Fresh Corn and Manchego Cheese Empanadas

Inspiration hit me last week and it was hard to ignore.  This inspiration came from the farmers market and was in the form of a palm-sized pastry.   This delicious savory pastry, or “empanada,” was stuffed with a fresh corn filling unlike any I had tried before.   So taken was I by this empanada that I decided instead of waiting a week to buy another at the market, I needed re-create it at home as soon as possible.

My mind started racing with ideas about what ingredients I would need and where I would acquire them.   My plan was to go the next day to another farmers market in the area (one that sadly does not have empanadas) and pick up the fresh vegetables and cheese for the filling.   Unfortunately, however, sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry…

First of all, the day flew by and for a variety of reasons I wasn’t able to make it to the farmers market.  Dashed were my plans for an all local and organic filling!  But still determined to make my empanada dreams come true, I headed to one of our neighborhood grocery stores, thinking that at least I could make an all organic filling with ingredients I could find there.  Alas this was not to be either.  The store had most of the ingredients that I needed, but only a few of them were organic!  What to do?

It ended up that in this instance, Graham and I decided that buying organic wasn’t the end all and be all.    We could have tried another store, but that would have required driving somewhere else (we had walked to the store we were at) and would have taken more time out of the already dwindling day.  All without any guarantee that the ingredients would be at the other store, let alone be organic.   Oh the tradeoffs!

I felt a tinge of guilt when we sat down to eat our non-organic, non-local empanadas, but they tasted so great that I soon forgot about my earlier frustrations of the day.    The one thing preparation for this meal did reveal was the potential hidden costs of trying to buy the greenest ingredients – if we had driven to another store, we might have been able to find those ingredients, but the separate trip would have increased the carbon footprint of the meal substantially.  So buying “green” products does not always translate into living a “green” lifestyle.  Next time  we’ll just try to make it to the farmers market or get our ingredients en route from somewhere.

For us being green is a process in which we frequently encounter a lot of hitches along the way, and there always seems to be ways we (and the places we buy from) can do better.  One step at a time…!

Fresh Corn and Manchego Cheese Empanadas with Chimichuri

The filling for these empanadas was inspired by an empanada I had at a farmers market.   I found the recipe for the empanada dough here.  I would recommend doubling the empanada dough recipe to match the amount of filling that the recipe below yields (the filling on its own is still quite tasty though).  The dough is easy to work with when it is cold, but quickly warms and becomes more difficult.  Next time I may split the dough into smaller pieces and work with one piece at a time while the other pieces stay chilled in the fridge.  These empanadas are also wonderful when served with a little chimichuri sauce (see recipe below).

  • Empanada dough
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cobs of corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½-¾ cup shredded Manchego cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional)

Assemble the empanada dough according to recipe directions.   For the filling, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.   Add the onions and cook until almost translucent.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Stir in bell pepper and corn and cook until tender crisp.  Add smoked paprika and salt and pepper to taste.   Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Roll out empanada dough and cut into 5-inch rounds.   Spoon about 2 tablespoons of corn and pepper filling into the center of each round.  Fold the dough rounds in half 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 25 minutes or until they are golden.

Chimichuri Sauce

The recipe below is not super precise, as I kind of experimented and threw together what I had.  If you need more precision, there are plenty of chimichuri recipes online.   You can use a food processor to blend together the ingredients for the sauce, but I used my mezzaluna to mince everything together.

  • ¼ -½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 small bunch of parsley
  • ½ a bunch of cilantro
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper

In a small pot, heat the olive oil for a few minutes (the warm oil takes a little of the edge off the raw garlic).   Use a mezzaluna or knife to mince together the garlic, shallots, parsley, and cilantro.   Stir the garlic, shallot, and herb mixture into the warm oil.  Squeeze in the lemon juice.   Set aside sauce and allow it to marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

Tasty Easy Healthy Green Recipe Ratings:

Recipe Report Card Notes About Recipe Ratings

Tasty Rating


Four Chefs (Delicious!)

The empanadas had a nice flaky crust and the flavors of the manchego and smoked paprika went well with the fresh corn.

Easy Rating


Two Easy Chairs (A Long March…)

Making the crust, filling and sauce from scratch takes a fair amount of time and energy. Making in bulk and saving some for another meal or two might be the way to go with this recipe.

Healthy Rating


Two Apples (Surgeon General’s Warning!)

While these empanadas had a vegetable filling, the crust was packed with butter and the cheese added saturated fat and calories. The sauce also had a good amount of oil.

Green Rating


Two Leaves (Chemical Fertilizers and Pesticides Rock)

As mentioned above, I failed in my quest to make our empanadas fully “green.” The crust was organic, but most of the filling and the sauce ingredients were not organic or local. Nevertheless, we didn’t make a gratuitous extra trip for them either, which would probably have translated into a penalty of one fewer leaf as well.

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