Love and Olive Oil

Vegetarian Lentil and Sweet Potato Empanadas

Vegetarian Lentil and Sweet Potato Empanadas

This recipe didn’t come together easily. I had been meditating on a sort of savory vegetarian empanada recipe for some time now, inspired perhaps by the abundance of sweet potatoes from our CSA this fall that we are (still) trying to use.

The lentil/sweet potato/goat cheese combination was there from the beginning, but it wasn’t going to be easy on me. And it took us more than a few tries before we finally found the right balance of flavors and textures that worked and didn’t leave you wishing for a greasy meat filling instead.

But we did it, and the result is as delicious as it is unique.

Black Beluga Lentils

While we typically turn to the more common brown lentil or even the beautiful French green lentil, this time we tried something new: the black beluga lentil. Named for it’s resemblance to caviar (I assume), it keeps its shape and texture better than the other varieties. If you have to substitute another variety, just make sure you don’t overcook them, otherwise they will turn into a starchy mush.

The filling pairs these unique legumes with chunks of sweet potato and spicy chipotle, wrapped in a puff pastry pocket. To cool it all down, and because everything is always better with goat cheese, we serve it with a tangy lime, cilantro, and goat cheese dipping sauce which, on its own, is a bit too tart, but when paired with the buttery pastry and spicy filling, becomes the perfect counterpart.

Our determination finally paid off.

Vegetarian Lentil and Sweet Potato Empanadas

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1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup black beluga lentils
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 smallish sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 chipotle in adobe sauce, chopped, plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1/4 cup white wine
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed according to package directions

For Sauce:
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup soft goat cheese
1 tablespoon lime juice (from 1/2 lime)
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons milk
salt and black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in lentils, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are just al-dente. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeño and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add sweet potato and chipotle and stir, cooking for about 4 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add wine and stir until mostly absorbed, about 1 minute, then add lentils and their cooking liquid. Stir mixture until liquid is mostly evaporated and sweet potatoes are just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one puff pastry sheet to a 12-by-12-inch square. Cut into 9 equal squares. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each square (do not overfill). Bring opposite corners together to form a triangle encasing the filling, pressing edges to seal. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, then crimp edges with a fork to seal further. Repeat with remaining pastry and second pastry sheet.

Bake empanadas for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

To prepare sauce, combine sour cream, goat cheese, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add milk as needed to acheive desired consistency (thicker for dipping, thinner for drizzling). Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

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  1. I love this recipe so much. The only thing I adjust is the amount of jalapeño. The bonus is that *everyone* in the family likes it, too. 
    I take it to potlucks so there is a veggie, gf option — using vegetable stock and a gf dough recipe. 

  2. I have made these so many times. Everyone loves them.
    I’ve served them as appetizers, snacks and as a main dish. The “heat” is easily adjusted for my family’s or guests’ tastes.
    They are very easy to make and there isn’t a lot of clean up (BONUS!).
    I’ve found my best source of beluga lentils is one of the local Indian grocery/restaurant.

  3. Ummmm this recipe is fabulously addictive. I’ve made this 6 times now and it’s definitely on the frequent request list in our house. 

    A couple hacks: grating the sweet potato works well…it cooks faster and it’s easy to mold the pastry around the filling. I usually use canned lentils cause I’m lazy. Tonight I forgot white white and adobo, so I subbed apple cider and BBQ sauce/cayenne and they’re almost as good. :) 

    Thanks for this awesome recipe! 

  4. Our friends ABSOLUTELY loved these the other day. The sauce complemented the empanadas so well. I couldn’t find the black beluga lentils and used green lentils instead; came out delicious.

  5. Mmm! This sounds like such an incredible combination of flavors. Goat cheese makes everything better.

  6. Oh my heavens. Chipotle and sweet potatoes. My mouth is watering. I love the flavors in these empanadas! My mom has been looking for vegetarian dishes. She can not eat much of the puff pasty, but I imagine turning this into a empanada ‘pot pie’ would be perfect for her.

  7. I don’t know why but lentils are always a total fail for me. haven’t tried cooking them for over a year bec of that but I think its time for another try with your recipe at hand. thanks!

  8. Ok so now you’ve introduced me to a whole new type of lentil. I’ve only ever tried green and brown lentils!

  9. Oh, delish! I’ve only had empanadas one other time. This recipe looks fabulous!

  10. these look absolutely divine. i must make these!

  11. oooo yum! I always see black beans & sweet potatoes paired together, but this is the first time I’ve seen lentils with them. Definitely want to give it a try!

  12. Mmmm HELLO!! These look fabulous!

  13. These look delicious! Being a bean lover, I thought I had tried most legumes. Thanks for introducing me to the black beluga lentil. I will have to look for these & try the recipe!

  14. These empanadas sound so good! I don’t think I’ve ever had black lentils–I’ve certainly never cooked with them–so I’m excited to try them out. I bet these would be amazing made in a large batch and frozen for instant empanadas later!

    • 9 years on I’m here to tell you these are still in the top 10 favorites. Easy to adjust spice level and to manage food allergies without sacrificing flavor. 

  15. Thank you for admitting the recipe didn’t come together ‘so easily’ like many are tempted to write about. Sometimes they don’t, and they take tons of work to get right, lots of trials. Thanks for your persistence and your honesty. And your gorgeous light-bouncey photos!

  16. These look delicious! Perfect for our upcoming Thursday girls night!

    btw – Made your shrimp and grits recipe from you new book for Valentine’s day and it was a huge hit! And I thought it tasted even better the next day. Thank you!

  17. Mmm..These sound incredible! I am always looking for tasty ways to use lentils! I will have to make these!

  18. These empanadas sound wonderful with the lentils! What a great idea. I haven’t made my own empanadas either so I need to try this out!

  19. They look really good!

  20. I am going to have to pick up that variety of lentils. This looks smashing!

  21. these look fabulous! i’ve been craving empanadas we had in argentina a long time ago. and that was before we switch to being mostly vegetarians. so i know this is likely to produce a collective gasp across the internet, but i hate goat cheese. it smells just like a goat. and tastes like the goat smells. it doesn’t work for me. do you have an alternative? sorry. maybe there are others out there who kinda/sorta gag over the idea of chevre.

  22. I’ll have to look for those cute belugas. I like the use of the puff pastry for the crust. I believe I have some in my freezer-lunch perhaps?

  23. I love empanadas! Would never have thought to use sweet potatoes.

  24. I make Empanadas with potato, but sweet potatoes and lentils sounds yummy and these look so delicious. XOXO

  25. The Empanadas looks delicious… I like all of the ingredients…will try it soon and let you know about it…

    I like the pics, too!

  26. Wow, these are some of my favorite flavors all wrapped together in flaky dough. Delicious!

  27. I have some lentils, yet I have never used them! This is a great recipe to try them out with!!

  28. I have been cooking all kinds of lentils lately, beluga is next! The flavors here are those I love – spicy chipotle and sweet potato are made for each other!

    these little pillows look perfect.

  29. OMG, little pockets heaven! I’ve never had black beluga lentils; know I’ll know to look for them. Thanks!

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