Throughout Latin America and globally, empanadas can change both in shape and flavor:

  • IN BOLIVIA they’re called saltenas and are made with chicken or beef, peas, carrots and potatoes.
  • CHILE provides a wide range of filings including its specialty: seafood.  The most common one is made with seasoned beef or shredded chicken, raisins, hard-boiled eggs, olives and hot peppers.
  • IN BRAZIL empanadas are pies made with a rich buttery crust.  They also differ in sizes; a large empanada can often be served as a main course, whereas small ones – called empadinhas – are consumed as snacks.  Common fillings included seasoned meat, shredded chicken, hearts of palm, shrimp, olives & tomato sauce.
  • COLOMBIA & ECUADOR share the process of cooking empanadas & fillings with some variations. However, the dough is commonly made with corn flour, instead of wheat.
  • EL SALVADOR empanadas are made of fried plantains topped with sugar & sweet cream.

-Fernanda Beccaglia

DOUGH FOR FRIED EMPANADAS:

Serves 24-36

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup lard (or good quality butter), room temperature
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons water

Work together the flour (with sugar and salt) with the lard. Make a hole in the middle and stir in egg. Once mixed, start adding 1 tablespoon of water at a time. Knead until smooth and elastic. Let rest for about 30 minutes. Roll out until the dough is slightly thicker than a crepe (not too thin, or it may tear). Cut dough into rounds measuring about 5 inches in diameter.

DOUGH FOR BAKED EMPANADAS:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 cup lard (or good quality butter)
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1⁄2 cup warm water

Work together lard and seasoned flour. Add the beaten egg. Mix with a fork. Once together, add little by little the water. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rest 5 minutes before using. Roll out until the dough is slightly thicker than a crepe (not too thin, or it may tear). Cut dough into rounds measuring about 5 inches in diameter.

BEEF FILLING:

  • 7 to 8 slices bacon
  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 2 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped or crushed
  • 2 medium red peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine (to deglaze)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • Beef broth, low sodium (if needed)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon Italian oregano
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon raisins (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely
  • chopped (optional)

In a saucepan, over low heat, place the bacon strips and let cook slowly until fat is released and texture turns crispy. Remove bacon and set aside. In the same pan add garlic, scallions and onion. Sautee until soft and aromatic. Add meat to pan and sear for about 3 to 4 minutes. Deglaze with wine. Add peppers and tomatoes. Mix well. Cook until soft. If liquid is needed, add some broth. Add the parsley to the meat. Mix together and season with cumin, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Finally, add the olives. Crack the bacon with your hands — by now it shouldn’t be hot — and add it to the meat mix. If you chose to use hardboiled eggs and raisins, add them now. Mix well.

VEGGIE FILLING:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄2 onion, finely chopped or cut in thin rounds
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups boiled, drained and chopped spinach (or frozen)
  • 1 cup Béchamel sauce*
  • Nutmeg, salt and fresh ground white pepper to season

In a hot saucepan heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic over medium heat. Toss chopped spinach in and mix well. Sautee lightly. Add béchamel sauce. Mix. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Optional additions: Mozzarella, Swiss cheese and pine nuts.

To assemble and make empanadas:

 Preheat over at 400°. Grab a disc of dough and wet borders lightly with water. Spoon a rather abundant amount of filling (about 2 tablespoons) into the center of the disc. Fold dough over filling so that sides meet. With your fingers, press a pattern to seal the edges together. (You can also use a fork to form edge and seal tightly.) Place empanadas on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until aromatic and golden.

*Quick bechamel: In a medium saucepan, heat 5 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Heat 4 cups milk or light cream in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.