Empanadas might be the most ingenious and delicious invention we’ve ever invented as a civilization. Almost every culture has their version, and they’re sometimes baked, but usually fried. My craving for less guilty empanadas inspired me to create these whole wheat empanadas with a low fat ground turkey filling. I have to say, these are mighty tasty and don’t make me feel too bad about having a extra two, or eight!
1 package of 93% lean ground turkey or beef (approx. 1.25 lbs)
4 oz (1/2 can) no salt tomato sauce
Goya Adobo (your favorite variety)
1 packet Goya Sazon with culantro y achiote
1 tsp ground cumin
2 dried bay leaves
2 tbsp pimento stuffed olives (regular pitted green olives would work too)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth or water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Prepare the sofrito by chopping onion, garlic, pepper, and cilantro finely by hand or in a food processor. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan and add the sofrito. Cook for a few minutes, until the onions and peppers are tender, but don’t have any color. Add the turkey, season with Adobo and Sazon. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat up into small pieces. When the turkey is browned, add alcaparrado (or olives) and about 1 tbsp of the brine (this adds great flavor) cumin, bay leaves, raisins, and more adobo if needed. Add tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of stock or water and mix well. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered about 15 minutes, until the mixture is thick and saucy, but not soupy. Remove the bay leaves & scoop the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate to cool. You don’t want to stuff the empanadas with hot filling, or they’ll fall apart.
Now a side note:
Adobo and Sazon are quintessential ingredients in a Latin kitchen. They often impart that je ne sais quoi that just make something taste like good old-fashioned Latin food. I’m partial to the Goya brand of these items, but you can use whatever brand you can find. There are also low sodium versions available.
Whole Wheat Empanada Dough
Making empanada dough is not as hard as it sounds, especially if you have a food processor, and even if you don’t it is still pretty easy because the dough should not be overworked and requires minimal kneading. Also, these days it is very easy to find the empanada discs already made (frozen) in Latin grocery stores, I’ve even seen them in big box stores. I have yet to see whole wheat dough available, so it’s always fun to make them homemade. You can also customize the dough by adding spices, herbs, chia or flax seeds or anything else that will complement or contrast with the fillings.
Ingredients for 15 medium size or 10 large empanada discs:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little more for kneading)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ice cold water
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed into small pieces
In a bowl, beat the water, egg, and vinegar together. Set aside. In a food processor, mix together the 3 cups of flour and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mix using pulsing the food processor until the butter is the size of small peas. The mixture should have a crumbly texture at this point. Turn on the food processor and drizzle in the egg and water mixture just until the dough comes together into a solid mass. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but never more than 24 hours.
If you want to keep the dough longer than 24 hours, you can freeze it.
Once the dough is chilled, roll it onto to a 1/4″ thickness and cut out the discs using a cookie cutter. You can reroll the scraps to make additional discs. Add the picadillo filling into the discs (don’t overfill) and crimp with a fork, or use a fancy empanada maker like I did! Chill them for an hour before brushing them with egg wash, and baking them at 400F for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. You can also freeze them (uncooked) for later. Enjoy!