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Vegetarian Mexican Recipes: Empanadas And Refried Beans

Last updated: May 17, 2022

If you're trying to eat vegan or vegetarian dishes, Mexican food is an excellent choice because it's so versatile and easy to make. While there are tons of vegetarian and vegan Mexican dish options, we'll be looking at four recipes: 

Join us on a culinary exploration of these dishes and how they can improve your health without sacrificing flavor or fullness. 

Vegetarian Empanada Recipe

Empanadas date back to the mid-1500s in Catalonia, Spain. They're thought to originate from the Moors, who invaded and controlled Spain for several hundred years. The first recipe dates back to 1520, and it was for a seafood-filled empanada. 

This dish is traditionally Spanish and Latin American but not necessarily "Mexican." Still, it's an excellent option for those who want vegetarian items that are tasty and easy to make. 

What You'll Need for the Empanada Dough

  • 4 Cups Flour
  • 3 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Large Egg Yolks
  • 3/4 Cup Water

What You'll Need for the Filling

  • 3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, Finely Chopped
  • 2 tsp Red Pepper Paste (try to get Anji Panca peppers)
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
  • 1 Medium Tomato, Seeded and Diced
  • 5 or 6 Diced Scallions, Medium
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Can of Drained Black Beans
  • 2 Cups of Frozen Corn Kernels
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
  • 4 oz Farmer's Cheese, Chopped Into 1/4-Inch Cubes
  • 4 oz Pepper Jack Cheese, Also Chopped Into 1/4-Inch Cubes
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro, Coarsely Chopped

What You'll Need to Assemble Your Empanadas

  • 1 Large Beaten Egg
  • 1 Cup Unsifted Confectioner's Sugar (optional)

Making Your Vegetarian Empanadas

Step One: Make the Dough

  • Sift all four cups of flour into a bowl. Add your sugar and salt. 
  • Blend your vegetable shortening and butter into the flour mixture. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to mix thoroughly. 
  • Whisk your egg yolks with the water. 
  • Stir your egg mixture into the flour slowly, one pour at a time. 
  • Knead the dough until it's thick and soft. You may need to add a little more water to get the right consistency. The dough will look a little rough before chilling. 
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for an hour. 

Step Two: Make the Filling

  • Pour your vegetable oil into a skillet and let it get hot. Add the chopped onion, red pepper paste, cumin, and garlic salt. Saute your ingredients until the onions are soft and translucent. This process should take about five to eight minutes. 
  • Add your tomatoes, scallions, and sugar to the mixture. Saute for another five minutes until the liquid boils off. 
  • Add your black beans and saute again until the liquid has boiled off. 
  • Add the corn and lime juice and cook for another five minutes. 
  • Remove your filling from the pan and put it into a heat-safe bowl. 
  • Let your mix cool to room temperature, then add the cheese and cilantro. Put the filling into the fridge for two hours, or you can store it overnight. 

Step Three: Assemble Your Empanadas

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Separate your dough into individual pieces. You can make about 20 large empanadas or about 40 small ones. You may want to practice rolling out the dough a few times to get a sense of the size. 
  • Roll your dough into circles about 1/4-inch thick. The diameter should be about six inches for large empanadas or 3 1/2 inches for smaller ones. 
  • Put one tablespoon of filling into the center of each empanada. 
  • Fold the dough over the filling to make a semi-circle. Pinch the edge to seal the empanada. 
  • Fold the edge over and crimp it however you like. 
  • Put the empanadas on an oven-safe sheet pan with some parchment paper underneath. Coat the top of each empanada with an egg wash. 
  • Bake your empanadas for 20 minutes or until they're golden brown. They should also puff up a bit. 
  • If you want them to be slightly sweet, you can dust them with confectioner's sugar. 

You can serve them hot or wait for them to cool to room temperature. They're also good with spicy cream sauce, like a chipotle aioli. 

Vegetarian Bean Salad Recipe

Bean salad is already pretty vegetarian, and you can make this recipe vegan by cutting out the cheese and other animal byproducts. As a Mexican-style dish, you get a bit of spiciness to accentuate your beans and vegetables. This is also one of the simplest recipes as it doesn't require baking, broiling, or sauteing. 

What You'll Need

  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can White Beans
  • 1 Whole Avocado
  • 1 Can of Corn
  • 1 Cup White Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Large Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 1/2 Bunch of Cilantro

For Your Chili-Lime Juice

  • Olive Oil
  • Lime Juice
  • Minced Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Salt and Pepper

Step One: Mix Your Vegetables

Be sure to drain and rinse your beans before mixing them since bean juice can throw off the flavor and texture of the salad. Then, mix each bean with a chopped avocado, a can of drained and rinsed corn, white onion, bell pepper, and cilantro. Mix the ingredients until they're well blended. 

Step Two: Make Chili-Lime Juice

You'll notice we didn't add amounts to the lime juice ingredients. Instead, just mix an even amount of each item until you like the flavor, then pour it over your bean salad and toss everything together. 

Step Three: Refrigerate and Serve As Needed

Once the salad has chilled for a bit, you can pull it out and enjoy it whenever you like. To mix it up a bit, feel free to add shredded cheese, hot sauce, or chopped tortilla chips to add a bit of crunchiness and saltiness. 

Vegetarian Quesadilla Recipe

Technically, unless you add meat to your quesadilla, all recipes are vegetarian. If you want your quesadilla to be vegan, you'll need to use vegan cheese and avoid butter. Otherwise, it's very easy to push this recipe into vegan territory if you like. 

What You'll Need

  • 1 Cup of Red Bell Pepper (Sliced)
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Black Beans, Drained and Rinsed
  • 1/2 Cup Corn
  • 1/2 Cup Onion
  • 2 Gloves of Minced Garlic
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • 2 Cups of Shredded Cheese (Your Choice)
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 4 Flour Tortillas

Step One: Cook Your Vegetables

Put one tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and cook all the vegetables until they're sauteed. Then, add the cumin, chili powder, and any salt and pepper you want, and cook until the seasonings blend into the corn, beans, onion, and bell pepper. After removing the mixture from heat, add the cilantro, so it doesn't wilt and get too slimy. 

Step Two: Melt Your Cheese

Put a flour tortilla on the bottom of a frying pan. Add half of your cheese, then a layer of your cooked vegetables, more cheese, and another tortilla. Cook until both sides are golden. You should only have to flip the quesadilla once during this step. 

Step Three: Enjoy

You can add salsa, sour cream, or any other sauce to your quesadilla to make it even tastier. We recommend a chipotle ranch or something similar that adds some creaminess and spice to the mixture. 

Empanadas date back to the mid-1500s in Catalonia, Spain. They're thought to originate from the Moors, who invaded and controlled Spain for several hundred years. The first recipe dates back to 1520, and it was for a seafood-filled empanada. 


Are refried beans vegan?

One element of Mexican dishes is refried beans, which work well for burritos, quesadillas, or just on the side. However, traditional refried beans are not vegan because chefs use lard or meat to season the mixture. However, if you make them at home, you can use vegetable oil instead to ensure a vegan recipe. Vegetarian Mexican Dish

The best beans for refrying are pinto, but you can use pretty much any bean you like. Simply heat them with water until they're soft, then mash them with a potato masher. If you don't want your refried beans too chunky, you can use a food processor. Once they're mashed, reheat them in the same skillet, adding any seasonings for flavor. 

To improve the taste of your vegan refried beans, feel free to add onions, garlic, oregano, and lime juice to the mix when cooking the beans the first time. Most of these ingredients should caramelize and mix with the beans, so they're not too noticeable when eating (but their flavor remains). 

As you can see, it's easy to do Mexican food with a vegetarian or vegan diet. While you might have to get creative with some items, these dishes will keep you and your family coming back for more!

Is cheese vegan?

No, but there are many vegan cheese substitutes available that you can use to substitute.

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