A few times when I was growing up I had the opportunity to bite into some homemade empanadas. My dad would buy them from a woman at work who ran a part-time home-based empanada company and if I was lucky, he would have leftovers to bring home. I’ve always been a sucker for anything to do with pastry, but usually when it encases a sweet, juicy filling. Empanadas are oh-so savory. They are like the snack-size, Latin version of calzones. The potato in these empanadas reminds me of a pasty. If you’ve never had an empanada, you need to try one. You’ll like it, promise.
Now, there are pretty much an infinite amount of variations on the empanada out there, coming from all different places in the world. I chose what I wanted to include in my filling, despite the fact that it might not be “authentic”. I encourage you to do the same. Life is too short to be burdened by rules when it comes to your food. Make what you want! Throw a handful of cheese on your seafood, who cares?
Taste: Loads of flavor and spice without actually being hot spicy.
Texture: The dough is to die for. Rich and buttery, just the perfect texture. The filling is moist, cheesy, and meaty with chunks of tender potato. These empanadas are a textural heaven.
Ease: I’ll admit, these empanadas require quite a bit of work. None of the steps are difficult, the dough is actually super easy to make and work with. Putting the actual empanadas together requires some patience, but you don’t have to fry!
Appearance: Anything encased in pastry is mouthwatering.
Pros: So. delicious.
Cons: Takes some time (and patience).
Would I make this again? Yes!
Adapted from from Saveur May/June 1999 via Use Real Butter
Makes about 20 empanadas
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup butter
- 2 3/4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoon salt
- pinch paprika
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
- 1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 pound ground beef (85-90% lean)
- 1 small russet potato, peeled, finely diced, and boiled (I used 2 yukon golds)
- 3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese (or “Mexican blend” cheese)
For the dough:
Heat water and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter has melted. Mix flour, salt, and paprika in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour a little of the warm butter mixture in and stir with fingertips to make a wet paste. Pour in remaining liquid and work the dough with your hand until you get a wet, oily dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
For the filling:
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the onions, bell peppers, paprika, red pepper flakes, white pepper, and cumin until onions are soft. Add beef, season to taste with salt, and cook until beef is browned. Drain off the fat. Place filling in a large bowl and when cooled, add potatoes and scallions. Mix to combine.
Preheat oven to 400. Spray a large baking pan with non-stick spray or line with parchment. Tear off pieces of dough to roll about 20 golf-sized balls. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough balls on lightly floured surface into 5″ circles. Place 3 tablespoons of filling in the center of each dough circle. Sprinkle filling lightly with cheese. Fold over and press edges firmly to seal. Crimp with the back of a fork. Place empanadas on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.