Today I finally made something that had been on my to-do list for years: homemade gluten free empanadas!
There are quite a few variations of empanadas out there, but here I’m talking about the Latin American style which are essentially the same as arepas, except they’re deep fried with the filling already tucked inside. Unlike my standard arepas recipe, for these we’re using yellow pre-cooked cornmeal, but of course you can also use the white version. For that classic yellow empanada colour, you can add a bit of turmeric.
For the filling, I used some leftover spicy pulled pork and cheese, but really it’s entirely up to you. My advice, however, is to prepare the filling in advance (it’s a great way to make use of leftovers) or buy already made pulled meat. Otherwise the entire process can be a little time consuming.
1. Pre-cooked cornmeal, also known as masarepa, is not the same as other types of corn flours and can’t be substituted in this recipe. Here in the UK you can sometimes find it in the world food section of large supermarkets like Tesco, but otherwise your best bet is independent corner shops, particularly those selling South American foods. Or you can buy it from many online shops.
2. If you don’t have a fryer, you can use a pan with a few inches of oil and a food thermometer to keep track of the oil temperature.
3. Make sure your filling is cold/refrigerated before stuffing your empanadas. That way it’s all sticking together and a lot easier to handle.
How to make gluten free empanadas:
- 150g / 1 cup pre-cooked yellow cornmeal (I use P.A.N. which is certified gluten free and the best for this)
- ½ tsp salt
- Optional: ½ tsp turmeric (for colour - if using white pre-cooked cornmeal)
- 200-235g / 1 cup water
- 15g / 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Vegetable oil (or cooking oil of your choice)
- Pulled pork
- Extra mature cheddar (optional)
- 750g pork shoulder (boneless)
- ¾ cup orange juice
- 4 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 2 small onions (finely chopped)
- 1-2 tsp achiote paste (optional)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Salsa verde
- Sour cream or plain greek yoghurt
- Jalapeno tabasco
OIL TEMPERATURE: 180C (356F)
FRYING TIME: about 4-5 minutes per batch
Pulled pork: pressure cook for 40-50 mins + cook a bit longer without lid if there's excess liquid left.
STEP 1. Cook the pulled pork:
1. Chop the meat into chunks.
2. Finely chop the onions and garlic.
3. Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your pressure cooker on low heat and cook briefly, just long enough to sear the meat.
4. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Add seasonings and cook briefly until fragrant.
6. Add the orange juice, secure your pressure cooker lid on and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.
7. Then turn the heat off and let your pressure cooker de-pressurise. If there is any excess liquid left at this point, keep cooking it (with the lid off) for a few more minutes (stirring constantly) until the sauce has reduced.
8. Let the pulled pork cool down completely/refrigerate for a while before making your empanadas.
STEP 2. Prepare the empanada dough:
1. First mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Then slowly add the water and mix well with a spatula until the dough comes together. NOTE: the quantity of water needed can vary depending on the brand of flour you use and whether you use a cup or a scale to measure your quantities. So add the water slowly, little by little, until it looks right (like in a the picture collage above). With P.A.N. flour, 200g of water is usually perfect.
3. Finally, add the olive oil. Mix with a spatula first and then switch to kneading the dough with your hands until you have a smooth crack-free dough ball. If the dough feel a little too dry/is cracking a bit, add a bit more water (half a teaspoon at a time).
STEP 3. Make the empanadas:
1. Divide the dough into equal portions. The empanada dough recipe above yields 5 to 7 empanadas so multiply it as needed.
2. Roll each portion into a smooth ball between your palm and then flatten the dough between a folded sheet of baking paper (to prevent sticking – like in the picture collage above) until it’s about half a centimetre thick. Smooth any cracks around the edges with your fingers or the spatula. Then carefully flip it over to make sure it’s not sticking.
3. Add some pulled pork and grated cheese in the middle, leaving enough space around the edges to prevent the content from spilling out.
4. Then carefully fold your empanada in half using the sheet of baking paper and press the edges closed, tucking in the filling.
5. Finally, smooth any imperfections around the edges with your fingers.
STEP 4. Fry your empanadas:
1. Pre-heat your oil to 180C and fry your empanadas for about 4-5 minutes, until crispy and golden. Note: be careful not to overcrowd your fryer or pan, cook them in batches.
2. Let your freshly cooked empanadas rest on kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil.