These beef empanadas feature a crisp and flaky pastry crust filled with a savory ground beef picadillo and cheese filling. No knife or fork required!
One of my all time favorites are these ground beef empanadas. They’re simple to make, yet flavorful and so easy to eat!
What is an empanada?
Empanadas are a popular Latin-American dish (originating from Spain) made from baked or fried dough that’s stuffed with a savory or sweet filling.
These little crescent-shaped pockets are sometimes called turnovers, pasties or meat pies. Many cultures have their own version of empanadas and the fillings and dough can vary greatly depending on where they’re made!
Homemade Empanada Dough
This homemade empanada dough is so quick and simple to make! All you’ll need is 5 ingredients:
- all-purpose flour
- cold water
- cold unsalted butter
I used a food processor to help make the dough-making process quick and easy, but if you don’t have one, you can make it by hand using your fingers to work the butter into the flour or by using the help of a pastry cutter.
Beef Empanada Filling
For this recipe, I used a flavorful ground beef and vegetable mixture to make the filling, similar to my picadillo recipe. Here’s what you need:
- Ground beef: I recommend using lean ground beef so it’s flavorful but with minimal grease.
- Tomatoes, onions, and garlic: These ingredients are caramelized first before adding in the ground beef for extra flavor and moisture.
- Peas, carrots, and potatoes: These vegetables add great flavor and texture, and really help to make these empanadas a well-rounded dinner.
- Spices: I used chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, and salt for a super flavorful filling.
- Shredded cheese: I used shredded Mexican-blend cheese, but you can use any shredded cheese you have on hand. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or pepper jack are all great options!
How to Make Empanadas
1. Make the dough: Start by mixing the pastry dough by pulsing together the flour, salt, butter, egg, and ice water in a food processor until it resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Knead and refrigerate: Transfer the dough onto a clean surface and knead it for 5 minutes until it comes together and is smooth. Shape it into 2 equal-sized balls, tightly cover each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while you make the filling.
3. Make the filling: Saute the tomato and onion in a large skillet with olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Add the ground beef and seasonings and cook for 6-8 minutes before adding the potato, carrot, and water.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 more minutes until the veggies are soft and tender. Stir in the frozen peas and set aside.
4. Roll out dough: Take the dough out of the refrigerator and divide it into 18 equal pieces, then roll each piece into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball evenly into a 6½ to 7-inch circle with a rolling pin.
5. Fill: Fill the empanadas with 3-4 tablespoons of filling to one side of the empanada dough and top with a small pinch of shredded cheese.
6. Seal: Using a pastry brush, brush the inside edge of the empanada round with some egg wash, then fold the dough in half over the filling.
Seal the empanada by pressing the edges together with the tines of a fork or folding over the edges in increments with your fingers.
7. Chill: Transfer the empanadas to 2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
8. Bake: Brush the tops of each empanada with the remaining egg wash and bake at 400°F for 25-30 min or until golden brown. Let them cool for 10 minutes before serving to help the filling set, and enjoy!
Tips for Making the Best Empanadas
- Sealing the empanadas by folding the edges over with your fingers take practice, so don’t get discouraged if they don’t look super great, they’ll still be delicious!
- Using an egg wash when folding and sealing the empanadas really helps to ensure that they don’t burst open when baking.
- These beef empanadas pair well with guacamole, salsa verde, or avocado crema.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you prepare empanadas ahead of time?
Yes. Unbaked empanadas can be prepared and frozen for up to 3 months before baking.
What can be used as empanada dough?
Frozen puff pastry or rolled out pie dough can be used instead of homemade empanada dough.
What country are empanadas from?
Empanadas originated in Spain, but are found all over Latin America!
Storing, Freezing, and Reheating
To store, let them cool completely on the counter before transferring them to an air-tight storage container and placing them in the refrigerator. Empanadas can be refrigerated for up to a week.
To freeze unbaked empanadas, prepare them as directed except for brushing the tops with egg wash. Then place them in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, making sure they don’t touch. Place them in the freezer for 3 hours, then transfer the frozen empanadas to freezer-safe storage bags or containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Let them thaw completely before baking, then brush the tops with an egg wash and bake like normal. You can also bake from frozen by adding 5-10 minutes to the baking time.
To reheat, place empanadas on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and heat in a 350°F for 5-10 minutes. You can also reheat them in the microwave in 1-minute increments until they’re warmed through.
For the dough
For the filling
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 plum tomato, diced
- ¼ medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 small russet potato, diced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- ½ cup beef broth (or water)
- ¼ cup frozen peas
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Make the pastry dough: In a food processor, add the all-purpose flour and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter, 1 egg, and ice water. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your food processor.)
- Transfer the dough mixture onto a clean surface and knead it for 5 minutes until it comes together and is smooth. Shape it into 2 equal sized balls, tightly cover each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while you make the filling.
- Make the filling: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the tomato and onion, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add the ground beef, chili powder, salt, ground cumin, dried oregano, and ground coriander, and cook for 6-8 minutes, using a spoon to break up the meat into smaller pieces and stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the potato, carrot, and water, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes until the potatoes and carrots are soft and tender.
- Remove the skillet from heat, taste, and season with more salt if desired. Stir in the frozen peas and set aside.
- Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator and divide them into 18 equal pieces, then roll each piece into a ball.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball evenly into a 6½ -7-inch circle with a rolling pin.
- In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a fork to make an egg wash.
- Working one at a time, add 3-4 tablespoons of filling to one side of the empanada round and top with a small pinch of shredded cheese.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the inside edge of the empanada round, then fold the dough in half over the filling.
- Seal the empanada by pressing the edges together with the tines of a fork or folding over the edges in increments with your fingers. Repeat until all the empanadas are filled and sealed.
- Transfer the empanadas to 2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F with the rack in the center of the oven.
- Brush the tops of each empanada with the remaining egg wash and bake for 25-30 min or until golden brown. Let them cool for 10 minutes before serving.