Earlier this month in Costa Rica I had delicious plantain empanadas!
What made the recipe so good?
The crust was a moist cornmeal, and the plantain filling was sweet, tart, and tickled with cinnamon spice. Those sweet vegan empanadas are one of the foods I enjoyed most on my trip––aside from the fresh fruit, avocados, and gallo pinto, of course.
Plantains and empanadas on their own are great, and when together––as long as you have the right recipe––they are divine. After devouring my first plantain empanada in Costa Rica I knew I would have to recreate them at home, and fast.
The first time I went to Costa Rica I was in high school—I studied in San José the summer before my senior year. My señora would make the most delicious food, and was especially a master at making gallo pinto––a traditional Costa Rican dish made with rice and black beans. It’s usually eaten for breakfast and made using leftover rice and beans from the night before (and always yummier the next day!). I could survive off of just gallo pinto and fresh fruit. (Maybe it would be wise to throw some veggies in there too…)
Like any budding foodie I had my señora teach me how to make gallo pinto before I went back home. I also stocked up on tons of Salsa Lizano (a Costa Rican condiment—my favorite addition to gallo pinto), and when I got back to Atlanta I made gallo pinto All. The. Time. I even had my mom buy me a rice cooker just like my señora’s back in San José.
That summer I also fell in love with fried plantains, and for too long I didn’t realize that you could do anything else but fry them. Turns out that’s totally untrue. Plantains are also delicious roasted, in curries, in enchiladas, and inside empanadas 🙂
How did I tweak this recipe?
So, just like when I was high school, I got home from Costa Rica two weeks ago and I knew I had to try and recreate the food from my trip. I wanted to reproduce the plantain empanadas, only I wanted to make them gluten-free in addition to being vegan. I used cornflour and cornmeal for the crust. They’re alright, but I need to tweak the recipe a bit because they’re kind of dry at the moment. In Venezuela corn flour empanadas are fried—sounds amazing, but I would like to avoid frying mine. I’m going to try them next with a blend of wheat and corn flours, and update the recipe asap.
Do you have any tips for making delicious cornmeal/flour or gluten-free empanadas? Please share!
- 1 cup cornflour
- ½ cup cornmeal
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 very ripe yellow plantains chopped
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp coconut sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Preheat oven the 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine the cornflour, cornmeal, and sea salt in a bowl, and stir well. Make a well in the center, and pour in the warm water and coconut oil. Stir well, then form into a tight ball. Set aside for 20 minutes, and work on the plantain filling.
- Melt the coconut oil in a small sauce pot. Add the plantains to lightly fry, then reduce the heat and mash with a fork or potato masher. Add the sugar and cinnamon, and continue mashing until smooth.
- To make the empanadas:
- Break a ½ cup-sized piece off of the cornflour ball, and place it on top of one sheet of parchment paper. Cover with the second sheet, and use the rolling pin to roll the dough flat (about ¼ centimeter).
- Remove the top sheet and cut the dough with your circular lid or saucer. Place the excess dough
- back in the bowl with the dough ball.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons of the plantain mash into the bottom half of the dough, but not too close to the edges. Use the parchment paper to fold the dough in half, and firmly press the edges to seal. Gently remove the empanada from the parchment paper, and place on the baking sheet.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and plantain mash.
- Bake for 25 minutes.