Jamaican Beef Turnovers

Some say that beef turnovers, or patties, are to Jamaican culture what hamburgers are to American culture. There are many recipes for beef turnovers using all types of meat and all levels of spice. This one falls in the medium-hot range, but you can easily increase or decrease the heat level by adding more or less minced chile. Jamaican beef turnovers are served throughout the day as snacks, at lunch, and at dinner. Alternative cuts of meat include ground pork, goat, lamb, even grass-fed beef or bison (you’ll need to add 2 more tablespoons of butter to the filling if using either of the latter). Or combine two or more ground meats. Beef and goat are especially tasty together.

To make appetizer-sized portions, cut the dough into 4-inch rounds and use about 1 tablespoon filling per round to yield about 24 turnovers.–Bruce Aidells

LC Naming Conventions Note

Though we tend to think Jamaican culture is just about as different from British culture as it can be, the origin of the term “patty” in reference to a turnover or small pie is, indeed, the Queen’s language. But we assure you, these lovely little savories are thoroughly New World in taste. Today, versions and interpretations of these Jamaican beef turnovers abound, both here and throughout the Caribbean, under all manner of names, from patties to pasties. Had a rendition that’s imprinted indelibly in your memory? Tell us about it in a comment below.

Jamaican Beef Turnover Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes 6 to 8 turnovers

Ingredients

  • For the pastry
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for the baking sheet
  • 1/3 cup cold water, plus more as needed
  • 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
  • For the filling
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon stemmed, seeded, and minced Scotch bonnet or habañero chile, or 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño chile, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallion whites
  • 1/2 pound ground beef (85% lean)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup homemade beef stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallion greens

Directions

  • Make the pastry
  • 1. Combine the flour, turmeric, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives held crisscross fashion, or your fingertips, cut the lard and butter into the flour mixture until everything is crumbly. Sprinkle with the cold water and stir to make a stiff dough, adding more water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary.
  • 2. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough to an 1/8 inch thick. Try not to roll the dough any thinner, or it will be too delicate to contain the filling. Cut the dough into six to eight 6-inch circles using a plate or pan lid as a guide. Cover the stack with wax paper or a damp cloth until ready to use or place the pastry circles in a single layer on a baking sheet, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  • Make the filling
  • 3. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion and chile until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the scallion whites and cook for 1 minute more. Add the ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, curry powder, allspice, and thyme and mix well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the bread crumbs and stock, cover, and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 12 minutes. The filling should be moist but not soupy.
  • 4. Stir in the scallion greens and season with salt and pepper to taste and more chile, if desired. Remove from the heat and let cool. (You can cover and refrigerate the filling for up to 1 day.)
  • Assemble the pastries
  • 5. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
  • 6. Lightly butter a rimmed baking sheet. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons filling on one half of each pastry circle. Moisten the edges of the dough with water and fold the dough over the meat filling, creating a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges closed with a fork. (You can place the unbaked pastries on a baking sheet, freeze until firm, transfer to a resealable plastic bag, and then toss in the freezer for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, bake the still-frozen pastries, adding about 15 minutes to the cooking time.)
  • 7. Transfer the pastries to the baking sheet. Lightly brush the top of each with some of the egg wash. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pastries are golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

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Testers Choice
Joel Jenkins

Jan 24, 2013

These are incredible; where’ve they been all my life?! This is a portable pocket of deliciousness and probably a much healthier, more delicious precursor to those frozen pocket things you can buy at the store. I’ve two friends from the Virgin Islands who are looking forward to my next batch. I had no issues at all with the ingredients or the results following the recipe exactly as written. This makes the flakiest crust I’ve ever been able to produce, so much so that I removed the turmeric and added a tablespoon of sugar and used it for my berry tart on Christmas. Make sure to taste the filling before you put it in the pastry—my second batch of peppers didn’t have the same punch as the first so they were a bit bland (but nothing a little hot sauce couldn’t cure). My next batch will see the addition of potatoes, mushrooms, or other vegetables.

Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Jan 24, 2013

Gourmet magazine once touted the Jamaican beef patty as “the best portable lunch in the world.” They’re so ubiquitous that they can now be found all over New York City, even in pizzerias and on the menus of public school cafeterias. I vacation in the Caribbean and I just so happen to live in the most densely populated Caribbean neighborhood in all five boroughs, so I’m unabashedly somewhat of a patty connoisseur. I wholeheartedly proclaim this recipe to be as delicious and authentic a hand pie as one that’s straight from a Flatbush Brooklyn bakery. Oh, and there’s just enough heat to warrant an afternoon Red Stripe to cool the gentle embers, which is exactly the island way. I substituted vegetable shortening for the lard and was still satisfied with a flaky crust. Skip the egg wash if you like; most bakeries do. Try to find Scotch bonnets, also known as hot Jamaican peppers. They’ve the most refined, fruity heat that warms just the right parts of your mouth. Feel free to substitute other meats—I’ve enjoyed salt cod (bacalao) and ground chicken variations in my global samplings. For me the yield was only 6 turnovers.

Testers Choice
Mackenzie Campbell

Jan 24, 2013

What a fun recipe! I LOVE Jamaican beef patties and it’s really great to be able to make them on my own. This came together pretty quickly and painlessly. I used almost twice as much water in the pastry dough as the recipe called for. I assume this was because it’s so dry out, but I needed about 2/3 cup of cold water in order for the dough to come together. The filling had good flavor, but I would’ve liked more. I used chicken stock instead of beef, and I’m sure that made a difference. I added some more of the minced pepper for more heat. These were particularly good with a bit of curried crème fraîche and mango chutney on the side for dipping. These seem like they’d be great to make ahead of time for a party and just toss in the oven from the freezer! Great recipe.

Testers Choice
Melissa Maedgen

Jan 24, 2013

This seems to be a pretty standard version of a Jamaican patty, which makes a great handheld meal or snack. The turmeric in the pastry gives a nice warm color to the patties. The filling is delicious, although I might add a bit more chile pepper next time. I had to adapt the dough to be gluten-free, but I did make the same volume of pastry as in the recipe. The amount of pastry and the amount of filling worked out perfectly.

Testers Choice
Eydie Desser

Jan 24, 2013

The spices that go into the beef patties are exotic and delicious. Your guests will delight in the unique taste of these turnovers. I used grass-fed beef with a little extra butter added and the meat was moist, savory, and just wonderful! One caveat, though. I opted to make hors d’oeuvre-size (4-inch dough rounds with 1 tablespoon of beef) and the ratio of meat to dough was too little. Even though I rolled out the dough to almost opaque, it puffs up and seems to increase in volume and overpowers the little bit of meat you can squeeze inside. Definitely make the larger 6-inch circles of dough, and fill them up with as much meat as possible! And make a double batch to keep in the freezer. You’ll be glad you did.


Comments
Comments
  1. Kim Beaulieu says:

    Do you all watch Friends? There’s an episode where Jon Lovitz guest stars and says a line “well smack my a** and call my Judy”. That is exactly what I said when these popped up. Totally inappropriate but it’s what pops in my head whenever I see something that blows my mind. I need to try these immediately.

    I usually call these things hand pies but cripes when they look this good call them whatever you want. Just hand me one or five while you decide.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Heh. I remember that episode well, Kim. Call them what you will. Just don’t neglect to have a Red Stripe at your side….

  2. Mr Carib says:

    I been eating this all my life. This is a Caribbean recipe. we call it pate (pa tay). I had Jamaican pate before and it wasn’t good. I make my own. I like saltfish pate and shrimp pate.

    • Dan Kraan, LC Community Moderator says:

      Hey… Mr Carib! I make my own too, and there is usually no comparison. Our testers consider these to be very good. Perhaps you could try them on for size and let us know what you think. We (especially me) would also be very interested to hear about your fish and shrimp version of pate!

    • JudithNYC says:

      OMG! Saltfish patty, now I HAVE to brave the cold and go buy me one. Or maybe make my own. I do have the ingredients in my fridge.

  3. Jana Happel says:

    I also made 4-inch ones for a party and agree that the ratio of pastry to meat is better in the 6-inch version. But if you roll the dough thinly and stuff them as much as possible, they really are very good party fare. Especially if you add more habenero. (Scotch bonnets are hard to come by in Tucson.) I made a double batch and took small ones to a Superbowl party and made big ones for home. They were a hit at the party. I had these in Jamaica 35 years ago and your recipe has taken me back to delicious memories. Maybe you’ll post Jamaican Pumpkin Soup next?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Swell to hear, Jana. Many thanks. Consider us officially on the lookout for Jamaican Pumpkin Soup….

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