carne empanada

the humble empanada

Life has been busy between over the last few months which is why I’m only just getting around to writing about some of the food of South America from my trip back in August!

You can’t talk about food in South America without mentioning the humble empanada. Every country seems to have their own variation of fillings and cooking methods, along with their own routines surrounding the process of eating the empanada.

In Argentina’s Buenos Aires, while we walked through Saturday morning markets we kept coming across men & women selling delicious freshly baked empanadas straight off a tray hot from the oven covered with cloth. My favourite part was how a few people would gather around, buy their carne empanada, then the empanada lady’s sidekick would patiently stand there with chimmichurri and hot chilli salsa while you reapplied your favourite sauce after every bite…making each bite perfect. After a nod of thankyou, everyone would then disperse back into the crowds feeling pretty content and the empanada lady would walk on to find another mob of hungry people.

It was also in Beuons Aires that I had the best empanadas ever at a place called El Cuartito, the place to go for authentic ‘pan pizzas’ and empanadas. It’s a favourite with all the locals who pack in at lunch time, even just standing at the counter to devour a slice of deliciously thick pizza. It’s been around forever, and I am not surprised. Their famous ‘fugazzeta’ pizza with onions & cheese was rich but really good, but my favourite had to be the jamon & queso empanadas, oozing with gorgonzola in a beautiful soft pastry. Amazing.

el cuartito

In Brazil, as we soaked up the sun on the beach in Morro de Sao Paulo, it always seemed to be that as soon as you started feeling a bit peckish and wondering if you had to actually consider leaving the comfort of your spot in the sun, the super chilled out empanada guy would show up with a basket full of empanadas (probably whipped up by his mum) with a healthy side of chilli kick…problem solved.

My favourite empanada eating routine was in La Paz in Bolivia…the empanada, or saltenas as they are called in Boliva is a cousin to the empanada and is eaten as a breakfast or mid-morning snack.  As all the locals make their way to work they make a bee line for their favourite empanada stand for a quick snack on their way. Once they shoulder their way into their favourite stall and pick out their empanada of choice, it’s then all about the endless variety of sauces and condiments. Prime position at one of the stalls on wheels is right in front of all the sauces, where you can either reapply one or more of many sauce choices after every bite like in Buenos Aires, or you can fill up a little plate with a bit of everything to dunk into either chimichurri, spicy guacamole or tomato salsa at your leisure. As a girl who loves her condiments…this is my kind of eating. We weren’t going to miss out, so after sussing out what looked like the best stall in the long line of empanada stalls in one of the back streets we went in for our mid-morning snack and it didn’t disappoint. The Bolivian saltena, is filled with beef, olives, and seems to always features raisins, I love the sweetness of the raisins in the mix which helps take the edge off quite a heavy and rich pastry.

I’ve been making a few different variations of the empanada since the trip, covering fillings such as jamon & queso (ham & 3 cheese), pollo (chicken, onion & olives) and carne (beef mince with onions, hard boiled egg, olives & currants). There is also a few variations of pastry & cooking options. Baked or fried, I always go for baked. You can cheat with a store bought puff pastry for the jamon & queso, or a shortcrust pastry for the pollo or carne, however if you want to do things right there is the real empanada dough to make from scratch which I have included below.

making empanadas

carne empanada 2

My favourite accompaniment for the empanada is the super delicious staple that is chimichurri, which comes from Argentina. It is a perfect match with grilled meats, and personally I think with just about anything. A typical chimichurri is made from finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano, olive oil & red wine vinegar, and has some serious punch and an amazing aroma.

Perfect for party finger food, lunch, or as something easy to take on a picnic, I think the empanada has a lot to offer, and might just what you’re after for your next pastry craving! Maybe it’s just because I’d been over to South America and we were surrounded by them there, but I feel as though I’ve noticed a bit of a surge of empanadas popping up on menus, and even a few specialty bars and shops more and more recently. Maybe we’ve started cottoning onto something.

empanada dough

By the wild rabbit catering Published: February 6, 2014

  • Yield: 14 Servings

This recipe comes from 'familia zuccardi' in Mendoza, Argentina, where I did a fantastic cooking class in the middle of their beautiful vineyard.



  1. Put the flour with the salt in a bowl. Heat the butter & lard in a pot. Once it melts, add the flour and water, mix and start preparing the dough.
  2. Stretch dough into pieces, sprinkle it with corn flour and start folding it over like puff pastry.
  3. Let the dough rest for 3 hours in the fridge, then stretch again until obtaining the desired thickness (approx 3-4mm).
  4. Use a pastry cutter to cut into 12cm discs. The dough is now ready to be filled with your desired filling.
  5. Once filled, moisten edges with water and enclose pastry around filling, sealing the edges closed. It's good to use a different 'pattern' for different fillings so you can tell them apart. Coat the empanadas with egg wash and bake in a 200 deg C oven for approx 20 mins. Enjoy!

, , , , ,

2 Responses to the humble empanada

  1. Christiana February 10, 2016 at 8:10 am #

    This recipe looks amazing, the dough technique different from what I’ve seen in other empanada recipes. I would like to try making it, but was wondering if you could clarify one step in the instructions– what do you mean when you say to “stretch the dough into pieces?” Do you mean into ball sized pieces for the individual empanadas, or in half to make it more manageable? And for folding, its a book fold, and one turn?

    Thank you!

    • the wild rabbit catering February 10, 2016 at 10:45 am #

      Hi Christiana, yes you stretch the dough into more manageable sizes…in half probably, the individual empanadas get cutout as rounds at the end of dough prep. Yes that is how I do it for the folding. Goodluck! I hope you enjoy your empanadas!

Leave a Reply