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Beef Empanadas

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  30 min
  • Cook Time:  55 min
  • Calories: 388
a stack of beef empanadas on a black plate

Tender, flaky crust surrounding a hearty mixture of warmly-spiced ground beef and vegetables—we’re going to teach you how to make the best beef empanadas you’ve ever tasted.

Pockets of Joy

Golden pastry—an easy homemade version that we’ll walk you through—wrapped around a hearty beef filling, these easy empanadas are pure hand-held perfection. They’re one of our favorite party foods, as in we like to make a party out of the process of making empanadas! Are we crazy to think that filling and folding these lovely little pockets is fun? Make the dough ahead of time, and let people assemble their own. Have a beer while they bake, and get ready to dig in! That’s our kind of party.

What Is An Empanada?

Empanadas are crescent-shaped, savory pastries made of dough and filled with a variety of ingredients. Empanada filling varies greatly, and can include anything from beef, chicken, pork, tuna, shellfish, cheese, and / or vegetables, seasoned vibrantly, then baked or fried to perfection.

ingredients for beef empanada dough butter, flour egg

What Are Empanadas Made Of?

Empanada ingredients really run the gamut from country to country—in Puerto Rico you might have one with sofrito-laced ground beef, whereas in Mexico your empanada might be filled with shredded chicken and corn. However, amidst all of this difference, there are a few unifying factors. Empanadas are basically little pockets of dough that are made of:

  • A simple, homemade dough on the outside.
  • Some kind of protein (usually pork, chicken or beef, but sometimes fish or cheese) tucked into the inside.
  • Usually empanadas also have at least one or two simple vegetables—think corn, diced potatoes or carrots.
  • And last but not least, they’re usually flavored with warm spices (think cumin, or even cinnamon) and / or chili peppers.

Our Beef Empanada Recipe is Loaded with a Hearty Mixture Of:

  • Ground beef and boiled potatoes.
  • Veggies galore: onion, celery, peas, and carrots.
  • Garlic and plenty of warm spices.
  • A touch of beef stock to make the ground beef empanada filling from drying out.
dry ingredients for empanada dough in a food processor
dough for beef empanada in a food processor

What Is Empanada Dough Made Of?

The internet claims that you can use store-bought pizza dough as a stand-in for homemade empanada dough. We’re all for shortcuts, but in this case we’re firmly in favor of making your own empanada dough—there is no substitute for the real thing. Homemade empanada crust really just a simple pastry dough—if you can make pie crust, you can make empanada dough. You’ll need just:

  • Flour
  • Ice water
  • Salt
  • Chilled butter
  • Egg

We use chilled butter for this homemade empanada dough recipe because the steam it releases while baking creates gorgeous, flaky layers—just what we crave in our empanadas. Working with room temperature or melted butter results is an unforgiving, tough crust.

ingredients for beef empanadas in small bowls
raw ingredients in a black skillet for beef empanadas
black skillet of beef empanada filling with spices
beef empanada filling with peas and spices

Our Tips for Making Homemade Beef Empanadas:

  • Use an egg wash to help you seal your empanadas and to brush on the outside once filled. A little egg wash will give them a pretty golden-brown crust.
  • Place your ground beef-filled empanadas on a hard surface and firmly press the edges together with a fork to ensure that all of the delicious ground beef filling stays firmly inside the little crust pocket.
  • Place the assembled ground beef empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes. This is the moment to freeze the empanadas, if you’re making them ahead.
  • Don’t be intimidated by the dough-filling process—this part should be fun! It’s a great time to call the kids into the kitchen and put their many hours of Play Doh shaping expertise to work.
empanada dough rolled out on a cutting board with beef empanada filling on one half
uncooked empanada on a cutting board with edges crimped together
uncooked empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet
baked beef empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet

Can You Make Empanadas in Advance?

To make these potato and beef empanadas in advance, cover the tray of unbaked empanadas and refrigerate for up to two days. When you’re ready to eat, bake them at 400° for 40 minutes. They’ll emerge perfectly golden and steaming from the oven just as if you had baked them the same day.

Need more time? You can easily freeze these homemade beef empanadas! Once you’re done filling the dough and making your empanadas, lay them on a baking sheet like you’re about to bake them, but instead of putting the sheet in your oven, pop it in your freezer. Freeze overnight, then transfer to an airtight, zipper-top freezer bag and store for up to three months. When you’re ready to eat the empanadas, just lay the frozen empanada directly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes at 400°F.

What Country Are Empanadas From?

Empanadas (which means “to wrap in bread” in Spanish) are handheld versions of traditional Spanish meat pies. While their fillings, size, and cooking techniques vary from one Latin American country to the next, they all begin by filling pastry dough with savory ingredients and then cooking—either baking or frying—to flaky, golden-brown perfection. This beef empanada recipe is most closely related to Argentinian empanadas, because they are baked rather than fried and use ground beef instead of shredded or cubed.

black plate of beef empanadas

Tools You’ll Need:

What Goes With Beef Empanadas?

Homemade beef empanadas are kind of a meal unto themselves, but you could lighten them up by serving them with a big green salad, or try:

a stack of beef empanadas on a black plate

The Best Beef Empanada Recipe, Hands Down

What did you think? They really are the best beef empanadas out there, right? Show this easy homemade empanada recipe some love and post your filling, baking, and eating (!) process to Instagram tagging @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can follow along!

Beef Empanadas

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  30 min
  • Cook Time:  55 min
  • Calories: 388

Ingredients

  • 1 large russet potato, peeled, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion, grated
  • 1 small carrot, grated
  • 1 rib of celery, finely minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 oz unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash

Method

  1. Make the pastry dough: Pulse the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the butter, 1 large egg and ice water, pulsing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Shape the dough into a ball. Tightly cover the dough in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare the filling: Fill a medium size pot ¾ full with water and bring to a boil. Add the cubed potato to the pot and boil until tender, about 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet set over medium, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the ground beef along with the onions, celery and carrots. Cook until the beef is browned and vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Once potatoes are cooked, drain and add them to the ground beef mixture.
  4. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and beef broth, cook 1 minute longer until spices are fragrant. Add and peas and simmer over medium heat until everything is fully incorporated and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F and place rack into the center of the oven.
  6. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide it into 10 equal part—roughly 2.2 oz each. Roll each piece of dough very thin on a lightly floured surface until you have a circle roughly 7” wide. Working with one at a time add a heaping ⅓ cup of filling onto one side of the dough.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together the beaten egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Wet a pastry brush with egg wash and dampen the inside ¼ inch edge of the dough. Fold the dough in half over the filling. Using a fork, firmly press the edges together. Repeat this process with remaining dough and filling and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  8. Brush the tops of each empanada with the egg wash until coated. Bake for 35 min or until golden brown.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories388
  • Protein14 g
  • Carbohydrates35 g
  • Total Fat20 g
  • Dietary Fiber2 g
  • Cholesterol80 mg
  • sodium355 mg
  • Total Sugars3 g

Beef Empanadas

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • vicki edwards

    can you bake and then freeze

    Sure!

  • Brenda

    I don’t have a food processor. Can I use the pulse button on my blender?

    You can use a pastry cutter or even a fork. Hope you enjoy Brenda!

  • Dee

    Can you freeze empanadas before baking.

    Yes, just don't do the egg wash before freezing. Then when ready to bake fully thaw them, add the egg wash then bake.

  • Barbara Seaton

    Can pre-made crust of any kind be used?

    Some stores sell empanada dough if you can find that you can definitely use it!

  • Anita Hansen

    Empanadas are just like Cornish pasties which I make all the time. We make them much larger than the empanadas. Pasties do not have all the strong spices. We do not cook the ingredients but put everything in raw and bake them for one hour. Otherwise an empanada and a pasty are almost the same thing. Pasties are a well known meal in Minnesota and the upper peninsula of Michigan. I’m getting hungry!

    Sounds delicious!

  • Chef Phree Davis

    I made for Family they loved them made a little bigger suggest one tray at a time in oven

    Thanks Chef Free! Glad you all loved them!

  • Greg

    Very delicious, worth the effort. I just made these and served them with a Peruvian green sauce. I have never made empanadas before and this recipe was easy to follow. Make these when you have time, you will be rewarded.

    Thanks Greg, we are so glad you loved them! They are a bit of a project but we agree it's a fun and rewarding kitchen project!

  • Sarah Ann

    Absolutely LOVE these!!! The crust with the egg wash makes them extra special! They remind me somewhat of a pasty - which can usually be found in northern Michigan. Pasties are typically eaten with a side of ketchup. Sounds gross and boring but they are delicious just like these empanadas...which also go well with ketchup. They're easier to make than pasties too. Thanks for satisfying my taste buds!

    Thanks Sarah Ann, we are so happy you enjoyed them!

  • Alena

    Flavours are on point! I really enjoyed eating these, and it was super easy to make. I used store bought dough and mock beef (I’m vegetarian), so I obviously can’t penalise this recipe for any substitutions I made. In my opinion though, it didn’t make a difference to the taste. Delicious and simple!

    Thanks Alena, we are so glad you liked this recipe!

  • Wayne M.

    These are amazing! They're not too hard to make either. For those who want to make them a little spicy or you could add a jalapeno to the filling mix. But truly, AAAmazing!!!

    Thanks so much Wayne! Glad you loved them and found them not too difficult to make.