A soft homemade dough is filled with mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil to create these delicious baked Caprese empanadas. This easy recipe makes a fun snack, is tasty for lunchboxes and picnics, and is very simple to prepare.
The Italian Caprese salad, with its delicious combination of mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes and basil, is a classic. We love it in white bean caprese and spinach caprese salad. Here, I’ve turned the ingredients into a kid friendly finger food, a Caprese empanada, knowing how much my son loves cheese rolls and pinwheels.
Why we love this recipe
- The filling for this easy vegetarian empanada recipe contains just 4 ingredients.
- These baked empanadas are great for lunch boxes, picnics and an easy lunch.
- It’s a budget friendly recipe that is suitable for batch cooking and freezing.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for ingredient quantities.
- Plain flour – all purpose flour.
- Baking powder – this leavener helps the dough to rise a little, keeping it light in texture.
- Butter – Cold butter. I like to use unsalted butter in my dough and add a little salt. However you can use salted butter if you prefer, just don’t add any extra salt to the dough.
- Mozzarella – I find the best mozzarella for these empanadas is the larger mozzarella balls. I don’t recommend using bocconcini as their moisture content is higher, which makes the empanadas soggy.
- Tomatoes – fresh tomatoes. It doesn’t matter if they are slightly under ripe. You want firmer tomatoes rather than over ripe and squishy tomatoes.
- Basil – you can use dried basil or fresh basil in the empanada filling. If you don’t have basil, you can use these basil substitutes.
How to make caprese empanadas from scratch
Please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for the full recipe.
- Mix the flour with the salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl, then add the butter and, using your finger tips, lightly rub the butter in to the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. (See first image below.)
- Pour in the cold the water and mix to form a soft dough. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film / cling wrap and place in the fridge to rest for 1-2 hours.
- Take the dough out of the fridge. Lightly flour a board / surface and a rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough out to a thickness of 2mm / 0.07 inch. Using a 9cm / 3.5 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles from the dough.
- Cut the mozzarella into small cubes, take the seeds out of the tomato and chop into small cubes. In a small bowl mix the mozzarella and tomato cubes, dry or fresh basil and black pepper.
- Place ¾ tablespoon of the filling in the centre of a circle of dough.
- Either using beaten egg or water, brush around the edges of the dough.
- Fold over to create a semi-circle. Press down on the seams with a fork to seal.
- Place the caprese empanada on a lined baking tray / baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Brush with egg glaze, if using.
- Place into the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
No, empanada dough is less flaky and more tender than pastry dough.
Puff pastry makes an easy and delicious substitute for empanada dough, or you can even use homemade pizza dough.
My recipe tips
- Rest the dough – like pastry, this helps the dough create a better seal as it doesn’t shrink back as easily.
- Take the seeds out of the tomatoes – if you leave them in the wet filling can make the pastry soggy. You don’t need to peel the tomatoes.
- The dough stays soft in the fridge, so you can roll it straight away.
- I find it more manageable to cut the dough in half and roll out one of the halves, cut out circles, and then roll out the other half. This is especially useful if you don’t have a large work surface.
These tomato and cheese empanadas are delicious on their own, or served with guasacaca, a creamy avocado dip. If you want to serve them for lunch or dinner, here are some suggestions to make empanadas into a meal:
- Salad – my son loves them with this cheese coleslaw (more cheese!), or with this Malfouf salad (a cabbage slaw without mayo). If you don’t have cabbage to hand this simple creamy Polish cucumber salad is also delicious with them.
- Potatoes – especially useful for turning these empanadas into more of a filling meal, a side of parmentier potatoes is always popular!
- Fridge: baked empanadas can be stored in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.
- Freezer: you can freeze both baked and unbaked empanadas. Thaw at room temperature, or for unbaked empanadas, cook straight from frozen. You can keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Egg free empanadas – seal the empanadas with water, and glaze with milk or leave unglazed.
- Other cheese – although not used in a caprese salad, you could use grated cheddar or Monterey Jack, or mix through a spoonful of ricotta.
- Pesto – stir a teaspoon or two of basil pesto in to the mozzarella and tomato, and leave out the dried or fresh basil.
Why not try…
You may also like these other kid friendly lunchbox favourites:
- 2 baking trays / baking sheets
- 375g plain flour ($0.45 / £0.23)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder ($0.10 / £0.03)
- ½ teaspoon salt ($0.01 / £0.01)
- 65g cold butter, cubed ($0.84 / £0.52)
- 180ml (¾ c) cold water ($0 / £0)
- 150g mozzarella cheese ($2.37 / £0.84)
- 2 medium tomatoes, or 1 large, deseeded ($0.60 / £0.20)
- ¾ teaspoon dried basil, or ¾ tablespoon fresh basil ($0.06 / £0.02)
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper ($0.02 / £0.01)
- 1 egg, beaten, optional to glaze and seal
To make the empanada dough:
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together.
- Add the cubes of cold butter and gently rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Pour in the cold water and mix to form a soft dough.
- Wrap the dough in cling film / cling wrap and place the dough in the fridge to rest for 1-2 hours.
Make the filling:
- Cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes – ½ cm / 0.2 inches.
- Cut the tomatoes into quarters then take out the seeds, cut into ½ cm / 0.2 inch cubes. No need to peel the tomatoes.
- In a small bowl, mix the cubes mozzarella with cubed tomato, dry or fresh basil and black pepper.
Make the empanadas:
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C fan / 220˚C / 392˚F convection / 428˚F.
- Line two baking sheets with baking paper / baking parchment.
- Take the dough out of the fridge. Lightly flour a board / surface and a rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough out to a thickness of 2mm / 0.07 inch.
- Using a 9cm / 3.5 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles from the dough. Gather the dough scraps together and re-roll, repeating until all the dough is used.
- Place ¾ tablespoon of the filling in the centre of a circle of dough. Either using beaten egg or water, brush around the edges of the dough, then fold over to create a semi-circle. Press down on the seams with a fork to seal.
- Place the empanada on the lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
- Brush with egg glaze, if using, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden.
- Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes before eating – the tomato can be hot!
- Store leftovers in the fridge or freeze.