There’s nothing like a hot, fresh empanada straight out of the oven! And this recipe is everything you dream an empanada to be: golden, buttery, flaky pastry that’s crispy all over. Inside, a juicy beef filling with an extra flavour punch from chorizo, plus the traditional little bits of chopped egg and olives.
A worthy addition to the RecipeTin cult-classic collection!
Great empanadas are hard to come by here in Sydney. They should be hot and crunchy on the outside, with juicy flavourful fillings on the inside.
But all too often the pastry is dry and lacking in the signature crispiness, and the filling is dry and bland. Why-oh-why are so many empanada fillings so dry?? To protect the crispy pastry, I guess. But a dry filling is a high price to pay!
So, that ranting introduction is a good foray into what to expect from my empanadas!
Empanadas 101: These delicious handheld pies are pastries stuffed with a variety of savoury fillings including beef, chicken, pork, cheese and vegetables. There’s also sweet versions too! Native to South America, almost every country in Latin America has their own version. Depending where you are, typical fillings vary and empanadas can be baked or deep fried.
The following sections step through how to make empanadas, as follows:
Empanada filling – Nothing tricky here, it’s like making bolognese!
Empanada dough – Made in a food processor for convenience, or hand if you prefer. You’ll love how easy this dough is to work with.
Wrapping the empanadas – Dead easy, because the pleats are 100% optional!
Baking – Just 20 minutes in the oven.
Start with the filling first because the empanada dough can be made in the time it takes to fully cool the filling.
Empanada filling ingredients
Empanadas come with all sorts of fillings. Today, I’m sharing a beef one. It gets a punch of flavour from chorizo and spices.
Beef – Just ordinary beef mince / ground beef.
Chorizo – The above mentioned flavour punch! We blitz it up into a paste using a stick blender for maximum effect. LOVE how it blends seamlessly into the beef!
Potato cubes – A traditional inclusion in empanada filling. Starchy potatoes work best because they are fluffier when cooked but any potato really will work just fine.
Herb and spices – Fresh thyme, cayenne, oregano, paprika and cumin. I am a little more heavy handed on the spices than most recipes because I like a punchier flavoured filling. Nobody has ever accused me of bland food! 😂
Tomato paste – For flavour.
Tomato passata (puree) – Pureed, strained plain tomato, widely available these days in Australia in the pasta and canned tomato aisle. See here for more information.
Some will argue that passata is not strictly traditional but I add it because it keeps the filling nice and juicy. Dry filling is a gripe I have with empanadas I’ve tried in my time! Water makes the filling watery which makes the pastry soggy.
Chicken stock/broth – For simmering, to provide a little liquid so the potato cooks.
Garlic and onion – Aromatics for flavour base.
Green onion – For freshness and appealing green bits.
How to make the empanada filling
Really, it’s no different to making bolognese – except it’s less saucy and it has punchier flavours! 😎
Chorizo blitz – Use a stick blender to blitz the chorizo into a paste. It really does not take long if you chop the chorizo beforehand, just 10 seconds or so. Don’t skip this step! Maximum flavour release and I love how it just seamlessly mixes in with the beef.
Cook like bolognese! Start with onion and garlic, then chorizo to get the tasty red oil out and make it nice and golden. Then cook the beef, breaking it up as you go. Cook off the tomato paste for 1 minute to caramelise it a bit which releases more flavour. Then add everything else, stir, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Goal: juicy but not watery – We want the mixture to be juicy (because nobody likes a dry empanada filling!) but not watery (because nobody likes soggy pastry!). Also by this time the potato should be cooked through.
Cool filling completely before using, at least 2 hours. Hot filling = melts butter in pastry = less flaky. Plus also it will “steam” inside the pastry and make it soggy.
Goal filling texture – Cool/cold but spreadable. If you refrigerate overnight (up to 3 days!) it will become a solid block which is impossible to wrap neatly. Let it come to room temp or microwave in bursts, stirring in between, until it becomes spreadable.
This recipe is inspired by Argentinian-style empanadas, so we also include the traditional chopped up olives and hard boiled egg. These additions add interest and make them proper South American-style empanadas, so don’t skip them! They are not mixed into the filling but sprinkled on top just before wrapping.
You will love how it’s so easy to work with. It’s easier to work with than store bought puff pastry!
Ingredients in Empanada dough
Here’s what you need to make empanada dough.
Flour – Just plain / all purpose flour.
Butter – cold, cut into cubes so it’s easy to blitz into fine crumbs in the flour. Tiny little bits of butter throughout the pastry is what makes it beautifully flaky!
Egg – Eggs are not usually included in traditional shortcrust pastry. It makes the dough slightly less crumbly – intentionally, because these are hand held pies. It also has the added bonus that it’s easier to work with as it makes the dough more pliable and less prone to breaking.
Warm milk – Similar to egg, this is not in traditional pastry but makes the pastry slightly less brittle than the pastry on regular pies which is what we want for hand-held empanadas. The milk is warm so it blends into the pastry more easily but because we only use a bit, it’s not enough to melt the butter.
How to make Empanada dough
While it can be made by hand, I opt to use a food processor for ease and speed, as well as to avoid the problem of my hot little hands melting the butter as I work the dough. (As noted above, little butter bits = flaky pastry!).
Blitz – Pulse flour, salt and butter until the butter becomes crumbs, usually around 4 to 6 pulses. The largest bits should be no bigger than peas. Whisk the egg and milk together, pour that in then blitz on low speed until the dough comes together – about 10 to 15 seconds.
Blade – Use a dough blade if you’ve got one but as you’ll see in the video, I always forget to switch it from my standard sharp “S” blade and it works just fine!
Dough – This is what the dough looks like in the food processor. Kneaded and ready to go!
Bring together – Turn the dough out onto a work surface then knead it just to bring together into a smooth ball.
Refrigerate 30 minutes – Divide the dough into two pieces then shape into 2cm / 0.8″ thick discs. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
It can stay in the fridge for up to 2 days but will become rock hard. Take it out around 30 minutes prior before rolling out.
Hand kneading method
Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Rub cold butter in with fingertips until fine crumbs form. Mix in whisked milk and egg using the handle of a wooden spoon. Turn out onto lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until it becomes a smooth ball, as pictured and per video.
Roll out to 3 mm / 0.1″ thickness. Work with one disc at a time.
Cut 15 cm /6″ rounds (I use a bowl). This is a fairly average traditional empanada size – larger than you think! However, feel free to make them smaller if desired.
Keep cutting – Gather dough scraps into a ball, then repeat to roll out dough and cut rounds. Keep cut rounds covered in the fridge, stacked on paper, as you continue to roll and cut. You should get 10 or 11 rounds.
Dough thickness – 3 mm / 0.1″ thickness is the target thickness. Too thin = filling can break pastry and harder to do pleats. Too thick = a lot of pastry with each bite and harder to do pleats.
You’ll also notice that the dough is easy to work with, not prone to breaking like other doughs.
OK! Pastry done. Let’s wrap some empanadas!
Wrapping empanadas – (can be) easy!
The only part of wrapping empanadas that takes practice is the pleating which is optional! For an easy, faster option, just use a fork (like most store bought frozen empanadas) or keep it flat. It does not affect the eating experience at all!!
The easiest way to learn how to do the empanada pleats is to watch the recipe video – at 3 minute 29 second mark.
1. Filling empanadas
Spread filling in a half moon shape on one side of the round. Make the surface flat. Use 3 tablespoons of filling (55g / 1.94oz to be exact!), leaving a 1.7cm / 2/3″ border (exactness! 🙂 ).
Sprinkle with a pinch of olives and egg.
Brush with egg whites – Brush the filling side edge with egg whites. We’re reserving the yolks to brush the surface so it bakes up beautifully golden.
Seal – Fold over to enclose filling and press firmly to seal, but don’t squish the pastry and make it thinner – this makes it harder to do neat pleats.
2. Pleating – optional!
As I mentioned above, pleating is optional! You can just decorate using a fork – just press down along the edge – or just leave the seam plain. It will still taste just as good!
For the pleating, the fastest way to learn is to watch the recipe video. Here’s an extract for just the pleating part:
Pleat – Starting from one end, fold the pastry over onto the rim to create a pleat.
Pinch – Without moving your fingers, pinch to make the pleat stay in place and also to make the part of the pastry where the next pleat will be a bit thinner which makes it easier to pleat.
Keep repeating until you finish at the end. Do not be afraid to trim off excess pastry on the corner to tidy it up. 🙂
Reshape as needed to push it back into a neat half moon shape. I find mine kind of stretches out in an elongated half moon!
There’s only one thing better than the buttery smell that fills your house when empanadas are in the oven… EATING them!
Brush with egg yolk – this makes them bake up beautifully golden.
Bake for 20 minutes in a hot oven – 220°C/425°F (200°C fan).
Golden brown – The empanadas are ready when they are a beautiful golden brown, and the base is crisp.
EAT! Look at your gorgeous empanadas!! EAT WHILE HOT!!
Empanada dipping sauce
Hot, freshly made empanadas are wonderful eaten just plain. But a dipping sauce just elevates the experience! Here are options:
Empanada sauce (recommended) – A purpose-made spiced roasted tomato based sauce for dipping empanadas which is loosely based on a traditional Colombian sauce called hogao. I’ve published this as a separate recipe because it’s worthy. 🙂 It is my recommended option – it’s SO GOOD! Use leftovers as a dip for corn chips, veggie sticks, bread.
Chimichurri – This bright green fresh parsley-garlic South American sauce is a natural pairing with empanadas!
Pink sauce – Ketchup + sour cream or yogurt or mayo or any combination thereof.
Avocado sauce – Yes. YES! So good.
Ketchup, or spicy ketchup – I won’t judge. It works. (For spicy, just mix with sriracha).
Worth the effort
This is not a quick and easy recipe. And there will be people reading this no doubt who live in areas where excellent empanadas are abundant. Lucky you!
For the rest of us poor sods, this homemade version will satisfy your empanada cravings. When they come out of the oven, hot and crispy, the buttery smell of the pastry mingling with the spiced filling…. and that moment when you bite into them…..
It’s food so good it almost makes you want to weep with joy. Food that is worth the effort!
This empanadas recipe is one of the best new cult-classic recipes to come out of the RecipeTin kitchen in over a year. I really hope you give them a go – and love them as much as I do! – Nagi x
Recipe credit: With many thanks to RecipeTin’s Chef JB for working through so many iterations with me to create the perfect homemade empanadas! This recipe is such a great example of how we work together on more challenging recipes to achieve what we believe to be the best possible outcome for home cooks, and how having a professional chef in my team has raised the bar on the quality and type of recipes I can share on my website. And make things like empanadas accessible to everybody, of varying skills levels!
Watch how to make it
Empanada shortcrust pastry:
- 2 1/2 cups plain/all-purpose flour
- 175g/ 12 tbsp cold unsalted butter , cut into 1 cm / 1/2″ cubes
- 1 tsp cooking/kosher salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup warm milk , full fat (30 sec microwave)
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion , finely chopped
- 1 garlic cloves , minced
- 300g/10 oz beef mince (ground beef)
- 120g/4 oz chorizo
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp fresh thyme , finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, cumin, paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp cooking/kosher salt
- 3/4 cup chicken stock/broth , low sodium
- 1/2 cup tomato passata (sub US tomato sauce or crushed tomato)
- 150g/5oz potato , peeled, cut into 8mm/ 1/3" cubes (~1 cup)
- 1/3 cup green onion , finely sliced
- 2 hard boiled eggs (9 minutes using this method)
- 1/4 cup green olives , roughly chopped
- 2 eggs , separated, yolks whisked (for sealing and brushing pastry)
- Empanada sauce
- Other options – ketchup, ketchup + sriracha, pink sauce, taco sauce, salsa dip
- Blitz chorizo – Roughly chop chorizo into 1.5cm / 1/2" pieces. Blitz using a stick blender until it becomes a paste (Note 1)
- Sauté aromatics – Heat oil in a large non stick pan over high heat. Cook onion and garlic for 2 minutes.
- Cook meat – Add chorizo and cook for 2 minutes. Add beef and cook until you no longer see raw beef. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Then add everything else except green onion, then stir.
- Cook 15 min – Bring to a simmer then lower heat so it's simmering gently. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then. Goal – juicy but not watery filling, with cooked potato.
- Cool – Stir through green onion. Transfer to bowl and fully cool before using (~ 2 hours).
Empanada shortcrust pastry:
- Blitz dough – Whisk milk and yolk in a small jug. Pulse flour, salt and butter in a food processor until the butter becomes fine crumbs – largest lumps no bigger than peas (~ 4 to 6 times). Add egg-milk mixture, then blitz on low until it comes together into a ball of dough – about 10 seconds. (Note 2 for hand method)
- Chill 30 min – Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, then bring together into a smooth log ~20cm/8" long. Cut in half, shape into 2cm / 0/8" thick round discs. Wrap in cling wrap then refrigerate 30 minutes (or overnight – Note 3).
- Cut rounds – Place one chilled disc on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to 3 mm / 0.1" thickness. Cut 15 cm/6" rounds (I use a bowl), or other size as desired (Note 3). Keep covered in the fridge, stacked on paper, as you continue to roll and cut. You should get 10 or 11 rounds.
- Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F (200°C fan).
- Filling – Filling should be cold but spreadable (Note 4). Place 3 tablespoons (55g) of filling on the top half of a round of pastry. Spread flat in a half-moon shape, leaving a 1.5cm / 0.6" border. Sprinkle with olive and egg.
- Seal – Brush edge with egg white, fold to enclose, pressing out air and sealing the edge. Optional: Do empanada pleats – see step photos in post or video at 3 min 30 sec. Alternatively, crimp with fork or leave plain.
- Bake 20 min – Place empanadas on 2 baking trays. Brush with egg yolk. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown all over and crispy on the base.
- Serve hot with dipping sauce of choice – my favourite is the homemade Empanada Sauce!
Life of Dozer
Dozer thanks everyone for the birthday wishes!! He feels very popular – there was a lot of strutting around today. 😂
Meanwhile, there was a lot of grumbling on my part! Snippet of grumbling from Instagram: