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Spring Pea and Potato Empanadas with Spicy Tamarind Dipping Sauce

May 26, 2014
Glorious sweet peas are one of the first, true signs of spring. Delicate interpretations of how to prepare this versatile vegetable abound—steam them with butter, fold into pasta, toss into a salad—these are all wonderful ways to enjoy the bright green flavor of just-picked garden peas.

But I’ve been in the mood for something more substantial. Truth be told, I’ve been craving samosas, those savory Indian turnovers commonly filed with curried potatoes and yes, sweet spring peas.

Inspired by the flavor combination but wanting to keep things a litter closer to home, I decided to take the Indian components and introduce some Mexican flavors instead. I developed a cornmeal empanada dough to give the pastries some crunch that could contrast the soft potato filling. Then I reworked the filling, spicing up the potato and pea mixture with some Serrano chiles, ground cumin, and a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice. Finally I used tangy tamarind and smoky chipotle chiles to create a sweet and sour dipping sauce that is absolutely optional, but so good you would not want to do without.

Empanadas are traditionally both baked and fried depending on where you are from and I tried both methods. I will say, in this particular case, the fried empanadas were hands down my favorite. The crispy dough gave way to a creamy, warm filling and the dip in hot oil heightened the cumin, chipotle, and coriander. If you don’t want to mess with hot oil you can bake them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 25 minutes.

These empanadas might not be a snap to make but the strikingly bold flavors are so seductive you’ll be glad you spent the time celebrating the first flavors of spring in such a way.

Spring Pea and Potato Empanadas with Spicy Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Yield: 24 Empanadas

This recipe first appeared on The Latin Kitchen


  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups lard, for frying
  • For the Dough:
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup lard
  • 2 cups white whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • For the Sauce:
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 chipotle en adobo, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • For the Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes, and boiled until tender
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice


  1. To make the dough, combine water and lard in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until lard has melted.
  2. Meanwhile, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and chile powder in a medium bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour the lard mixture into the well.
  3. With a wooden spoon, slowly bring some of the flour into the water continuing to mix until fully incorporated.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Cover the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  5. To make the sauce, combine water, brown sugar, and tamarind in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved and tamarind is soft, about 10 minutes.
  6. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much of the liquid as possible.
  7. Return the liquid to the saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Return to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes or until thickened slightly. Set aside until cool.
  8. To make the filling, heat oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, chiles, and garlic and cook until starting to soften. Add coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook a few minutes more to toast the spices.
  9. Stir in potatoes, peas, and lime juice and mix, mashing the potatoes slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  10. Remove dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly-floured surface. Roll out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into circles using a 4-inch round biscuit cutter. Gather scraps, form into a ball and return to refrigerator.
  11. Using your finger, wet the edge of the dough circle with water. Place a tablespoon of filling on one half of the circle and fold the other half over to close, creating a half-moon shape. Press the two edges together to seal and use a small spoon to create a decorative edge if desired.
  12. Repeat with the remaining dough, re-rolling the scraps until all the dough is used (you may have some filling leftover).
  13. Heat the oil and lard in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat to 350°F or until a piece of bread browns in 30 seconds. Carefully add empanadas, 3 or 4 at a time and fry until golden on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until golden on the other side, about another 2-3 minutes.
  14. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and serve immediately with the tamarind dipping sauce.

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