Pizza empanadas (or empanadas caprese) are delicious little pastries filled with cheese, mozzarella and basil. They’re always popular with my kids and are lunchbox friendly. These pizza empanadas can be vegan or vegetarian.
Are your kids obsessed with pizza? Mine too.
We make homemade pizza most weeks but sometimes I like to use those flavours that they adore in other recipes.
These pizza empanadas are one such recipe. Known as empanadas caprese in Argentina, the combination of tomato, mozzarella and basil is always a winning combination.
What are empanadas?
Similar to a pasty, but smaller, empanadas are small, half moon shaped pastries with a savoury filling. Originating from Spain and Portugal, they're common across Latin America, with regional differences in fillings and style.
We used to live in Argentina and always enjoyed visiting the empanaderia to pick up a selection of empanadas. Read more about Argentine empanadas.
One of my favourite flavours is humita - a sweetcorn filled empanada. My children however, prefer the empanada caprese. Filled with tomato, basil and cheese, it’s no surprise that they love the flavour that’s most similar to pizza.
Traditionally empanadas are fried. I've oven-baked mine to make them a bit healthier.
Best pastry for pizza empanadas
If you live near a Latin American shop you might be able to buy ready made empanada pastry that is already cut into circles.
However, I usually use a simple shortcrust pastry. You’ll find a recipe to make your own pastry on my sweetcorn empanadas recipe.
On this occasion I’ve kept the recipe as simple as possible by using a sheet of ready rolled shortcrust pastry. One sheet makes 24 empanadas.
Can these be vegan?
Yes, I’ve made mine vegan by using dairy free cheese. Most ready made shortcrust pastry is suitable for vegans but check the ingredients if you’re not sure.
How difficult are pizza empanadas to make?
They’re actually ridiculously easy to make, especially if you use ready rolled shortcrust pastry.
They’re so simple that I often make them with my children. There’s nothing I like more than teaching them how to make a recipe that results in them cooking their own lunch.
Are they lunchbox friendly?
Yes. I regularly put these in my children’s lunchboxes.
What ingredients do you need to make empanadas caprese?
Use two medium sized tomatoes, which we’ll remove the seeds from.
A small handful of torn basil leaves gives these empanadas a delicious flavour.
Grated mozzarella or vegan alternative
Use a cheese that melts well. I used Bute Island grated mozzarella alternative for my vegan version.
Just a spoonful, mixed with the filling ingredients.
Make your own, or use ready made.
Just a little for brushing the top of the empanadas. I used oat milk. You could also use beaten egg if you're not vegan.
Do you need any special equipment to make these?
You will need:
- small bowl
- rolling pin
- round cookie cutter or small bowl or cup
- baking tray lined with baking paper
- pastry brush
How to store pizza empanadas
Allow to cool completely then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
Can you freeze this recipe?
Yes, you can freeze these. The pastry can go a little soggy after defrosting so I would recommend defrosting completely then reheating in a hot oven for five minutes before eating.
- Take care not to put too much filling in your empanadas. You really only need a tiny amount or the empanadas will burst in the oven - still tasty but a bit messy to look at.
- Lightly prick your empanadas with a fork to let some of the steam out.
- Press the edges shut tightly. You can twist them over, press it down with your fingers or use a fork - just be sure it’s well sealed.
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How to make pizza empanadas
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For the filling
- 2 medium tomatoes
- Small handful basil leaves
- 50 g grated mozzarella or vegan alternative
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper optional
For the empanadas
- 375 g sheet ready rolled shortcrust pastry
- 1 tablespoon milk for brushing, I used oat milk
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (fan)/200°C/gas mark 6. Get a baking tray out and line with baking paper (you can use the paper from your ready rolled pastry if you’re using that).
- Slice the tomatoes in half. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and discard, then chop into small pieces. Place in a bowl.
- Tear the basil leaves into small pieces and add to the bowl.
- Add 50g grated mozzarella, or vegan alternative, and 1 tablespoon olive oil or alternative. Stir well and season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Add a little flour to your work surface. Roll out your pastry or unroll your ready rolled pastry and place it on the work surface.
- Use a small cookie cutter* to cut out circles of pastry.
- Put the pastry circle in the palm of your hand and place a teaspoon of filling in the middle (a little more if you’ve gone for a larger size). Don’t be tempted to overfill or they’ll burst open in the oven.
- Fold the top of the pastry over and press the edges shut with your finger tips or a fork. Place on the baking tray. Repeat with the remaining dough, re-rolling the leftover scraps as needed.
- Once they’re all done lightly prick each one with a fork to make a few holes in the top of the pastry. Brush with a little milk.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Allow to cool a little before eating, especially if giving to little children.
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