling in the center. Use your fingers to gently cover the filling with one half of the dough. Place down onto the floured surface, and use a fork to close the edges of the empanada. Make sure the edges are completely sealed with the fork before transfering the empanadas to a plate. Complete with the remaining empanada dough.
- Spray the bottom of the air fryer with oil spray, or brush some oil onto the bottom. Place as many empanadas into the air fryer as you can without overcrowding. The empanadas should have at least 1/2" of space in between them.
- Brush the tops of the empanadas with a little of the soy milk maple syrup mixture, then air fry for 10 minutes at 350°F. After 10 minutes check to see if they are golden brown. If they aren't golden, flip and air fry for another 5 minutes.
- Remove the hot empanadas from the air fryer and transfer to a clean plate. Air fry the remaining empanadas that you prepped while the first batch was air frying.
- You will likely have more filling, so once this first batch is done, you can move onto the next batch of dough and filling. In the end you should have about 20 delicious empanadas.
Vegan Empanada Dough
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 3/4 cup ice cold water
- Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine the ingredients.
- Add the cubes of shortening and/or vegan butter, and use a pastry cutter to incorporate into the flour. Continue to mix with the pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal, almost pea sized.
- Slowly add the ice water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and stir with a wooden spoon or your hands.
- Once the dough begins to hold together form it into two tight balls.
- Flatten them a bit (this will make it easier to roll out later), and wrap it in plastic wrap or parchment paper.
- Place in the fridge for at least one hour.
- Remove the chilled pie dough from the fridge. Let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes to soften.
- Flour a clean, smooth stone surface and place one of the dough balls down onto it. If you don’t have a stone surface use parchment paper.
- Refer to above vegan empanada instructions for rolling the dough and stuffing with empanada filling.
Red Pepper Aioli
- 1 blender or food processor
- 1/2 cup vegan mayo
- 1 large roasted red bell pepper from jar
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp cane sugar optional
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.