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

CAN EMPANADAS BE BAKED INSTEAD OF FRIED?

Absolutely! Make the empanadas up to the pre-frying stage. Instead of dipping them into boiling oil, preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C). Brush them with an egg wash—one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water—and then pop them into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Eight beef empanadas on a rectangular platter with a bowl of relish on the side.

Beef Empanadas

4.88 / 8 votes
Beef empanadas are hand-held delights full of South American flavor—sweet raisins, salty green olives, tangy tomato, and rich beef, all wrapped up in a flaky pastry wrapper. Continental, indeed.
David Leite
CourseAppetizers
CuisineLatin
Servings24 empanadas
Calories135 kcal
Prep Time50 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients 

For the dough

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz) 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 store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup homemade chicken stock or low-sodium store-bought chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Corn or canola oil for frying

Instructions 

Make the dough

  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.]
  • 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.
  • Fry the empanadas in small batches, turning them once, until browned and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Move 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.
Wine Bites

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 empanadaCalories: 135 kcalCarbohydrates: 10 gProtein: 3 gFat: 9 gSaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 32 mgSodium: 166 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2011 Barbara Scott-Goodman. Photo © 2011 Kate Mathis. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

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.

Though the recipe is a bit lengthy and involved, it definitely pays off. The finished beef turnovers 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 baked empanadas. The filling really shines through and the dough isn’t as overwhelming as with the fried version. I’d recommend providing a chimichurri 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.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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12 Comments

  1. My moms recipe called for 2 lbs of round steak. Boiled until it fell apart. Drain all but 2 cups of that liquid. Shred the meat put it in the frying pan with the 2 cups liquid, 1 1/2 ts garlic salt, 1/2 c sliced black pitted olives, 1/2 onion diced small. Stir on low heat until onions soft and clear.. don’t let fluid completely evaporate. Raisins sound great but my mom didn’t use those in this recipe. Fill pastry (4″ diameter) with 2 TB meat filling fold in half and seal edge…absolutely FRY both sides until golden. Sprinkle with sugar. Yum yum and omg..yum!

    1. Lovely, Stella! Many thanks for sharing this, it sounds a lot like my husband’s mom’s Peruvian filling except she added raisins and hard-boiled eggs. I love all the familial tweaks that happen to a basic recipe…

  2. 5 stars
    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.

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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….