Plantain-Picadillo Empenada Recipe

Plantain-Picadillo Empenada RecipeThis recipe is insanely delicious. Really and truly delicious! (You’ll learn I don’t hold back when I like something.)  I love Latin flavors and I cooked up a storm for Cinco de Mayo this year.

This Picadillo recipe was the hit of the night. And I must say, the sweet plantain “dough” is brilliant!  (Wish that had been my original idea.)  It’s made from 100% plantains.  Nothing else.  Check it out. (It’s gluten-free to boot!)  Note that the plantains should be cooked the night before (they are much easier to work with this way).

ripe plantainsPlantains are ripe when their skin is mostly black.

This cooking project will be well worth your effort.  That’s a promise.  So, take some time over the weekend to create, and invite friends!  They can help! (Don’t let the cooking times daunt you, at least half of it is just waiting and hanging out!)

I highly recommend getting yourself a small (1 1/4-inch), ice-cream scoop.  It’s perfect to form the dough in the recipe and you’ll find you use it almost every time you make cookies from here on out.  You use less muscle and work faster!

Oh, I almost forgot, I served this with a super refreshing Mango Salsa.  It was perfect.

Did I mention just how delicious this is?

Makes 3 dozen
Prep Time: 3 hours (plus overnight refrigeration)
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Active Work Time:  1 1/2 hours

For the dough:
5 pounds fully ripe plantains

For the filling:
1 pound  skirt steak
Olive oil for the pan
1/2 cup finely chopped brown onion
3 minced, medium-sized garlic cloves
3 tablespoons almond meal
1/3  cup finely chopped plantain
3/4 cup seeded, finely chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup  finely chopped capers
1/3 cup finely chopped raisins
1 teaspoon minced chipotles in adobo sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 recipe Mango Salsa

To make the dough: Cut each plantain in half, crosswise, and place them in a pot with just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, recuce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook until the plantains are tender (you can check with a fork — the fork should slide in and out easily when they’re done), about 10 minutes.  Remove the plantains from the water and once they are cool enough to touch, peel them.  Place them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day add the plantains to a food processor with the blade attachment, and process until smooth.  (You can also use a large fork or potato masher — if you feel like a small workout!) Wet your hands with a little water or olive oil and form the mashed plantains into about 6 dozen balls, about 1 1/4-inches each.  (I like to use my 1 1/4-inch ice-cream scoop.)  The balls will not stick together, so you can pile them on top of each other until you’re ready to assemble the empenadas.

Plantain-Picadillo Empenada RecipeTo make the filling:  Place the steak in a large pot.  Add water to go a couple inches above the meat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the meat is tender, (but not falling apart), about 1 1/2 hours. Once the meat is cool enough to touch, shred it and then chop it finely.

Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and place it over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until they’re soft, about 3 minutes.  Then add the garlic and let the aroma come out. One at a time, add the almond meal,  plantains, tomatoes, capers, raisins, chipotles, cumin and the chopped steak. Let the flavors come out of each one ingredient before adding the next.  Cook everything together for about 10 minutes to fully combine all of the flavors, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let this cool to room temperature.

Plantain-Picadillo Empenada Recipe Assembly:  Place each ball of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and flatten them with the palm of your hand.  Now you can add a bit of the Picadillo to half of rounds of dough, right in the center — I use the same 1 1/4-inch scoop, filling it about halfway.   Place a second round of dough on top, and using another piece of plastic wrap, gently press it down.   Then, use a fork to press light along the edges.

Plantain-Picadillo Empenada RecipeHeat up your saute pan again and add olive oil to generously coat the bottom.  Once the pan and oil are hot, add a few of the empenadas — as many as you can fit, leaving a couple inches between them.  You should hear a sizzling sound as they hit the pan, and if you don’t, wait until the pan is hotter!  Cook until the empanadas are golden  browned, about 2 minutes per side.  Drain them on paper towels and serve!


You can also boil the steak, (the first step to making the filling), the night before.  And, if you’re up to it, the entire filling can be made up to two days in advance.  This could make party day more fun!

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  1. says

    OK. I am so making this after I come home from Atlanta! I have never had anything similar, but I love all the ingredients, and I love empanadas:) Our local Persian store always has a nice choice of plantains and I was looking for a recipe that uses them in a different way.
    BTW, I waved to you on Saturday when we were driving on 1 from Santa Monica to Malibu – we had an impromptu lunch at Neptune’s Net:)

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