The Kitchn

Empanadas freeze beautifully for quick lunch or dinner

TheKitchn.comJanuary 7, 2014 

These empanadas are made with a mixture of corn, beans and squash – a combination that’s traditionally known as “The Three Sisters.” When I lived in Colorado, a number of Tex-Mex restaurants offered burritos and enchiladas featuring a blend of Three Sisters vegetables. At that time, I was a broke college student and a vegetarian, so I had my fair share.

According to Iroquois legend, beans, corn and squash literally supported one another in the growth chain. Native American farming communities would plant corn, beans and squash next to one so they’d need less tending. Beans and squash need no pole if they can send their vines up a stalk of corn. The three eaten in combination also form a complete protein. Restaurant kitchens also use them together because of their vibrant colors and, frankly, because they just taste great together.

This recipe for empanadas is a new favorite for a few reasons. The dough is delicious and flaky and is made with half whole-wheat flour. The second reason I love these empanadas is that they freeze beautifully. It’s nice to have a few options for quick lunches or dinners that you can just pull out of the freezer.

You can double the dough recipe and throw a ball of dough in the freezer, pulling it out to thaw in the refrigerator overnight if you know you’d like to whip up a batch the next day. Or, even better, you can double this empanada recipe and freeze a batch to bake when you have a particularly harried weeknight.

Dana Velden is a writer for, a website for home cooking.

Three Sisters empanadas


1 1/2 cups (225 grams) whole-wheat flour

3/4 cup (105 grams) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted cold butter, cubed

1 large egg

1/4 cup ice water, plus more as needed

Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)


1/2 pound zucchini (2 medium), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup canned black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons diced green chiles

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Sour cream and salsa, for serving (optional)

MAKE the dough: Combine both flours and salt in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut butter into the flour mixture until it’s roughly the size of small peas.

WHISK together 1 egg and 1/4 cup ice water in a small bowl. Pour over dry ingredients and mix with a fork until dough begins to come together. If still shaggy, add water 1 tablespoon at a time to help the dough come together. Dump out onto a well-floured surface. Knead a few times and carefully gather together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.

MAKE the filling: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread diced zucchini and corn on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and a few grinds of salt and black pepper. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, or until the zucchini are softened and slightly browned around the edges.

TRANSFER corn and zucchini to a bowl. Fold in the beans, cheese, green onions, cilantro, chiles, cumin and chili powder.

DIVIDE the dough into 10 portions. Shape each into a ball and roll into a 5- to 6-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick on a cool, lightly floured surface. Place 1/3 cup filling into the center. Moisten the edges with the egg wash. Fold one edge over the filling to create a half-moon shape, and crimp the edges to seal.

PLACE the empanada on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush with egg wash, and repeat with remaining dough. Slice a few small slits in the center of each empanada to release steam while baking.

BAKE at 400 degrees for 22 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve with sour cream and salsa, if desired.

FREEZE empanadas, if desired, either baked or unbaked. To do so, wrap the empanadas well in aluminum foil and label. Do not thaw the empanadas before baking – simply toss them in the oven frozen. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and hot all the way through. Cooking time is roughly the same to warm previously baked empanadas or to fully cook unbaked empanadas.

YIELD: 10 empanadas

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