Beef Picadillo Empanadas Recipe

Last night, dinner wasn’t planned and in all honesty I anticipated reheating leftover pasta. As I finished up my work day, a StumbleUpon friend from Uruguay twittered that he had just eaten spicy empanadas. My stomach grumbled as my eyes lit up. I pinged him for more information. He pointed me to a recipe and I set to work making them :-)

I’m not sure why I am so ‘shoot from the hip’ with my cooking lately. I haven’t been in the mood to plan or think things out, so seem to make whatever strikes me as interesting at a particular moment. I am totally disregarding my bookmarked recipes and am following a stream of consciousness approach. Not sure where this will lead me, but today it brings empanadas.

Every culture has a meat-filled pastry and so far I’ve made pirojki and my home state favorite, the pasty. Empanadas are common in Spain, Portugal, Caribbean, Latin America, and the Philippines. Each region creates its own version, some are fried while others are baked. The filling can consist of any type of meat and vegetable mixture, some even have sweet fillings. In all honesty, I’ve never met a pastry I didn’t like.

The empanada is surprisingly easy to make, consisting of a simple dough and filling. I used a dough recipe which had high reviews from other users. Instead of making it by hand, I used my mixer to blend the ingredients and to knead the dough. In a matter of minutes I had a beautiful soft dough. The dough must rest for 1 hour before using and will amke ten 6″ empanadas.

From the same site with the dough recipe, I found a beef picadillo filling that caught my eye. I searched around to understand what exactly constituted a picadillo — basically, beef, onion, green pepper, tomatoes, spices, sometimes raisins, sometimes olives. Even Rachel Ray made a 30-minute version. Fortunately I had everything on hand. I adapted a recipe into the following:

Beef Picadillo

1 lb. beef, cut in 1/2″ cubes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeño, finely diced
2 tablespoons pimento, diced
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. tomato sauce (8oz can)
1 large potato, diced
1/4 c. chopped green olive
1/2 c. currants
salt/pepper to taste

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, garlic, pimento and jalapeño. Saute for 4-5 minutes. Add beef, oregano, cumin, water, and tomato sauce. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

Add potato and cover again, cooking an additional 15 minutes or until potato is cooked through. Remove cover and stir in chopped olives and currants. Boil until liquid is evaporated and mixture thickens. This took only 2-3 minutes, but the time will vary based on your cooking conditions. Season to taste. Set filling aside and allow to cool completely before using.

I removed the dough from the refrigerator and cut into 10 pieces. I rolled each piece into a 6″ circle on a floured surface. The dough is soft and extremely easy to roll. Place 1/4 cup or so of the mixture onto one side of the circle. Fold the empty side of the circle over the top. Moisten the edge of the dough with a wet finger, then press the edges together. Using a fork, press down on the edges to crimp and to give them their trademark look.

Place empanadas onto a baking sheet and into a preheated 425 degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a baking rack.

The empanadas did not disappoint. The crust is thin, yet firm and tastes similar to a calzone dough. The filling is the star though, spicy and savory, with just a hint of sweetness from the currants. The garlic and bit of olive provide plenty of flavor to the tomato base. I couldn’t have been happier and promptly ate a couple (or so) empanadas.

Fortunately, we had plenty left over so I just had one for breakfast with my coffee — they are good at any time of the day!

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  1. Hola! nice succulent pictures!!! I made empanadas once, they are posted in my blog, they came out not too bad :D But I fried them instead of baking them… I should try your way too and see the difference.
    Have a nice weekend!

  2. Allen, your empanadas look flawless! And that filling would make my meat-lover husband drool.

    In Brazil, we have pastel – it’s friend and filled with all sorts of things, both savory and sweet (the sweet versions are relatively new). I have a recipe on my blog in case you’re curious.

  3. Hi Núria — thank you! I will have to check out your recipe — next time I’ll tried fried empanadas … I best they taste even better :-)

    Patricia: Thank you! I only took photos of the better looking ones … not all of them are flawless :-)

    I haven’t heard of Pastel before – and yours look AMAZING! You’ve convinced me to fry the empanadas next time. Your pastels are so crispy looking. I like the use of heart of palm in them too. Yum!

  4. I have never made empanadas before, but they are on my list of things I want to make. These sound especially wonderful!

  5. Your empanadas look great! I tried to make them once, but my dough baked up harder than a hockey puck! My picadillo is fabulous, though. I just posted about it myself the other day. I guess great minds think alike! ;)

  6. Allen, I too echo of noticing the great looking filling. It’s a deep, red colour that you know is goingto taste moist and delicious.

  7. Oh empanadas! You should try to make them with puff pastry sometime. Those are the best I’ve ever had :)

  8. Ooh, I love empanadas. Here my favorite version is chicken and potatoes with raisins, slightly sweet (as usual). I suppose that would be what I’d put as we have no currants here (not even jam!). One of these days when I come across a recipe that resembles my favorite empanada most closely I might make it.

    Sigh, Allen, I owe you a lot of Filipino recipes already– you and I are polar opposites when it comes to cooking (I like to plan way, way ahead…).

  9. Your empanada look as I saw here in Buenos Aires. Here. we have two types: baked and fried. The fried they call soufflés , don´t ask me why If you are curious about Uruguay , I recently post some photos and a brief information about the country here

  10. I’m really enjoying your “go with the flow” approach Allen. Wonderful empanadas and the filling looks really moist and juicy.

  11. PheMom: Thank you!

    Deborah: Thank you!

    StickGooeyCreamChewy: Yuck, hockey puck dough is never good :-) Give them another shot and use some of your picadillo. It looks good!

    Peter M: I agree — a deep, rich color like this means something good is about to happen in my mouth!

    Ben: Thanks for the tip!

    Manggy: Ahhh, you like the empanadas — chicken, potato, and raisin sounds good. The only reason I used currants was because it was all I had. They worked well though — they’re quite small.

    You need to stop planning and just make something :-) Start planning now for a traditional Filipino dish so we can hope to see it sometime before end of summer (?)

    Sylvia: Beautiful photos of Uruguay — the beach looks amazing. You are such a great photographer!

    Anonymous: Thank you — so far, I don’t have any new inspiration today … so not sure what I’ll be making next.

  12. The empanandas look good and the picadillo sounds really tasty! I like the use of the pimentos, olives and currants.

  13. Those look fabulous! And how funny, I made picadillo on Friday night! I usually double it so we can make empanadas a day or two after, but for some reason, forgot to double it this time. I’ve never made the dough before, though. I usually buy the Goya ones in the freezer section to save time. Next time, I promise to try this dough recipe!

  14. This looks great! Allen, you don’t stop amazing me with your cooking talent! Empanadas do resemble Pirojki, but I am sure it’s delicious in its own way. I should give it a try.

  15. Your recent approach to cooking is as stunning as ever – I’m certainly a fan of your spontaneous, inspired cooking! These empanadas are gorgeous! Wow! You’ve reminded me that I’ve been dying to make empanadas for ages – thanks for the great recipe!

  16. First time reading your blog, and I’m glad I’ve stumbled in on the empanadas. Love them! Now that I’ve gotten over my FOD (fear of dough), I just might give them a try!

  17. Great presentation and pictures, WOW!! This looks so delicious…always a bit intimidated with anything that has crusts, yet they’re one of my favorite things to make. you’ve helped alleviate my fears and I will definitely have to try these. Thank you!

  18. It took my husband and I about 20 minutes to remember what ‘those gorgeous stuffed pastries’ were. Ah yea, empanadas. I’m glad to come across it again this morning; now there’s no excuse for me not to make them.

  19. ooh can i see a pic of your picadillo? tell me you took one! it’s one of my specialties and i’m always curious to see how others fix it.

    nice pic.

  20. the combination of spices and flavor contrasts sounds great! I’m glad I found your blog because you have very interesting and delicious sounding recipes.

  21. I used boneless beef short ribs — the meat comes in strips about 6″ long and 2″ thick. It is tender and flavorful. I would suggest using a cut that is tender.

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