Goat Cheese Sweet Potato Empanadas

baked empanadas on a baking sheet with parchment paper and a lttle owl of chipotle crema

The universe has been speaking to me in empanadas lately. My mom and I discovered 2 amazing empanada places on our road trip to Greensboro the other week. I have zero problems with eating empanadas two lunches in a row, so, I definitely did that. Cut to this week, we’re organizing our plans for a Cinco de Mayo cooking class for the shop and we decided on an empanada class to fit the theme. Then yesterday, I see a picture of some empanadas from Topolobampo, the Rick Bayless restaurant, where the filling was this yummy-sounding white sweet potato with the flavors of chorizo. Ok, you don’t have to tell me 4 times, I’m making empanadas.

Didya see me make these on my instagram story this week? We have some stuff to break down here, empanadas from scratch are slightly involved… but guess what your reward is? Perfect little hand pies of spicy/sweet nutty goodness dipped in a chipotle crema. Mmmmkayyy? Worth it! You can do this! We can do this! Let’s do this!

baked empanadas on a baking sheet with parchment paper and a lttle owl of chipotle crema

Totally inspired by that filling mentioned above, and also because I ❤ them, I’m using sweet potatoes. I’m also using walnuts, because I like crunch, and this end-all-be-all taco seasoning from the shop.

diced sweet potatoes and walnuts being cooked with spiced in a skillet

After a quick cook in the pan, these get folded into soft, tangy goat cheese. That’s weird…my mouth is watering…

The dough we’re using is homemade because it’s fun… and delicious… but you can for sure use store-bought pizza dough or even Pillsbury pie dough if you want empanadas in a hurry. This scratch dough recipe has a secret power player though – aji amarillo pepper powder. It’s a hot, fruity Peruvian yellow chile powder and it’s optional, of course, but I can’t get over the flavor it adds. The dough also uses a mix of flour and cornmeal which adds beautiful texture – that idea comes from Mark Bittman’s cookbook How to Cook Everything. It’s good, folks. Here’s a pic of the 12 little dough balls, resting before being rolled out and filled:

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12 small balls of empanada dough, resting

Getting along with empanadas

Anytime you’re dealing with a dough and a filling, there’s potential for fussiness. These tips will prevent your ingredients from getting an attitude with you, and vice versa.

  • Cut the sweet potatoes and walnuts small – you want little pieces that will fit nicely and feel at home inside your dough circles.
  • Chill the filling. Your empanada dough will fall apart if you try to fill it with hot stuff.
  • This is a side note: Are you wondering when to eat these? 2 empanadas plus a salad make a meal. 1 empanada per person makes a great appetizer. And, 1 empanada thrown into your purse as you rush out the door to work makes a great breakfast or lunch.

That’s it! Go forth! Impress yourself! Make and bake!


Goat Cheese Sweet Potato Empanadas

baked empanadas on a baking sheet with parchment paper and a lttle owl of chipotle crema

A tangy, sweet, and spicy goat cheese and sweet potato filling, wrapped in a delicious homemade empanada dough!

  • Author: Megan
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 12 empanadas 1x




  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1/4″ dice
  • 1 C walnuts, chopped small
  • 1 T taco seasoning (this is mine but this one from Alton Brown is great if you want to make your own) 
  • 6 oz softened goat cheese *see note
  • pinch of salt

for the dough

  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 t aji amarillo powder (optional)
  • 1/2 C vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 C water

to finish and serve the empanadas

  • 1/4 C of milk (for brushing the tops before baking)
  • salt
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 1 t chipotle pepper powder or chili powder



for the filling

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until soft, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the walnuts to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes until they smell nutty – be careful not to overcook.
  3. Add the taco seasoning to the pan and cook, stirring, for about a minute to toast the spices.
  4. Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a bowl and stir in the goat cheese, it should melt and coat all the sweet potatoes and walnuts.
  5. Taste and season with salt as needed.
  6. Chill the filling while you make the dough.

for the dough

  1. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and aji amarillo powder (if using) to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5 times to combine.
  2. Add the shortening to the flour mixture and pulse until combined, about 5 pulses.
  3. With the processor running, pour in the water and let the processor run just until the mixture forms a ball.
  4. Remove the dough to a cutting board or your work surface and knead a couple times with your hands to make it a smooth ball. Divide it into 12 smaller balls, cover them loosely with plastic wrap, and rest for 20 minutes.

finishing the empanadas

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Spread a little flour on your work surface and roll out each ball into a 6-inch circle. 
  3. Place 2 TBS of filling onto the bottom half of the circle, leaving a 1/2″ border around the edge.
  4. Moisten the 1/2″ border with a little bit of water on your fingertips and fold the top half of the circle over the filling to make a half-moon shape. Seal by pressing the edge with the tines of a fork. Trim away the excess dough to make them look neater.
  5. Place the filled empanadas on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, brush the tops with milk, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.

for the chipotle crema

  1. Combine the sour cream and chipotle pepper powder or chili powder. Serve alongside your empanadas.


About the goat cheese: the first time I tested this recipe I used Alouette Goat Cheese Crumbles but the filling turned out too dry. I really recommend using the soft goat cheese logs that come in 4oz and 8 oz packages.

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