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What are Empanadas?

Traditionally made with a flaky pastry crust, empanadas are hand pies that are filled with different types of sweet and savory fillings.
What are Empanadas? - Exploring Cuisine with Tiny Kitchen Cuisine

Empanadas are hand pies that are filled with different types of sweet and savory fillings. Hand pies are found all over the world by different names. In asian cuisine, they are known as dumplings. Central European cultures call them pierogies. Cuisines of the middle east call them samosas. The British Isles know them as pasties.

The word empanada comes from the root empanar, which means to wrap or coat in bread. Empanadas are usually more on the savory side. However, recipes for dessert empanadas are pretty easy to find as well. You can serve empanadas as a snack, appetizer, tapas plate, or as a main entree—breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s very versatile.

Because there are so many varieties of filling, it’s hard to screw it up. As long as your filling is flavorful and your dough is cooked, you’ve pretty much nailed it.

Popular Empanada Fillings
  • Beef and Potato
  • Spicy Chicken and Cheese
  • Beef and Chorizo
  • Black Beans and Corn
  • Potato and Cheese
Empanada Dough and Wrappers

Traditionally made with a flaky pastry crust, the dough is rolled out into a disk, filled, and folded over into a half-moon shape. Cooking is also the chef’s preference—mostly they are either baked or fried. I originally used my standard pie dough for my empanadas, even though it is not a traditional empanada dough. However, I do not typically fry mine because my pie dough absorbs a lot of grease. Lately, I use egg roll wrappers to make empanada rolls. Those fry up wonderfully and don’t overpower the filling with extra breading.

You can also substitute other store-bought doughs like croissant dough, pizza dough, and even phyllo dough. But if you’re going to go that far, you might as well look in the freezer section or refrigerated international section of your grocery store for authentic empanada dough disks. That way you’ll even get the right shape.

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Valerie is the author of Tiny.Kitchen. With mouthwatering recipes and useful techniques, she combines her experience living in an RV with her professional cooking skills and love of food to address the unique concerns of those who want to make delicious meals in their tiny kitchen. Learn more »

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