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Oh am I excited to share how to make empanadas with you! And boy do I have a lot to share, because what is better than savory goodness encased in pastry that you don’t even need a fork and knife to eat?
This post has everything you need so you can start making your own empanadas! I’m showing you how to make the most delicious beef empanada recipe with the most flavorful filling ever. Though you could totally use chicken or veggies only – these empanadas are completely customizable!
This is simply my favorite way to make homemade beef empanadas. I am not claiming it to be authentic or traditional to any country or culture. There are SO many ways to make them, and practically every Latin country has its own variation. If you think about it, most cultures have some sort of dish comprised of meat encased in dough! From British pasties and meat pies, to calzones, samosas, even strudels – loving this kind of food is just a part of being human!
Read my tips and tricks in the pink tip box below to help you make the best homemade empanadas ever!
How to Make Beef Empanadas
What is an Empanada?
An empanada is a crescent-shaped pastry filled with your choice of savory or sweet filling, popular throughout Latin America! It’s kind of like a turnover. Or, if you’re used to American convenience foods from the grocery store, like a hot pocket. Super customizable and easy to make ahead of time. It makes a delicious party appetizer but is also a great dinner idea!
What Country Are Empanadas From?
I’m certainly not the person to settle this debate! Most Latin American countries have some variation of an empanada. My dad is Dominican, and in the Dominican Republic, empanadas are often called pastelitos. However, the recipe I’m sharing today isn’t necessarily authentic to the Dominican Republic or any one country.
That’s because not only does every country have their own way of filling the empanadas, making the dough, shaping the empanadas, and even of choosing to bake or fry theirs (my recipe is baked!), but even within the same country, each region or even each family has their own way of doing things.
We worked to update the filling for this recipe into something flavorful but simple. I’m not a big fan of olives or raisins, which are often included in many savory empanada fillings. Nor do I have much time to hard boil eggs, another ingredient you’ll frequently find. However, if you prefer to add those ingredients, then feel free to!
How to Make Empanada Dough
- This dough recipe is very similar to a basic French choux pastry, but without the eggs.
- It may seem weird to start a dough in the saucepan if you aren’t familiar with this method, but it is seriously one of the quickest and easiest empanada dough recipes to work with.
- I have not tried the dough with whole wheat flour, but feel free to try! Start by substituting only half the all-purpose with white whole wheat flour (preferably).
For the Beef Empanada Filling
The recipe below is for a very basic yet flavorful beef filling. Feel free to omit or change practically anything, from the veggies to the spices – it’s meant to be customized!
- The empanada filling recipe makes a generous amount. If you have leftovers, store them in the fridge.
- I like to use leftovers for lettuce wraps, scrambling with eggs, or filling a burrito.
- I’m not a big fan of olives, but feel free to add in about 1/2 cup pitted chopped rinsed green olives.
- Leftovers from other meals (like cooked meat or even mashed potatoes) also make great empanada fillings.
- Basically, you can stir together anything you have on hand and fill in the easy empanada pastry.
- Even plain cheese empanadas are scrumptious.
- Check out my other recipes for Breakfast Empanadas and Chorizo Empanadas!
Can I Double This Recipe?
Yes! Simply double all ingredients, but use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to combine the wet and dry dough ingredients. Combining such a large amount of flour by hand results in an uneven dough that won’t roll out or hold its shape as nicely. If you don’t have a stand mixer, simply make two batches of the dough as written separately.
How to Assemble Empanadas:
- This is definitely the most time-consuming part of making empanadas, so get your friends and family involved in the process to make it fun and fast!
- Tear off golf-ball-sized pieces of the chilled dough and roll into balls.
- On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the balls into 1/4-inch thick, 5-inch diameter circles.
- Place 2 heaping tablespoons of filling in the center of each dough circle. Add ½ teaspoon scallions to each circle, and sprinkle lightly with cheese, if using. Be sure not to overfill your empanadas as you assemble, which is easy to do. Use a little less than you think, to prevent any holes or tears in the dough and to prevent them from bursting open as they bake.
- Brush a small amount of egg wash lightly over one half edge’s border. Fold over the dough to create a half-moon shape and press edges firmly to seal. Crimp edges with the back of a fork.
- Brush with an egg wash and bake on a rimmed baking sheet.
Is it Better to Bake or Fry Empanadas?
- These empanadas are baked, not fried (though no one would ever guess, they’re so good).
- I prefer baking for ease but also for perfectly crispy and flaky empanadas.
- Plus, you don’t have to worry about stinking up your kitchen with the aroma of frying oil.
- No cleaning up the mess of deep frying!
How Long to Bake Empanadas?
I baked mine for 20 minutes, until golden brown. If you make empanadas that are smaller or bigger than the size created in the recipe, make sure to adjust the baking time accordingly.
Can I Air Fry Empanadas?
We haven’t tried that, but some readers have tried and reported success with this. You may need to experiment a little with bake times and temperatures, as this will vary based on your air fryer.
What to Serve with Beef Empanadas:
- Sour cream
- Pickled red onions
- Mexican street corn
How to Store Empanadas
Refrigerate leftovers either plastic wrapped or stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 400°F oven until the crust has re-crisped and the filling is warmed through, about 5 to 7 minutes.
How to Make Empanadas Ahead of Time
- The dough can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge for two days before using.
- The filling can also be cooked and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a day.
- The assembled unbaked empanadas can also be covered in plastic and stored in the fridge for up to 2 days, no need to change the baking time.
How to Freeze Empanadas
- Freeze the sheet of unbaked empanadas until solid, then transfer into a freezer bag. Frozen empanadas will keep for up to three months and can be baked straight from the freezer. Add a few extra minutes to the cooking time.
- Fully baked empanadas can also be frozen, though they lose a bit of their flaky texture. To prevent freezer burn, wrap them individually in plastic wrap. To reheat, unwrap as many empanadas as you want and warm in a 300°F oven or toaster oven, about 10 minutes.
More Recipes You’ll Love:
- Breakfast Empanadas
- Vegetarian Empanadas
- Honey Walnut Empanadas
- Chorizo Empanadas with Avocado Cream
For the Dough:
- 1 cup water
- 1 1/2 sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter
- 2 3/4 cups (349 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Pinch of paprika
For the Beef Filling:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound ground beef (85-90% lean)
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
- ½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced
- ½ green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely diced
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ cup beef broth
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato paste, to preference
- 1 small russet potato, peeled, finely diced, and boiled*
- 3 scallions, trimmed and chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese (or “Mexican blend” cheese), optional
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons water
For the dough:
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the water and butter, heating until butter has fully melted. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and paprika and make a well in the center. Pour a little of the warm butter mixture in and mix with your fingertips to make a wet paste. Pour in remaining liquid, and work the dough with your hands until you get a wet, oily dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
For the filling:
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the beef, cooking until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons of drippings.
- With the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons of drippings, sauté the yellow onion until translucent, 10-15 minutes. Then add the bell peppers, peas, garlic and seasonings.
- After a few minutes, deglaze the pan with ¼ cup of beef broth, then add 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste (to preference).
- Once the tomato paste has dissolved, mix in the beef and potatoes. Remove from heat.
- Tear off golf-ball sized pieces of the chilled dough and roll into balls. On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the balls into 1/4-inch thick, 5-inch diameter circles. Once your dough has been rolled out, place 2 heaping tablespoons of filling in the center of each dough circle. Add ½ teaspoon scallions to each circle, and sprinkle lightly with cheese, if using. Brush a small amount of egg wash lightly over one half edge’s border. Fold over the dough to create a half-moon shape and press edges firmly to seal. Crimp edges with the back of a fork.
- Place empanadas onto the prepared baking sheet. Lightly beat together the egg and water. Brush the empanadas gently with the egg wash.
- Bake empanadas until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.
- Refrigerate leftovers either plastic wrapped or stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You can also freeze cooked empanadas plastic wrapped in a resealable freezer bag or airtight container for up to 3 months. To reheat, unwrap as many empanadas as you want and warm through in a 300°F oven or toaster oven for about 10 minutes.
This post was originally published in 2015 and updated with new photos and recipe improvements in 2022. Photos by Joanie Simon.
June 2022 Baking Challenge
This recipe was the June 2022 selection for our monthly baking challenge! Every month you can join the challenge by baking the recipe and snapping a photo for a chance to win prizes! Learn more about my monthly baking challenges here. Check out everyone’s empanadas: