02. Beef Empanadas

March 4, 2010 at 12:54 AM (Recipe) (, , )


This blog. It exists. Okay, it never stopped existing, but I stopped posting after the first major entry because I didn’t have a good enough camera to take pictures I had too many ideas I didn’t have enough ideas I am a lazy asshole. Also legitimately because the vast number of hugely superior food blogs out there was kind of intimidating. I don’t know. OH WELL, NOW I’M BACK. SUCKERS. And now that I’m basically a housewifegirlfriend, I really have no excuse to not update all the goddamn time.

So we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway! This is actually the second time I have tried to make empanadas. The first time, Eric and I were going to do it at my parents’ house, but after we bought all our filling ingredients, we could NOT. Find. Wrappers. Anywhere. So then we ended up buying pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and making these pan-fried weird pastry things that weren’t anything at all like empanadas… so since I had some ground beef in the fridge I needed to use and I didn’t want to do the usual tacos/hamburgers/whatever it is we usually do with ground beef, I figured I should give empanadas another shot. AND THIS TIME I WOULD MAKE THE FUCKING WRAPPERS MYSELF. Ha!

Obviously, then, the first step is to make the dough for the empanada wrappers. The recipe is simple enough (I used this one), and you don’t need any special equipment so even if you think dough is beyond you, this dough isn’t. As usual, recipe will be loaded with totally unnecessary commentary.


  • 2 1/4 cups flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup ice water*
  • 1 TBSP white distilled vinegar**


  1. Sift (and by sift I hope they meant fluff with a fork, ’cause that’s all I did and it worked fine) flour with salt in a medium bowl. Blend in butter using a pastry blender your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal (with pea-size lumps of butter). Frankly, I’m still not entirely sure what “coarse meal” actually looks like, so I just kind of kept mushing it around trying to get it less floury and more buttery.  Think actually squeezing the butter into smaller pieces with your fingers at the same time that you’re mixing it in with the flour. …Shit, maybe I should just buy a pastry blender…
  2. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring with a fork until just incorporated. The dough will be shaggy. A few notes: the dough will start looking like it’s all mixed together if you just stir in a circle, but I guarantee there will be a ton of flour at the bottom of the bowl. Make sure you check to make sure that you’re not leaving all that flour, while still being careful not to overmix. Also, if you’re not sure what “shaggy” is supposed to look like…I took a picture! shaggy dog
  3. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together. Knead gently a few times (original recipe said once or twice, I found that I…needed to knead it (ha! ha!) a couple more times but definitely less than a minute, timewise), just enough to bring dough together. Form into a flat rectangle (or rectangular lump, whatever) and cover in plastic wrap; chill in the fridge for at least an hour. You could do this the night before if you wanted to and keep it in the fridge overnight, as long as the dough is tightly wrapped.

*When I had jotted the recipe down to take into the kitchen with me, I accidentally wrote 1/2 cup of water. Luckily, my brain remembered 1/3 so I didn’t totally ruin my dough…basically I’m just saying it’s always a good idea to double check your recipes.
**I’m sure most people that cook have plain white vinegar on hand, I did not. I did, however, have white balsamic. Not sure if it would have made a difference, but I went ahead and bought plain white anyway. A small bottle costs less than a dollar, so definitely won’t be breaking your budget if you have to purchase it.

Now that the dough is nice and cozy in the fridge, it’s time to move on to the filling!


  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion (I used red but I’m sure white or yellow would work just fine), diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (I’m sure fattier ground beef would be fine too, 93/7 is my personal choice)*
  • 14 oz can whole tomatoes, drained–reserve 2 TBSP of juice–and chopped.
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used kosher, I’m sure table salt will be fine)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

*So, the recipe I used as a reference point actually called for 3/4lb of beef–I just happened to have a 1 lb pack that I was going to use all at once, but if you want to buy less meat or you have that much, 3/4lb will totally work with the rest of these measurements. Actually I had a little bit of filling left over so 3/4 might actually work better.


  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add onions and saute until soft. Don’t overcook them at this point unless you want black and/or dissolved onions in your filling.
  2. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, and cayenne (and whatever other spices you feel like using, honestly), cook for about another minute. Add beef and cook (breaking up lumps–like you’re making taco meat) until no longer pink.
  3. Add in tomatoes with reserved juice, salt, and pepper. Make sure everything’s well mixed and cook until most of the liquid is gone but the mixture is still moist. Feel free to taste the mixture and season some more, I ended up sprinkling a bit more salt and oregano over mine. Once it’s cooked, spread it out on a plate to let it cool.

oh god it was so tasty

I have to be honest–as far as empanadas go, this is a pretty spartan filling. Most other recipes called for things like hard-boiled eggs (would have been fine except I didn’t have time to cook them this time around) or raisins (ew) and olives (double ew); basically, all kinds of things I did not want to put in my mouth. If you do like those things and want a more authentic empanada, go ahead and make whatever kind of filling you want. This ended up being delicious and savory even without all the extras, so I’m happy with it.

Anyway. Finally, after you’ve done all that work…It’s time to do even more work and put the empanadas together. And cook them. And eat them.


  1. Get out your dough, and divide into 12 equal hunks. I rolled mine into balls, you can shape them into disks, whatever. Keep the dough you’re not working on covered. While you’re at it, position racks in the upper and lower thirds of your oven, and preheat to 400°F.
  2. Place a ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out into about a 6-inch round. Honestly, I found it easier to roll out the round by placing some plastic wrap over top of it–even with flour, it kept sticking to my pin, and I thought this was much easier. You’re going to want to keep re-flouring your work surface as well or your dough is going to start sticking horribly.not entirely round unfortunately...
  3. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of the wrapper. However much you think you can fit. My hunks of dough weren’t all exactly equal so sometimes I had to use a little less filling, other times I could use a little bit more. It’s a pretty organic process, just do what works.assembly took way longer than i expected
  4. Now, fold the wrapper in half and stick the edges together, then crimp with a fork to seal in filling. This will be difficult if your edges are too thin or there’s too much filling, so if you’re having a hard time at this point you might want to not roll your wrappers out as much or put as much filling in. Like I said–do what works. i don't have anything else to say about this. whoo!
  5. Repeat steps 2 through 4 with the rest of your dough. You’ll have 12 empanadas. And possibly some leftover filling.
  6. Arrange the empanadas on two baking sheets. I lined my sheets with foil so just in case things got messy, I wouldn’t have too much clean-up to do. For the most part, they didn’t stick, but if you’re concerned, just lightly (very lightly) spray the sheets with some cooking spray.
  7. Beat together 1 egg and 1 TBSP water in a small bowl to make an egg wash. Brush lightly over the top of each empanada–it’ll give it that nice brown color.i may have been a bit...too generous. If you tried to make this before reading the recipe all the way through and don’t have another egg, don’t worry about it. It’ll still taste good, just won’t look as crisp and shiny. Also don’t be a dumb and read the whole recipe next time.
  8. Cook empanadas in preheated oven for a total of 25 minutes (or until they’re golden-brown), switching baking sheets halfway through baking time.

so pretty, even with my horrible crimping

Cool cooked empanadas on a rack for 5 minutes before eating. They taste delicious with a little bit of fresh salsa and sour cream. Enjoy!



  1. Eric said,


  2. Riona said,

    get a pastry blender! the OXO bladey one is a dream. Alternately, you can use two knives and move in an Edward Scissorhands / Wolverine -esque motion, or use a food processor. But I don’t think you have a food processor, right?

    Now i want empanadas. But with raisins and olives and eggs. Damn you.

    • Stacie said,

      i do want a pastry blender eventually, but it’s not that high on my list of kitchen gadgets. food processor would have been great too. alas!

  3. Leigh said,

    Well done. Making pastry dough is relatively easy…no real reason not to, I agree. Won-ton wrappers on the other hand…eff that shit.

    P.S. If you’re serious about updating regularly, I’ll add you to my local foodie blogroll on my site. Yes?

    • Stacie said,

      haven’t tried making wonton wrappers yet but maybe i should give it a go just to see what happens. =P

      also YES PLEASE.

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