Empanadas are savory turnovers common throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Every country has their own variation of seasonings and ingredients adapted of course to regional taste and culinary traditions.
In Spanish, the word empanada literally means breaded. The Spanish word for bread is pan, hence empanada.
Baked or fried?
Empanadas can be fried or baked depending on the dough. I usually take the lazy way out and use a pre-made one. I like Goya Discos. They are round cutouts that come in two sizes. These work well: the only drawback is that they taste better fried! What doesn’t?
Big or small?
For snack empanadas I use a pre-made pie crust, any brand works. Cut individual rounds with a 2″ biscuit cutter. Each pie crust round will yield approximately 12 mini empanadas. I like these because you can bake them, which is healthier than frying. Now, if you are good with pastries, by all means make your own dough. I use pie crust because it is quick and easy.
Onto the fillings…
The fillings for empanadas varies. The most common are beef and chicken. Cheese is also used, but it is not as popular. If you use cheese you need to use a cheese that doesn’t melt too much like a farmer’s cheese. In coastal regions of Spain for example, it is common to see empanadas with a seafood filling.
A little empanada history
As an amateur food historian, I have done some research into the origins of empanadas and discovered that virtually every culture in the world has their own version. For example, in India samosas are the equivalent. These are either vegetarian or use meat (lamb or chicken). They are normally eaten with a yogurt sauce or a chutney. Other empanada-like treats are: jiozi from Japan, pasties from Wales and wontons from China.
It is believed that the origins of empanadas can be traced to medieval Spain where they were introduced by the Moors who occupied the Iberian Peninsula between 711 AD and 1492 AD.
Some tips for making great empanadas
- The recipe calls for sofrito and recaito as seasonings. These are links to my homemake sofrito and recaito. I have links to Amazon below if you want to see the store bought version as well. Either works great for this dish.
- If you want to fry them, cook all the meat filling and let it cool completely. The dough will go to mush if you don’t.
- The fried version is best to use the frozen Goya discos and the baked version use pie crust.
- The fried discos version freeze very well after you thaw the disco, fill them and then crimp. Store them in the freezer filled but not yet fried. Keep in mind they need to thaw before frying.
- The baked version can be filled, crimped, baked and then frozen. Then all you need to do is reheat in a 250’F oven for about 10-12 minutes.
I usually serve the beef empanadas with a salad and dip them into a little ketchup. So good! I used to do this as a kid. Old habits die hard.
Here are the step by step photo to make the baked mini beef empanadas:
Step 1: Gather all your ingredients and have them chopped, measured and ready to go: pre-made pie crust, ground beef, onions, garlic, olive oil, cumin, salt, sofrito and recaito. Preheat your oven to 350’F.
Step 2: In skillet on medium heat sauté the garlic and onion with salt in the olive oil until translucent then add the ground beef.
Step 3: While the beef is browning add the cumin, recaito and sofrito. (These are Amazon links if you want to see the store version of sofrito and recaito.)
Step 4: After the meat has browned break it up into very small pieces to about the size of rice grains. Removed from the skillet and allow to cool completely in a bowl.
Step 5: Once the beef has cooled take a 2″ biscuit cutter and cut rounds from the pie crust. Fill the round with about 1/2 Tbsp of beef in the middle.
Step 6: Fold over to form a half circle to cover the beef.
Step 7: Crimp the edges of the empanada with the tines of a fork. Optional: Brush the top of the empanada with 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp of water for an egg wash. This will give a shiny brown exterior.
Step 8: Bake on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes until golden brown at the edges.
If you want to get creative you can certainly put the meat filling into puff pastry and bake them according to the pastry instructions. Just be sure the meat is fully cooled off before working with the pastry. Working with the hot meat mixture turns any dough into mush.
Another quick and easy baked recipe version, using a 15 oz. package of pie dough, is my avocado black bean and queso fresco empanadas pictured below. I like to brush these with a little egg wash for a nice shiny golden exterior as shown below.
So for your next party take a batch of empanadas; they will be the hit of the party!! Share the recipe with your friends.
By the way, if you would like other empanada recipes, check out these recipes for black bean and plantain empanadas and avocado, black bean and queso fresco empanadas. Here are some great picks on Latin food recipes from Amazon too! Buen provecho!
Empanadas: Savory Turnovers
Empanadas are a Latin American favorite. A party just isn't a party without a batch of these delicious savory beef turnover. You can make them ahead and freeze them too.
- 15 oz package with 2 frozen rolled pre-made pie crusts already thawed
- 3/4 lbs ground beef (extra lean)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup onion finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp sofrito **
- 1 Tbsp recaito **
Preheat oven to 350'F.
In a skillet over medium heat sauté the onion and garlic with salt in olive oil until translucent. Add the beef, and break up in small pieces.
Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until thoroughly cooked. Move to a small container and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Unroll pie crusts. With a 2" biscuit cutter, cut circles all around pie crust going around the perimeter and then moving in to the inside of the circle. Take a round in the palm of your hand and place a small amount of meat in the center. Fold inwards to create a half moon shape.
To completely seal, place on the counter, and using the tines of a fork press all around the edges. Continue until you have used all the meat.
Place on ungreased baking sheet and lightly spray with PAM or any other non stick spray.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until they turn slightly golden. Yields about 36-40 mini empanadas.
** Sofrito and recaito can be purchased in the grocery store in the Latin food section. You can also make your own with the recipes I have provided in this blog.
Optional: Brush the empanadas with an egg wash of 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp of water before baking for a shiny golden exterior.