Lately I’ve been all about Caribbean flavors. A few weeks back Laura and I went to the Virgin Islands for a few days and now I’m totally hooked on the cuisine. We spent much of our time on Saint Thomas, which I was surprised to find has a wide range of vegan food . . . if you can track down a restaurant that’s open. I learned about “island time” and how the hours I found online might not be an establishment’s actual operating hours. But one place I could count on for breakfast or lunch was Barefoot Buddha. Their amazing menu includes jerk tofu that is to die for. I loved it so much I decided to bring some of the flavors back home to New Jersey in the form of these Jerk Tempeh Empanadas.
What I loved about the flavors of the island was the balance of sweet and heat. A few essential ingredients in any jerk rub or marinade are allspice, scotch bonnet peppers and thyme. Mix these with a few other things and you’ll have an incredible flavor profile that’ll work on any protein and in pretty much any form. I thought it would work well in an empanada wrapper and it turned out excellent!
As I mentioned above, there are a few key ingredients in any good jerk dish. But once they’re in place you can really freestyle. Here’s what went into mine:
- scotch bonnet pepper (habanero works well, too)
All you need to do is throw these things into a blender or food processor for a bit, marinate your protein for at least an hour, cut out your empanada circles and fill them with a tablespoonful of the mixture and bake! It’s super easy and the result is a flavorful and filling treat that works as a great snack or even a light meal if you have a few. Serve these Jerk Tempeh Empanadas with your favorite dipping sauce and you’ll be in island heaven!
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As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this recipe if you make it. So drop me a comment below, and be sure to tag @nutfreevegan on social media if you’re posting photos. Plus, it’s always super fun to see these dishes out in the wild!
Jerk Tempeh Empanadas
- 1 Tbsp allspice
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. fresh ginger
- 2 Tbsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. cloves
- 2 scallions
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped habanero is a great substitute if a scotch bonnet isn't available
- 1/2 cup pineapple or pineapple juice
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 Medjool dates 1–2 Tbsp. brown sugar would work, too
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- 8 oz. tempeh, cut into small pieces
- 2 cans (8 oz.) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
- 1 Tbsp. melted plant-based butter or oil
- Add allspice, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, cloves, scallions, scotch bonnet pepper, pineapple, garlic and Medjool dates into a blender or food processor. Pulse until everything is blended into an almost smooth mixture. Put into a large bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add tempeh. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until tempeh starts to brown.
- Add tempeh to spice mixture and stir to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 24 hours.
- Heat oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Unroll dough and cut out 4-inch circles (or press the mouth of a bowl into the dough to create a stencil). Spoon one tablespoon of tempeh mixture onto one end of each disc and fold dough over so the ends align. Use a fork to press down the edges so the top and bottom dough come together. Place empanadas on cookie sheet and brush tops with melted vegan butter or oil.
- Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until dough begins to turn golden on top. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.