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Empenada de Platano with Picadillo sliced in half on white plate

Plantain Picadillo Empenadas

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, create an out of this world appetizer or meal.

*Please note that this recipe must be started the night before you want to serve it.

*Makes about 3 dozen appetizer-sized empenadas

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine South American, Mexican
Keyword appetizers for parties, Mexican dinner recipes, recipes with plantains
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 20 minutes
Refrigeration 8 hours
Total Time 10 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 224 kcal
Author Valentina K. Wein


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
  • cup plantain, fully ripe, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped
  • cup capers, finely chopped
  • 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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."

  4. 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!