Vegan Empanadas (pockets)/ 3 ways

“Empanadas” are a traditional Latin American hot pockets. They are present in almost every country in America, and the formula is basically the same: a dough filled with an amazing mixture.

In Chile our typical “Empanada” is made from ground beef meat, with eggs and olives, which is traditionally served during the national holidays along with a cup of delicious cavernet sauvignon. Also, it is possible to make it vegan, of course!!! Using TVP (textured vegetable protein) and treat it same as any meat: with loads of spices, salt and vegetable broth.

But I wanted to show another three alternatives to the traditional “Chilean Empanada”, since in Chile we have them all year long and filled with many more ingredients than just meat: spinach, mushrooms, artichokes, roasted red peppers, between many others, in many shapes and sizes.

Here you will find 3 different pocket fillings that are completely vegan, and tastes like heaven.

To make the dough I used a kilogram of flour, because I did the 3 different pockets in one time, so feel free to brake down the proportions to make the pockets that you want. It is easy, all you have to do is leave the cup of water to the end and add it little by little to achieve the right consistency. How much hydration on your dough will depends in several factors as type of flour, or humidity in your zone. Since I live in Florida the proportions tends to be different, that’s why I prefer to use the water at the end.

Here are the details:

Vegan Pockets Dough

  • Servings: 14 to 16 units regular size/ up to 24 appetizer size
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2.5 Cups unbleached flour +1.5 whole wheat flour (1 kilogram total)

1 Flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax seed + 1/4 Cup water, let it sit for 5 min)

1 Tsp salt

1/4 Cup vegetable oil or vegan butter / margarine

1 Cup warm non dairy milk

1/2 Cup warm water (if need it)

Making the Dough:
  • Mix the ground flax seed with a 1/4 cup of water, let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a deep bowl place the flour and salt and mix it together.
  • Add the oil, flax egg and warm milk. Start combining to form a dough. You can start adding warm water, one Tbsp at the time, if the mixture is too dry. The idea is obtain a soft and uniform ball of dough, not too dry and not wet. The amount of water varies from flour to flour and the place where you live also plays a part on this (I ended up adding just 1/3 cup)
  • Let the dough rest for about half an hour in the fridge.
Assembling the “Empanadas”:
  • I recommend doing this last step once you have done making your filling and it is cool, otherwise the dough will be hard to fold because it gets warm.
  • Preheat your oven at 380 F.
  • On a flat floured surface, roll the dough in to a 1/4 of inch thick and using a bowl or plate cut into circles of 6 to 7 inch wide for regular size pockets, or 5 inch wide if you want appetizer size.
  • Place the filling in the center of the disk (1 Tbsp for small / 2 Tbsp for regular size) and add toppings such olives and roasted red bell pepper on the “humita empanadas” or vegan cheese on the “marinara pockets”.
  • Using a little bit of water as “glue” on one edge of the disk, close the pocket folding the dough over the filling forming a half moon shape. Gentle press the edges with your fingers or using a fork.
  • Place your empanadas on a greased baking tray. Using a small wood stick make a little hole on top of the pocket to prevent it from tear due to the steam trapped inside the pocket.
  • Coat the pockets with a little bit of non dairy milk to have a nice gold finish on top and bake them at 380 F for 45 to 60 minutes. Let it cool for at least half an hour, otherwise be prepared to get burned.

The fillings:

The first one is the simplest: Inspired on a pizza empanada that is sold in Santiago’s streets, generally by improvised foods stalls at nights on busy bar avenues, are filled with tomatoes, a piece of deli meat, cheese and olives.

I called this filling a “Marinara Empanada” because I decided to left the deli meat outside to resemble a simple marinara pizza instead. Take a look of how easy is to make:

Marinara Empanadas

  • Servings: 8 regular size pockets
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3 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced on quarters.

3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped in tiny strips.

1 cup black olives, chopped in half.

1 cup of marinara sauce

2 cups shredded vegan mozzarella

2 Tsp oregano

1.5 Tsp salt

  • In a bowl place your diced cherry tomatoes along with the olives, basil, salt and oregano, mix it together. Let the mixture marinate in the fridge for about 45 minutes or until your dough is ready.
  • Once your have your pockets disk ready, place 1 to 2 tsp of marinara sauce on the bottom, add 1 tbsp tomato mixture (try to avoid getting too much tomato juice into the dough) and top it with 1 Tbsp shredded vegan mozzarella.
  • Close your pocket in half using a little bit of water as “glue” and pressing gentle with your finger or a fork. Bake at 380 F for about 45 minutes.

They are delicious, and so easy to make! Also you can to add a vegan deli slice or other if you want, to give them a twist.

The second filling is a creamy mushrooms and eggplants. This idea came to my mind because I like eggplants and I use to make them very simple: sauteed with olive oil, garlic and oregano to add it on a sandwich or as part of a vegetable stew. But I’ve never try using them as filling on a pocket. Pairing them with mushrooms was an amazing option since it complements the flavor and add a kind of “meaty” texture.

Here is how I did it:

Creamy Mushrooms & Eggplant Filling

  • Servings: 8 regular size pockets
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1 pkg Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced.

2 Cups of peeled and cubed eggplant.

1 Tsp sea salt.

2 garlic cloves, minced

half onion, diced

1/4 Cup water

2 Tbsp raw Tahini

1 Tsp tapioca starch

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1/8 Tsp black pepper

1/8 Tsp thyme

a dash of cinnamon

  • Peel and cut the eggplant and place it on a bowl, add the salt and mix it well, let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • On a skillet at medium heat, add the olive oil. Once it is warm add the diced onions and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes.
  • Add the eggplant to the skillet (do not rinse it) and keep sauteing for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and lower to medium low heat. Let it cook covered for about 2 minutes.
  • On a bowl mix the tahini, nutritional yeast, black pepper, cinnamon, thyme and tapioca starch with 1/4 cup of water together.
  • Pour the tahini and spices slurry in the skillet and stir until it gets thicker, that should take about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and place the filling in to another container to let it cool completely before using it on your empanadas.
  • Assembly and bake your pockets as described on the dough recipe (above).

This filling is for those who loves eggplants or aubergine, salty things and complex flavors. The tahini adds creaminess and a sweet taste to the end, also the cinnamon and black pepper a kind of peppery final. If you like spiciness I suggest using a dash of chili flakes.

As a final but not least filling is a corn paste filled pocket, which I called “Humita Empanada”. Humitas are a Chilean tamal, but not really. They has the same shape, but are made totally different: is a paste made from fresh corns, basil and sautéed onions (in short).

This pockets are inspired by a “humita pizza” that I had many years ago in Mendoza, Argentina. The idea and flavor were incredible to me, and I always remember it since then. These empanadas are filled with the humita paste, roasted red peppers and an olive on top.

This is the recipe:

Humita Empanada

  • Servings: 6 regular size pockets
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3 to 4 cups of fresh corn (6 small fresh corn in the cobs)

1 Tbsp vegan butter or margarine

half yellow onion, diced

half cup black olives

1 garlic clove, minced

3 to 4 fresh basil leaves

1 can fire roast red bell pepper in strips (can be replaced by fresh red bell pepper)

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tsp salt

  • First, cut the corn grains off the cob into a bowl. Once you have your 4 cups of fresh corn add them to a food processor along with basil leaves and salt. Process until you get a smooth mixture. Reserve.
  • On a non-stick pan at medium high heat, pour the olive oil and vegan butter. Once is melted, sauté the diced garlic and onions for about 5 minutes or until the onions get soft.
  • Add the corn mixture, and stir. Let it cook for about 30 minutes lowering the heat to medium, uncovered and stirring occasionally. Do not leave unattended, because the mixture tends to get burned on the bottom, and that will ruin the flavor.
  • This mixture should be a thick paste, as a pancake batter, so if your mixture is still liquid after 30 minutes, you can speed up the heat to high medium and cook it while you constantly stir it. This last step will let the liquid evaporate and gives you a thicker batter in less than 5 minutes.
  • When ready, transfer to a another bowl to let it cool faster. Use it completely cold over the dough. Top it with 1 strip of red roasted bell pepper and 1 olive. Close and bake it as described on the dough recipe (above).

Everyone who have had an “Humita” knows how tasty these empanadas must be. They are sweet, soft, and fresh from the basil.

That “Humita pizza” I had in Mendoza was vegetarian, it has cheese on it and I could say now, after I’ve made these treasure pockets, that this ones taste better. Not only because those aren’t vegan, but the acidity from the cheese do not goes well with the corn sweetness. There is nothing as a pocket full of pure Humita paste. Try it, you will not believe how delicious they are!

If you have any questions, or just want to share your experience doing these empanadas, please leave a comment below or visit my Instagram or Facebook page, I will be glad to see you there!!!


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