Sweet Potato Empanadas with Spicy Black Bean Dipping Sauce

I often like to read my cooking magazines cover-to-cover and sometimes even try to read some of my cookbooks like novels—meaning that I read through each ingredient list and all of the juicy details of the recipe preparation.  Some people might find this habit a little strange and may find it even stranger that a vegetarian would read through meat recipes, but you never know when a cooking inspiration will hit or when you’ll find some technique or combination of ingredients that could be adapted for a different dish.

For example, today’s recipe was actually adapted from a beef empanada recipe that I found in Bon Appétit.  I was drawn to the combination of ingredients and thought that there must be a way to “vegetarianize” the recipe.   We’ve been getting a lot of sweet potatoes in our CSA box lately, so I thought, why not replace the beef with sweet potatoes?  The resulting empanadas were a fantastic appetizer that I would highly recommend trying.

Sweet Potato Empanadas with Spicy Black Bean Dipping Sauce

Adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2011

I used 5 very small sweet potatoes for these empanadas, which were probably equivalent in quantity to 1 very large sweet potato or two medium to large sweet potatoes.  I ended up with more filling than puff pastry, but it was good on its own too.   I also roasted the cubed sweet potatoes to soften them up before stuffing the empanadas, but you could probably boil or microwave them until they are tender instead.

Sweet Potato Empanadas:

  • 5 very small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 package (17.3 oz) frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450°.  Spread sweet potatoes in to a single layer on a baking pan.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast the sweet potatoes for 20-30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Heat one-tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, and cayenne.  Once well mixed, add in the roasted sweet potatoes and stir until the garlic and tomato mixture coats the potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and allow the filling to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375° and line 2 baking pans with parchment paper.  Cut each of the puff pastry sheets into 9 or 12 equal sized squares.   Spoon about a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each of the squares.  Fold the squares in half, forming triangles, and seal in the filling by crimp with your fingers or using the tines of a fork.   Arrange the empanadas on a baking sheet and lightly brush the tops of each one with a little of the beaten egg.   Bake empanadas for about 20 minutes or until they are puffed and golden.  Serve with black bean dipping sauce (see below).

Spicy Black Bean Dipping Sauce:

I had some leftover chipotle chile puree from this recipe, so I blended it in with the beans and yogurt to give the dip a kick of heat and a nice smoky flavor.

  •  1 cup cooked black beans
  • ½ cup of plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile puree
  • 1-2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 green onions, chopped

Blend together the black beans, yogurt and chipotle chile puree.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the tomatoes.  Garnish with green onions. 


Tasty Easy Healthy Green Recipe Ratings:

Recipe Report Card Notes About Recipe Ratings

Tasty Rating


Four Chefs (Delicious!)

The flaky crust and tender sweet potatoes paired well with the smoky and slightly spicy black bean dip.

Easy Rating


Three Easy Chairs (Average Difficulty)

Using prepared puff pastry, rather than making dough from scratch makes the recipe a little easier, but there are still a few steps to making these empanadas.

Healthy Rating


Three Apples (Average Nutritional Quality)

The empanada filling is pretty healthy, but the buttery puff pastry takes the dish down a bit on the health scale.

Green Rating


Four Leaves (Mother Earth Approved)

The potatoes and tomatoes were local and organic and the egg was local, organic, and free range.  Many of the other ingredients were organic, but some were not.
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