Beef Empanadas with Olives & Raisins

These savory little turnovers with hand-formed crusts and a luscious filling of ground beef, raisins, and green olives are superb appetizers. You can make them up to a month ahead of time, as they freeze well. These are fantastic with an Argentinean or Chilean red.–Barbara Scott-Goodman

LC Ethnic Exotica Note

The collision of beef, raisins, and green olives may be unexpected to some, though it’s quite a common and familiar filling in certain cultures, like, say, Peru, which is where our editor in chief’s mother-in-law grew up. Though she’s tried her darndest, Renee has yet to replicate the exact filling of her husband’s childhood, the one he’s come to expect to be tucked in empanadas, stuffed inside roast hens, enveloped in tamales, and, well, you get the idea. (A large part of the reason, Renee asserts in her defense, is the fact that the filling is relentlessly changing, sometimes containing peanuts, sometimes hard-cooked eggs, sometimes neither, sometimes both….) At any rate, it’s a sweetly salty tradition that’s something you really ought to try. This rendition, though not quite that of E’s mother’s upbringing, is a classic.

Beef Empanadas with Olives & Raisins Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 50 M
  • 1 H, 50 M
  • Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • For the dough
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • For the filling
  • 1 tablespoon peanut, corn, or canola oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground or minced beef
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped, pitted green olives
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Corn or canola oil for frying

Directions

  • Make the dough
  • 1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
  • 2. Lightly beat the eggs with the water and vinegar until combined. Drizzle this over the flour mixture and pulse until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  • Make the filling
  • 3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, until no trace of pink remains, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess grease. Add the raisins, olives, and tomato paste and stir well. Add the stock or broth and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  • Assemble the empanadas
  • 4. Roll the dough on a generously floured work surface until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into 3-inch rounds with a floured biscuit cutter or glass, stamping out as many rounds as possible. Roll out any dough scraps and cut out additional rounds if possible. Brush any excess flour from the dough rounds.
  • 5. Working with 1 round at a time and keeping the rest covered with plastic wrap, spoon about 2 teaspoons filling on one side of the dough round. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling and crimp the edges with a fork to seal. Cover with plastic wrap while you form the remaining empanadas. [The filled, uncooked empanadas can be frozen on a baking sheet, and stored in an airtight plastic bag or container for up to a month. You’ll need to bake the unthawed empanadas, rather than fry them, in a 350°F (176°C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes.]
  • 6. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Pour enough oil into a deep-sided pot to reach a depth of about 1/2 inch and heat until it registers about 325°F (163°C) on a deep-fry or candy thermometer.
  • 7. Fry the empanadas in small batches, turning them once, until browned and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the empanadas to paper towels or a brown paper bag to drain for a few moments, and then transfer to a baking sheet. Place the fried empanadas in the oven to keep warm while you fry the remaining empanadas. Serve at once.
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Comments
Comments
  1. Testers Choice says:

    [Jo Ann Brown] These mini empanadas are worth the effort. The dough recipe is the best I’ve ever made and the filling, although very simple and not uniquely spiced, has nice variation from bite to bite. In one bite you’ll have a little salty tangy olive, in the next a sweet raisin, and if the empanada gods shine down upon you, you’ll get a bite of both at the same time. Using canola oil, I fried them at 325°F because of the butter content in the dough. Using this temperature meant I didn’t have any excess absorption of oil. Two minutes per side, as per the recipe, is accurate at this temperature. As a divergence from serving them as appetizers with wine, I happened to be heading to the beach the next day with a friend and it was my turn to bring lunch. I pulled a few leftover empanadas out for each of us and packed them away in the cooler. When my companion tucked into her boxed lunch, her happy, zealous reaction drew stares and glances from those around us. Sea salt, air, and sun might just be the best accompaniments for these little babies.

  2. Testers Choice says:

    [Kristina R.] Though the recipe is a bit lengthy and involved, it definitely pays off. The finished empanadas are delicious. I made them two ways, fried and baked. For the fried version, I fried each empanada about 1 1/2 minutes per side at 350°. For the baked version, I froze them and then baked them for 20 minutes. Personally, I much prefer the baked empanadas. The filling really shines through and the dough isn’t as overwhelming as with the fried version. I’d recommend providing a dipping sauce if you choose to fry your empanadas, mostly because I think the dough becomes a bit dry and the whole thing needs the extra oomph.

  3. Dana @ Foodie Goes Healthy says:

    Wow, this looks delicious. What could be better than sweet and salty in a pocket of dough. Maybe mother-in-law’s recipe included a secret ingredient like coriander or cinnamon.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Dana, brilliant, thank you! I bet she did add a pinch of this and that. I’m going to call her tonight and ask her. She’s big on the secret ingredients. She stirs a spoonful of peanut butter into her refried beans at the very end of cooking, for example. I can’t believe I didn’t think to ask about a sneaky trick ingredient….

  4. Adrienne says:

    This is the closest recipe to my husband’s family empanada recipe that I’ve seen on the Internet. The tomato paste and chicken broth aren’t in it, though, and what’s missing is lots and lots of paprika. It’s the simplest recipe—sautéed onions in paprika with oil. Add some ground beef, salt, and more paprika (!) and sauté until it’s cooked through. Add the raisins and egg and mix it up. In a true Argentine version, you will have half of an olive right at the top where you seal the pastry. I highly, highly recommend skipping the homemade pastry—I’ve never found one equal to what you find in Argentina. Find a Latin grocery and look for La Salteña brand tapas—they are the best you’ll find. Finding the true recipe is next to impossible because every country has a variation of empanadas and every family has their own version.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Adrienne, glad to hear this recipe inspired some empanada craving on your part! My husband’s mom is from Peru, and I can attest to the fact that no two recipes are the same—and good luck trying to replicate any of them, as I think the cooks always (intentionally?) fail to tell you exactly how they do it so that no one else can make them exactly like they do. Ahem. I appreciate you sharing the tricks and I’m curious to try the pastry you mention…though we have to say, this pastry is darned good for those who can’t make it to a Latin American grocery.

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