Empanadas – Recipe


Empanadas are  filled Latino “pastry pies”.  And that’s a misleading description in my book.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a picture below.  What’s pictured is really more appropriately named, empanadillas (small empanadas). We can quibble about the name while we eat them, because eating is the more important thing.  These particular ones are filled with a tasty ground beef  mixture.  We might destroy all the mystery about the name by calling it a pocket sloppy joe.  But that would be wrong.

As we’re going to end up with something that resembles the picture above, we can tell there are at least 3 tasks in this recipe; making the dough, making the filling, assembling the empanadas and cooking the empanadas.  I know, that’s 4. 

Making the dough is the hardest part, both physically and time wise.  For those of you who bake routinely and don’t mind making dough, you’re set.  For the rest of us, I’m looking for an easier way to make the dough, which means going to the local supermarket.  Somewhere, I’ve read, you can buy frozen empanada dough rolled and cut to the appropriate size.  I’ve also read of using frozen bread dough.  I think what I’ll try next are some large wonton wrappers.  A little mix of cultures.  In the second picture I’m using a round plastic storage container about 4.5 inches in diameter to cut the rolled dough into circles.  Another case of necessity being the mother of invention. 

Well I finally went to the local supermarket, found the wonton wrappers and made the empanadas that way.  It worked out pretty well.  Here’s the link to the wonton version

The dough.

3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 tablespoons shortening 

Wisk or beat the water, egg, egg white and vinegar together in a bowl.   In another bowl mix the flour and salt.  Mix the shortening the best way you know how into the flour.  I used a fork, and it worked just fine.   Make a depression in the center of the flour.  Add the egg and water liquid to the center of the flour.    Mix it all together until it’s stiff and your wrists hurt.  If you have a machine that’ll do this for you, use it.   Wap the wad of dough onto your lightly floured counter or other surface and knead until your hands hurt this time.  While kneading, the dough will pick up some flour from the counter and all the sticky moist parts of the dough will dry out and finally make you proud of yourself.   Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.  In the end, the dough should look like the first picture below.

While the dough sits in the refrigerator, you can work on the filling.   After about an hour in the refrigerator, tear a small portion of the dough off the ball and roll out on a floured surface.  You’ll really need a rolling pin for this.  That’s another reason to find something in the supermarket to replace this step.   Roll it thin.  Take your round cutter, and cut a circular piece out of the thinly rolled dough.  As mentioned above, use what you have as a cutter.  I used a round storage container as a 4 1/2 inch cutter.  You could use a large empty can as a cutter.  In a pinch you could free form the circle with the tip of your knife.  If so, roll your dough on a cutting board and not the counter.  Size doesn’t really matter here.  There’s that wine kicking in again.  A small circle makes small empanadas, a large circle makes big empanadas.  I made what I’ll call  medium empanadas.  Put the circular pieces of dough on a plate and cover with some plastic wrap.  Continue rolling and cutting until you exhaust the dough.   This batch made about 20 empanada circles. 

The wad of dough.

Making do with an improvised cutting circle.

 The filling.

A word of caution here, since I was enjoying part of a bottle of wine at the time, I neglected to write down exactly what I was doing.  So everything below is just a little fuzzy in my mind.

1 – pound lean ground beef, approximately (you might want to start with a little more to cover any sampling going on)

1 – tablespoon oregano

1 – large onion, diced

1/2 – teaspoon salt

1 –  14 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies

1 – tablespoon ground cumin

6 – cloves of garlic, diced (more is always better at this house)

Mildly brown the beef, onions, oregano and salt in a pan.  Allow most of the moisture to cook off, leaving a pretty dry mixture.  This is where the sampling comes in, because the smell at this point will make you want to dip into the ground beef – and the wine.  When cooked off, add the can of diced tomatoes and chilies.  Allow the moisture to cook off again.  Near the end of the cooking add the garlic and cumin.  Stir the cumin and garlic into the mixture and allow to cook only a few minutes longer.  The final result should be a pretty dry mixture for the filling.  See pictures below.  The wine sure didn’t help the quality of these pictures.

The ground beef and diced tomatoes simmering together. 

The final consistency with the garlic and cumin added.  Much drier than above.


We’ve done most of the work at this point and we’re down to the easier pieces.  Take one of the circular pieces of dough you’ve prepared.  Place about a large tablespoon of filling in the center.  The amount of filling you place on the dough depends on how big your circle is.  If you cut smaller circles, use a little less filling.  For larger circles, use a little more.  The idea is to have enough dough around the edges to seal the dough together.  If you have too much filling and it squishes to the edges, it won’t seal well.  Fold the dough in half over the filling.   Press the edges together with your fingers to seal the filling in the dough.  Take a fork and lightly go around the sealed edge with the tines of the fork making some decorative scallops.   Everyone will tell you how creative you are.  A word of caution here.  Most recipes will tell you to seal the edges using just the fork.  I found that not to work all that well.  You can see some of the empanadas opening up as they’re being cooked.  My suggestion is to use your fingers first to press the edges down together to form a good seal.  Then use the fork to make it look good.  At any rate, continue to fill the round pieces of dough.  In the end you’ll have somewhere around 20 empanadas ready for frying.

A glob of filling in the middle of a mildly round rolled piece of dough.

The folded, sealed, and delicately decorated empanada ready for cooking.



The last and easiest part.  Just avoid dipping a finger into the hot oil when you place the empanadas in the pan. Don’t draw any erroneous conclusions that the wine had anything to do with this last industrial accident.  Empanadas can be baked or fried.  As fried is what I did here, I’m sticking with only fried for now.  I’ll go back and try baking some other day.  Heat  about a 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan.  Place the empanadas in the hot oil and fry only about a minute on each side.  All that’s really cooking here is the thin dough holding it all together and that cooks fast.  If you’ll notice in the pictures, some of the empanadas show a certain degree of too well done.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.



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One Response to “Empanadas – Recipe”

  1. shortcakecreations Says:

    These look so delicious….can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing 🙂


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