Empenadas de Platano (Plantain Empanadas) are filled with delicious Mexican Picadillo. A combination of sweet and savory ingredients, mixed into finely chopped steak and encased in a plantain dough, creates an out of this world appetizer or main course.
Whether you serve this as an appetizer or a main course, it will be worth every second! Nobody will be able to get enough.
What is Picadillo?
- Picadillo is a traditional dish in Spain and many Latin American countries, and its ingredients will vary from region to region.
- Often said to be reminiscent of a hash-like dish, Picadillo may include ground or shredded beef, chorizo, onions, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, olives, nuts, raisins, potatoes -- and more.
- Picadillo can serve as a main dish, accompanied by rice and beans or on top of mashed potatoes. It's also commonly used as a filling for empanadas, chile rellenos, tamales, and tacos.
I learned a version of this Mexican Picadillo a handful of years ago from a friend from Mexico. I loved it so much that I've made it several times a year ever since.
Though it might not be 100% authentic, the flavor combination of the ingredients is outstanding! I would guess it's a combination from many places.
I suspected this picadillo recipe would be fantastic with the sweetness of plantains, which is why I made Empenadas de Platano. And I was right -- they're so, so good!
Plantain Empanadas (Empenadas de Platano)
The sweet plantain "dough" is brilliant.
I wish it was my original idea, but my inspiration was from the Border Grill restaurant in Santa Monica.
My plantain empanadas are made from 100% plantains and nothing else, and they're gluten-free to boot!
How to Make it
This recipe is indeed a good amount of work -- fun and delicious work, and it will be well worth your time.
- Leaving the peels on, slice the plantains in half horizontally, and place them in a pot with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender, remove them from the water and once they're 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 and blend until smooth.
- Shape the dough into very generous tablespoon-sized balls. They won't stick together, so you can pile them on top of each other until you're ready to assemble the empenadas.
- Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with a neutral oil and sprinkle both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. Place the pan over high heat and once it's very hot, add the steak. Sear both sides to brown it, then turn the heat to medium-low to finish the cooking, about 15 minutes for medium. Once it's cool enough to touch, shred it with your hands, and then chop it finely.- Turn the heat to medium-high under the same sauté pan you used to cook the steak, and only add oil if you don't think there's enough fat from the meat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients, including the finely chopped steak. Cook everything together for about 10 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. - To assemble, place each ball of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap and flatten it with the palm of your hand. Now you can add a bit of the Picadillo to half of the rounds of dough, right in the center -- Place a second flattened round of dough on top, and using another piece of plastic wrap, gently press it down, and use a fork to gently "seal" the edges."
- Coat a non-stick sauté pan with a neutral oil and place it over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add a few of the empenadas de platano -- as many as you can fit, with a couple inches between them. Cook until the empanadas are golden brown, about 2 minutes per side (flip them carefully). Drain them on paper towels and serve!
(More detailed instructions are below.)
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
- You must cook the plantains the night before you want to serve this. You can also cook and shred the steak the night before, and you can even make the entire Mexican Picadillo filling up to two days in advance.
- It's imperative that the plantains be completely ripe! They should at least have black spots on the skin, and even if they're mostly black, that's okay. Even though they'll be cooked, they should be soft.
- If you want the picadillo to be spicier, add more of the chipotles in adobo sauce. I suggest doing this to taste, so you avoid going overboard. Here's how.
- When you're working with the plantain dough, handle it gingerly, as it can be fragile. On the same note, I wouldn't try to make the empanadas any larger than I suggest in the recipe, as they might fall apart in the pan.
- Although the plantain dough is a treat, if you're pressed for time, you can use an already prepared bread dough you like. Pie dough or puff pastry will work. If you do use a bread dough, you can make a larger size empenada if desired, as the dough will not be as fragile.
Other Serving Suggestions
- The picadillo is also absolutely delicious on its own, served with rice and/or beans.
- It's a fantastic filling for tacos and burritos.
- Use Pepper Jack cheese (or another favorite), and make a grilled cheese sandwich with it.
- Whether you make the empenadas or serve it differently, it's lovely with a fresh salsa. I especially love it with this one with mango and avocado.
I hope you love this recipe for Empenadas de Platano with Mexican Picadillo as much as we do!
More plantain and picadillo recipes:
Plantain Empenadas Recipe
For the dough
- approx. 3 pounds plantains, fully ripe
For the filling
- 1 pound flank steak
- neutral oil for the pan (vegetable, grapeseed)
- ½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons almond meal or finely chopped almonds
- ⅓ cup plantain, fully ripe, finely chopped
- ¾ cup tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup capers, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup raisins, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dough
- Cook the plantains. Leaving the peels on, slice each plantain in half, horizontally, and place them in a pot with just enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, reduce 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), usually about 15 minutes, depending on their ripeness. Remove them from the water and once they're cool enough to touch, peel them. Place them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Purée the plantains. The next day, add the plantains to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, and blend until smooth. If it's not getting smooth and you see chunks of the fruit, add a tiny bit of water at a time until it's smooth. This can be helpful if the plantains weren't quite ripe enough -- otherwise, you shouldn't need it.
- Shape the plantain dough. Wet your hands with a little water or olive oil and form the mashed plantains into about 6 dozen balls, about 1 very generous tablespoon each. I like to use my 1¼-inch cookie 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. (You can do this step up to a couple hours ahead of time, keeping them covered in the refrigerator.)
For the filling
- Cook the steak. Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil and sprinkle both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. (A cast iron skillet is best.) Place the pan over high heat and once it's very hot, add the meat. You should hear a sizzling sound -- if you don't, the pan isn't hot enough yet. Wait until it is. Sear both sides of the meat to brown it, then turn the heat to medium-low to finish the cooking, about 15 minutes for medium. Once the meat is cool enough to touch, shred it with your hands, and then chop it finely. Set aside. You can do this the night before you're serving if desired, keeping it covered in the refrigerator. Either way, do not wash the pan! If it's the night before, just cover the pan with foil.
- Make the picadillo. Turn the heat to medium-high under the same sauté pan. Only add oil if you don't think there's enough fat from the meat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the almond meal or finely chopped almonds, plantains, tomatoes, capers, raisins, chipotles, cumin and the shredded, chopped steak. Stirring from time to time, cook everything together for about 10 minutes to fully combine all of then flavors, and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Here's How to Season to Taste.) Cool to room temperature.
- Assemble. To assemble, 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 the rounds of dough, right in the center -- I use the same 1¼-inch scoop, filling it about ¾ of the way. Place a second flattened round of dough on top, and using another piece of plastic wrap, gently press it down, and use a fork to gently "seal" the edges."
- Fry the empenadas. Generously coat a non-stick sauté pan with oil, and place it over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add a few of the empenadas -- as many as you can fit, with 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 brown, about 2 minutes per side (flip them carefully). Drain them on paper towels and serve!
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They look so delicious and are definitely worth all the effort!
Thanks, Angie! Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
I am SOOO excited to try these! We love empanadas and we love plantains - this looks like a match made in heaven.
Thanks so much, Marissa. I think you'll love them -- and it's really a fun cooking project. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
I want to eat these! I love picadillo and we try to make a batch or two each year. But, your Plantain Picadillo Empanadas is a new twist for me. Alas, we only can get green plantains that have been refrigerated, thus they will not ripen properly. Do you think green might work? Or, maybe Japanese pumpkin???
Hi Ron, I don't think pumpkin has enough starch in it to work as a "dough." That said, maybe if you added potato starch or something similar to it, that would help. And I think green plantain wouldn't mash properly for this. How great that you make picadillo from time to time -- I also love it just with rice and beans, and maybe a little pepper jack cheese melted on top of the whole thing. Thanks for checking it out. 🙂 ~Valentina
Dawn - Girl Heart Food
Okay, these seriously need to happen soon! We love sweet and savoury combos so I'm totally digging everything going on here with the raisins and capers. They sound absolutely delicious, Valentina (and look so good, wish I could grab some from my screen...if only 😉 ).
Thanks so much, Dawn. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
John / Kitchen Riffs
I haven't made picadillo in forever. You've totally given me the urge to make it again, and soon. This looks fantastic -- thanks.
Thanks, John. I hope you do and love it! 🙂 ~Valentina
Wow! I love Susan fenugreek and Mary Sue Milliken. I love watching them cook together, too! Such great old friends. anyway, plantain dough?!! Wow! These are just fabulous as empanadas. Do they need to be eaten immediately? Cause they’d be great party food!
Hi Mimi! You can make them as early as the morning you'd like to serve them. Warm them in a hot oven just long enough to heat them through. The should still have the crispiness form frying them. Enjoy and thanks for visiting. 🙂 ~Valentina
Mexican-style cuisine is by far the weak spot in my repertoire so am more than happy to have a totally new recipe. Well, two recipes really - as you say the picadillo can be used in more than one way. Shall certainly try soonest. A large proportion of the local population would be ignorant about plantains but methinks they are usually available in the supermarkets unfrozen - shall look as their use here is most interesting. Thanks for as great new idea !!
Thanks so much, Eha. I LOVE plantains, and you're right, they are not well known by most people. And they behave so differently from regular bananas, it's good to learn how to use them so they're delicious. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
Gerlinde de Broekert
What a fantastic recipe. I have never cooked with plantains. I have to look for them the next time I am going grocery shopping.
Thanks, Gerlinde. I hope you come across them and try them. Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
Me too never cooked with plantains. Must find and make this beauty !
You must try a plantain. Once ripe, you can just slice and fry! See how you like them. Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
David @ Spiced
The Mexican picadillo sounds fantastic, but really takes this recipe to the next level is making a dough out of sweet plantains. I've never even thought about that! This sounds like a delicious recipe, Valentina...thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much, David. The plantain dough is pretty cool. Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
So awesome and amazing, especially when entertaining for a twist of flavor with that plantain dough! YUM!
Thank you, Kim! Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
David Scott Allen
Wow - these look fantastic! I miss teh Border Grill - was there SO many years ago... when they were the Two Hot Tamales. Is it still in business?
Hi David. Sadly, the Boarder Grill closed in 2016 -- after 26 years! Was one of my favorite spots for a drink and appetizers. They opened a new place in Santa Monica called Socalo. I haven't been yet, but as so as the Covid craziness subsides (fingers crossed!), I'm going to try it. They also have a couple of places in Downtown LA. 🙂 ~Valentina
Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!
Your empenadas look so delicious! I love the picadillo ingredients - especially the plantains. I can see why you like to keep this recipe in semi-annual rotation!
Thanks, Jeff! Yep, it's a good one to keep coming back to. Enjoy. 🙂 ~Valentina
Karen (Back Road Journal)
Oh my goodness, my hairdresser and I were just talking about something very similar. She mentioned ones made with plantains and another kind made with yucca. I'm sending her a link to your post...she will love it.