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Delicious Empanadas

Heavenly Empanadas: A Culinary Adventure from Latin America

Delicious Empanadas

A Taste of Tradition:

Empanadas – the very word conjures up images of flaky pastry pockets bursting with flavor. These delightful hand-held treats are a cornerstone of Latin American and Spanish cuisine, with a rich history dating back centuries. From savory fillings like seasoned meats and vegetables to sweet delights brimming with fruit and cream, empanadas offer a delicious and versatile way to enjoy a quick meal, appetizer, or even a satisfying snack.

This comprehensive guide will take you through the process of creating your own homemade empanadas, from crafting the buttery dough to preparing delectable fillings. So, get ready to embark on a culinary adventure and discover the magic of these heavenly empanadas!


For the Golden Flaky Dough (Makes about 15 empanadas):

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (about 315 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed (226 grams)
  • ½ cup ice-cold water (120 milliliters)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon milk

For the Savory Beef Filling (Feel free to adjust based on your preference):

  • 1 pound ground beef (454 grams)
  • Shreds of a medium onion (around 1 cup) - This emphasizes the chopped nature of the onion.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange), finely chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped cooked vegetables (optional: peas, corn, carrots)
  • ½ cup shredded cheese (optional: cheddar, Monterey Jack)

Optional Fillings: The beauty of empanadas lies in their versatility! Let these ideas spark your creativity!

  • Spicy Chicken: Shredded cooked chicken, diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, jalapenos (for a kick!), and a sprinkle of chili powder.
  • Vegetarian Fiesta: Sautéed mixed vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, black beans), chopped fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.
  • Sweet Surprise: Dulce de leche, guava paste, Nutella, or a mixture of cream cheese and your favorite fruit preserves.

Step-by-Step Guide to Empanada Bliss:

  1. Crafting the Dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, work the chilled cubed butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add the ice-cold water, mixing just until a soft dough forms. Be careful not to overmix! Give the dough a rest: Wrap it in plastic and chill it in the fridge for at least an hour. This allows the gluten to relax, making the dough easier to roll out and preventing it from becoming tough.
  2. Preparing the Savory Filling: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chopped onion until it becomes soft and slightly see-through, taking around 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and bell pepper, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Building Flavor: Increase the heat and crumble in the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. Once browned, drain any excess grease. Add the tomato paste, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper, stirring to combine and letting the flavors meld for a minute.
  4. Filling Variations: If using any additional cooked vegetables or cheese, stir them into the cooled beef mixture at this point. Make sure the filling is cold before you build your empanadas. This prevents the hot filling from melting the butter in the dough, which can lead to a greasy and soggy end product.
  5. Assembling the Empanadas: Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). To save yourself some scrubbing later, use parchment paper to line your baking sheet.
  6. Rolling and Cutting: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter (3-4 inches in diameter) to cut out circles of dough. If you don't have a cookie cutter, you can use a freehand method by tracing a small bowl or cup on the dough and cutting around the traced circle with a sharp knife.
  7. Filling and Sealing: Place a spoonful of the cooled filling in the center of each dough circle. Don't overfill, as this can cause the empanadas to burst during baking. Fold the dough over to form a half-moon shape, and crimp the edges securely with a fork to seal. You can also use a decorative crimping technique for a more professional look.

Golden Perfection: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and milk to create an egg wash. Brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg wash for a beautiful golden brown color when baked. The egg wash adds a shine and helps create a flaky crust.

  1. Baking to Perfection: Arrange the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet, leaving a little space between them to allow for air circulation and even baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and flaky. The filling should be heated through.
  2. A Well-deserved Rest: Remove the empanadas from the oven and let them cool slightly on the baking sheet before serving. This allows the filling to set and prevents burning your mouth.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Freeze for Later: Unbaked empanadas can be frozen for future enjoyment. Simply arrange them on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. For longer storage, pop the frozen empanadas into a freezer bag. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and bake for a few extra minutes until golden brown.
  • Leftover Love: Leftover baked empanadas can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat them in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 10-15 minutes, or until warmed through.
  • Going Vegetarian: For a vegetarian option, replace the ground beef with lentils, black beans, or a mixture of your favorite cooked vegetables.
  • Sweet Tooth Satisfaction: Don't forget the sweet side of empanadas! Explore fillings like dulce de leche, guava paste with cream cheese, or even Nutella for a delightful dessert treat.

Empanada Adventures: Beyond the Recipe

The beauty of empanadas lies in their endless possibilities! Now that you've mastered the basic recipe, here are some ways to take your empanada creations to the next level:

  • Flavor Explorations: Embrace international flavors by incorporating ingredients from different cuisines. Try a Thai-inspired filling with ground chicken, curry paste, coconut milk, and vegetables. Or, go for a Greek spin with seasoned ground lamb, crumbled feta cheese, and fresh spinach.
  • Holiday Cheer: For festive occasions, create themed empanadas. Use pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and chopped nuts for a Thanksgiving twist. Or, incorporate chopped candy canes and peppermint candies into a creamy chocolate filling for a delightful holiday treat.
  • Presentation Perfection:
    • Braided Beauty: For a unique presentation, try braiding the empanada edges after sealing them. This adds a decorative touch and secures the filling further. You can find video tutorials online to learn different braiding techniques.
    • Mini Marvels: Make mini empanadas for a charming appetizer or finger food. Use a smaller cookie cutter to create bite-sized pastries and adjust the baking time accordingly.
  • Spicy Dipping Delights: Pair your empanadas with a variety of dipping sauces to complement different fillings. A classic chimichurri sauce is always a crowd-pleaser. For a smoky twist, try a chipotle crema or a spicy tomato salsa.

With a little creativity and these ideas, you can transform the humble empanada into a culinary canvas for endless flavor and presentation possibilities. So, grab your ingredients, unleash your inner chef, and embark on a delicious journey of empanada exploration!