Empanadas de Camote are a South Texas Tradition

Everybody has one of those recipes that gets passed around the community. Empanadas de Camote, or Sweet Potato Turnovers is just that recipe in our San Manuel ranch community.

Other traditional fillings such as pumpkin are popular, and there is a practical reason. Our climate is hot, and out on the old timey ranches, delicate fruits such as blackberries or peaches were hard to grow, and even harder to buy. Sweets were usually made with ingredients that could be kept at room temperature for a long period of time. Our average summer temp is around 95°F (35°C) so hardy tubers like sweet potatoes, or dry gourd type squashes like pumpkins were always around for making into a dessert.

I even have a few old recipes for candy made out of pinto beans. Anything starchy could be converted into a dessert, as long as you had a sack of sugar in the pantry.

Now days, we make Empanadas de Camote because we really love their tender crust and deeply spicy filling.


Empanadas de Camote (Sweet Potato Turnovers)

  • Yield: 30


  • 1 ¾ cups shortening (360gr)
  • 4 cups flour (500gr)
  • ¼ cup sugar (200gr)
  • 1 tsp. salt (4gr)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup water (120ml)
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar (15ml)
  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes (1kg)
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1/2-1 cup sugar, to taste (100-200gr)


  1. For the dough: Knead the shortening into the flour, sugar and salt with your hands. Add in egg, water, and vinegar, mixing well. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for one hour.
  2. Meanwhile, wash sweet potatoes well, and cut into large chunks. Boil sweet potatoes with the cinnamon until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain water from pot. Remove cinnamon sticks.
  3. After the sweet potatoes have cooked, peel, then puree with an electric hand mixer. Add in sugar, as desired.
  4. Heat your oven to 350°F (176°C). Form the dough into 30 balls. Using a tortilla press or a rolling pin, flatten the dough into circles.
  5. Fill with a spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes. Do not overfill. Fold dough over the filling to form a half circle. Pinch edges together. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. When all empanadas are formed, crimp edges where empanadas is sealed with a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until browned.


  • Virginia GonzalezReply

    October 20, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    I wanna try this recipe but why add vinegar to dough?

    • Melissa GuerraReply

      October 28, 2017 at 5:44 am

      Hi, I am not sure what the vinegar does, but there are traditional recipes for crusts that contain vinegar. Sometimes it ends up pickling the egg in the crust as well, and the egg seems to “cook” in tiny strands, which looks weird, but isn’t so noticeable when you eat it. However, you will notice that the crust is very very tender. Try it, they are not difficult to make.thanks for writing! xo

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