GF: Plantain Empanadas with Queso Fresco

Oh… sometimes you just have to try a new recipe. And… well.. sometimes you make it once, take a picture for your blog, and then spend the next week dreaming about the next time you get to make it. It was that tasty. Next time, I think I’ll try baking these empanadas – but dang… the fried version was wonderful.

Rick Bayless inspired these empanadas. He’s an amazing chef who spent many, many years studying the many different regional cooking styles in Mexico. The flavors he imparts into the food with the methods are amazing. All of his cookbooks do an incredible job of teaching about the food, ingredients, culture and offer adaptations. I think we own every single one of his books. We frequently check the local bookstores to see if he has made another one. Yeap. We’re Rick-Bayless Groupies. (Ok, *I* am. I don’t think my love would make the same claim, but I know he likes the food as well as Rick’s TV Show.)

To make the empanadas, make sure you have some time to do it. While this takes a while, the end-results were worth it for me. I think this is an interesting process. The next time we have a cooking party, I will make these with our friends/family. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I think I need to plan a “Let’s Make Tamales and Empanadas Together” Party. Boy! That would be fun! We could sit and chat while making these and then everyone could go home with part of the bounty for their families! OH OH OH – Hmmm… I wonder….. do you think this sounds like a good idea?

I know the empanadas were tasty enough for me to be thinking of them over and over again since I made them! I know I will have to try to make these again sometime soon – that’s for sure! The more the merrier, right? 🙂

Plantain Empanadas
2-3 plantains, semi-ripe
1 cup GF flour mix
1/2 teaspoon salt (don’t add the salt if using broth)
1/4 – 1/2 cup warm water or warm chicken broth (don’t add salt if using broth)
1 cup queso fresco
2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs of your choosing (cilantro, parsley, etc)


  1. Slice open each plantain with one, long slit length-wise. Lay on foil or parchment paper and bake at 400F for 35-45 minutes until slightly seeping. Once cool enough to handle, peel the plantains and leave the plantain “meat” in a bowl to cool a bit longer.
  2. Once the plantains have cooled, process the plantain “meat” in a food processor until finely ground/flour-like. Add the GF flour mix and pulse until well blended.
  3. Add warm water/warm broth by the tablespoon while pulsing until a semi-soft dough forms (the same consistency as making tortillas).
  4. Divide the dough into 16 small pieces.
  5. Using a tortilla press – or a rolling pin, press/roll each small piece into a round disk no thicker than 1/4″. When making the rounds, use a cut open Ziploc bag – or similar style plastic bag. Cut the bag so that three sides are open but one is still attached. Put the dough ball on one side of the ziplock and then lay the other side on top. Then roll/press. The thickness of the Ziploc bag will last much longer than parchment paper or wax paper and make it easier to fill the empanada.
  6. Mix together the fresh herbs/seasonings of your choosing in a small bowl.
  7. Fill each flattened disk with 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of queso fresco (be sure not to overfill!) by placing the cheese on one side. Fold the other side over the top and seal the empanada by pressing the dough together firmly. Be sure to fill or press together any parts of the dough that open accidentally. Lay aside filled/sealed empanadas until you have finished filling them all.
  8. Preheat the oven to 200F and heat a generous amount of oil (I used about 1 1/2″ of vegetable oil in a deep 3 quart pan) until a small amount of leftover dough will begin to fry easily when placed into the oil.
  9. Fry the empanadas in small batches (of 3-4) until golden brown (3-4 minutes) then flip and continue frying for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from oil with slotted spoon/tongs and lay on paper towels in an ovenproof dish. Place the finished empanadas in the heated/warm oven to keep them warm until serving time.

I know this one is a bit of work, but I’m really glad I tried this recipe. I will make these again and again.



  1. you just try the neatest recipes Kate!! I’m always scared to fry anything (other than meat and eggs!) I had a bad experience of frying squash that had been frozen… oh what a no no… so I totally am in awe of people who can do this well! Those empanadas look so good! I love watching Rick Bayless on sunday afternoons! We don’t have cable, so I cherish PBS cooking shows on Sundays!!

    I agree about Rick’s TV shows. I love how much information he gives about culture and community when he teaches a new recipe. It helps so much to understand all of the ingredients. And, his brand (Frontera) now has widely-available salsas, chips, etc. WAHOO! 🙂 -Kate

  2. You rock! Can I pleeeease come to your tamale and empanada party? pleeeeease? Darn it. That sounds so very fun. I’ve had my share of summer roll parties, but tamale and empanada… fun fun fun!

    I haven’t deep fried in a while (don’t worry, I’m getting oodles of calories other ways, sigh… ) but I’m feeling the call. Either these or pakora… are going to be on the menu next week. Or… maybe… both???!!! Oh dear.


    Sea – You’re always invited to a tamale making party! Especially if you can teach me how to make a socca…. and tell me whether or not it’s beany-tasting. 🙂 -Kate

  3. I’ve been dying for empanadas! I’m totally going to make these soon, I’d make them today (stuck inside in the rain) but I don’t have plantains. Awesome!!

    Rainy days! You sound like a Pacific-Northwesterner already, Jill! 🙂
    I think I’m going to have to try a non-plantain, baked empanada recipe too.
    Do you have one of those?
    I’m putting in a request!

  4. I was so excited to find your blog as you have several recipes that I will be trying. Yum!! There are many foods that we’ve been missing since my hubby and daughter went gluten-free. Since I’m the cook, I made the whole house gluten-free; I’m the only one that doesn’t have to be. It was just easier. Thanks for the great recipes!!

    Welcome to the GF Life! I promise, things get easier! And the more you bump around the blogosphere, the more GF bloggers you will meet whose kindness will blow you away. =) Happy eating! – Kate

  5. yum! We made these tonight and they are delicious! The dough was really easy to work with.

  6. E. Boudreau says:

    What is queso fresco????

  7. E. Boudreau says:

    Thanks Gina, I’ll have to find that recipe on how to refry beans but I just happen to have a can of gluten free black beans in my pantry.

  8. I’d love to try this recipe, but I’m not a fan of deep frying. Do you have any suggestions on how to bake this instead? Would I need to alter the plantain dough recipe?

    • You could try baking them, Martha. I haven’t tried that yet – sorry! And with two little ones, baking is not something that is happening much around here JUST yet but it will be! The Chicklet and I made a decent lemon-blueberry bread yesterday… so there is hope! 🙂

  9. I made this tonight, and they turned out marvelously! My mom’s from Puerto Rico, so I wanted to recreate the taste of my “pastelillos” as gluten free. I wasn’t able to fold them over, so I took two of the balls, flattened them out and used one as a base and the other on top. They worked great! Thanks so much!

  10. Goodness gracious these sound incredible!! Your picture is just mouth-watering as well. I can’t wait to try making these.


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