Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Hello Everyone! Just about 2 weeks ago, I went on a road trip with a few of my workmates for a weekend away to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, specifically to the cities of Pagudpud and Vigan. Even though it was a stressful and quick trip, we had a lot of fun. I say stressful because literally right after work on the Friday, we made our way into the city to catch our private van. We drove through the night and arrived at Paoay before dawn.

We had our breakfast and then started our tour sightseeing Paoay before a rough morning ahead. A morning I think some of us will never forget. A rough 4×4 journey through the Paoay Sand Dunes followed by sand boarding activities. My multiple bruises took over a week to heal!

4x4 Paoay Sand Dunes, Ilocos Sur

We arrived in Pagudpud just in time for a sumptuous boodle fight lunch by the beach. Since were too full to go for a swim right after, and it was scorching hot as well, we decided to continue with the tour first to fulfil our #forthegram shots before returning to the Blue Lagoon for a refreshing afternoon ocean swim after a super hot day! After our swim, we headed on over to our accomodation for a much needed shower before dinner. Remember how I said earlier that we headed straight into the city after work? This was the first shower I had in more or less 36 hours.

Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud, Ilocos Notre

The next day we got up early and left our accomodation after breakfast to start making our way back south to the city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. We arrived in Vigan just before lunch and took endless amount of #forthegram photos along the famous Calle Crisologo – pre-war beauty of whitewashed walls, cobbled streets, and old Spanish houses; a town saved from destruction because of a love story. It is now home to souvenir shops and interesting lokal products. After a quick lunch and a shopping/pasalubong spree, we were back on the road for our journey home to Manila.

Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

One of the many musts when visiting the city of Vigan, or just the region of Ilocos, is the famous Ilocos Empanada. It is an orange-tinged fried dish traditionally stuffed with vegetables like unripe papaya, skinless Vigan Longganisa, and egg. Modern versions of the dish add bagnet*, mung beans, and even hotdogs into the stuffing.

So my takeaway from this trip was to recreate the famous Ilocos Empanada at home, with a twist. Those who know me personally, ever since towards the end of last year, I’ve been trying to cut down on my meat intake for various health reasons. Those of you who also know me, I can’t cut out all meat from my diet and go completely vegetarian. And so, my diet as of this moment, consists of only chicken and seafood as my main source of animal protein. Hopefully, I can completely rule out chicken by the end of this year and go pescatarian.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Of course, I can’t not taste the original empanada first before attempting to put a twist to the classic. So just that one time, I broke my diet and had one (maybe 2) for myself. Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, here are a few links that you should check out that helped me put this recipe together:

* Bagnet, locally also known as chicharon in Ilocano, is a Filipino dish of pork belly that has been boiled first and then deep fried until it is crispy. It is seasoned with garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt during the boiling process.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada Ingredients


** Allow up to a minimum of 6 hours or up to 24 hours for freezing time. Freezing the empanadas beforehand helps to keep them intact and prevent them from breaking apart during the frying process.


For the crust

  • 1 & 1/4 cups rice flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp annatto oil***
  • 1 tsp salt

For the vegan longganisa mixture
(Note: This recipe makes around 16-18 small sausages)

  • 250g firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 & 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 & 1/2 cups dried shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and minced (or any other mushroom)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 & 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the filling

  • 8 small free range eggs
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium-sized unripe papaya, shredded
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, shredded
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, diced
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Vegan longganisa mixture
  • Cooking oil, for frying

*** The main purpose of using annatto oil is to provide colour to different dishes to make it more visually appealing. Since annatto oil is not always available in grocery stores, learning how to make it will surely be beneficial to you. Here are the details to get your started:

For the annatto oil

  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons annatto seeds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, and corn oil can also be used)


  1. Annatto Oil: Combine the annatto seeds and olive oil in a small saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium.
  2. When bubbles start to form around the annatto seeds, turn the heat off and let the seeds soak in the oil for a minute or two. Do not overcook the seeds as this will produce a bitter taste.
  3. Use a strainer to filter-out the annatto seeds and transfer to a heat proof bowl. Set aside to cool down.
  4. Empanada Dough: Add the water, salt, and annatto oil in a medium-sized non-stick frying pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  5. Once simmering, add the rice flour all at once and mix using a wooden spoon, until all the liquid is absorbed and and dough starts to form. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  6. Once completely cooled, knead until you get a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 8 equally-sized balls. Cover with cling wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
  7. Vegan Longganisa: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together except for the breadcrumbs. Leave to marinate for about 30 minutes. Even though it’s not stated in the ingredients list, I ended up adding some chilli powder to the mixture for an extra kick of spice.
  8. Add the breadcrumbs to the mixture. Add more depending on the firmness you want to achieve. At this point, you can shape the mixture into sausages, but since we’ll be using them for the empanada filling, we won’t be needing to shape them.

Vegan Longganisa

  1. Empanada Filling: Add a tablespoon of coconut oil into a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic until golden brown, about 30 seconds, before adding the diced onion. Cook for a further minute until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the tofu-mushroom mixture to the pan and stir-fry until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Once done, set aside to cool down completely.
  3. Prepare the unripe papaya and carrots in a separate bowl.
  4. Assembly: Place the dough ball between two sheets of plastic cling wrap to prevent it from sticking to your counter-top and rolling pin. Roll it out nice and thinly.
  5. Fill with the shredded unripe papaya and carrots, together with the vegan longganisa. Arrange them so that they create a well in the middle. Crack one egg into the well.
  6. Fold the dough over and seal the edges by pinching it using your fingers or a fork. Transfer into a tupperware lined with parchment paper to prevent the empanadas sticking to each other.
  7. Repeat for the remaining dough. Should make about 8 small or 4 large empanadas.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

  1. Cook & Serve: Deep fry until golden brown and crisp, about 3-4 minutes per side. Once done, transfer to a wire rack and strain any excess grease from the empanadas. You can fry the empanadas longer if you prefer your egg to be cooked more, as long as you don’t burn the empanadas. I personally like my eggs runny.
  2. Enjoy with your favourite spicy coconut vinegar or of course, with some delicious Ilocos-made vinegar.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada


  • You will most definitely end up with a lot of leftover sautéed tofu & mushroom and shredded veggies.
    • Shredded Veggies: You can make a delicious Thai Papaya Salad with it and serve it with anything fried! My choice would be to serve it with a humble portion of fried fish.
    • Sautéed Tofu & Mushroom: Shape the leftovers into sausages and freeze. Pan-fry them for 3-5 minutes before serving.
  • If you want to make this dish completely vegan, omit the egg from the recipe.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada


– Ally xx


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