Carla Hall’s Empanadas with Black Bean Picadillo and Avocado Cream

Serves 4 (makes 3 cups)


  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground Mexican chiles
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a blend
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, optional

1. In a small bowl, cover the raisins with 2/3 cup hot water. Let soak.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions just start to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the ground chiles and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

3. Stir in the beans, corn, and raisins with their soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Cool completely, then stir in the cheese and cilantro, if using.


Cream Cheese Dough
Makes enough for about 60 small empanadas

Talk about a workhorse. This super-easy dough was always my go-to in catering. It’s a tender, not flaky, dough. You basically can’t overwork it and have it become tough, it tastes great with sweet and savory fillings, and rolls like a dream. If you’ve ever been scared to try making your own dough, start here.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour and salt. With your hands, toss the butter and cream cheese in the flour until each cube is lightly coated.

2. With the paddle, beat on low speed until the dough forms a loose mass around the paddle.

3. Gently pat the dough into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours, before rolling. You can refrigerate the dough for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 3 months.

Putting it all together:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. On a lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a lightly floured 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Gather the scraps, stack them and reroll to cut out more rounds until all the dough is used.

3. To form an empanada: Put 1 tablespoon picadillo in the center of a dough round. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling and form a half moon. Pinch the edges together to seal and create a 1/2-inch rim. Press the edges with a fork. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

4. Transfer the empanadas to the baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown and heated through, about 20 minutes. Cool on the pan and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Avocado cream

  • 2 avocados, Hass, ripe
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon cilantro, minced
  • Salt, to season

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.


Picadillo photo by: Frances Janisch