Friday, July 17, 2009

Grandma Pearl's Amazing Empanadas

This recipe was given to me by my wonderful Grandmother-in-law, Pearl. She lives in Florida but is originally from Argentina where this recipe hails from. Thanks to her, I get RAVE REVIEWS every time I make them. If your not a meat-eater, she also taught me an amazing swap-out, using canned tuna. Simply, drain 2 cans of tuna (she used water packed) and toss it in with the rest of the ingredients listed below.

Empanada wrappers can be easily found in the frozen section in almost any supermarket. If you can't seem to find them, you can use puffed pastry. The beef mixture is also great over rice and is very similar to a ground beef dish called Picadillo.

Note to self: A perfect dish to introduce my (still toothless) baby boy to the world of Latin cuisine (sans the red pepper flakes and maybe with a leaner cut of beef).

UPDATED: Veggie Lovers Rejoice! See my vegetarian version below.

Grandma Pearl's Amazing Empanadas

2 tbsps olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsps cumin
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (we like chuck) or (2 cans of tuna, drained)
1 tbsps flour
3/4 c pimento stuffed green olives , chopped
1/2 c raisins (you can omit if you don't like raisins but this really makes them special)
salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt because the olives are salty)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
24 empanada wrappers, thawed (I like Goya)
5 cups vegetable oil for frying (grandma uses Crisco and I am sure lard if it were still easy to find)

1. Preheat a large frying pan with olive oil over medium heat.

2. Add onions and cook for about 8 minutes or until slightly soft.

3. Stir in ground beef and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up lumps, until beef is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.Sprinkle in the flour to absorb some of the oil.

4. Allow mixture to cool for about 15 minutes.

Stir in the olives, raisins, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and the eggs.

5. Spread out a few empanada wrappers on your counter (you may need to flour your surface first). Place a heaping tablespoon of the beef mixture into the center of each disk. Moisten edges of each disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp closed with a fork (like this). Keep going until you have used all of your wrappers.

6. Heat vegetable oil in a deep 12-inch skillet or stockpot over medium heat until it registers 360°F on thermometer. Fry empanadas, 3 at a time, turning once, until crisp and golden, 6 minutes per batch. Transfer the cooked empanadas to a baking sheet to keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you fry the remaining empanadas.

TIP: When crimping edges closed, dip the tines of your fork in flour to prevent sticking.

TIP: If you are not a fan of deep frying, no problem! Brush each empanada with an egg wash, place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20minutes.

TIP: Don't have a frying thermometer? Simply drop a small piece of the un-cooked empanada wrapper into the oil. If it sizzles, you know the oil is hot enough. If it sinks, your oil is still too cold.


-How do I get fancy edges like the ones pictured above?

Hmmmm... it's easy but a bit tricky to explain through written word. I am just going to have to add a video to this post asap!!!

-Can I make these ahead of time?

Absolutely! I keep a batch of these frozen in my freezer as a snack for the family or to feed unexpected guests. Place un-cooked empanadas in between sheets of waxed paper, wrap with aluminum foil and drop into freezer storage bags. When you feel like an empanada, pop one out and allow to thaw for about 10 minutes on your counter before choosing your cooking method.

How can I make these vegetarian?

Finely chop 1 medium onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 red bell pepper, 1 small zucchini, 2 portobello mushrooms. Sautee in 2 tbsps olive oil until tender. Combine with cumin, salt, pepper, raisins and olives and assemble as stated above.


  1. Oh my god, these look amazing! Let me know if there's some type of veggie version, because I'm all over these!

  2. See the update above. hope you enjoy! I also like to make a sweet version with guava pasta and any sharp cheese. Makes for a great sweet/savory dessert.

  3. Wow, great minds think alike :)
    I had a similar recipe for my Beach food post on my blog. These have always been a big hit. I use taco seasoning as a shortcut for flavor. I love the eggs and pimiento additions--that makes it more authentic. If ok, I will put a link to this article in my blog.
    Love your site, btw!

  4. Hi Mira,

    Sure! Just let me know when the link is up

  5. This look great! I love your work!

  6. Hi Kelsey,

    Thanks so much! It means so much to hear that people are enjoying my recipes. Let me know when/ if you make them and how they came out.

    Cooking has been even more of a challenge these days since my son is almost starting to walk. Wish me luck.


  7. You can also make this vegetarian using TVP or veggie crumbles!

  8. Good Idea Michelle. You could even sautee up some baked tofu with the veggies.

    Let me know how it comes out if u do a TVP version

  9. SO excited to try these! I'm going to have to make the wrappers myself, though. Do you think they would be worth eating if I baked them instead of fried them?

  10. Oh jeez...I clearly can't read. I'm going to try baking them!

  11. Hi Cate

    Thanks for posting. Yes! They are awesome baked. in fact thats the way i usually make them. Turth be told most people (including my husband prefer the fried kind-LOL).


  12. These look BEAUTIFUL and sound AMAZING! Gonna have to try these soon!