He wouldn’t touch his food, which, let’s be honest, is not out of the ordinary. Moans of disapproval filled their mouths instead of the food. A constant stream of requests were shot in my direction in a tone that is not unlike nails scraping down a chalkboard. There was bartering and attempts at making a deal, “If I eat this may I be excused?”

I was there. Mere inches separated me from the whiners yet I heard nothing. Closing my eyes I took it all in. The tender crust burst into flakes that melted the moment they hit the warmth of my mouth. The subtle sweetness of butter transitioned into a flurry of spices and a mellow familiar smokiness from deeply caramelized bacon. Jalapeno provided a new layer of heat which begged to be be soothed with green-tinged cream sauce floral from cilantro.

I returned back to the chaos of the table only when my plate was empty and I reached for another.

Although Baron helped me roll out the dough and fill our empanadas you would have thought I was punishing him by requesting that he merely try a bite. Roman also refused.


Around our table the food is not forced. Primarily because I don’t have the patience to sit there for hours fighting each bite into their mouths. I want to try and retain the joy that food is for me rather than have it become a continual source of contention in our family. Our one food rule: You must try everything once. This goes for mama and daddy too.

My hope, and I have confidence that it will be, is that as my kidlets grow older they will enjoy and appreciate food. They may not ever have the same intense passion for food as their mama, who thinks about the next meal while still finishing bites during the current one, but at the very least they will have a wealth of joy-filled memories that include us in the kitchen. Those memories are painted with the smell of roasting spices, the feeling of soft dough squeezing through their fingers, and the sound of the oven timer signaling the call to the table.


Until those days of a more peaceful mealtime I may occasionally find myself so pleased with dinner that I slip into a my own world where the flavors of cumin and coriander sing louder than the moans from the kids and I manage to tune out the unrelenting requests for the sake of one more bite into a perfectly formed crust. In fact, I hope I become a frequent visitor.


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Spicy Empanadas with Cilantro Cream

Empanada Dough

2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 oz (1 stick) butter, cold

1 egg

⅓ cup ice water

1 tablespoon vinegar (light in flavor such as cider or champagne)

In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour and salt. Pulse to combine. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and scatter over the flour. Pulse about 5-7 times to just start to break up the butter. In a small bowl mix the egg, water, vinegar and gently stream into the food prosessor while pulsing. Stop when the dough is still a bit crumbly. Dump out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and use your hands to gently coax the dough into a round. Cover the dough with the plastic wrap and chill for about an hour.

While the dough is chilling prepare the filling.


Empanada Filling

3 strips bacon, cut in ¼ inch pieces

½ cup onion, diced (about 1 small – medium onion)

1 red pepper, diced

2 teaspoons cumin

¼ teaspoon cayenne

½ teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 medium potato, cut in ½ inch cubes

1 medium shallot, finely diced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

½ cup green lentils

1 ¼ cups water

¼ cup cilantro stems

1 serrano (or jalapeno) finely diced


In a large saute pan add the bacon and cook on medium heat until crisp. Add the onions, stirring occasionally until just golden, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the cumin, coriander, chili powder, and cayenne. Cook for one minute, until fragrant.

Add the red pepper and cook until just soft, about two minutes. Add the cubed potato along with ¼ cup water. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the shallot and garlic, saute until fragrant, just about a minute. Add the greens lentils and 1 cup of water. Give the whole pot a nice stir then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Season with salt. The reason why we salt at the end is to ensure the lentils will be tender and soft and not rubbery which can happen if you salt before they cook.

Finally add the cilantro stems and Serrano (you can use more or less depending on how spicy you like it).

Put that aside to cool slightly.

Once the mixture has cooled and the dough has rested, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thickness. Using a yogurt lid or large cup (depending on what size you want your empanadas). You can carefully roll out the scraps so that you get 6 large empanadas from one batch of dough.

Place ¼ cup of the filling on the left side of the dough round. With a pastry brush (or your finger) put some water around the edge to act as the glue. Fold the right side over the filling to match edges with the other side. Press and seal with your hands then use the tongs of a fork to ensure there is a tight seal. Using a sharp knife cut a slit on the top so the steam has a place to escape.

Place all of the empanadas back on a parchment lined baking sheet and chill in the fridge.

Pre-heat the oven to 400* and bake for about 20-30 minutes or until deep golden. For an a nice golden gloss, brush with a lightly beaten egg just before baking.

Cool slightly before serving.

Cilantro Cream

¼ cup cilantro

¼ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Cholula*

1 garlic clove


Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Cover and chill until ready to serve.




31 Responses to “Spicy Empanadas with cilantro cream”

  1. NicoleD

    Cholula really is the best hot sauce. We buy it by the gallon online because the cute little wooden topped bottles just don’t last long enough. The empanadas sound fantastic! Your kids will one day appreciate your recipes 🙂

  2. Amanda

    This looks so good. Must be, if you can drown out finicky eaters’ whining. Very impressed.

  3. Molly

    I have a Nuyorican co-worker who always makes us empanadas for work events. I am going to send her this recipe as a little hint. 😉 I think these sound absolutely fantastic, although I don’t know if my five-year-old self could take this much heat.

  4. Crystal Malek

    Lol, it’s refreshing to see I’m not the only Mom who will zone out the complaints as I’m savoring something yummy, trying to bask in that moment of deliciousness. I used to argue back with them on why they should eat it/love it/thank me for making it. Now, I just retreat to my own little paradise w/my food, while also thinking about what I’ll make next.

    Can’t wait to try these. 🙂

  5. snippets of thyme

    Same at our house when my kids reached elementary age. You have to try a small bite of whatever lands on the plate. No one says you have to like it. It works! You’re doing great. That photo with him rolling out the dough is precious.

  6. Gabrielle

    Oh I love Empanadas! Thanks for the recipe, I can’t wait to try it. And I can vouch for the hot sauce too, by boyfriend lived in California for a while when he was in university and when he found the sauce in a local grocery store he was pretty excited to introduce it to me.

    My parents never forced us to eat anything either, but there was a pretty strict “there is no other food” policy. I think my mother was determined to never have to make anything special for us. So we had to choose to go hungry. And if we came to them later because we couldn’t stand it anymore, they would take whatever we had rejected cold out of the fridge and give it to us again. We learned pretty quickly to try new things 🙂

  7. Anna

    I’ve been wanting to make empanadas ever since we ate lots of them while traveling in Costa Rica. I thought they dough was made with masa, but I am excited to try this recipe, thanks for another great meal idea!

  8. Erica

    I am so sorry they have no idea *yet* what a gem they have in you as a chef-mama. Wow, people pay lots of money (I know I would) for someone like you to treat them to even one meal a week. Someday they will understand. Someday 🙂

  9. yasmeen @ wandering spice

    with beautiful recipes and photos like yours, i am sure your kids will grow into a true appreciation of good food.

    i love the idea of lentils in an empanada as well. yum!

  10. Susan

    We had the same rule in our home ~ “try it once”. My son was a bit finicky back then, but at 26 he not only enjoys nearly every kind of food, he is also a terrific cook.
    Thanks for this delicious sounding recipe.

  11. Val

    I think children that are brought up surrounded by good food inevitably appreciate it at some level in their adult lives.

    I’ve yet to make empanada’s. Not entirely sure why. They make for the most ideal snack or meal. I’ll be sure to give this a try. Thanks!

  12. bianca

    Your description of these empanadas was absolutely mouth watering. Damn girl, you’re good!

  13. holly

    I agree- try it once…..And I don’t make multiple meals- EVER.
    My Mom had the same philosophy- we never had a pop tart or wonder bread and felt deprived….Well, guess what? My brother became a chef and now owns two restaurants and when my daughter was 4 she told her teachers her favorite foods were salmon and broccoli….Stay the course! Can’t wait to try these. So happy to have stumbled upon your blog. {found it via ETSY….} many thanks for a lovely blog!

  14. meg

    cholula really is the best hot sauce, and these empanadas sound exquisite – i can’t wait to make them for my parents this weekend. i hope your kids will eventually really how lucky they are to have such a talented cook in the family! gorgeous photos 🙂

  15. perudelights

    Delicious recipe and very easy instructions. In Peru we are very fond of empanadas, especially with a meat filling. We cut them in half, squeeze a little lime juice on them and enjoy!!! We´ll share the recipe very soon.

  16. Joshua Fagans

    Haven’t made empanadas in quite a while, good idea. Glad to hear that I’m not the only cook trying to instill things in their children. Keep it up!

  17. Kimberley

    I sometimes marvel at how much less picky I am about food than I was when I was a kid. I love that you’re able to drown out the protestations – seems like that would be essential to the enjoyment. And these empanadas, oh. I would’ve scarfed them down greedily.

  18. Courtney

    Those look amaaaazing.

    I also need those napkins.

  19. Ashley B

    Just made these for dinner, with the cilantro cream, and they turned out so great! Will definitely make again, thanks!

  20. Candy

    I love ur food rule, esp when it comes to little ones. Keep it simple and sweet and i believe things will fall in line. I’m ur newest subscriber and will be trying this recipe this week. Thanks!

  21. Megan

    I made these last night, substituting the bacon with portobello mushrooms and it was amazing. The cilantro cream in particular was a huge hit! Thanks so much, am loving your blog!

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