South American Pie: The Empanada

I am a massive fan of pastry (I am Northern, after all), so you can imagine my delight when I discovered that pies are everywhere in Argentina (and other South American countries) in the form of an empanada.

Iguazu falls

Empanadas are eaten at any time of the day, served hot or cold, easy to eat on the move,  and are a cheap and (generally) pretty tasty. They have global streetbite written all over them and I got involved, big style.

Originating in Spain (northern region of Galicia) and Portugal, empanadas were brought over to South America by Spanish colonisers in the 1500s.

Essentially just a half-moon-shaped pasty (not dissimilar to the Cornish pasty, dare I say it), they are available with a variety fillings such as jamon y queso (thats ham and cheese), chicken and carne (yes, meat…unidentified?!).

As a massive cheesophile I predicted jamon y queso to be my favourite, but they actually had generally waaaay to much queso for my liking (Argentina in general… pies just filled with cheese, resulting in sweat central). No, my favourite was actually carne, and this was generally beef (Argentinians do some good beef) gently spiced with cumin and smoked paprika (which is possibly the best spice ever to have been invented).

Two weeks after leaving Argentina I decided I needed to get the pastry/carne/paprika combo back into my life. I found a great-looking recipe on this blog (amazing photos!) and used it as a basis to have a go – adapted recipe below. I even put a pinny on and made the pastry from scratch! And I got really excited about the boiled egg in the filling. REALLY excited about the boiled egg.

Gotta love Wikipedia…

The name comes from the Galician, Portuguese and Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.



2.5 cups flour

1.5 tsp salt

500g unsalted butter

1 tbsp white vinegar

1 egg

1/3 cup water


400g lean ground or minced beef

1.5 tbsp smoked paprika

1.5 tbsp ground cumin

1 red pepper

2 onions

Olive oil

2 eggs

400g tin tomatoes


1 more egg to glaze the top

Did you know…?

National Empanada day is the 8th April. I will be making more empanadas on the 8th April to mark the day, and hope you will too.



  1. Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the salt and with the tips of your fingers rub in the butter until it looks kinda crumbly
  2. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg and add the vinegar and water
  3. Mix the egg mix into the flour/butter mix and squish it around with your hands until it is all combined
  4. Roll it into a ball, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 1 hour


  1. First start by putting 2 eggs onto boil (exciting!)
  2. Chop the onion and red pepper into small pieces
  3. Put the olive oil to a large pan and add the chopped onions and pepper; fry until soft
  4. Add the beef and stir until brown
  5. Add the tin of tomatoes, cumin and paprika; season
  6. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes
  7. When the eggs are boiled (don’t ask me how long that is supposed to take – I guessed) take them out, plunge  into cold water and when cooled peel, chop and add to the meat mixture

Assembling the empanada:

  1. Put the oven on – 200°C
  2. Get the pastry out of the fridge and flour a dry surface to roll your pasty on
  3. Flour your hands and take a handful of pastry
  4. Roll (using a rolling pin, or the side of a wine bottle) until around 3mm thick
  5. Use a bowl or a small place of around 4 inches in diameter to cut around with a knife
  6. Place a few spoonfuls of the mixture into the middle of the circle (how much depends on how big your circle is, and it is trial and error how much you need before it starts spilling out everywhere)
  7. Fold the pastry over the top of the mix to make a semi-circle, press the edges together using the underside of a teaspoon
  8. Put the final egg into a cup and beat with a fork; apply this mix to the top of the empanada using your fingers
  9. Place into the oven for 20-25 minutes; check it regularly and take out when the top is golden brown

You could…

Freeze them for up to 3 months – no need to defrost, just pop them straight into the oven!

Beef empanada

Please don’t judge the beef empanadas on this photograph. In retrospect the red background wall was a bad idea; you will be pleased to hear I have just acquired a food photography book for Christmas…

If this flavour doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are plenty more online – some get quite fancy smancy. Check out this gorgeous blog with some different options (including the one I made above).

Some photos from my trip:

Perito Moreno glacier

Perito Moreno glacier, Patagonia – Me and my friend have a video of us singing Ice Ice Baby in front of this bad boy. Footage available upon request.


Penguins, Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia

Patagonian lamb

Patagonian lamb; I couldn’t eat it all so took some away with me in a doggy bag…to then forget about it and lug it 1,000 km to Buenos Aires…

Evita's grave

Evita’s grave, Buenos Aires; The grave opposite this is the least-noticed grave in the world, poor sod.

Jamon y queso swiss roll

I had to show you this…bus Christmas breakfast: Jamon y queso swiss roll; wrong on all levels…it was SWEET

Iguazu falls

Iguazu falls

Real empanada

NOT the best example of an empanadas in Buenos Aires


Filed under Argentina, Recipes, tried and tasted, Uncategorized

6 Responses to South American Pie: The Empanada

  1. Video of Ice Ice Baby available on request???!!! I hope to God you don’t see that one through :) Lovely photos. Your empanadas look like the best I’ve seen in all my months in South America!

    • BeccaHills

      Ha ha i was just checking you were reading Ari! (Seriously though – available upon request, along with my Barry Manilow on Copacapana Beach). Come home and I’ll make you some empanadas…. Second thought, come home and I’ll make you a roast with Yorkshire puds xxx

  2. coco

    Hi. With all due respect to your own empanadas, I’m not quite sure if you have had actual empanadas while in Argentina. Those in the photo look like some generic chain store cheap empanadas, dull if not awful (you can even see the carved letters on the border used to identify them!). Empanadas MUST be home made (like yours) or ordered in a specialized restaurant. When ingredients are extremely simple, a lot of craftwork is involved.

    The dough is usually prepared with cow fat or margerine, and no eggs are used except for the filling. Seven Fires is a great book if you are interested in learning the simple secrets of argentine cuisine. X

    • BeccaHills

      Oh no – I quite agree, those empanadas in the photograph were not the best I had… they were just all I had a photo of! I had some lovely empanadas from bakeries; however, I cannot vouch for their authenticity and I wasn’t lucky enough to go to an Argentinian home.
      The Seven Fires book looks great – I will take look – thank you for the tip!

  3. Pingback: Admirations for a letchy alpha-whore | global streetbite

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