Argentina Feature: Empanadas

The empanada appears in many shapes and forms all across the globe, and each chef has their own unique recipe. In Chile, they tend to stuff their empanadas with pino, a traditional filling of beef, onions, raisins, black olives, and a hard-boiled egg. Costa Ricans serve dessert empanadas with guava, pineapple, chiverre squash and dulce de leche.

The empanada is one of the national dishes of Argentina, second only perhaps to the famous and succulent beef barbecue. Nowhere else in South America do we see such a variance in these delicious hand pies: beef, corn, béchamel, ham and cheese, onion and cheese. In Buenos Aires alone there are about fifteen flavors! There are also so many regional variants, from the olive empanadas of the Mendoza valley to the seafood-stuffed goodies of the coast.

Empanadas can come in savory or sweet flavors. Baked or fried, they can be served as a snack (2-3 pies) or a larger lunch (4-5). They are said to come from Spain and Portugal, in the Spanish version empanadillas. The world empanada comes from Spanish empanar, “to coat or wrap in bread.” Originally a dish for festivals and celebrations, the empanada is now very common in Argentina restaurants and as a take-away food. While strolling down a street in Buenos Aires, look out for the repulgue, a pressed pattern on the dough that indicates the filling.

Want to delve more into the world of the empanada? Book an empanada cooking class in the bohemian neighborhoods of Buenos Aires or try these recipes at home!


photo by mumumio

You can purchase shells of the empanada in most Latin markets; the two types of shells are estilo criolla or the flakier estilo hojaldre. Or make them yourself at home—it’s not as hard as it sounds! To make 15 medium empanada shells:


3 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 oz unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 egg
4-5 tbs water


  1. Mix the flour and salt in a food processor.
  2. Add the butter, egg and water until a clumpy dough forms.
  3. Form a ball and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  4. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas (use round molds or a small plate).
  5. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer to use later.

After you’ve mastered your shells, it’s time to make the filling! To make about one dozen empanadas, you need:


1 lb ground beef
1 TB butter
2 onions
1 1/2 TB smoked paprika
2 tsp cumin
6 green olives, pitted and cut into slices
2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into rounds
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste
12 empanada rounds (tapas)
1 egg, beaten, for glazing
1 glass water, to seal edges


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions with a dash of salt until translucent.
  2. Add the beef, chopping as it cooks with a flat spatula. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until beef has been cooked through, then stir in the paprika, cumin, and crushed red pepper and mix well.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the tapas on a lightly floured work surface. With a spoon, put a little of the meat filling in the center of the dough round. Add a slice of the olive and a piece of the hard-boiled egg.
  4. For sealing, you’ll need your glass of water. Moisten the edge of the top half of the round with a little water on your finger. Fold the bottom half of the dough up until the edges meet and seal with your fingers by pressing down. The empanada should have a half-moon shape.
  5. Use your hands to pack the filling firmly in the center. Next, fold the edge with the Repulgue technique: using your fingertip, fold one corner of the empanada over, and press down firmly down firmly. Go to the edge again and repeat, until you get a spiral pattern. You could also use a fork instead.
  6. Beat an egg in a cup and paint the top of each sealed empanada so that when they bake, they have a shiny, golden shell.
  7. Spread flour lightly over several cookie sheets, and place the finished empanadas on top. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and sizzling.

Interested in a vacation in Buenos Aires or the rest of Argentina? Chat with our experienced and knowledgeable agents at Willamette International Travel. Call us at 1-800-821-0401 or email

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Filed under Argentina, Features, South America, Travel by Taste

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