All about empanadas: The empanada 101 guide


Empanadas are one of my favorite foods to make and also to eat. Empanadas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be served as appetizers or snacks, but they can also easily make a full and satisfying meal.
When you think about it, many cultures and countries around the world have some version of a pastry or dough stuffed with sweet or savory fillings: dumplings, pierogi, samosas, hand pies, turnovers, British or Cornish pasties, Brazilian pastel, Cuban pastelitos, bolani, pastechis, empanadilla, etc. Empanadas are usually made with savory fillings, but sweet ones are also great for dessert or to accompany that afternoon coffee or tea. They can be served alone or with dipping sauces. Argentinean chimichurri sauce is one of the most popular empanada dipping sauces.

Empanada fillings

Empanadas are a very versatile dish. These delicious bundles can be prepared with so many different types of fillings, from traditional savory fillings to mouthwatering sweet fillings. There are very traditional fillings, called rellenos or condumios in Spanish, that are different from one country to another. Even within the same country, different regions might have specific empanadas that they are known for. However, when it comes to options for empanada fillings, the sky is the limit, you can stick to the classic fillings or you can create your own based on inspiration from other dishes. You can combine flavors and ingredients that you love, or simply use the ingredients you have available at the moment.

Empanada filling recipes and ideas
Empanadas are a wonderful way to use seasonal vegetables and fruits. I love trying out new empanada fillings based on what I find at my local Farmers’ Market. Another way to choose good empanada fillings is to think about classic pizza and tart combinations, chances are if the ingredients work together in one of those dishes, then it will also make a great empanada filling.

Empanada dough

The most popular empanada dough is made with wheat flour. However, empanada dough can be made with corn flour or corn meal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yuca or cassava, sweet potatoes, and more. Sweet empanada dough can also be made with chocolate, almond flour, spiced with cinnamon and clove, with citrus rind, and more flavors. The dough preparation will also vary depending on if the empanadas will be baked or fried.Most of the time they are either baked or deep fried, though there are some that can also be cooked on a griddle or on a grill.

Easy empanada dough recipes
You can buy ready-made empanada discs at many Latin grocery stores, but you can also easily make the dough at home. Homemade empanada dough is very easy to make, especially if you have a food processor. Making the dough at home also allows you to customize it and add things like herbs, spices, and other personal touches to the empanada dough. You can also use organic flour or whole wheat flour when you make your own empanada dough. My mom usually makes her empanadas using half regular all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour.

Below are some of my favorite basic recipes for empanada dough, savory fillings, dipping sauces, and sweet dessert fillings.


Basic empanada dough recipes

Basic empanada dough for baking: This is my easy and basic recipe for savory empanada dough for baked empanadas.

Empanada dough for frying: How to make empanada dough for frying.

Basic sweet pastry dough for empanadas: How to make sweet pastry dough for sweet dessert empanadas or hand pies.

Gingerbread empanada dough recipe: This gingerbread empanada dough is great for holiday sweet empanadas.

Chocolate empanada dough recipe: Chocolate empanada dough, enough said!

Savory dough for empanadas mendocinas: This dough is softer, uses milk instead of water, and is great for traditional Argentinean empanadas.

Green plantain empanada dough: This naturally gluten free empanada dough is made using green plantains. These plantain dough empanadas can be filled with cheese, meat, or seafood.

Savory empanada recipes

Asparagus empanadas with fava beans, peas and goat cheese: These vegetarian empanadas are filled with asparagus, fava beans, fresh peas, goat cheese and thyme. Serve them with a balsamic chimichurri sauce.

Choriqueso empanadas: Mouthwatering empanadas filled with chorizo and cheese, can be fried or baked. Served with a creamy avocado sauce.

Chicken or turkey empanadas: Recipe for homemade chicken or turkey empanadas filled with chicken/turkey, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cumin, oregano and balsamic vinegar.

Empanadas mendocinas or Argentinean beef empanadas: Easy recipe for empanadas mendocinas, traditional Argentinean baked empanadas filled with beef, onions, paprika, hot pepper powder, cumin, oregano, hard-boiled egg and olives.

Empanadas de puerros or leek empanadas: Recipe for homemade baked empanadas filled with leeks, bacon or pancetta, Swiss cheese and raisins.

Swiss chard, beet and goat cheese empanadas: Easy recipe for vegetarian empanadas or hand pies filled with chard, beets, goat cheese and oregano.

Mushroom cheese empanadas: Mushroom cheese empanadas made with a filling of baby portobello mushrooms, shallots, balsamic vinegar, raisins and fontina cheese

Baked cheese empanadas or empanadas de queso al horno: Empanadas filled with cheese and onion, sprinkled with demerara sugar and baked until golden.

Empanadas de verde or green plantain empanadas with cheese filling: Empanadas made from green plantain dough and stuffed with cheese and onions.

Empanadas de viento or fried cheese empanadas: These Ecuadorian empanadas are a traditional street food and are stuffed with cheese and onion, then fried and sprinkled with sugar.

Cheese and poblano empanadas: Easy recipe for homemade cheesy poblano empanadas filled with rajas or roasted poblano peppers, and a mix of queso fresco, oaxaca, and goat cheese.

Sweet empanada recipes

Chocolate dulce de leche empanadas: Recipe for chocolate dulce de leche empanadas made with homemade chocolate dough and filled with creamy dulce de leche or caramel.

Gingerbread pear empanadas: Gingerbread empanada dough filled with caramelized ginger pears that were cooked in syrup of panela or piloncillo and spices.

Raspberry, goat cheese and almond empanadas: Delicious fruity dessert empanadas stuffed with raspberry, goat cheese and almond filling.

Rhubarb and strawberry empanadas: Homemade sweet empanada turnovers filled with rhubarb and strawberries.

Pumpkin empanadas: Delicious homemade pumpkin empanadas made with caramelized or candied pumpkin, cooked in panela or piloncillo syrup with cinnamon, clove and all spice.

Dipping sauces for empanadas

Traditional chimichurri sauce: Traditional chimichurri recipe made with parsley, oregano, garlic, onion, red pepper, vinegar and olive oil. This sauce is a must have for meat filled empanadas.

Balsamic chimichurri sauce: A twist on the traditional chimichurri sauce, this one uses balsamic vinegar and a higher ratio of fresh oregano. This is probably one of my top favorites for empanadas.

Quick chimichurri sauce: A quick version of chimichurri made with parsley, oregano, basil, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and chili powder.

Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce: Tamarillo or tree tomato aji hot sauce, also known as aji de tomate de arbol, is a very tasty hot sauce made from tree tomatoes or tamarillos, hot peppers, onion, cilantro and lime juice. I love this one on green plantain empanadas and empanadas de morocho.

Aji criollo or Ecuadorian hot sauce: Aji criollo is an Ecuadorian hot sauce made with hot peppers, cilantro, garlic, onion and lime.

Tomato and onion curtido salsa: Recipe for curtido de cebolla y tomate, a Latin style lime pickled red onion and tomato salad or lime marinated onion tomato salsa.

Creamy yogurt chipotle sauce: Recipe for spicy and creamy chipotle sauce made with adobo chipotles, plain yogurt or Mexican crema, garlic, and lime juice.

Jalapeño cilantro salsa: This mild jalapeño cilantro salsa recipe is almost like a jalapeño chimichurri, it is made with fresh jalapenos, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and olive oil.

Avocado sauce: Creamy avocado sauce recipe made with avocados, limes, cilantro, hot peppers, garlic, olive oil and cumin.

Spicy mint creme fraiche sauce: Flavorful creamy herb sauce made with crème fraiche, mint, cilantro, parsley, garlic, hot peppers and lemon juice. This one goes with veggie empanadas.

Honey crème fraiche sauce: Sweet cream topping sauce made with honey and crème fraîche, this sauce goes great with fruit filled sweet dessert empanadas.

All about empanadas or the empanada 101 guide

This post was last modified: July 24th, 2014 by Layla Pujol


  1. Thank you so much for all this information. I am currently living in Calca, Peru and having a great time shopping in the mercado and coming home to prepare the food. I have attempted to make empanadas in the past, but the dough fell apart making a mess in the oven. YOUR recipe was so perfect–I did not have one leak, even though I rolled it out pretty thin. And, it was so flaky. The idea of grating cold butter was perfect. In the summer, I live on Vashon Island–very close to you!

  2. Thanks for so many good ideas! I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina where empanadas are a staple – but I’ve never heard of dipping them in chimichurri or of sweet empanadas. I’ll definitely be trying both of those! Also, I wanted to add that in my opinion fried vs baked depends on the filling and how heavy or light you’re trying to eat. Fried beef empanadas are delicious for example, and frying is a great way to cook empanadas quickly without over cooking the filling (because baking them takes a lot longer). Basically I agree with everything you said – especially about the fried smell!
    We have a lot of different empanada flavors here, it’s really fun to get creative & experiment. Some of my favorites are:
    Caprese – fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella
    “Queso y cebolla” – with mozzarella and carmelized onions
    “Jamon y palmito” – with mozzarella, artichoke hearts (canned) & ham; topped/dipped in salsa golf:

  3. Hello, Layla:

    I was very happy to find your website. Your empanadas are beautiful. I have made my own from time to time, but I could not find a dough I liked.

    When I was 17, I was an exchange student (from US) and spent a summer in Santiago de Chile. At school and for snacks, we Americans ate countless empanadas. When we went to visit the family’s grandmother, she made them will apple filling, which was delicious.

    I look forward to making some soon. Thank you for taking me back to a lovely time in my life!

  4. To answer your question about fried or baked?
    My mom and I have experimented with different doughs and found it really depends on the dough and your preference. Some doughes bake better while others are better for baking. We prefer the baked ones to go with sweet empanadas and the fried ones for the meat and savory empanadas.

    • Paul Desrosiers says:

      Thank you for your input! When I was a child of eleven, I lived in Santa Fe, Argentina for a year and a half. A vendor there made meat empanadas. I seem to recall them being the fried variety but my memory is a little hazy(after all, this was back in 1961!). I do however remember without a doubt that they were DELICIOUS.
      I made some meat empanadas about two weeks ago. They came out ok. I think the next time I make them I’ll try frying them.
      Thank you again for taking the time to offer me your experienced knowledge.

  5. Paul Desrosiers says:

    Maybe you missed my question on my previous reply above…I’m curious as to your preference in making empanada dough. My question is:

    Do you prefer making empanadas fried or baked and why?

    • Hi Paul – Sorry about that. It depends partly on the filling, I mostly prefer them baked (especially the classic empanadas filled with meat), but I have a huge weakness for the fried ones when they are filled with cheese (like the empanadas de viento or the ones with cheese & chorizo). I also find that the cheese ones do better (less likely to leak since they cook so fast) when fried than when you bake them. On the other hand, frying is messier and leaves that fried smell lingering in the house, while baking is easy: just pop them in the oven, set the timer, and done. I made baked ones most of the time and will occasionally indulge my cravings for the fried ones.

  6. Laylita, Thank you for all this information on making my own empanadas. When I was a boy of 11yrs.(1961), my family lived for a year and a half in Santa Fe, Argentina just north of Buenos Aires. I can still remember the delicious empanadas that a certain vendor made in that town.
    I have a question: Do you prefer fried empanadas or baked and why?

  7. Georgia says:

    Hi Laylita,

    I love your website. It’s helped me make so many of the things that I came to love when I lived in Ecuador. Ecuadorian food is so great because so much of it is gluten-free.

    Do you have a recipe for an empanada dough that doesn’t contain wheat flour? I’d love one for plantain dough but anything would do.

  8. juana maria says:

    thank you Laylita for your site and generosity. it increases the activity level in the kitchen, not to mention the activity in the dining area, which is very well-participated : )

  9. Gail Needham says:

    What beautiful recipes from your site. I love them so much, I can’t wait to make them. I am so excited to see what will come next on my facebook page about your dishes. These empanadas are all so beautiful, it will be fun figuring out what to put inside of these. Your page on this is so informative and easy to search out. I am so glad to find it!

  10. Clara Larco says:

    Love everything I cook from your website. Love it all. Curious…how do you make the empanada edges so pretty? is there a video tutorial for this?

    Thanks! For the empanada edges, it just lots of practice, the more you make them, the prettier they get. I’ll post a video tutorial one of these days.

  11. Mmmm looks yummy

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