Image of empanadas

Black Bean + Cheese Empanadas with Easy Pantry Salsa

Kids will love making these cheesy empanadas as much as they will love eating them. The dough is simple to pull together and so fun to roll out and shape—and empanadas can be filled with anything from cheese and beans to shredded chicken and salsa.

Speaking of salsa, today’s meal also includes a recipe for a bright tomato-y salsa that is a perfect accompaniment to the empanadas. You likely have most of these ingredients in your pantry already, but the secret here, if you can grab it on your next shopping trip, is canned chipotles. They add a ton of smokey flavor and depth and just a touch of heat.

The other secret ingredient? Resilience. Trying a new recipe with your kids opens you all up to a new challenge. It’s time to show your vulnerability. Maybe you aren’t a great cook, but you have a great sense of humor. Or maybe you’re awesome at engineering a solution to a botched meal plan? Show kids how resilient you are when things don’t go perfectly. They’re watching and learning from us. So roll up your sleeves and get a little messy. It’s going to be okay.

60 mins

SERVES 3-4 (6 empanadas)



1 1/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 egg

1-2 tbsp ice water

1 tsp distilled white vinegar (or whatever light colored vinegar you have on hand)


1 14.5 oz can tomatoes (you can use any tomatoes except sauce or puree. I suggest fire roasted or crushed tomatoes)

½ onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 lime, juiced

1 chipotle in adobo, plus 1 tbsp adobo sauce from can

1 handful fresh cilantro (optional)

Salt to taste


1 16 oz can black beans, drained

2 tsp taco seasoning (or ½ tsp cumin, ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp chili powder and ½ tsp dried oregano)

1 ½ cups cheddar cheese


Step 1: Make the dough.

  • Combine flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and blend in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
  • Beat together egg, 1 tbsp water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)
  • Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with the heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. If dough seems too dry to work with, add a little more ice water.
  • Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap or bag.

Step 2: While the dough chills, make the salsa and the filling.

  • Add all the salsa ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste for spiciness and add a bit more chipotle if you like more heat. Salsa will keep for a week in the fridge.
  • Using a fork, mash black beans with all of the seasonings. Filling complete!

Step 3: Assemble the empanadas.

  • Preheat oven to 400°F
  • Remove dough from the fridge and unwrap. Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and add a little flour to your rolling pin, as well.
  • Divide dough into 6 equal pieces and form each into a disk. Keeping remaining pieces covered, roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).
  • Spoon about 2 tbsp bean filling onto center and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and fold dough in half, enclosing filling. Press edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or tines of a fork. Transfer empanada to a baking sheet. Make 5 more empanadas in the same manner.
  • Bake empanadas in the oven, until golden, about 25 minutes.


Kids Can:

  • Measure the ingredients.
  • Crack the egg and whisk together wet ingredients.
  • Make the dough and knead it.

Grown-ups Can:

  • Help young chefs make observations about the dough. Why do we use ice water in pastry dough? What happens if the butter gets too warm?
  • Talk about the different parts of the egg. What is the difference between the white and yolk?
  • Help them knead the dough. Divide amongst siblings and compare how you each do it differently. What’s the advantage of having small hands? Bigger hands?
A photo of Cheryl.

Cheryl Knecht Muñoz

Cheryl is the Founder and Owner of Sugar Beet Schoolhouse, a cooking school for kids and their families in River Forest, IL. As a chef, instructor, and working mom, she is passionate about growing, cooking, and sharing good food together.



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