Empanadas are one of my all-time favorite foods. I have so many vivid memories of enjoying a few before asado (grilled meat), when I was traveling through Argentina. To this very day, it's my favorite Argentinian dish to make at home—and I have no doubt it’ll be yours too!
What is an empanada, anyway?
Empanadas, put simply, are savory hand-held pastries. They originated in Spain and are typically stuffed with fillings like cod fish, chicken, or beef. Of course, that’s not all—they can also be made sweet. They’re also a staple of daily life in Argentina, which means they’re close to my heart! And whether I was in South America or at home in Chicago, I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t like a good empanada.
For those of you who haven’t heard about my high school days, I spent some time studying abroad in Argentina. The first time I ever tried these little dough pockets was at an Argentinian street shop. People stop and pick up fresh empanadas from bakeries throughout the day—they’re so delicious and they’re easy to carry. You’ll see how versatile they are once you learn to make your own—and don’t forget the chimichurri!
What is the best dipping sauce for empanadas?
When you break out the empanadas, serve them alongside pico de gallo, or my homemade chimichurri sauce. This easy-to-eat finger food allows people to mill about and socialize while they eat, no need to sit down. For me, one of the best things about empanadas is that I can make them in bulk ahead of time—and they freeze excellently. More on that later!
How to Make a Perfect Empanada
Although I like to make my own empanada dough from scratch, you can also find it at some specialty markets in a pinch—just call and ask before you make the trip because not all markets carry the premade empanada dough. I recommend starting your journey with my Argentinian Beef Empanadas. Once you master this basic recipe, it’s easy to branch out with different fillings, savory and sweet. They are all special!
I recommend baking a hearty batch of the empanada dough, since you can freeze uncooked empanadas for later. You’ll be glad to have a batch at the ready next time you have to entertain. You can make them large or small, whichever you’re in the mood for. As for cooking, your empanadas can be baked or fried. They can be served hot or at room temperature—although they do stay warm for a long time. Honestly, every variation is completely delicious.
How to Freeze Your Homemade Empanadas
I have containers of uncooked empanadas in my freezer at any given time. I love that they’re ready to go whenever I need them for a gathering or a party. They freeze exceptionally well, and you can fry or bake them straight from the freezer. If you want to assemble them later, you can also just freeze the filling and make the dough when you’re ready.
Empanadas are the Best Appetizers and One of My Go-to Recipes for Summer entertaining
Honestly, I live for empanadas. They really are the best! I love to make my Argentinian Beef Empanadas as an appetizer when I’m having company, especially for a barbeque. I also love serving these little hand pies at birthdays, family gatherings, and potlucks with friends. If you’re the host, serving a hearty appetizer like empanadas gives you extra time to put your finishing touches on the main dish—it takes the pressure off, and everyone will enjoy themselves in the meantime.
Yield: Makes approximately 30 to 36
Author: Mary DiSomma
Mary’s Argentinian Beef Empanadas Recipe
Argentinian Beef Empanadas: an impressive and versatile dish that’s surprisingly easy to make. They’re the perfect start to a progressive meal—empanada appetizer, main course, and then, of course, dessert!
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large egg
¼ to ½ cup water, as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
½ cup pitted green olives (Picholine or Spanish preferred), cut in half lengthwise
2 large egg whites, for sealing the empanadas (save the egg yolks if you prefer baking over frying)
For Baked Empanadas
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons water
For Fried Empanadas
1 quart vegetable oil
For the empanada dough, place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. With the food processor on, slowly add the butter cubes through the feed tube.
With your food processor still on, add the egg. Slowly pour in the ¼ cup of water. Continue to add water, a little at a time, until the dough forms into a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and divide it into two balls. Using the palm of your hand, slightly flatten the balls into disks. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
To prepare the filling, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and sauté for 2 more minutes or until the onions are translucent and the peppers are softened. Add the ground beef along with the cumin, paprika, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Cook for approximately 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat and stir the mixture. Add the tomatoes and cook for an additional 2 minutes to soften.
Transfer the cooked beef mixture to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour before assembling your empanadas.
Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough until it is approximately ⅛-inch thick. Using a 4-inch round cutter, cut the dough into rounds, transferring them to a parchment-lined baking pan as you go.
Place a generous amount of filling onto one side of each round, making sure to keep a ½-inch edge. Top with a slice of egg and a few olive slices. Continue with the remaining dough and filling.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites with a fork. If you are baking the empanadas, save the egg yolks for the glaze. Brush the inside edge of the empanada discs with the egg white mixture and fold closed to create a half-moon shape.
To seal your empanadas, gently twist and fold the edge of the dough with your fingers or crimp the edge with a fork, making sure there are no holes. Continue filling, folding, and crimping the remaining empanadas. Chill the filled empanadas in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking or frying them.
Your empanadas can now be baked or fried. If you’d like to fry your empanadas, skip to step 12. If you’re baking them, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chilled empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet pan. In a small bowl, combine the yolks and water. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of each empanada with the egg wash. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with chimichurri.
For fried empanadas, heat 4 inches of oil in a large pot. Using a candy or oil thermometer, heat the oil to 365 degrees. Have a sheet pan lined with paper towels ready. Remove 2 to 3 empanadas at a time from the refrigerator and carefully place them in the hot oil. Cook for 5 minutes, turning the empanadas occasionally until both sides are golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on the paper towel-lined pan—this helps absorb excess oil. Check the oil to make sure it is still at 365 degrees and continue with the remaining empanadas, 2 to 3 at a time. You may need to add additional oil as you fry them to maintain a 4-inch depth. Serve with chimichurri sauce.
Mary DiSomma, Foodie, Author, Philanthropist, Mother, Wife and so much more...
Mary DiSomma, an enthusiastic and imaginative baker of cookies, is the author and publisher of A Gift of Cookies: Recipes to Share with Family & Friends. She is also a philanthropist, podiatrist, entrepreneur, and mother of four grown children.
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