Learn how to make a vegan empanadas recipe with corn dough by following this step-by-step guide! They're crispy on the outside and full of all your favorite fillings.
Time to get your empanada on!
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If you've always wanted to make corn empanadas, today is your lucky day! Seriously though, they're extremely straightforward to make and taste delicious (that's our kind of recipe).
Make these crispy, golden-brown snacks for your next family gathering since they're super customizable to meet any taste preferences — even the pickiest eaters.
All you need is masa harina, water, salt, and some fillings.
We can't recommend this combo enough.
What are empanadas?
An empanada is essentially a savoury or sweet turnover (fried or baked).
Empanada comes from the Spanish word empanar, and loosely translates to "wrapped in bread," so you can definitely see the appeal in these babies.
Visit any Spanish-speaking country in the world and you will find some variation of empanadas. They all differ in size, filling, shape, dough, and cooking method.
The most popular dough to make empanadas with is wheat flour, but there are many other options like corn masa (as in this recipe), plantains, potatoes, yuca, sweet potatoes, and more.
You can also find sweet empanada dough made with almond flour, chocolate, and various herbs and spices (drool).
As you can see, there is an infinite amount of options.
Empanadas are thought to have originated in Galicia, Spain (dating all the way back to the 1500s). They were prepared similarly to a modern-day pie, then served in pieces.
Back then, they were filled with seafood, pork, various herbs, and spices. But, as Spanish colonists settled into Latin-America and the Philippines, the empanada as we know it was born.
Fast forward to today — empanadas have become smaller, the dough has changed, and many variations have arisen (more delicious options to choose from).
Regardless of what you choose, these will taste delicious! Plus, they are 100% vegan and gluten-free.
Enjoy them...while they last.
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Masa harina is made from ground nixtamalized corn. In other words, corn is ground up and soaked in an alkaline solution (usually lime water).
Because of this process, masa has a higher concentration of niacin and calcium, making it easier to digest. This also makes it more pliable and easier to form into empanadas.
White corn masa is usually the easiest to find, but there are yellow and blue varieties as well (all are very similar).
Note: masa harina is not the same as cornmeal or cornflour, so it can not be substituted.
Masa has a nutty flavor with a mineral-like undertone thanks to the lime-water bath. Once cooked, masa takes on a soft, doughy texture with a sweet corn flavor (perfect for an empanada recipe).
The benefit of corn empanadas over wheat is that masa harina doesn't contain gluten. This makes it an ideal choice for those with gluten intolerances or celiac disease. Masa also contains higher levels of iron, magnesium, and calcium than wheat flour.
For more information, check out our detailed guide on masa harina.
Where to buy
Masa is relatively easy to find in most grocery stores around the world. But you're almost guaranteed to find it in the Latin-American or Mexican aisles of supermarkets.
Maseca is the most widely available brand, but there are other more natural brands you can purchase online too.
The fun is in the filling! If you can't think of any, here are some of our favorites:
- Refried beans and jackfruit carnitas
- Mushroom and onions
- Textured vegan protein with al pastor marinade
- Sweet potatoes and cheese
- Rice and Black beans
- Sautéed vegetables
- Queso fresco and pickled jalapeños
Because Mexican food is centered around sauce, you'd better be using at least one to dip your empanadas in. Here are a few options to get you started:
- Salsa verde
- Avocado cream sauce
- Salsa roja
- Valentina hot sauce
- Pico de gallo
- Mexican crema
- Jalapeño cheese sauce
If you have questions about this vegan empanadas recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: add the masa harina and salt to a mixing bowl and combine. Then, add in about 1 ½ cups of very warm water and mix together using your hands.
Step 2: begin kneading the dough to form a ball that's moist enough to stay together, but not coming off on your hands. Keep rolling and pressing with your palm for a few minutes.
Note: if the dough appears too crumbly, add a tablespoon of water at a time until you are able to form a texture similar to play-dough. If it becomes too sticky, add in more masa harina.
Step 3: start breaking off pieces of the dough to form small balls. Roll each piece of dough in between your palms until smooth (you should get about 14-16 empanadas out of this recipe).
Note: store the extra dough under a tea towel to prevent drying out and only roll a few balls at a time.
Step 4: cut a zip lock bag into 2 pieces (one for each side of the dough) big enough to fit the empanada dough once flattened.
Step 5a: if you have a tortilla press, open it and place a ball of dough in the center on one of the plastic pieces. Place the other piece on top and close the press down to flatten the dough.
Step 5b: if you don't have a tortilla press, place your ball of dough between the same 2 pieces of plastic on your counter. Flatten the dough with the bottom of a baking dish or plate.
Step 6: grab out your fillings (refried beans, jackfruit carnitas, vegan queso fresco, or any cooked vegetables of your choosing). Then, heat 2-3 cups of vegetable oil (enough to fully submerge the empanadas) to 350-375°F in a deep pot or fryer.
Step 7: time to assemble. Remove the top plastic piece and scoop a spoonful of fillings onto the center of the dough (make sure you leave enough room to seal the edges).
Step 8: keeping the dough on the bottom piece of plastic, fold it over to form a half-moon shape. Pinch the edges together, making sure there is a good seal (press the edges down with a fork to help).
Step 9: if you want an even edge, press around the pinched half of the empanada with a bowl similar in size or cut along the edge with a knife. Set the empanada carefully on a tray with plastic wrap over top to keep the moisture locked in.
Step 10: once you have made a few empanadas, carefully add 1-2 into the pot of hot oil. Deep fry until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Continue forming the rest of the empanadas while you wait for the previous batch to fry.
Note: it's ideal to use a thermometer when working with oil. If you don't have one, test if the oil is ready by dropping a small piece of dough in. If it sizzles and floats to the top, then you should be good to go.
Keep these vegetarian empanadas around for a quick snack throughout the day to combat general hangry-ness.
Once cooked, the empanadas will store in your fridge for up to 4-5 days. Make sure to keep them in an airtight container for optimal freshness.
If you're not going to finish your empanadas in under a week, they store nicely in the freezer.
Make sure to let them cool at room temperature, then wrap each one individually and store in a freezer-safe bag or container for up to 3 months.
You can re-deep fry your empanadas for around 1-2 minutes at 325 degrees F, or until crispy.
You can also pop a few in your oven for 15-20 minutes at 300 degrees F, or until warm. Bake the empanadas on either a baking sheet or wrapped in aluminum foil.
For a quick reheat, microwave your empanadas in 30-40 second bursts until warmed all the way through. Just remember, microwaving will alter both the taste and texture.
If you want to split your time up, prep the filling 2-3 days in advance and store it in your fridge.
Because corn masa can dry out easily and cause cracks in the dough, we don't recommend making the whole recipe ahead of time.
💭 Tips & variations
There's a lot of mistakes we've made in past empanada recipes. But if you learn from the things we've done wrong, you're in for a perfect batch of corn empanadas.
- Use a plastic bag. It's way easier to fold the empanada without it sticking or cracking when you use a Ziploc bag (or something similar).
- Don't overfill the empanada. In order to get a proper seal, it's essential that you start with less filling than you think you'll need.
- Avoid overly juicy or runny fillings. This will make the dough soggy and will affect your seal.
- Double-check your seal. You don't want the fillings to float around in the oil, so make sure the edges properly seal.
- Fry right after folding. If you let them sit out too long, the empanadas start to crack. It's best to make and fry them in batches of 2-3.
- Add moisture to the dough. If the empanada dough is getting dry, add a bit more water before flattening.
- Use a thermometer. If you fry often, it's worth investing in a deep-fryer or at least a thermometer. The optimal frying temperature is 325-375 degrees F.
- Use cheap oil for frying. It's always nice to save a bit of money. Use vegetable oil (which has a high smoke point) or something similar. Don't forget to save your frying oil for next time.
🍴 Tasting notes
We love how easy this empanadas recipe is, and we know you will too. It's:
If you try these vegan empanadas, please rate them and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Empanadas with Corn Dough
- Tortilla press or rolling pin
- Deep-fryer or large pot
- Deep-fry or candy thermometer
- Small bowl
- 2 cups masa harina ($0.25 )
- 1 ½ - 2 cups very warm water ($0.01)
- ¼ teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- Add the masa harina and salt to a mixing bowl and combine. Then, add in approximately 1 ½ cups of warm water to start with and mix together using your hands.
- Begin kneading the dough to form a ball that's moist enough to stay together, but not coming off on your hands. Keep rolling and pressing with your palm for a few minutes (like you would when kneading bread dough).
- If the dough appears too crumbly, add a tablespoon of water at a time until you are able to form a texture similar to play-dough. If it becomes too sticky, add in a little more masa harina.
- Next, start breaking off pieces of the dough to form small balls. Roll each piece of dough in between your palms until smooth. You should get about 14-16 empanadas out of this recipe. Only roll 2-3 balls at a time, and store the extra dough under a tea towel to prevent drying out.
- If you have a tortilla press, cut a zip lock bag into 2 pieces that will fit into the press (one for each side of the dough).
- Open the press and place a ball of dough in the center on a piece of plastic. Place the other plastic piece on top and close the press down to flatten the dough.
- If you don't have a tortilla press, place your ball of dough between the same 2 pieces of plastic on your counter. Press the tortilla down with the bottom of a baking dish or plate to flatten.
- Once the dough is flattened, remove the top plastic piece and add a spoonful of fillings into the middle, making sure to leave room for sealing the edges.
- Keeping the dough on the bottom piece of plastic, fold it over to form a half-moon shape. Pinch the edges together, making sure there is a good seal (you can press the edges down with a fork over top of the plastic to help with this).
- Remove the empanada from the plastic. If you want an even edge, press around the pinched half of the empanada with a bowl similar in size. You can also cut along the edge with a knife. Set the empanada aside on a tray with plastic wrap over top to keep the moisture in.
- Once you have made a few empanadas, carefully add 1-3 into the pot of hot oil. Deep fry until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Continue forming the rest of the empanadas while you wait for the previous batch to fry.
- Note: it's ideal to use a thermometer when working with oil. If you don't have one, test if the oil is ready by dropping a small piece of dough in. If it sizzles and floats to the top, then you should be good to go.
- Calories only include the empanada dough since the fillings you choose will alter the numbers.
- It's best to prepare your fillings beforehand to save time.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more authentic Mexican recipes, check out our:
- Tamales to finally make this famous snack following our easy step-by-step guide.
- Jackfruit carnitas for a melt-in-your-mouth meal with traditional flavors.
- Sopes for finger food that's crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, and loaded with Mexican toppings.
- Crispy black bean tacos if you're looking for a quick and easy weeknight recipe.
- Tacos al pastor for a meat-free take on a traditional meal you'll absolutely love.
- Sweet potato and black bean quesadillas to try a corn-based recipe bursting with flavors.
You should deep-fry corn empanadas since they work better this way. If you bake them, there's a good chance they'll dry out and crack.
If your empanadas are cracking, it's because the dough is drying out. Try making 2-3 at a time.
If your filling falls out while frying, it's because the empanada wasn't properly sealed. Follow the tips in our recipe to prevent this from happening again.
Empanadas can be made with flour, but it's not as simple as swapping out the masa. We're working on a recipe using wheat flour, so stay tuned!
Yes! Corn masa is gluten-free. Just make sure the filling is also gluten-free.
You can shallow-fry these, but it's best if you deep-fry them. If you're looking for a stove-top version, check out our quesadillas.