Meatless Monday: Costa Rican Potato Empanadas

One thing I love about traveling is trying new foods and learning new recipes. Last week in Costa Rica, I learned to make delicious potato empanadas.

I have always loved these savory pastries but assumed the process to make them must be difícil and require fancy kitchen tools. ¡Pero no! Costa Rican native Rosa Elena taught my middle school travelers and I a quick easy method to prepare empanadas by hand.


Fill with any tasty veggie combination. This potato, pepper and onion mix was delicious. Courtesy: @NatalieGFierro

Rosa Elena’s Handmade Potato Empanadas Recipe


  • 2 cups corn masa or cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 sweet bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Optional: spicy peppers, salt


  1. Prepare your filling. We sauteed diced onions and sweet bell peppers on low heat until onions turned golden and then added diced potatoes and covered for 15 minutes, until soft. Throw in some spicy Anaheim or jalapeño peppers to add a kick. Let filling cool.
  2. Make your dough in a large bowl, mixing corn masa and water with your hands.
  3. Prepare your pastry shell by grabbing a small handful and rolling it into a ball then flattening it into a circle. Masters can create a perfect shell with only their hands, or use a bit of plastic (a cutting from a plastic bag) to help you out.
  4. Add one spoonful of filling to the middle of your circle. Resist the temptation to add too much–less filling in each makes cooking easier and means more empanadas to enjoy! Close the pastry by folding the plastic or dough in half and pressing the edges firmly together with your fingers.
  5. Fry in oil on medium heat, flipping occasionally until dark and crispy on the outside.

Use plastic or your hands to make a perfect empanada. Courtesy: @NatalieGFierro


Cook in vegetable oil until golden. Courtesy: @NatalieGFierro

We enjoyed these sabroso treats with rice, beans, and salad, followed by a traditional Costa Rican dessert: sweet rice pudding. A perfect Meatless Monday meal!


Empanadas with rice, beans, and salad. Courtesy: @NatalieGFierro

Once you have mastered the technique, there are endless options for tasty vegetarian empanadas. Try these five vegetarian empanada filling recipes.

Recipes are easy and fun to prepare as a perfect meal or snack for chefs of any level. They’re also a perfect souvenir to bring home. Each time I make this dish I will remember the great food and people I met in Costa Rica. Until you get the chance to visit this tropical country, let your taste buds do the traveling while you enjoy this authentic recipe!

¿Need Meatless Monday inspiration? Click here to read more of my recipes.

The Wise Latina Club's Natalie Wagner FierroA teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

What recipes have you picked up while traveling?

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