Beef Empanadas

black plate of beef empanadas
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Tender, flaky crust envelopes a hearty mixture of warmly-spiced ground beef and vegetables—say hello to the best beef empanadas recipe you’ve ever tasted. 

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. 

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. 
ingredients for beef empanada dough

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 short cuts, 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. 

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.
black plate of beef empanadas

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. 

beef empanada broken in half showing filling of potatoes, peas and carrots

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. 

Tools You’ll Need:  

black plate of beef empanadas

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: 

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 4

Crust

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz butter, chilled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten for egg wash

Filling

1 large russet potato, peeled, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
3/4 lb beef, ground
2 tbsp olive oil
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
1/2 cup peas
3/4 cup beef broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Method

  1. To make the pastry dough pulse the flour and salt in a food processor. Add butter, egg and ice water. Pulse 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. While your empanada dough is resting prepare the filling. Fill a medium size stock pot ¾ full with water and bring to a boil. Add the cubed potato to the pot and boil the potato until tender, about 3 minutes. While potatoes are boiling, brown the beef in a saute pan over medium heat along with the onions, celery and carrots. Once potatoes are cooked drain and add them to the ground beef mixture and cook until beef is cooked through and vegetables are softened.
  3. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and beef broth to the beef and vegetable mixture, sautéing 1 minute longer until spices are fragrant. Add and peas and simmer over medium heat until everything is well incorporated and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. 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 prepared dough at a time add a heaping ⅓ cup of filling onto one side of the dough.
  5. Wet a pastry brush with egg wash and dampen the inside ¼ inch edge of the filled dough. Fold the dough in half. Using a fork, firmly press the edges together. Repeat this process with remaining dough and filling and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Preheat oven to 375°F and place rack into the center of the oven.
  7. In a small bowl mix together an egg with 1 tbsp of water, brush each empanada with egg wash until coated. Bake for 35 min or until golden brown.