By Fernando Nikolic of Eating With Your Hands
If you thought empanadas was just mere empanadas, you must have eaten the same empanada recipe your whole life without considering any other variants. Or could it be that you haven’t gotten to discover the history and culture of the dish, not to mention the many people that Latin American empanadas bring together?
Either way, you came to the right place for your empanada education.
Look, an empanada can be so good that you want to stay faithful to the same kind your whole life. But there’s a world of regional empanada recipe variations to discover. Before choosing a favorite, make sure you travel all of Latin America through the palate, sampling:
Image credit: Taringa
Being from Argentina I can tell you that no matter where you’re at, you’re just a few blocks away from getting your empanada on. From time to time I’ve ever ordered
half a dozen a dozen empanadas like delivery pizza.
Since Argentina contains various climates and landscapes, there are regional variations on the empanada recipe, like:
The northern provinces of Argentina have been on their A-game for so long that even the most arrogant Buenos Aires native will tell you that the best empanadas are found in the region. The empanadas from Salta are made from knife-cut meat, potato, boiled egg and scallions. In Jujuy, peas and peppers are added to the mix, making it a tad spicier.
In the province of Tucumán, the traditional choice of filling is somewhat limited. You can choose between matambre (rolled flank steak), chicken or mondongo (tripe), but none of the pea, potato or olive embellishments. If you don’t fancy a tripe empanada, cheese empanadas with a touch of tomato are also popular. Traditional empanadas tucumanas are cooked in a clay oven.
Empanadas catamarqueñas or riojanas from the provinces of Catamarca and La Rioja in the north bordering Chile pack a more garlicky punch. These appetizing parcels are filled with beef, onions, garlic, and often shreds of green olives and/or raisins. Potatoes and hard boiled eggs also make an appearance, aka empanadas salteñas (the province of Salta is right next to Catamarca).
Southern Provinces of Argentina
Empanadas in Neuquén, Santa Cruz, Chubut, Río Negro and Tierra del Fuego are often filled with Patagonian lamb or seafood – mussels and even king crab, sautéed with white wine for a juicy taste.
Empanadas sanjuaninas come with a whole green olive cooked into the filling (mind the pit) and their tastiness is largely due to being made from lard or butter. Sanjuaninas are cooked in traditional wood ovens and contain various spices – paprika, cumin, oregano, for example.
Traditional empanadas cordobesas satisfy those with a sweet tooth with their sprinkling of sugar on top and juicy raisins inside. Empanadas cordobesas also tend to be juicier and include tomatoes in the mix.
Subtropical Misiones and Corrientes make their masa (dough) with mandioca (cassava root) flour and fill their empanadas with meat or catch-of-the-day: catfish species surubí or manduvé, pacú, or golden dorado.
Image credit: Que Rica Vida
Salteñas — named after the Argentinian city — have two main things that differentiate them from most empanadas. The repulgue, or the “braided” seam that seals the empanada closed, is placed on top. The empanadas are then baked in an upright position, rather than on their side.
The filling is also particularly made – it’s a hell of a lot juicier! We’re talking plenty of stewing liquid accompanying the meat and vegetables on the inside. You may think that sounds crazy, but not really. By adding gelatin to the filling while it is still hot, and then chilling the mixture in the fridge until it thickens is how it’s done. As the salteñas bake, the gelatin melts and the broth becomes liquid again. It’s the Xiao Long Bao of South America!
This empanada is usually fried. Since the late twentieth century it’s a very popular dish across the country, and is mainly found through street vendors. You eat tucumanas by biting open the top and adding any sauces you want so each bite has a different taste with a different sauce.
Llauchas are cheese empanadas that are most often found in the La Paz region. The dough used to make these empanadas has yeast and feels more like a pizza dough than the pastry-like dough usually used to make empanadas. The llauchas are filled with a cheesy chili sauce and baked in very hot ovens, making them super puffy and slightly charred.What's your favorite #empanada #recipe? Here are @EpicureCulture's! Click To Tweet
Image credit: Pato Lynch
The Chilean empanada is made with several fillings, but the dough is generally made of wheat flour. The most popular versions are the de pino and those made from seafood. The de pino ones are stuffed with minced beef, fried with white onions and seasoned with chili, hard-boiled eggs, olives and sometimes raisins. This version is known as the typical Chilean oven empanada, even though it sometimes gets fried in oil.
In the town of Pomaire they have something known as the “half kilo” empanadas, which weighs more than 500 grams! They are typically cooked in a clay oven.
The beforementioned seafood empanadas are stuffed with crabs or oysters with cheese, mussels or a combination of clams and chopped white onions. They are usually fried in oil, but can also be baked.
Empanadas stuffed with vegetables, cheese, chicken, “Neapolitan” (cheese, ham, tomato sauce and oregano), fish (horse mackerel, puye or salmon) or seaweed is also found across the country. Fruit empanadas are also a thing, and are made mostly with apple or pear.
Image credit: Edgar Campo
In each region the empanada dough is made with ground corn or wheat flour. The fillings vary between mashed potatoes with ground meat, peanuts, cheese or squash, or stews of meat or chicken with rice and vegetables. They are small in size, shaped like a crescent and fried in oil.
In the Caribbean coastal region, the empanadas are made with a dough that consists of either yellow or white corn, or corn flour. They are filled with a soft salty queso costeño cheese as well as minced meat or chicken and fried in oil.
In the region of Santander, the empanadas are characterized by being made with a dough of wheat flour. The traditional filling is rice, minced meat, cilantro and, sometimes, hard boiled chopped eggs.
In the region of Cauca — particularly in the city of Popayán — they make their empanadas with a stew of red potatoes, roasted peanuts, boiled eggs and achiote paste.
The most important varieties in the department of Nariño are the empanadas de añejo and the flour empanadas. The empanadas de añejo are made with a very fine masa made of fermented maize. They are filled with a stew of rice and peas — as well as beef, pork or chicken — and fried. As the corn used in the dough is more fermented than in other regions, these empanadas have a characteristic slightly spicy flavor.
Image credit: Foodista
In Cuba, the empanada recipe gets an island flavor with notes of citrus, garlic, onion and pepper. Best of all, they come fried, made as a street snack for people on the go.
Image credit: TLN
Dominican empanadas are stuffed with beef, cheese, chicken, vegetables, crab or various types of fish. Worth mentioning is the ciabias, which are made with cassava flour dough and seasoned with cooked eggs and raisins.
Image credit: Washingtonian
Traditional empanadas from Mexico are the ones made from meat, chicken and cheese, although there are typical fillings made of mushrooms with cheese, chicken and mole. Variants of these are the square-shaped and crab-filled volovanes from Veracruz, the fried empanadas of Tabasco and the pastes, which are typical of the state of Hidalgo.
In Baja California, sweet empanadas are baked with fruit fillings and sprinkled with icing sugar.
In Sinaloa the sweet corn baked empanadas are very popular. They come stuffed with guava or pumpkin.
Nayarit & Colima
In this region you’ll stumble upon the popular shrimp empanadas, which also are prepared with dried fish and bathed in a spicy green or red tomato sauce.
In the mole capital of the world, the empanadas are of course prepared with green mole, yellow mole and quesadillas, stuffed with Oaxaca cheese, pumpkin flower and mushrooms. In this state — as in Chiapas and Veracruz — the empanadas of corn (or a mixture of corn and wheat) are fried in oil and stuffed with chicken, beef or cheese.
In Puebla the most typical empanada filling you’ll find is the mole poblano. The variants in this region lean more on the sweet side, as you’ll find empanadas made with cream, apple and pineapple.
In Yucatan the two most common empanadas are those made of casserole and tomato stew, and those made of meat, beans and chaya, a common plant of the region whose chopped leaves are mixed in the corn dough. These Latin American empanadas are usually accompanied with red or white chopped onions and, in some cases, tomato sauce.
Image credit: Food & Wine
Usually, the empanadas from Panama have a dough made of wheat or corn flour and are stuffed with beef, but there are variants with chicken and cheese. Most are fried, although they can also be baked. In Colón, because of the strong influence of the Caribbean, smaller empanadas stuffed with banana puree are made. They are eaten as an appetizer or at lunch or dinner.Know the difference between #empanadas from #Colombia, #Cuba & #Argentina? Here ya go! Click To Tweet
Image credit: Footprint Travel Guide
In Paraguay, empanadas are consumed in all regions and sold in many fast food businesses. They are commonly baked or fried. The usual fillings are beef, chicken, ham and cheese, and tuna. An interesting variant to mention here is the mandi’o (manioc/cassava in the Guaraní language), made with corn flour and cassava and stuffed with beef.
Image credit: Pisco Trail
The Peruvian empanada’s main ingredients are beef or sliced chicken, white onion, red pepper, tomatoes, raisins, olives, garlic, cumin powder, bread crumbs, egg white and oil.
Image credit: Made at Vero’s Kitchen
Uruguayan empanadas are elaborated with a fine masa of wheat flour and different salty and sweet fillings. They are both baked and fried. The most common fillings are beef — mostly bittersweet and spicy versions — ham and cheese, cheese and onion, and sometimes fish.
Image credit: Empanada Express
The traditional Venezuelan empanada recipe varies from the usual Latin American empanadas. They are made with ground corn masa, although the modern versions are prepared with pre-cooked maize flour. The dough may have a yellowish toasted color. The fillings are very varied, from the most conventional ones like cheese, mechada meat (shredded beef), chicken, ham, caraotas (beans) and cheese. These are commonly called “dominó.” The empanadas are crescent shaped and fried in oil. Sometimes they have more than one filling, such as the pabellón empanadas that are stuffed with shredded beef, fried plantains, fried banana slices and grated cheese.
Have a regional empanada recipe you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!
5 Fun & Unique Tours That Empower Locals In Mexico [Blog Inspiration]
The Book of Latin American Cooking [Great Reads]
Kitchen Set Empanada Press [DIY Cooking]
Latest posts by Jessica Festa (see all)
- The Best Way To Explore Traditional Icelandic Culture In Reykjavik - Mar 20, 2017
- How To Have An Immersive California Farm Stay Experience - Mar 13, 2017
- A Guide To NYC’s Best Subway Art - Mar 8, 2017
- This Is What Happens When We See Refugees As Human Beings - Mar 8, 2017
- How To Ethically Volunteer With Injured Animals In India - Mar 7, 2017