How to Cook an Empanada


Empanadas are savory stuffed pastries eaten throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. While different countries have their own take on the empanada, the basic concept of baked or fried dough filled with meat, vegetables or cheese is consistent throughout the region. Empanadas are relatively easy to cook and can be served as appetizers or as a main course at lunch or dinner. With proper storage, this versatile dish can be made a few days ahead of time and heated up when guests arrive.

Things You'll Need

  • Flour or cornmeal
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Vinegar
  • Egg
  • Cooking oil
  • Filling ingredients
  • Baking sheet or frying pan


  • Prepare the empanada dough. Most empanada recipes use flour or cornmeal as the main ingredient in the dough. Add the indicated amount of water, egg, salt, butter, vinegar and other ingredients. Blend the ingredients and knead the dough until soft and manageable. Place dough in the refrigerator and allow it to cool. If you are short on time, consider buying pre-made empanada dough, which is often sold at Latin American specialty food stores.

  • Prepare the filling. Ground beef or chicken is the basis for most empanada fillings, though there are plenty of other possibilities, including pulled pork, cheese, ham, spinach, creamed corn, potato and tofu. If preparing a meat-based filling, heat a large frying pan with oil and cook the meat along with other ingredients such as onion, scallions, garlic and peppers until tender and cooked through. Allow the filling to cool down to room temperature before proceeding. Many fillings, such as ham and cheese, do not need to be cooked before being placed in the dough.

  • Prepare the empanadas. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough on a large flat surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into circles 5 to 8 inches in diameter, depending on how large you want your empanadas to be. Skip this step if using pre-made, pre-cut empanada dough. Place 2 to 4 spoonfuls of filling in the center of each dough circle, depending on the size of the circle. Join two opposite sides of the dough to form a half moon-shaped pocket. The filling should fit snug inside the pocket without spilling out or breaking the dough. Press down on the edge of the flat edge of the empanada with a fork to close the pocket. Poke a few holes in the dough's surface to allow air to escape.

  • Cook the empanadas by baking or frying. To bake, place them onto a large greased baking sheet so that none of the empanadas are touching. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. To fry, fill a deep fryer or large, deep frying pan with cooking oil and heat until bubbly and starting to smoke. Place the empanadas in the hot oil and cook until golden brown and crispy, about five to seven minutes.

  • Serve the empanadas. Empanadas are traditionally finger food and don’t require utensils, but they may be required if the empanadas are too hot to pick up. Consider serving them with a dipping sauce such as spicy salsa or sour cream and chives.

Tips & Warnings

  • Look for recipes from different countries online or in cookbooks. Each country has its own empanada specialty, so be sure to try a variety.
  • Calculate three to four 6-inch empanadas per person as a main course.

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