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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Empanadas: A Journey from Galicia and All Around Latin America #SundayFunday

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

April 8th is National Empanada Day and they are a family favorite. An empanada is a type of baked or fried turnover consisting of pastry and filling, common in Spanish, other Southern European, Latin American, and Iberian-influenced cultures around the world. The name comes from the Spanish empanar, and translates as 'breaded', that is, wrapped or coated in bread. So, I asked the Sunday Funday bloggers to share a favorite recipe ahead of the food holiday.

Stacy of Food Lust People Love, Sue of Palatable Pastime, Rebekah of Making Miracles, and Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm coordinate this low-stress group; we only participate when we are inspired. This week, as I already mentioned, I am hosting. Here's the #SundayFunday line-up for our virtual celebration of empanadas...

Defining an Empanada

So, what do I mean by an empanada? At its simplest form, an empanada is a filling surrounded by dough; the word empanada literally translates to 'wrapped in bread' . So, technically, Italian calzones, American hot pockets, Brazilian pasteles, and Chinese bao would all qualify. But for this discussion, I am sticking to the dishes that actually bear the name empanada.

From Galicia

While empanadas are now more or less found in the form of hand pie, that's not how they were originally made. Instead, the Galician empanada - from northern Spain - was a large two-crust pie baked in a either a round pie plate or rectangular casserole dish. The yeasted dough typically has fillings that usually include bell peppers, onions and also commonly have tuna or chicken.

Once the dish traveled from Spain to Latin America, it shrank to its current handheld size. In many parts of Argentina, the crust is made with beef tallow. In Venezuela and Columbia, the dough is made from corn flour; in Caribbean countries, the starch is often composed of mashed yuca or plantains. Then there's the sweet versus savory fillings.

From Argentina: Empanadas de Atún

Empanadas in Argentina use a dough that's somewhat similar to the Galician originals. These are probably my personal favorite - Argentinian tuna empanadas served with a chimichurri sauce.

Also from Argentina: Empanadas Mendocinas

This version from Argentina might be the one we make the most often. Empanadas Mendocinas include hard-boiled eggs and olives. It's a playful mouthful.

From Cuba: Baked Picadillo Empanadas

The empanadas in Cuba include milk in the dough which lends to a silkier texture. My Precise Kithcen Elf made these.

From Puerto Rico: Empanadillas de Carne

Also picadillo-filled, this version from Puerto Rico uses a dough that is more pie crust-like and less bread-like.

So Many Variations to Try

I have never tried Bolivian Salteñas which sound something link soup dumplings. They have a stew-like filling that must be eaten carefully so as not to gush molten-hot liquid from the dough. These are often considered a breakfast empanada. Later in the day, Bolivians eat llauchas, giant empanadas stuffed with cheese, while pukacapa, a spicy cheese empanada dotted with rocoto pepper, are traditional in the afternoon.

I have also never had Venezuelan empanadas such as the Pabellón, the national dish of Venezuela made with shredded beef, caraotas (beans), and tajadas (fried sweet plantains). A regional specialty that intrigues me is an empanada filled with pepitonas (clams). The empanadas de cazón (baby shark) may be a bit adventurous even for me! But, you never know, I will usually try anything once.

In Colombia, you can find yuca (cassava) dough alongside the corn flour versions. Yuca empanadas are called catibias in the Dominican Republic. Plantains, which in their maduro (mature or sweet) form are often seen as an empanada filling, can be used similar to yuca as the dough in both the maduro or verde (green, unripe) form. In El Salvador, mature plantains are used to make the dough for black bean empanadas or sweet empanadas filled with a custardy sugared milk, called leche poleada.

Along the Ecuadorian coast Empanadas de verde use unripe plantains as the dough which are then filled with cheese, seafood, or meat. Perhaps the most intriguing empanada that I came across are the Ecuadorian empanadas de viento. The name means 'empanadas of the wind', referring to how light they are These puffy empanadas are a a dough stuffed with cheese, deep-fried, then sprinkled with a sugar. They are a typical street food and, despite the sugar topping, they are not generally considered a sweet empanada.

Sauce It Up

Then there are the condiments served with the parade of empanadas. I definitely have more to explore.

Colombian empanadas are traditionally served with ají, an onion and tomatoes sauce (and a slice of lime), while in Venezuela, you'll find guasacaca, which makes guacamole look like a dowdy cousin with its light, bright, and herbaceous qualities; picante de leche is a milk-based hot sauce, and - along the lines of the baby shark empanadas, picante katara might be a little out there even for me. I certainly wouldn't have any clue where to source the ingredients. Picante katara is made from a type of ant called bachaco. They are cooked in yuca water, then mixed with scallions, leeks, and salt. The heat of the sauce, supposedly, comes from the venom in the ant's abdomen. Hmmm...

An Array of Empanadas

When we talked about the most important part of an empanada, we disagree. I think it's the dough that makes the empanada; R says it's the filling; and D insists that it's the egg-wash. Uh-huh. But one thing on which we all agree: we love empanadas! So, Jake and I decided to film a video for our #CulinaryCam YouTube channel a couple of years ago. You an watch that here one dough, six fillings. We did an array of empanadas - both sweet and savory - with the same dough. You can get creative with your fillings. For instance, for the mushroom empanada, I used some leftover mushroom ragù, stirred in some chopped chestnuts and shredded cheese. You don't really even need to measure.


makes approximately 36 medium empanadas Empanada dough

  • 6 cup flour

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1 cup butter

  • 2 cups milk, warmed (I used whole milk)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

The Carne

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika

  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder

  • 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

  • ½ Tablespoon ground cumin

  • ½ cup butter

  • 2 onions, peeled and diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 fresh poblano chile pepper, seeded and diced

  • 2 Tablespoons tomato sauce

  • freshly ground salt

  • freshly ground pepper

  • 4 hard boiled eggs, cubed

  • ½ cup green olives, pitted and halved

Jamón y Queso (Ham and Cheese)

  • 2/ 3 cup chopped prosciutto or ham plus more for garnishing the top

  • 2/ 3 cup cubed cheese (I used a smoked cheddar)

  • 2/3 cup cream cheese

  • freshly ground pepper

The Garden

  • 1/3 cup onions

  • 1/3 cup celery

  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced greens (I used a combination of kale and chard)

  • 2/3 cup ricotta cheese

  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen

  • freshly ground salt

  • freshly ground pepper

The Caprese

  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes

  • 1 cup cubed fresh mozzarella

  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons fresh organic basil, thinly sliced

  • freshly ground salt

  • freshly ground pepper

Membrillo (Sweet Quince Paste) y Queso

  • cream cheese, softened

  • slices of quince paste

To Finish

  • eggs, lightly beaten


Empanada dough Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and blend well. Add the egg yolk and, then, the milk. Knead until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper. Cut out round disc shapes for empanadas. The Carne Combine the first five ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a large, flat-bottom pan. Add the onions, garlic, and poblano and cook till the onions are softened and translucent. Add the meat mixture to the onions and cook on medium heat until the meat is cooked thoroughly, stirring frequently. Stir in 2 Tablespoons fresh tomato sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the meat mixture cool, then place at your work area with the hard boiled eggs and green olives. Assembly Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. To assemble the empanadas place a spoonful of the filling on one half of the empanada disc. Fold the empanada discs in half and seal the edges, You can twist and fold the edges with your fingers. Like this...

Or you can use an empanada fork, what R used to call his "empanada generator." It's actually called an empanada fork. Lightly brush the top of the empanadas with the beaten egg. This gives them a nice golden glow when they bake. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes - till nicely browned and firm to the touch. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. But serve hot. Enjoy!

Well, that's a wrap for my empanada exploration. I hope it inspires you to get into the kitchen ahead of National Empanada Day next weekend. The group will be sharing recipes for homemade spices and blends that day. Stay tuned!

72 views2 comments


Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
Apr 03, 2023

Great theme choice for this month Cam. So many choices. You might want to reread your first couple of paragraphs.


Karen Kerr
Karen Kerr
Apr 02, 2023

What a great family project, plus everyone learns all about empanadas!

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