Spicy Beef Empanadas

Crumbly pastry filled with spicy beef; in a little handheld parcel ready for a picnic-dinner or midday lunch snacks.

This is a project; make the dough and let it rest.

Make the filling and let it rest.

Once both components are ready, assemble the pastries and bake until golden in colour and crispy.

These savoury pastries are popular all over South America and are thought to be related to Indian samosas, which came via Portuguese explorers.
This pastry recipe is a revelation – it turns beautifully crisp and chewy once cooked. It’s also sturdy so you can be sure these delectable little snacks won’t break up on you when dipping in sour cream and guacamole.

MISE EN PLACE (preparation):

  • Prepare all the ingredients for the dough and the filling before cooking.

YIELD: 12 medium-sized pastries


PASTRY (Empanada dough)

2 ¼ cups All-purpose Flour 360ml / 306g
1 ½ teaspoons Salt 7ml
½ cup Unsalted Butter; cold, cut into cubes 125ml / 115gr
1 Large Egg
1/3 cup Ice Water 80ml
1 Tablespoon Distilled White Vinegar 15ml


PASTRY (Empanada dough)

  • Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
  • Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)
  • Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

Can prepare the dough 24 hours in advance – keep chilled in fridge.


Sunflower oil for frying
600g Beef shin; cut into small chunks
Handful Plain Flour; seasoned with salt and black pepper, for dusting
200g Cooking Chorizo; cut into small cubes
1 Onion; finely chopped
4 Garlic cloves; crushed
1 teaspoon Paprika (not smoked) 5ml
Large pinch Cayenne Pepper
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin 15ml
2 Tablespoons Tomato Purée 30ml
2 Tablespoons Fresh Thyme; chopped 30ml
1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano; chopped 15ml
1 litre Beef Stock; hot 4 cups
4 Spring Onions; finely chopped
OPTIONAL: Handful Green Olives; roughly chopped


  • To make the filling, heat a glug of oil in a large sauté pan- or deep-frying pan over a high heat. Toss the beef in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess, then fry on all sides until browned and slightly caramelised (don’t crowd the pan – cook in batches if necessary). Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the chorizo to the pan and fry until it releases its oil and turns crisp, then turn down the heat, remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and add to the beef bowl.
  • Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook gently for 5-10 minutes over a low-medium heat, stirring often, until the onion has softened but not coloured. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes, stirring, then add the tomato purée and herbs, and cook for a further few minutes.
  • Return the meat to the pan, pour in enough stock to cover, then bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 2½-3 hours, stirring frequently, until the beef is very tender. If the mixture looks like it’s becoming dry at any point, top up with any leftover stock or freshly boiled water. The liquid should reduce and thicken, but don’t let it dry out. Once the beef is tender, stir in the spring onions and olives, then cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely, then shred the meat.


When you’re ready to assemble the empanadas, heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of aproximately 2cm. (You might find the pastry easier to handle if you cut it in half, then roll out the pieces separately.)

Cut out about 12 x 12-15cm diameter circles, using a small plate / saucer or large cutter as a guide, re-rolling the pastry off cuts as necessary. Put around 2 Tablespoons of filling (which should now be thick – leave behind any runny sauce) into the centre of each circle and brush the edges with water. Fold the pastry in half to enclose the filling and squeeze the edges to close.


Put the empanadas on baking sheets lined with non-stick baking paper, then brush with melted lard, butter or beef dripping. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp, then remove and leave to cool a bit before eating.

The unbaked or fully cooked empanadas will freeze for 1 month in freezer bags.
If freezing unbaked, brush with glaze and cook from frozen, adding an extra 5-6 minutes to the cooking time.
If freezing cooked, defrost thoroughly, then warm through in a medium oven for 20 minutes.

Serve with chopped Coriander and Sour Cream, Guacamole and Chimichurri.


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