Edible Alphabet Recipe of the Week: Black Bean Empanadas

By Lindsay S. RSS Tue, June 23, 2020

Edible Alphabet is a free English Language Learning (ELL) program offered by the Free Library's Culinary Literacy Center. The mission is to teach English language and literacy skills through hands-on cooking projects. While Free Library locations remain closed to the public in the interest of public health and safety, we will be sharing weekly recipes from our class curriculum and past participants.  

This week, I’m making Black Bean Empanadas from the Edible Alphabet ‘Global Dishes’ curriculum and serving them with grilled pineapple salsa. Empanadas can be found almost anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world. In fact, most cultures have some form of pastry filled with savory ingredients. It’s the perfect meal for people on the go. For more ideas on empanada fillings and flavor combinations, check out the Free Library’s collection of e-cookbooks featuring variations on the hand pie.

The first time I ever had an empanada was when I was living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and studying Spanish, so this recipe always makes me think of language learning. The Free Library has fantastic resources for learning a new language, including digital resources you can access from home while the libraries are closed. Mango Languages is a great place to start, with courses in over 70 languages available for you (for free with your library card) on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. We also have language learning ebooks and audiobooks available for download and streaming. Check out the Languages and Learning Center website for even more information on how the Free Library of Philadelphia can support you on your language learning journey. 


Black Bean Empanadas



  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick butter; chilled
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 2 eggs (divided)


  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 can black beans
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • Salt
  • Black pepper



  1. Mix flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Grate or chop chilled butter into small pieces and combine with flour and salt.
  2. Add cold water and 1 egg to the dough. Mix and knead together until it forms a smooth bowl. Cover the dough with plastic and place it in the refrigerator.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400℉. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  4. Chop onion and bell pepper into small cubes.
  5. Dice garlic and jalapeno pepper. Chop cilantro.
  6. Rinse and strain beans.
  7. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion and bell pepper until tender.
  8. Add jalapeno pepper and garlic to the skillet. Saute for 1 minute. 
  9. Add black beans and stir until warmed through. 
  10. Add cumin, red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Turn off heat
  11. Grate cheese. Add cheese and cilantro to filling and stir to combine.
  12. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into circles on a lightly-floured surface.
  13. Place filling in the center of circles and fold into half-moons. Press the edges closed with a fork.
  14. Beat the remaining egg with a fork and brush egg wash on pastries.
  15. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For more information about Edible Alphabet and the Culinary Literacy Center, visit freelibrary.org/cook or email kitchen @ freelibrary.org. Enjoy this recipe? Leave a comment and stay tuned for another Edible Alphabet recipe next week!

Leave this field empty

Add a Comment to Edible Alphabet Recipe of the Week: Black Bean Empanadas

Your email is kept private and will not be shown publicly