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Jen and I had been tossing around the idea of making those Sweet Potato Doughnut Holes into something savory, and since Jen loves pork, specifically shredded or in bacon form, her natural inclination was to make something akin to hush puppies stuffed with carnitas. We talked about different substitutions for the flours and sugar, but we didn’t take into account how much starch would need to be replaced when we subbed out the sweet rice flour. When Jen tried to make her hush puppies she said they came out quite dense, edible, but dense. I was not discouraged.

On my way home from work one day, it hit me: empanadas. Why not try to make a savory dough that I could stuff with beef? I had 2 sweet potatoes on the verge of death anyways, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I was sincerely surprised when it actually worked. The dough is SO easy to work with, and the slight sweetness of the sweet potato plays well with a salty filling. I think these would be AMAZING wrapped around sliced/ground sausage, fried into little round bite-size poppers. YES.

Ok, empanadas.

2 small sweet potatoes
2/3 cup of potato starch
3/4 cup of cornmeal/flour (I actually did 1/2 cornmeal, 1/4 buckwheat, but all cornmeal would be fine)
1/2 cup of white rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Drippings from beef filling

1 pound of beef (I use 80/20 since it’s cheap, needs no oil in the pan)
1/2 a small onion, diced
3-4 garlic gloves, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of paprika
2 teaspoons of cumin
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon of oregano

First work on your beef filling, sauté the beef with the onions and the garlic, then add all the seasonings (this is really to taste, and I didn’t actually measure any of the spices…oops). The tomato paste is to help keep the beef together and add a little moisture. Mix ‘er all up and cook until the beef has just cooked through.

While the beef is cooking, you can microwave your sweet potatoes (stab each with a fork a couple of times and cook on a plate for about 8 minutes, until soft). When the sweet potatoes have cooled, discard their skins and mash up the potato meat in a small bowl.

Once your beef has finished cooking, drain off the grease into your bowl of sweet potatoes. Set aside the beef. First add the potato starch, then small amounts of the corn and rice flours (the amount of flour I used is based on how much moisture my sweet potatoes had and how much beef dripping I drained off, so the total amount of flour might differ for you). Add the baking powder and salt, and mix well with your hands. If too sticky, add a little more potato starch. This dough should be extremely easy to handle and roll, so don’t be afraid of manhandling it.

I used potato starch and WAY too much of it on my cutting board, don't do that.

I used potato starch and WAY too much of it on my cutting board, don’t do that.


Heat up amount an inch of oil in a skillet while you pinch off large tablespoon-sized pieces of dough and flatten them out into circles, on a smooth floured surface (I would recommend tapioca flour, or any blend you have on hand). Spoon beef onto one side and fold the other side over to match the seams, press them closed and pick up the empanadas to seal the seams completely. Set aside and use up all the dough making empanadas (I think I made 12 fairly large empanadas…roughly).

Gluten-free Beef Empanadas

Now we’re ready to fry them! (Make sure your oil isn’t too hot, these can burn quickly). Fry on each side until golden brown, about a minute or two, and remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge, and use a toaster oven or the oven to heat back up.

Gluten-free Beef Empanadas

These. Are. Delicious. And not too greasy, either. It’s like sweet potatoes have some magical oil-repelling quality. Well, and I think rice flour doesn’t absorb as much oil, either, right? Anywho, you should make these. And, obviously, stuff with whatever you want! If you’re going vegetarian, I would add about 2 tablespoons of butter in place of the beef drippings. Happy eating!