Filed Under: Spanish

Beef Empanadas

By Tessa Arias
April 21st, 2011
4.5 from 2 votes
4.5 from 2 votes

How to make delicious beef empanadas from scratch. Flavorful savory filling enclosed in a buttery pastry crust. Can be made ahead of time!

Yield: 20 minutes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Loads of flavor and spice without actually being hot spicy.
Texture: The dough is to die for. Rich and buttery, just the perfect texture. The filling is moist, cheesy, and meaty with chunks of tender potato. These empanadas are a textural heaven.
Ease: I’ll admit, these empanadas require quite a bit of work. None of the steps are difficult, the dough is actually super easy to make and work with. Putting the actual empanadas together requires some patience, but you don’t have to fry!
Appearance: Anything encased in pastry is mouthwatering.
Pros: So. delicious.
Cons: Takes some time (and patience).

 A few times when I was growing up I had the opportunity to bite into some homemade empanadas. My dad would buy them from a woman at work who ran a part-time home-based empanada company and if I was lucky, he would have leftovers to bring home. I’ve always been a sucker for anything to do with pastry, but usually when it encases a sweet, juicy filling. Empanadas are oh-so savory. They are like the snack-size, Latin version of calzones. The potato in these empanadas reminds me of a pasty. If you’ve never had an empanada, you need to try one. You’ll like these beef empanadas, promise. 

Now, there are pretty much an infinite amount of variations on the empanada out there, coming from all different places in the world. I chose what I wanted to include in my filling, despite the fact that it might not be “authentic”. I encourage you to do the same. Life is too short to be burdened by rules when it comes to your food. Make what you want! Throw a handful of cheese on your seafood, who cares?

4.5 from 2 votes

How to make
Beef Empanadas

Yield: 20 minutes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
How to make delicious beef empanadas from scratch. Flavorful savory filling enclosed in a buttery pastry crust. Can be made ahead of time!



  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch paprika


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound ground beef (85-90% lean)
  • salt
  • 1 small russet potato, peeled, finely diced, and boiled (I used 2 yukon golds)
  • 3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese (or “Mexican blend” cheese)


For the dough:

  1. Heat water and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until butter has melted. Mix flour, salt, and paprika in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour a little of the warm butter mixture in and stir with fingertips to make a wet paste. Pour in remaining liquid and work the dough with your hand until you get a wet, oily dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

For the filling:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the onions, bell peppers, paprika, red pepper flakes, white pepper, and cumin until onions are soft. Add beef, season to taste with salt, and cook until beef is browned. Drain off the fat. Place filling in a large bowl and when cooled, add potatoes and scallions. Mix to combine.
  2. Preheat oven to 400. Spray a large baking pan with non-stick spray or line with parchment. Tear off pieces of dough to roll about 20 golf-sized balls. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough balls on lightly floured surface into 5″ circles. Place 3 tablespoons of filling in the center of each dough circle. Sprinkle filling lightly with cheese. Fold over and press edges firmly to seal. Crimp with the back of a fork. Place empanadas on baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from from Saveur May/June 1999 via Use Real Butter
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Gina — November 16, 2021 at 6:56 am

    This recipe is so yummY! I use this for my lunches, freeze the extras and eat throughout the month when I dont’ feel like making anything. I also use this recipe as a way to use up any extra veggies that are on their last leg! The pastry is so buttery!

    • #
      Emily — November 16, 2021 at 10:06 am

      So glad to hear that, Gina! Thanks for the rave review!

  2. #
    Kay — February 23, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    My first attempt at empanadas and they were AWESOME I tweaked the filling a bit with some Worcestershire sauce and about a tbs of beef better than bullion. Oh yeah I added minced mushrooms and garlic as well. Hubby absolutely loved them.

    • #
      Tessa — February 24, 2021 at 2:13 pm

      So glad you loved these empanadas!

  3. #
    Aphrodite Gracias — February 7, 2021 at 7:04 am

    How do I make this recipe ahead of time can I fill the casing and store it in the fridge.

  4. #
    Jacqueline — October 24, 2014 at 3:52 am

    Hi, I’m jackie. I just wanted to tell you I’m puerto rican and we make a different and yet similar “picadillo”. We use sofrito, recao (culantro), diced olives, white onions, salt, pepper, I pkg of Sazon or annito seeds color extracted by heating oil and draining it. We do use pot. Not usually cheese but optional.

  5. #
    morgan — September 25, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    I made these with ground turkey with the stuffing since i had a ton of frozen left over. Was a good call since we could cut the calories.
    Also, used whole wheat flour. It was my first time making pastry dough and it worked out just fine!

    • #
      Tessa — September 26, 2014 at 8:31 am

      Awesome! I love this pastry recipe.

  6. #
    Ren — March 21, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Could I leave the dough in the fridge for longer than two hours? I was going to make it before I leave for work and just leave it in there.

    • #
      Tessa — March 21, 2013 at 9:13 am

      That should be just fine! You may need to let the dough sit out at room temperature for a little while so it’s not too cold and hard to work with.

  7. #
    Insurance Agent & Mom of 4 — January 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    Sorry I don’t know how to reply to my earlier comment, but you were right the crust was TOTALLY worth it. My whole family loved them and the dough was wonderful to work with. I ended up serving it with spanish rice, refried beans, sour cream and salsa. You’re right (again) they are a meal in themselves, but with kids I like to have extra options. 🙂 Plus we have enough for leftovers. Thanks again for such an amazing recipe!!

  8. #
    Insurance Agent & Mom of 4 — January 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    These sound amazing. I’ve never made empanadas, but am willing to try. I was thinking about using pre-made pie crust, but with all the rave crust reviews I may just have to go for it. What are empanadas usually served alongside? Rice and beans? Lettuce and tomoatoes? How do I make this a complete meal? Thanks!

    • #
      Tessa — January 7, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      I would definitely recommend trying out the dough – it’s really easy and so delicious! You could absolutely serve them with rice and beans and a salad of some sort. Really, anything goes with these. The filling does have onion, bell pepper, and potato in addition to the beef so they are quite hearty on their own. I hope you and your family enjoys them!

  9. #
    vicky — October 1, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Made the dough, the best !

  10. #
    pixie — August 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    sooooo delicious! thankyou!

  11. #
    Maryann — August 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    The dough had such a nice texture after baking. I didn’t have all the ingredients for the filling but I did have the basics…..beef…onion and spices. Minus the peppers. My kids are very picky eaters and they loved it. Thank you so much for this great recipie!!!!

  12. #
    Heather — February 22, 2012 at 5:19 am

    In the end, they turned out great! The whole family loved them. Thanks for the recipe.

  13. #
    Heather — February 21, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    You may not be able to reply to this in time, but a question in the event that you do read this! I have the dough made and in the fridge, but it was VERY soft and I can't imagine how I'll be able to roll it out. The recipe did say a wet oily dough, so I'm just going with it, but am nervous!! It will be able to be in the fridge probably 2.5hrs before I'll need to prepare the rest. Hope that's long enough!

    • #
      handleheat — February 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      The butter will harden inside the dough as it chills so it should be stable enough to role out. I remember this dough being very easy to work with!

      • #
        Heather — February 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm

        Thanks. I used margarine, which may have been a mistake, but here's hoping for the best!!

  14. #
    Karyn — February 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Made these for my valentine party and added pink food color to the dough… They were a hit! Thank you

  15. #
    Larni — February 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    I made some last night and we all loved it! My boys couldn't get enough! It was so fun to make. Thank you!!

  16. #
    Dawn Rose — January 29, 2012 at 6:27 am

    I tried this recipe for my weekly dinner party, and to say it was a success would be an understatement! They were so good I made them again the following night. I can't wait to play around with the recipe to see what other fillings I can use (chicken, steak, vegetarian….) It's definitely worth the time 🙂

    • #
      handleheat — January 30, 2012 at 2:13 am

      So glad you liked the recipe 🙂 Let me know what other fillings you come up with!!

  17. #
    erica — November 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I have made these about 4 times in the last few months. Love Love Love them!

  18. #
    Lisa — October 31, 2011 at 1:08 am

    This dough is seriously to DIE for. It is going in my box of tricks for sure, I also want to make individual pot pies with it. Just delicious.

  19. #
    pkb1152 — August 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I am making these again for the second time in 2 weeks. They are so good. A little time consuming but worth it!.

  20. #
    Jenn — June 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    1) I love this blog.
    2). We LOVE these empanadas at my house! I am making them for my 3rd time today – added some smoked chipoltle peppers just to try something new. So easy and even a great “make the evening before” recipe! (I made ahead for cinco de mayo at my job and cooked them for lunch at work. My school smelled wonderful and every last empanada was gone!

    • #
      handleheat — June 30, 2011 at 12:36 am

      Jenn – SO happy to hear that!! I'll have to try the addition of chipotle… sounds delish!

  21. #
    akbeck04 — May 9, 2011 at 6:18 am

    delicious! it's been so long since I've had empanadas, and I've never made them myself before….. Hmmm, definitely on my to-do list!!

  22. #
    vivagood — April 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    sounds yummy! can't wait to try these. Just wondering though… when do you add the cheese?

    • #
      handleheat — April 29, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      Hi! I edited the recipe to specify when to add the cheese. You can add the shredded cheese onto the filling right after you dollop the filling onto the prepared dough round.

  23. #
    Kathy – Panini Happy — April 28, 2011 at 5:21 am

    I absolutely love empanadas and I don't make them often enough. I look forward to trying your recipe!

  24. #
    Memoria — April 24, 2011 at 3:11 am

    I love that dough recipe, and the filling sounds yummy.

  25. #
    Tine — April 22, 2011 at 6:40 am

    Thanks for passing by!
    I'm really excited about your recipes. Oh gosh, those raspberry lemonade bars: got to try them soon. They look divine!

  26. #
    Tessa — April 21, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    I love empanadas, but have never tried making them at home. Happy to have this recipe!

  27. #
    Flavia — April 21, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Empanadas are one of my favorite things to eat! I grew up knowing many people from Central and South America and had many opportunities to eat empanadas. I loved that I was exposed to international flavors so early on in my childhood. Great recipe!

  28. #
    Tracey — April 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I've been wanting to try empanadas for a while now. I think I've only ever had them in restaurants, I need to remedy that 🙂

  29. #
    Maris — April 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    These look absolutely amazing! I wish i had one right now for lunch!

  30. #
    tiedwithblue — April 21, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I never tried baking empanadas! This is definitely on my “Try Out” list 😀
    They look so good!

  31. #
    TAMMY — April 21, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I have been wanting to try baking my empanadas instead of frying them, but so far, my husband thinks it's heresy. LOL I may have to try this and see what happens!

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