An empanada is a Spanish and Portuguese stuffed bread or pastry, also known as "impanada" in Italy. The name comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Empanada is made by folding a dough or bread patty around the stuffing. In Spain, empanadas are usually large and circular in shape and are cut into smaller portions for consumption, whereas in Portugal and South America empanadas are normally small and semi-circular (this type of empanada is commonly known as empanadilla in Spain). Empanadas are also known by a wide variety of regional names (see the entries for the individual countries below).
In Spain the dish is known as Galician empanada or simply empanada, whereas in Portugal it is only known as "empanada".
It is likely that empanadas in the Americas have their origins in Galicia, Spain and Portugal, where an empanada is prepared similar to a large pie which is cut in pieces, making it a portable and hearty meal for working people. The filling of Galician and Portugal empanada usually includes either tuna, sardines or chorizo, but can instead contain cod fish or pork loin. The meat or fish is commonly in a tomato, garlic and onion sauce inside the bread or pastry casing. Due to the large number of Galician immigrants in Latin America, the empanada gallega has also become popular in that region.
The dish was carried to South America by colonists, where they remain very popular to this day. Empanadas in South America have various fillings, detailed below.
Varieties by country
Argentine empanadas are often served at parties as a starter or main course, or in festivals. Shops specialize in freshly made empanadas, with many flavors and fillings.
The dough is usually of wheat flour and lard with fillings differing from province to province: in some it is mainly chicken in others beef (cubed or ground depending on the region), perhaps spiced with cumin and paprika, while others include onion, boiled egg, olives, or raisins. Empanadas can be baked (more common in restaurants and cities) or fried (more common in rural areas and at festivals). They may also contain ham, fish, humita (sweetcorn with white sauce) or spinach; a fruit filling is used to create a dessert empanada. Empanadas of the interior regions can be spiced with peppers.
In restaurants where several types are served, a repulgue, or pattern, is added to the pastry fold. These patterns indicate the filling.
Province of Tucuman
This province hosts The National Empanada Festival, in the city of Famailla.
The only varieties are: beef, mondongo, chicken, with the latter two being the most authentic.
Preferably cooked in a clay oven in a tray of fat, or in a gas oven
The empanada Tucumana is hearty - the meat filling being minced into 3 mm pieces, then partially cooked and allowed to cool while it absorbs juices. Cooking is finished along with the final baking.
In addition to meat, spring onions, pimento and vinegar are added. Potatoes, peas, and olives are rarely used in the Tucuman preparation.
The dough is simply prepared from flour, water, lard.
A traditional celebratory meal in Tucuman might include: empanadas, locro Tucumano and meat tamales, and to drink wine from Amaicha, Valle, or Colalao. Cheese from Tafi with honey and/or bitter orange syrup as a dessert.
Province of Salta
Empanadas from Salta or "Empanadas saltenas" are characterized by the use of potatoes, the beef or goat meat and diverse varieties of red pepper.
Province of Jujuy - empanadas Jujenas are very similar to those from Salta though peas, red peppers and goat meat is more favoured.
Province of Santiago del Estero tend to commonly use peas, white onion, and hard boiled egg.
Province of Cordoba- The empanadas from Cordoba are characterized by the use of raisins, potatoes, and sugar.
Provinces of Catamarca and La Rioja - Empanadas Catamarquenas and Las Riojan tend to have garlic, potatoes, goat meat , onion and olives as the fillings.
Provinces of Cuyo - The empanadas of these provinces are very similar to those of Chile having more onion, often spring onions.
Province of Entre Rios - The empanadas here are often stuffed with milk-soaked rice.
Provinces of Corrientes, Misiones and Formosa - Empanada pastry is occasionally made with manioc - mandioca flour, and although beef as a filling predominates fish is not unusual.
Province of Buenos Aires and the city of Buenos Aires - The preferred empanada one is very similar to that of Tucuman but with a greater variety of fillings.
Province of Pampas - Here empanadas reflect the crossing of various regional influences from Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Mendoza, and Patagonia. So that being so the most frequent empanada fillings can include red peppers, carrots, hard boiled egg, and currants.
In the Patagonian provinces the most frequent filling is lamb although in the coastal zones fish and, specially, seafood, is common. In Neuquen the usually condiment is merken.
During Lent and Easter, "empanadas de Cuaresma" based on fish (usually dogfish or tuna) are popular.
Bolivian Empanadas are made with beef or chicken, and usually contain potatoes, peas and carrots, as well as a hard boiled egg, an olive, or raisins. They are called saltenas and are moon-shaped pouches of dough customarily seamed along the top of the pastry. Saltenas are very juicy and generally sweeter than the Chilean variety, though there are different levels of spiciness (non sweetness). In the afternoons, fried cheese empanadas are served, sometimes brushed with sugar icing.
In Brazil, empadas, or empadinhas are a common ready-to-go lunch item available at fast-food counters. A wide variety of different fillings and combinations are available, with the most common being chicken, palmito (heart of palm), cheese, shrimp, and beef.
The filling of empadinhas often have olives or olive pieces mixed in. Many people see this as a crucial aspect of the food, originating the expression "olive in the empadinha" for something important, desirable or beneficial.
The cheese empadinha is usually open, resembling a Portuguese Pastel de Belem
Though the similar name suggests related dishes, Brazilian empadinhas are very different from empanadas, and probably have distinct origins - possibly deriving from Portuguese empadao, which resembles a tarte.
Empanadas (Argentinian or Chilean style) are also available at a few Brazilian restaurants, never sold as empadinhas, and are regarded as totally different dishes.
The dough used in empadinhas is based on flour and butter (or margarine), and is closer to the French pate brisee (used in tartes) than the dough used to make empanadas. Empadinhas are baked in small round metal moulds, about 5 cm diameter each. The crust crumbles when pressed, different from empanadas, which are usually firmer.
As noted above, empadinhas usually come with chicken filling, but also with beef, heart of palm, shrimp, cheese , dried tomatoes, codfish, etc. They are widely available in Brazil, and commonly found in bakeries, luncheonettes, and gas stations; there are even some fast-food chains specialized in empadinhas in most major Brazilian cities.
Usually cheese-filled "empadinhas" are opened, but you can find them closed in some places.
Chilean empanadas can have a wide range of fillings, but there are two basic types; one is baked and usually filled with pino (similar to mincemeat), and the other is fried and usually filled with cheese. Empanada fillings may contain cheese and/or different types of seafood, for example; mussel, crab, or locos (abalone).
The most popular empanada filling is pino, consisting traditionally of beef, onions, shortening, raisins, black olives, hard boiled eggs and hot peppers. Pino is a Mapuche recipe, and in Mapudungun it is called Pinu, so this filling is a true mix of indigenous Chilean and Spanish heritage.
Colombian empanadas can be either baked or fried. The ingredients used in the filling can vary according to the region, but it will usually contain components such as salt, rice, beef or ground beef, shredded chicken, boiled potatoes, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and peas. In the department of Valle del Cauca, they are generally filled with ground meat, yellow potato or Criole potato. They are also served with peas, tomato, cilantro, and many other spices. In the city of Medellin, Chorizo filled empanadas can be easily found, because of the city's love of pork and chorizo meats. In the Amazonic regions of Colombia, such as the area of the city of Leticia, many sweet empanadas can be found, because of the high demand and high supply of tropical fruits of the region. Many of these empanadas are filled with some sort of jam consisting of these types of tropical fruits, such as lulo, zapote and many more which can all be found in the Amazon regions of Colombia. However, radical variations can also be found . The pastry is mostly corn-based, although potato flour is also used. In Santander, wheat flour pastry is the most popular with a variety of fillings that may include pineapple and even mushrooms, but the empanadas of ground or pureed manioc are a representative traditional food.
Colombian empanadas are usually served with Aji (also called Picante and Aji Pique by some people), a sauce made of cilantro, green onions, red or black pepper, vinegar, salt, and lemon juice and, often, bits of avocado pear. Bottled hot sauces are also used to add flavor to the empanadas. The sauce is normally prepared with a spicy kick, balancing very well with the nutty, neutral taste of the meat, potato and spices that make up the typical Colombian empanada. Colombian empanadas are also known to contain carrots and chicken. Another variety include Stuffed Potatoes (Papas rellenas) which is a variant that has potato in the pastry instead of maize dough and have round shapes.
In the Cauca department, the pipian empanadas are made with peanuts and a special type of potato called "Papa amarilla" due to its yellow color. In Colombia, empanadas can be easily found on street corners, as it is one of the most famous and popular foods in the general public, followed by Arepa, and Pandebono. Many of the empanadas that are found in Colombia were/are homemade, and have been brought down through generations, eventually turning into a national obsession. One of the most famous bakeries in the Republic, more specifically based in Cali, Colombia, called 'El Molino' introduced the Spinach Empanada, which is an empanada filled with both green spinach and cottage or Riccotta cheese. In the poorer areas of Colombia, the producers of these popular empanadas are made with the same spinach, but use Queso Campesino, Queso Paisa of Medellin, or parmasan cheese instead of cottage or Ricotta cheese. Emapandas in Colombia are a favorite in most of the bigger cities, such as Cali, Bogota, or Medellin. Nowadays, Colombian empanadas are one of the most ordered, and one of the most favorable side orders in many of the restaurants in Colombia.
Costa Rican empanadas are either filled with seasoned meats or cheese, beans, cubed potato stew folded and then fried. These empanadas are normally made with corn dough. There is another version made with wheat dough and is typically sweet and baked, filled with guava, pineapple, chiverre or any other jelly or dulce de leche. Another popular version are empanadas that have been made with sweet plantain dough, filled with seasoned beans and cheese, and then fried.
Cuban empanadas are typically filled with seasoned meats (usually ground beef or chicken), folded into dough, and deep fried. Cubans also sometimes refer to empanadas as empanadillas. Empanadas can also be made with cheese, guayaba, or a mixture of both.
These are not to be confused with Cuban pastelitos, which are very similar but use a lighter pastry dough and may or may not be fried. Cubans eat empanadas at any meal, but they usually consume them during lunch or as a snack.
Similar in their preparation (though often fried) and method of consumption to Cuban empanadas. More modern versions, promoted by some specialty food chains, include stuffing like pepperoni and cheese, Danish cheese and chicken, etc. A variety also exists in which the dough is made from cassava flour (or wheat flour), called catibias. Adobo seasoning, diced boiled eggs and raisins can be added as way to provide additional variety and enhance the flavor of the meat filling.
Very similar to those of their neighboring country, Colombia, Ecuadorian empanadas are made of corn seasoning or flour. Their components may include peas, potatoes, steamed meat known as carne guisada, or many other varieties of vegetables. The many types of Ecuadorian empanadas include empanadas de arroz (rice empanadas), which are deep fried for added crispiness, and flour empanadas or empanadas de verde which are empanadas made from plantain. Empanadas are also followed by aji (a type of dipping sauce for added flavor), which varies by region. The major components of "aji", or "picante", as it is also known, are cilantro, juices from red peppers (for a spicy kick), lemon, Spanish, red, or green onion, and sometimes chopped tomato. In la costa , or the shore region of Ecuador, aji may contain only onions, chopped tomatoes, and lemon juice. and fruit empanadas; with such fillings as banana, apples, and pumpkin. There is also "empanadas de morocho", morocho is a special grain produced in the country. They are also known for deep fried Empanadas made with shredded chicken, onions, olives, hard boiled eggs, and raisins then topped with sugar before serving.
Salvadorians often use the term "empanadas" to mean an appetizer or dessert made of plantains stuffed with sweet cream. The plantains are then lightly fried and served warm with a sprinkle of sugar. They also sometimes include caramel and apples
In Haiti, a meat-filled pastry similar to the empanada but with a thicker crust called a pate is regularly eaten on festive occasions. It is essentially a meat-filled turnover. The dough is often filled with ground beef, fish, or chicken and topped with spices. The dough is then sealed and baked.
A Jamaican patty or pattie is a pastry that contains various fillings and spices baked inside a flaky shell, often tinted golden yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric. It is made like a turnover but is more savory. As its name suggests, it is commonly found in Jamaica, and is also eaten in other areas of the Caribbean, like Costa Rica's Caribbean coast but most notably that of Haiti, in which the pastry is thick and crispy essentially a turnover. It is traditionally filled with seasoned ground beef, however, fillings now include chicken, vegetables, shrimp, lobster, fish, soy, ackee, mixed vegetables or cheese. In Jamaica the patty is often eaten as a full meal especially when paired with bread. It can also be made as bite-sized portions and is then referred to as a cocktail patty.
Mexican empanadas can be a dessert or breakfast item and tend to contain a variety of sweetened fillings; these include pumpkin, yams, sweet potato, and cream, as well as a wide variety of fruit fillings. Meat, cheese, and vegetable fillings are less common in some states, but still well-known and eaten fairly regularly. Depending on local preferences and particular recipes the dough can be based on wheat or corn, sometimes with Yuca flour. The state of Hidalgo is famous for its empanadas, or pastes, as they are locally known. These trace their origins from the Cornish pasties imported by British miners. In Chiapas, empanadas filled with chicken or cheese are popular dishes for breakfast, supper or even as snacks.
Empanadas are usually filled with ground beef but sometimes may also be filled with shredded chicken, white cheese or yellow cheese. They are made of flour or cornmeal and usually deep fried, but can also be baked. In the city of Colon, due to a heavy Caribbean influence, they also fill it with a plantain puree, bake it, and call it "plantain tart"(tarta de planton). They are smaller than their counterparts elsewhere in Latin America and are considered snack, appetizer, or luncheon food.
Peruvian empanadas are similar to Argentine empanadas, but slightly smaller. They are usually baked. The most common variety contains ground beef seasoned with cumin, hard-boiled egg, onion, olives and raisin; the dough is usually sprinkled with icing sugar. They are commonly sprinkled with lime juice before eating. Also very popular are cheese-filled (or cheese-and-ham-filled) ones besides chicken filled one.
Recently, "modern" empanadas, with a variety of filling have appeared, e.g.: chicken-and-mushrooms, shrimp or "aji de gallina".
In southern Peru, similar to Bolivia, you will also find "Saltenas" (Argentinian empanadas) or "Bolivianas" (very similar to Saltenas).
Filipino empanadas usually contain ground beef or chicken meat, potato, chopped onion, and raisins (somewhat similar to the Cuban "picadillo") in a sweetish wheat flour dough. Some Filipinos are not partial to the sweetish flavour notes and prefer empanadas that are closer to the Hispanic versions. There are doughy baked versions, as well as flaky fried versions. Often, to lower costs, potatoes are added as a filler.
However, empanadas in the northern Ilocos region are very different. These empanadas are made of a savory filling of green papaya, mung beans and, upon request, chopped Ilocano sausage (Chorizo) and/or an egg yolk. Rather than the soft, sweet dough favored in the Tagalog region, the dough used to enclose the filling is thin and crisp, mostly because Ilocano empanada uses rice flour, coloured orange with achuete (annatto), and is deep-fried rather than baked.
In Portugal, empadas are a common option for a small meal, found universally in patisseries and often being eaten while drinking coffee. They are usually about the size of a golf ball, though size and shape changes from place to place or establishment to establishment. The most common fillings are chicken, beef, tuna, codfish and, more recently, mushrooms and vegetables, though this also varies from place to place. They aren't usually served hot.
Puerto Rican cuisine has several dishes related to the empanada. The closest to those of neighboring countries is called empanadilla . The empanadilla is made of flour or cassava flour dough, lard and annatto powder. The empanadilla is filled with meat , spinach, pigeon peas with coconut, cheese, or a combination, or cheese with fruit. Cassava empanadas are usually filled with seafood. They're very popular beach food and in Cuchifrito.
Mexican empanadas are commonly eaten in the United States, especially in the Southwest. However, the Taco Bell chain serves the Caramel Apple Empanada, a dessert item that is basically an "Americanized" version of the empanada, more closely resembling an "original" (1970s-80s era) McDonald's Apple Pie than anything else. It consists of sweet dough, deep-fried and filled with a gooey apple filling.
In the southeastern United States, there is a similarly prepared dessert often referred to as "fried pies." They typically consist of a pasty filling made from re-constituted dried fruit such as apples, apricots, or peaches. The filling is placed in a dough circle, folded over in half, and then fried.
Among the original Spanish families that colonized New Mexico, there is a winter tradition of gathering to making sweetmeat empanadas for Christmas. These small empanadas are made with hand-ground cooked pork, sugar, toasted local pinon, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; sealed in tortilla-like dough; then deep-fried in lard until lightly golden brown. Variations include making them from beef, and using different nuts or spices. Gathering the family to make and gift these sweetmeat empanadas is one of many traditional New Mexico foodways that continues to thrive.
Uruguayan empanadas are generally made out of wheat flour and can be fried or baked. There were introduced by the Spanish and Italian settlers in the middle of the 20th century. The most common empanadas are those with beef, but there are also other kinds, such as ham and cheese, olives, fish and spicy stuffing.
The most famous sweet empanadas in Uruguay are those that combine dulce de leche, quince and chocolate covered by sugar or apple jam. In some regions even those with sweet meat.
In Spain empanadas are often made from a rather thin, pliant, but resilient wheat pastry, although thicker pastry is not uncommon. The filling varies, but tuna, sardines or chorizo are used most commonly in a tomato puree, garlic and onion sauce. Spanish empanadas are fried in olive oil or baked in the oven.
In Galicia, Spain, the empanada can also be prepared similar to a pie, with cod fish or pork loin, the empanada galega . Empanada can be eaten at any time of the day.
Venezuelan empanadas use corn flour based dough and are fried in oil or lard, but can be baked too.
The stuffing varies according to region; most common are white salty cheese, shredded chicken or beef and ground beef.
Other types use fish , caraotas or black beans, Llanero white cheese, guiso . Oyster, clams, shrimps and other types of seafood are used as fillings in the coastal areas, especially in Margarita Island. Also, it can be made of fried ripe plantains (tajadas) and white cheese, which has a sweet flavour.
An empanada filled with meat, black beans (Venezuelan-style), and fried ripe plantains (tajadas) is called empanada de pabellon, after Venezuela's national dish, the pabellon criollo.
When the empanada is cut open after deep frying, and doctored with added fillings, it is called empanada operada, a term which refers to a surgical intervention (operacion in Spanish).
The empanadas can be eaten at any time of the day and is frequently served with Guasacaca and/or hot sauce.
In order to distinguish the types of empanadas in Venezuela, it is common to call Empanada Chilena the one that is made with a wheat flour based dough (or pastry) and baked, as Venezuelan empanadas are made with a corn flour based dough.
Many other world cuisines have dishes very similar to the empanada. These include:
Kajjikaya from Andhra Pradesh, India. Similar to fried empanadas filled with sweetened dried coconut.
Simbusak, a fried, chickpea filled "empanada" from Iraq
Kibbeh, from Lebanon/Levant, with lamb meat encased in bulgur dough
Burek, from Turkey and areas of the former Ottoman Empire
Pogaca, from Turkey and areas of the former Ottoman Empire
Pierogi, bierock and runza from Slavic countries and the midwest United States
Pirozhki, from Russia and nearby countries
Strudel, from Germany and areas of the former Habsburg empire
Pasty from Cornwall
Samosa from India and Pakistan
Calzone and panzerotti from Italy
Knish, a dish associated with Ashkenazi Jews
Jiaozi from China, also called mandu in Korea and gyoza in Japan
Banh xeo and other types of banh from Vietnam
Curry puff from Malaysia and countries with Malay populations
Deep-fried momo from Tibet, Nepal and North East India
Stromboli (which is Italian American) and Hot Pockets, prepared, mass-marketed food from the United States
Natchitoches Meat Pie, fried or baked pastry turnover filled with ground beef, pork, onion, garlic and spices
Karanji from Maharashtra, India. Same idea, but filled with fried & sugared coconut.
Gujia from India filled with sugared coconut, nuts & sweet but no meat.
List of Brazilian dishes
Cuisine of Argentina
How to Make Empanadas - Step-by-step guide with pictures on how to make empanadas.
How to Make Empanadas Argentinas - Step-by-step video guide on how to prepare empanadas Argentinas
Mr. Empanada - A popular franchise in Tampa, Florida specializing in Empanadas