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Empanadas Are Easier To Make Than You Think

Here’s everything you need to know about making empanadas!
PHOTO: istockphoto

The best empanada I’ve ever had was one I had in Pangasinan at my lola’s house. Granted, I’ve never traveled to Spain to try the real deal, but the ones I devoured in the province were warm, flaky, and slightly sweet. I’m told not everyone likes their empanadas this way, which is completely understandable. For me, it was more about the sentiment than the actual taste anyway. What about you? How do you like your empanadas? In this article, we’ll teach you how to make the simplest empanada—so you have a foundation for when you try to achieve your perfect recipe.

First, where do empanadas come from?

In what may be the least shocking revelation, empanadas actually come from Spain. It’s believed that the Moors, who occupied Spain, came up with the idea of wrapping filling in hardened dough. And apparently, a cookbook published in 1520 already included empanadas. Outside of Europe, empanadas first appeared in Argentina!

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What exactly is an empanada?

When you hear “empanada,” you probably have a picture of it in your head. Meat or seafood wrapped with dough. An empanada is actually made by folding thinly rolled dough over your chosen filling, then sealing it as a semicircle by crimping the edges. The dough is usually made out of wheat flour, but other variations use corn flour as well. Empanada machines now exist but the simple secret to making one with your hand is by spreading it open on your palm, then using your other hand to place the filling and crimp the edges.

The filling of the empanada depends on whether you’ll be frying or baking it. The original empanadas were filled with seafood, not beef or pork like you’re probably used to.

How do you make empanada dough?

Like how to make pizza at home, everything starts with the perfect dough—which you can make with ingredients that are probably already in your kitchen. To make your own dough, gather: flour, shortening, water, egg, salt, and vinegar. Follow these measurements to make roughly 10 empanadas:

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  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar


Step 1: In a bowl, mix the egg, egg white, vinegar, and water together, then set aside.

Step 2: Take another bowl and then mix the flour and salt.

Step 3: With butter knives, cut the shortening into the bowl of dry ingredients. Create a center and pour the liquid ingredients from the first bowl.

Step 4: Mix well until the consistency is stiff.

Step 5: Spread flour on a flat surface and place the dough on top. Knead it until the dough is smooth.

Step 6: Wrap the dough in plastic and let it chill for at least one hour. If you want to keep it longer than a day, you’ll have to freeze it.

How do you make empanada filling?

Empanadas, like pizzas and burritos, can be anything you want them to be. There’s no exact recipe for the filling you put in your empanadas. If, however, you want a simple beef empanada recipe, here’s an easy one from

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  • 1 small red onion, peeled, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 1/4 kilo ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (corn, carrot, and peas), thawed
  • 1 small egg, beaten, for egg wash
  • vegetable oil


Step 1: Heat up 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan. Next, saute the onion and garlic.

Step 2: Add the beef! Cook until it’s seared, and don’t forget to drain any of the extra fat afterwards.

Step 3: Pour the soy sauce in followed by the thawed mixed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

A tip from on empanada filling: Keep the filling “dry.” Before you get confused, this just means that any excess liquid should be drained out. If your filling it too wet, you run the risk of soaking your dough. But make sure that the filling is still moist to avoid drying out while the empanadas are cooking.

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Before cooking your empanadas…

Ok, your dough and your filling are both ready. Take the dough and roll it out until it’s thin and flat. With a round cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles. For regular-sized empanadas, use six-inch cutters; empanaditas, on the other hand, are around three inches.

Move the excess dough to the side. Then, place the filling at the center of the round doughs. If possible, keep the filling half an inch from the edge because you’re going to need space to crimp the dough before cooking. Avoid the temptation of adding more filling because this might cause your empanadas to burst.

If you’re going to fry your empanadas because you don’t have an oven, you need to seal those babies correctly. Take one side of the dough and carefully lift and fold it over the filling to form a semicircle. Firmly pinch the edges together. Using a fork, crimp down the edges to seal your empanadas. If, for some reason, they’re not sticking together, damp your fingertips, rub inside the dough, and try again.

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Let your empanadas chill in the refrigeration for 15 to 20 minutes to make sure they hold together nicely.

How to fry empanadas

Before cooking your empanadas, brush the outside with egg or butter so they get a beautiful, golden brown color. Deep fry the empanadas in vegetable oil for two minutes max. We know you’re excited, but don’t fry your empanadas all at once. Make sure they aren’t all crowded in one pan. It’s also important to keep your eye on the temperature. If it’s too low, your empanadas might dissolve.

If you have an oven…

Lightly grease a baking sheet and arrange the empanadas on top. Bake at 190 degrees Celsius for around 30 minutes. Let it cool before serving. These empanadas are good on their own but you could always pair them with your favorite dip or salsa. Enjoy!

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