Gluten-Free Cream Cheese & Spinach Empanadas

When most of us think of empanadas, we think of them filled with spicy meat. These vegetarian empanadas are the opposite in taste and texture. When served warm, the cream cheese is soft and gooey capturing the mellow spinach and onions. No spice is added. It’s a delicate empanada with classic Italian flavours.

What cream cheese should I use?

My first choice is an Italian cream cheese that gives the empanada that authentic touch.  Otherwise, any cream cheese will do as long as it crumbles easily and isn’t too mild in flavour. The stronger the better so that the cheese stands out with every bite full.

What is better, spinach or silverbeet/Swiss Chard?

Both are suitable for these empanadas. I would choose whichever one is in season. Silverbeet (also known as Swiss Chard) has a stronger flavour than Spinach. Its stalks are quite tough, so aim to use the leaves only and chop them finely before frying them with the garlic and onion mixture.

gluten-free cream cheese and spinach empanadas on a serving plate

Gluten-Free Cream Cheese & Spinach Empanadas

by Sandra, Fun Without Gluten
These vegetarian empanadas are delicious as a packed lunch, school snack, picnic treat or party food. The filling is delicious cooked garlic spinach with soft Italian cream cheese held in a homemade gluten-free oven-baked pastry.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Resting Time of dough 1 hour
Course Appetizer, Party Food, Vegetarian
Cuisine Argentina
Servings 18 medium empanadas



  • 460 g store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 70 g butter or vegetable shortening, cubed and chilled
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 300 ml milk
  • 1 egg, separated Use the egg white to seal the pastry discs together and the egg yolk with some water to brush the pastry before baking


  • 125 g Italian cream cheese or Spanish queso crema, at room temperature, cut coarsely
  • 185 g baby spinach or silverbeet/chard leaves
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp cornflour Known as cornflour in the UK and corn or maize starch in the USA
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • sea salt, to taste



  • Blend the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder & salt with the cold butter or shortening in a food processor until it looks like breadcrumbs, or alternatively, rub the mixture using your hands.
  • Slowly add the milk until the dough feels soft and comes together nicely.
  • Place the dough in a bowl, cover and chill for at least one hour.


  • Round up all the ingredients.
  • Chop the washed spinach or silverbeet/char roughly.
  • Fry the onions for 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and spinach, fry for 10 minutes.
  • Add the seasoning, cook gently for 10 mins, until the spinach has collapsed and the onions have cooked down.
  • Add the cornflour to the cooked spinach mixture and allow to simmer down to absorb the excess moisture for a further 5 minutes
  • Allow to cool down slightly before assembling the empanadas.


  • Dust the kitchen counter with some flour and roll out small batches of the pastry to 1 cm thick.
  • Using the rim of an upside-down bowl or small plate measuring approx 10 cm in diameter, cut a circle with a knife to form the pastry discs.
  • Add a heaped tablespoon of the spinach filling to one half of the disc
  • Add the coarsely cut or crumbled cream cheese on top of the spinach mixture.
  • Brush the rim of the pastry with the egg white or water and fold over the disc.
  • Seal the discs by pinching the edges with a slight twist. Dip your fingers in some flour to prevent your fingers from becoming sticky.
    An example of an assembled gluten-free empanada before being baked
  • Or, use a fork to press down the pastry together.
    Pressing the gluten-free empanada pastry with a fork on the edges to close it
  • Mix the egg yolk with some water to make an egg wash.
  • Brush the empanadas with the egg wash to give it a nice colour and sheen.


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  • Bake for 20 minutes on the middle shelf, or until golden and crisp.
  • Allow to cool down slightly before serving.


  • Keeps for 3 days chilled
  • Suitable to freeze
Keyword gluten-free argentina, gluten-free cheese empanadas, gluten-free spinach empanadas, gluten-free vegetarian
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