Holy guacamole, these gluten-free empanadas are unreal!
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Empanadas are scrumptious, flaky pockets of dough, typically made with flour or corn, with a tasty and savory filling. But developing a gluten-free empanada recipe was tough work!
Empanadas are one of the most popular dishes you can find in Argentina and many Spanish-speaking countries around the globe. They were on almost every single restaurant menu during our time in Patagonia and Buenos Aires. The names of these tasty treats can vary, as well as the fillings, from country to country. But one of the most common ones we encountered in our travels was a mixture of beef, melted cheese, onions, and spices. And that's what you'll see here!
About This Gluten-Free Empanada Recipe
Unfortunately, the store-bought versions of gluten-free empanadas didn't taste great to me when I was developing this recipe in March of 2020. I experimented with frozen pie crust, pre-made dough, and almost gave up. Then I tried the one gluten-free flour blend that has never disappointed me - Cup4Cup!
The Gluten-Free Flour Blend For Empanadas
If you haven't baked gluten-free pastry or bread products with Cup4Cup - my friend, it is a game-changer. Their multi-purpose gluten-free flour blend is the best gluten-free flour blend I've found in thirteen years on the gluten-free diet. From croissants to fruit galettes, to naan, muffins, and quickbreads -I've made it all with overwhelming success thanks to this flour!
Please note, this recipe is specifically formulated for Cup4Cup, so if you use a different gluten-free flour blend, your results could vary. I've also tested this recipe with Bob's Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour and King Arthur Measure for Measure Flour. While the dough for both of these GF Flour blends rolled out okay, the final products were more crumbly and did not develop into as flaky pastries as Cup4Cup.
NOTE: A gluten-free flour BLEND is needed for this recipe. Please do not substitute a single gluten-free grain and expect the same results.
Ingredients You'll Need For Gluten-Free Empanadas
For the gluten-free pastry dough:
Gluten-Free Flour (I prefer Cup4Cup Multipurpose Blend). Please be aware this mixture has milk powder and is not dairy-free, just gluten-free.
Granulated Sugar: This helps give the dough a good texture and taste.
Salt: I use Kosher salt.
Unsalted Butter: Butter helps us create that nice and flaky gluten-free empanada dough.
Egg: We'll use an egg in the dough as well as in an eggwash to make the empanadas golden brown when baking.
Buttermilk: The liquid that will help bind our dough together. If you can't do buttermilk, you can try using a mixture of ½ dairy-free milk ½ dairy-free yogurt. For this recipe, you need ½ cup of buttermilk, so that would be ¼ cup dairy-free milk and ¼ cup dairy-free yogurt.
For the beef filling:
Ground Beef: Our main filling for this recipe. You can substitute ground turkey if you like.
Onion & Garlic: For the flavor! Nothing beats good old onions and garlic.
Ketchup: For moisture and to keep the mixture together.
Spices: A mixture of spices you most likely have on hand will go into the ground beef mixture for lots of taste, like oregano, ground cumin, and paprika!
Cheese: The star! A mix of cheddar and colby jack, freshly grated (Don't buy pre-shredded) make these empanadas the cheesiest and yummiest treats.
How To Make Gluten-Free Empanadas
First, you'll make the gluten-free pastry dough, which is essentially, just like pie crust.
Whisk together the gluten-free flour blend, Kosher salt, and sugar, in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and the egg, and set aside.
Into the gluten-free flour, sugar, and salt mixture, add cold, cubed butter, or grate the butter using a box grater.
Combine until the butter is pea-sized and the dough resembles coarse crumbs.
Then, add the buttermilk & egg mixture and slowly begin stirring.
Continue stirring (be patient!), as the dough will start to form small clumps and stick together, so you'll want to switch to your hands..
Eventually, the dough will form a ball, and that's what we want!
Then, you'll wrap the dough in plastic/parchment/Beeswrap, and leave it to cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
While the dough is cooling, you'll make the filling, which will combine the meat, onions, spices, and cheeses all cooked on the stovetop until it's ooey gooey and yummy.
You can watch me make the filling in this Instagram reel right here:
Then lastly, it's assembly time!
You'll roll out the gluten-free empanada dough using a rolling pin and cut circles into the dough to make discs.
Next you'll add a small amount of the filling to the center of each circle, and seal them together using eggwash and fold them into half moon shapes.
Then it's time to crimp the edges with the tines of a fork, place them on a baking sheet to bake them (Or fry, if you like), and enjoy!
Kitchen Tools To Help Make Empanadas
Silicone Baking Mats: A more green alternative to parchment paper. They are versatile for cooking or baking, wash easily, and last forever.
Can I bake or fry these empanadas?
Yes, you can do either one. Empanadas can be baked or fried, depending on where you enjoy them around the globe. I find it easier to bake the empanadas, as it skips the frying step. If you'd like to fry them instead, go for it! I've included instructions on how to do that in the recipe notes.
Can I make these dairy-free?
You can try, but I can't speak to how they will turn out. You'll need to use a gluten and dairy-free flour blend, dairy-free or vegan butter, and a substitute for buttermilk. My baking is strictly gluten-free, but not strictly dairy-free. Please leave a comment if you have a question and I can do my best to help you troubleshoot.
Troubleshooting Common Problems & Questions
Can I Use Other Gluten-Free Flour Blends?
If you want to your empanadas to come out exactly as you see in the photos here, you need to use Cup4Cup . While you can try another gluten-free flour blend on the market, the dough might not be as flaky and buttery, nor have the texture you are hoping for. With Cup4Cup, you'll discover the dough is remarkably similar to making a pie crust. It will roll out well, have a mild but buttery taste, and won't turn into a crumbly mess on your kitchen counter. And when filled with this beef, onion, and cheese mixture, and brushed with an egg wash, it creates a savory pastry you can't get enough of.
I have also tested this recipe with Bob's Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour (blue bag) and while the dough stayed together well and baked nicely, it did not create as flaky of an empanada or have as golden of a shine. I would also recommend trying this recipe with Better Batter Flour or GF Jules, for two other gluten and dairy-free flour blend alternatives.
Please Note: If you decide to change anything or substitute other ingredients, the empanadas may come out differently than expected and I cannot speak to your results. My experience is in gluten-free and some dairy-free baking, but not allergy-free, vegan, or egg-free. You can always email me: [email protected] or leave a comment with questions and I'm happy to help troubleshoot the best I can.
Don't make pastry on a hot day.
Warmer temperatures mean your pastry is going to be more difficult to work with. Stick to a cooler day to make empanadas, if possible!
Be careful how you measure your gluten-free flour.
Along the same lines, and one of my top gluten-free baking tips, if you aren't measuring for weight, then be sure to spoon your flour into your measuring cup, then level off with the back of the knife. This makes sure you get an accurate amount.
Give yourself a good amount of time.
This recipe has many steps and a good amount of time. Allow a good 2 hours to make them from start to finish.
Don't be afraid to knead the dough to get a nice consistency.
Don't worry - there's no gluten to develop here. After the dough has rested in the refrigerator, it will be hard and crumbly. Let it sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes, and then if necessary, knead with your hands a few times to get a consistent, smooth dough.
Flour your work surface.
The gluten-free pastry dough has a tendency to stick. Remember to use gluten-free flour on your hands and rolling pin, and on your work surface. Lift the dough frequently (pick it up completely off the countertop) and reflour the surface with gluten-free flour so it doesn't stick.
Refrigerate the dough if it is difficult to work with.
If you notice your butter is leaking through your dough, the empanadas are breaking apart or very soft, the dough might be too warm. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper and place back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to cool. Then remove and try again. Trust me - don't try to force the dough to do what you want when it's too warm. Be patient, refrigerate, and try again. It definitely helps!
How To Store Empanadas
Store these empanadas once cooked covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat. You can reheat them in the microwave or in the oven when you're feeling hungry!
Can I Freeze Empanadas?
Yes. Empanadas can be frozen prior to cooking to be baked at a later time. Once you've made the empanadas and shaped them, lay them out on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer. Once completely frozen, transfer them to an airtight plastic container or ziploc bag and store for up to 3 months. When you are ready to eat them, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then bake or fry as instructed.
How To Serve Empanadas
Empanadas go great with sauces to dip in! You can do a chimichurri, sofrito, tomato-based sauce, or cilantro lime sauce. I personally just eat them as is (or just eat the filling sometimes, because it's so so good). Gluten-Free empanadas also make a tasty appetizer for watching football, entertaining guests during the holidays, or impressing your friends on a movie night!
Empanadas are a labor of love, in my opinion. They take some time but are worth it in the end. Give yourself a good two hours to make these from start to finish, and make sure you enjoy the final product! Yum!
More Gluten-Free Baking Recipes
Feel like an easy quickbread? This banana bread with walnuts hits the spot.
Looking for another savory pastry recipe? Bake a savory scone with bacon, cheddar, and chives.
Want to practice your pie making skills? Check out this gluten-free peach pie with lattice design.
Ready to take your baking skills to the next level? Try these delightful, buttery, and flaky gluten-free croissants.
Here's the recipe for gluten-free beef and cheese empanadas!
If you love this recipe, please leave a comment! Thank you so much!
Gluten-Free Empanadas Recipe
For the Dough
- 3 cups gluten-free flour blend (Use Cup4Cup for best results)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cubed and cold (or just grate with a box grater or cheese grater)
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup cold buttermilk
For the Filling
- ¾ lb ground beef
- 1 small sweet onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1-2 tablespoon ketchup
- ½ cup shredded cheddar & Colby Jack cheese (¼ cup of each) - Or whatever cheese you prefer!
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon salt (more/less, to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper,
For the Eggwash
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Prepare the dough first, so it has time to chill while you prepare the filling. Place the butter in the freezer so it is extra cold when time to add to your pastry dough.
1. Add the gluten-free flour blend, Kosher salt, and sugar to a large and whisk to combine. Add the cold, cubed butter and using a pastry cutter or a fork, combine the butter with the dry ingredients. You can use your hands too! Mix until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Create a well (a large hole) in the center of the flour mixture, and set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the egg and buttermilk with a fork and whisk. Slowly add the buttermilk and egg to the well you have created in the flour mixture, gradually whisking the egg with a fork, combining small amounts of flour at a time. Continue mixing until the dough thickens, and form into a ball (you can use your hands again!) Be patient, and keep mixing, the dough should form into a ball and eventually you won't be able to use a spoon and will have to use you hands!
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (or for a greener alternative, Bees Wrap). Allow dough to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. You can also leave it overnight and make the empanadas the next day.
3. While the dough rests, prepare the filling. In a frying pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add chopped onions and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add the ground beef, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Saute until the ground beef is browned completely. Drain the fat and return the beef and onion mixture to the frying pan on low heat.
4. Add the minced garlic and ketchup, continuing to saute on low heat for 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Off heat, add the shredded cheese, and mix until all combined. Set aside to cool.
5. Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and cut it in half. Keep the half not used in the refrigerator to stay cool. Give the dough 10-15 minutes to come to room temperature, or it will be very difficult to manipulate. Line two baking sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment paper (or for a greener alternative, use silicone mats). Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
*If the dough is stiff or crumbly when coming out of the refrigerator, wait until it comes to room temperature and then knead it a few times with your hands. Remember, there is no gluten developing here, so this isn't something you have to worry about! The dough should become very soft and flexible, but if it's still too cold, it will be difficult to work with. Give it time to come to room temperature by about 10-15 minutes.
6. Lightly (remember, don't use too much flour) flour a clean surface using Cup4Cup (or your gluten-free flour of choice) and roll the dough into a circular shape about ⅛ inch thick.
7. To make small empanadas, use a drinking glass or a round cutter with a 3-inch diameter to cut holes in the dough. If you would prefer to make larger empanadas, use a larger cutter (about 6-inch diameter) or make your own circles of whatever size you like! Place circles on lined baking sheets. Take the pieces that remain and work them together, rolling them out again and repeating steps 6 and 7 until no dough remains.
8. Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each circle. Using the eggwash and a pastry brush, brush one side of the circle, then fold over one side to create a half-circle and seal them together. Crimp the edges together with a fork for a decorative touch.
9. Using a small knife, cut a slit approximately ¼-inch long on the top center of each empanada, to allow steam to escape.
10. Brush the empanadas with more egg wash and bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes until golden brown. Continue the same process with the remaining dough and filling.
This recipe was specifically made using Cup4Cup gluten-free flour. If you make this recipe with a different gluten-free flour blend, your results could vary. You may need to add or reduce the amount of buttermilk or use more flour to prevent the dough from becoming too sticky. Due to the lack of gluten in the dough, baking is more challenging, but it can be done! If you have questions about this recipe, please leave a comment and let me know how I can help.
Size of the Dough
Depending on how big you make your circles, you may end up with fewer empanadas than the recipe calls for - that's okay! You can use your own judgment here and make them as small or as large as you like.
Don't buy pre-shredded cheese! It's not as good. Take the time to grate your own cheese for the best empanadas.
If you choose to make the empanadas on the smaller side, less amount of filling can go into them. You might end up with extra filling. No problem! The filling by itself is delicious and goes great in tacos or with rice and a side of vegetables.
The dough must rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before working. Lightly flour it as you roll it out. You can also leave it overnight and make the empanadas the next day.
Feel free to substitute whatever filling you like! If you are vegetarian, try doing vegetables and cheese. Issues with lactose? Skip the cheese altogether. Or, use this dough to make hand pies or poptarts with fruit or jam!
If you like to fry these empanadas on the stovetop instead, pan-fry them in a large pan in oil of your choice, for 3-4 minutes on each side.
Store empanadas in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, as they will harden over time. Heat them up in the microwave or place on a baking sheet and reheat in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes.
Empanadas can be frozen prior to cooking to be baked at a later time. Once you've made the empanadas and shaped them, lay them out on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer. Once completely frozen, transfer them to an airtight plastic container or ziploc bag and store for up to 3 months. Just remove to the refrigerator and either fry them or bake them when you are ready to eat! Enjoy!
Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 409Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 14gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 109mgSodium 349mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 1gSugar 5gProtein 15g
The nutrition information on each recipe card is provided as a courtesy and for your convenience. The data is calculated by Nutritionix. You are encouraged to make your own calculations based on your ingredients and preferred nutritional facts calculator. While I try to make sure they are accurate, I cannot guarantee the accuracy of these calculations.
Have you ever had gluten-free empanadas?
What would be your ideal filling? More beef & cheese, or perhaps chicken?
Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to ask questions!