Is there anything better than the feeling of vacation while being actually in the (home) office? (Well, probably to be on actual vacation, I get you.) To spice up your weekday lunch breaks, try out these veggie filled empanadas from Argentina โ€“ the country’s favourite. They’re fast, easy to prepare, and convincingly yummy.

I was super happy to find ready-made empanada sheets in my local grocery store in Portugal, it felt like instant vicarious travel. Otherwise, it’s perfectly possible to cut down normal puff pastry sheets, or to bake your own if you feel brave.

How to bake veggie filled empanadas in 20 mins during lunch break?

This food is a super easy option for when you need to fit cooking, eating AND chilling within one hour. I used pre-made pastry and chopped the vegetables in tiny bits so they cook fast. It’s also important that you have a clear worktop right from the start because you’ll need a lot of space.

This version is perfect for those lazy, quick lunchtimes. I was done with everything in 20 mins. No joke, I was timing it (what a nerd!). But if you have more time and energy, try making your own empanada dough. I can recommend the recipe from Tastes Better From Scratch.

Spinach, onion & cheese empanadas recipe

Ingredients for 8 empanadas

Pre-made empanadas pastry or pre-made puff pastry (you’ll find either of them in most supermarkets)
100g spinach leaves
1 white onion
100g cheese, diced or grated (I used Portuguese flamengo but any cheese with a mild taste works)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking oil for the vegetables
Optional: egg to brush the empanadas for a golden touch
Vegetarian empanadas home-made
I separate the empanadas with the foils that come with the pastry so they don’t stick together


First of all, switch on the oven to 200 C right from the start.

Cut the onion into small pieces and fry it with olive oil over medium heat until golden. Add the spinach and fry the whole at low heat.

In case you are using regular puff pastry, cut it into circles the size of your palm.

Put the cooked vegetables into plates and prepare your “filling station” with the pastry, a small bowl of water, baking tray lined with baking sheet and your fillings in plates.

The filling method is the following:

  1. Put the empanada pastry onto your palm, pull the edges a little bit to enlarge the area and make the pastry thinner.
  2. Then, place some spinach and onion filling just in the middle; add the cheese on top.
  3. Wet the inner edge of half the circle of the dough with your finger.
  4. Now, fold and press the other side of the circle onto the wet one, shaping a half-moon.
  5. In order to stop it from opening in the oven, carefully turn the edge onto itself, making a sort of mussel shape. Another method is to press it with a fork. Be careful and don’t pull the pastry too hard or it will tear.

Finally, place the empanadas on the tray, cautiously make holes in the pastry with a fork, and brush them with beaten egg if you want. Bake them for about 15 minutes.

A final word of warning before serving: although the pastry cools down quickly, it’s very hot inside, so eat carefully. In 2 people, we ate 6 empanadas and it was enough for a light lunch.

Only checking out the food or are you planning a trip to Argentina?
Then read our complete travel guide to Argentina.

Serving suggestions

These empanadas taste fantastic on their own. In Argentina, they eat them without anything, or sometimes with melted cheese on top (it’s never enough of cheese!). However, at home, I improvised and used a sweet and spicy sauce as a dip. Who said that we can’t mix cuisines! Another good option is to accompany them with a homemade salad for a healthy kick.

Veggie-filled empanadas made in 20 mins
Veggie-filled empanadas made in 20 mins (and eaten in 10).

Vegetarian cooking in Argentina

Despite the country’s fame (and its love) for beef meat, it’s not hard to be a vegetarian traveller in Argentina. Most eating places โ€“including the most popular onesโ€“ have yummy vegetarian options. And that is true not only in the biggest cities but also in more remote parts of that vast land. Because of this, we consider Argentina to be the most veggie-friendly country in South America.

Since Argentina is a huge country, it’s not surprising that each region has its own cuisine. But the love for empanadas really covers the whole country and each region prepares its own version.ย  Some are baked and some are fried โ€“ we preferred the baked ones as they’re not so oily.

Let’s be honest: the traditional empanadas are always with some sort of minced meat (or even seafood, like in Patagonia). Yet we always found several veggie options, as long as we didn’t mind the cheese โ€“ that can hardly be avoided.

Typical vegetarian empanadas from a bakery
Typical vegetarian empanadas from a bakery in Argentina. Mmm… that cheese coming out!

Typical fillings for veggie empanadas in Argentina

We ate so many empanadas in Argentina that we even ranked our favourite vegetarian fillings. (We were probably bored on a long bus trip with an empty stomach.) Our ranking came out more or less like this:

  • Spinach and cheese
  • Onion and cheese
  • Roquefort cheese and pear
  • Sweet corn and cheese
  • Sweet potato and goat cheese
  • Chard and onion

As you see, it’s hard to do without cheese when you travel in Argentina. But the best thing with empanadas is that you can use absolutely ANY vegetable to make a savoury filling. And some empanadas are sweet, so you can even use fruit (and dulce de leche of course)!

Alternative shaped Argentinian empanada
Alternative shape for an Argentinian empanada

Why empanadas?

Actually, the whole continent eats empanadas. In Brazil, they’re called pastel and are hard to find with any vegetarian filling. Empanadas in Chile are much bigger. In Peru and Bolivia, the pastry is crunchier and most often filled with beef. In Ecuador, one type of baked empanada contains only cheese and feels empty as the cheese melts inside; that’s why they call it “empanada de viento” (‘wind empanada’).

But when most other South American countries offer a couple of options only, there’s a whole range of choices to be found in the common Argentine bakery.

During our 3 months of travel in Argentina, my absolute favourite lunch or snack food quickly became the veggie empanada. Why? Being so popular in the country, they are readily available in most bakeries and snack bars for a really cheap price. Oh, and they are delicious!

In Buenos Aires, we often just bought half a dozen (or even more!) for take away and ate them in a park nearby, watching the chill Argentinian life around us. Most of the time it’s packed only in paper bag or paper tray, so it’s perfect for sustainable travel as well; and nothing else is needed than our eager hands to grab at them.

Want to learn about other food from South America?
Check out our 3 easy recipes to cook Peruvian plantain at home.

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veggie filled empanadas Argentina food

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Who am I?

Anna is a world citizen, an avid traveller, a passionate environmentalist and a digital nomad. Writing about her year backpacking through South America, she tries to encourage everyone to discover this beautiful continent as a traveller or a digital nomad and pass on her love for responsible travel.

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  1. Oh this is just about easy enough for me. Donโ€™t think Iโ€™ve ever seen the pastry in Ireland though, so will have to be puff. Canโ€™t guarantee I wonโ€™t put in meat too.

    1. Empanadas are so versatile when it comes to filling, you can put into it just about anything. Meat is indeed very popular ๐Ÿ˜€ We’ve seen a lot of beef filling. Let us know, John how it went and bon appetite!

  2. Incredible recipe!! And so easy to make. I love that you timed it ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ I dunno if Iโ€™ve ever had a veggie one, but count me in for spinach/cheese or onion/cheese. Only the best combos known to mankind!

    1. Yess, I absolutely agree! And these ones are just so easy, perfect for those occasions when we don’t have much time to prepare food. Thanks, Lannie, for your comment ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The meat versions are just so much more famous around the world, but in fact, in Argentina, the veggie ones are just as easy to find. I hope this recipe inspires you to make it ๐Ÿ™‚ Please let us know!

  3. Delicious and hearty recipe. We live in a very Hispanic neighborhood of NYC and like the empanadas from the street vendors, but they’re usually pockets of air with some grains of dry beef. This recipe promises a full pocket of yumminess!

    1. “Full pocket of yumminess” is the best description for these empanadas. Love it! Please do share the results with us if you decide to make your own vegetable empanadas.

  4. Another great post, Anna. Some of the photos remind me of English snacks like cornish pasties and meaty pies. I never would have guessed that being a Vegetarian is an option in Argentina, but there you go. I might try the first recipe.

    1. We also had this idea that empanadas are really similar to pasties, although the dough is different as I remember from England. Yes, give the recipe a go and tell us how it went! Thanks for your comment, Stefan ๐Ÿ™‚

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