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Everything You Need To Know To Make The PERFECT Empanada

When I was first teaching myself how to cook, Empanadas were the first recipe I was able to make that made fully proud of my cooking. After consistently improving them for around 3 years now, I’ve finally concocted a recipe that makes a near perfect, but also health conscious, Empanada. Here are some of the things I added to the recipe to make them burst with flavor!

Ingredients

Before you get started, here’s a list of all the ingredients you’re going to need for this recipe:

For the Dough -

4 cups All Purpose flower

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 stick of butter

1 cup of cold water

For the filling -

1 1/3 lbs. 85% lean ground beef

2 jalapenos

1 small tomato

1 Spanish onion

For the seasoning -

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon taco seasoning

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Dough

For my empanada dough, I use a very simple pastry dough that I home-make. For this dough, combine 4 cups of all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 2 teaspoons of salt. After mixing these together, add a soft stick of butter and fully incorporate it into the flour mixture so that the mixture takes on a crumbly form.

After incorporating the butter

Once you have all 4 of these ingredients mixed, gradually add a cup of cold water (or more if necessary) and stir until you have a fully formed ball of dough!

What your dough should look like

For my recipe, I usually make a dozen Empanadas, so feel free to prepare your dough even further by separating the dough into 12 smaller, even portions. Personally, I roll them up into small balls and set them aside for later.

That’s all there is to it; no rising is required. Just make sure that you add the correct amount of water to the dough. If you add too little, the dough won’t hold together, whereas adding too much will make the dough too wet and sticky, requiring more flour to be added.

Filling

Personally, I love filling my Empanadas with some perfectly seasoned ground beef. But how do you get the perfect ground beef?

First thing’s first, you need to make sure to buy the right kind of meat. I like to use 85% lean ground beef because it doesn’t have too much fat and therefore doesn’t get too juicy like 80% lean beef can get. 90% lean ground beef is also a good option if you want to go healthier, however I’ve found that it becomes a bit too dry after seasoning is added to it as the lower fat content generates less juiciness.

For a dozen Empanadas, 1 1/3 lbs. of beef always tends to be the sweet spot for perfectly filling each one. You’ll never end up with too much beef left over but also won’t run short on filling as long as you don’t overfill your Empanadas. Even if you do have some filling leftover, there’s no need to worry. It’s perfect to snack on while your Empanadas cook!

Along with your 85% ground beef, you want to also buy some vegetables to help add natural flavor to your beef filling. For 1 1/3 lbs. of filling, the perfect vegetable combination for me has been 2 small jalapenos, 1 small tomato, and 1 small white onion.

Vegetables post chopping

Chop each of these vegetables up, turning them into small pieces that aren’t small enough to be minced, but also not big enough to be diced. A little bigger than minced should do you just fine. Store the chopped veggies in a bowl and set aside for later.

Seasonings

Most important to this recipe is how you season your beef filling! After making these Empanadas so many times, I’ve finally perfected the seasoning to make the most delicious ground beef. Keep in mind, this blend is meant to be added per 1 1/3 lbs. of ground beef. If you have more or less than that, feel free to add or subtract from the blend as needed.

Seasonings you’ll need

Start with around 1 teaspoon of salt (I personally use kosher salt). Next, add 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning followed by 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, and 3/4 teaspoon of coriander. Mix all of these seasonings together and prepare to add it to your beef filling once it’s browned.

Cooking The Filling

Start cooking your filling by placing your ground beef in a large skillet over medium to medium high heat. Depending on how your stove heats, you’ll have to adjust the temperatures as the filling cooks. Most importantly, don’t add any liquids such as water or olive oil to cook the meat. As it cooks, the fat content with create a natural juiciness to the meat that will keep it from burning or sticking to the pan. Also, water can take away from the flavor of your filling while oil will make it too runny, so definitely stay away from adding either of the two.

While the meat is cooking, periodically break it apart into small pieces to keep it from sticking to the pan before it has the chance to produce its natural juiciness. Breaking the beef apart as it’s browning also helps it cook faster as well as gives it a nice texture.

Once the meat has been fully browned and is still juicy, take your chopped vegetables that you set aside earlier and add them to the beef in the skillet. Cook the skillet mixture until your vegetables become wilted, meaning they’ve become limp and soft, but the beef doesn’t get too dry.

Filling before seasoning is added

Now that your vegetables are wilted and you have the consistency you want with the juiciness of your beef, add your seasoning mixture to the skillet. Keep in mind, the seasonings will soak up the moisture from the filling, so make sure not to cook it too long after you add them. If at any point your filling seems to get too dry, feel free to add taco sauce or tomato paste to it, however this step is completely optional

After mixing in the seasoning to the beef and vegetables, and the skillet mixture passes a taste test, turn off the stove and transfer your skillet to a trivet. You’re finally ready to assemble your Empanadas!

Filling after seasoning is added

Assembling Your Empanadas

Assembling your Empanadas can be pretty tricky at first, but will get easier each time you do it. Start out by rolling your 12 equal portions of dough into flat, round pastry sheets. This is best accomplished with a rolling pin, but you can substitute a coffee mug if you don’t have one.

When rolling your pastry dough out, make sure to place a good amount of flour onto the surface you’re rolling the dough onto. Flour keeps the dough from sticking to surfaces and helps it roll better, so don’t be afraid to be somewhat generous in using it here. After you’ve rolled out all 12 of the dough portions, set them aside on two baking sheets which they will later be cooked on.

Next, whisk 1 egg in a small bowl and place the bowl in your assembly station. You should now have an area to roll your dough, a bowl with a whisked egg mixture, 12 small sheets of dough, 2 baking sheets, and your skillet which contains your filling.

What my assembly area looks like

For each Empanada, fill it using the following method for each. First, ready one of your dough sheets on your flat surface. Then, add enough beef on top of your dough to fill your empanada but not too much that it will overflow when you try to fold it over and seal it. Using a pastry brush, spread a small amount of the egg mixture along the outside edge of half of your dough sheet. Fold over your dough from the half that isn’t coated in egg mixture and press the two edges together, sealing the beef filling inside the middle of the dough. Make sure none of the filling falls out of the Empanada or gets caught in the pressed edge of the Empanada. Lastly, to make sure it’s properly sealed, take a fork and press down on the folded over edge of the Empanada. Not only does this make sure that no filling will escape the dough, it also leaves a nice decorative touch to the Empanadas!

Do this for all 12 sheets of dough, making sure each are filled generously. Finish off your sealed Empanadas with a hearty brush of the whisked egg mixture on top of them. I find that this not only leaves a nice glaze on the Empanadas, but it helps the dough from getting too dry or crunchy. Once brushed with egg, you’re now ready to cook!

Cooking Your Empanadas!

Now that all of our Empanadas are assembled, it’s time to get them cooking! I’ve found that my favorite way to cook these Empanadas is by baking them. While most Empanadas are fried in oil, I prefer to bake mine as it allows the flavor of the seasonings in the filling to really shine and not be drowned out by oil. Baking them is also just a bit healthier of an option, as it removes added calories and fats from oil.

For these Empanadas, you’re going to want to cook them at 400 degrees in the oven for around 15 minutes. This will give you a wonderful warm, soft dough that is like biting into heaven. If you like your Empanada dough to be a big crispier, you can definitely leave them in for longer, however I wouldn’t keep them in the oven for more than 30 minutes.

The Finished Product!

But there you have it; if you’ve followed these steps, you’ve hopefully cooked yourself up a delicious tasting Empanada that will leave you absolutely addicted! My favorite part about this recipe, and why I spent so much time tweaking it, is that you can find these ingredients at most supermarkets and won’t need to go digging on the internet to order them. So feel free to make these for your family occasions; they’ll surely be begging you for the recipe to make these themselves!

Film maker, content creator, and self taught cook! I write articles about all three!

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