Honest Fare

Pretty Provisions and Notes from the Kitchen

Empanadas!

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Empanadas!, Honest Fare by Gabrielle Arnold

Okay, how cute are these little fellas? If it were possible to have a crush on a food item, empanadas would be mine. I find these pockets of goodness so captivating. Crisp and golden on the outside and filled with something delicious (the question is what!) on the inside. Is it just me, or are you crushing now too?

I topped each mini empanada with thin slice of tomato before baking to give you a little something extra to feast your eyes on. You can bake on a thin slice of veggie, fruit or even some fresh herbs to go with whatever they’re filled with.

My dear friends and biz partners, Andy and Janelle of, black bean deli, taught me everything I need to know about the art of making empanadas. Together we’ve been dreaming up all kinds of fillings and testing them on our friends and at caterings. Mainly we’ve been pumping them out in such high numbers for catering gigs, but also to test recipes for a new food venture we’re developing (wink,wink…tell ya later). We’ve been making empanadas like mad lately, and as a result, have probably eaten more of them in the last few months than a 10-year-old eats bowls of cereal in a year. And we’re still not sick of them!

SO, the cool thing about empanadas is that they’re the kind of thing you can eat anytime of the day. Stuff them with a tofu or egg and cheese scramble for breakfast. Maybe spicy BBQ chicken or grilled veggies and cheese for lunch or dinner. You can even do all kinds of dessert empanadas — spiced pear, chocolate peanut butter crunch, pumpkin pie…and on and on. All the possibilities are what make them so much fun to play around with. I’ve found that an empanada with a salad or some soup is a perfect little meal.

empanada-and-salad

Empanadas first appeared in a Catalan cookbook back in the 1500s and it’s believed that they originated in Spain and Portugal, and like the Italian calzone, it’s thought that empanadas were derived from Arabic meat-filled pies (samosas). Traditionally, empanadas were filled with meat (pork loin or chorizo) or fish (cod, tuna or sardines) in a tomato garlic type sauce and became popular in those medieval days because they made such great portable meals for working people and travelers. The proliferation of empanadas eventually spread to Latin America, where each country has a regionally specific take on them – different dough recipes (made with flour, corn or yuca) and various traditional fillings.

But, the fillings we’ve been working on are all but traditional. Cured ham, cheese and melon. Crab and green tomato salad. Vegetarian sausage and peppers. Roasted beets and goat cheese. Pumpkin pie. S’mores. Truffle mac and cheese! Pretty much anything across the sweet to savory spectrum goes so you can really get creative.

Like here, we did peanut butter and jelly! Scoop of peanut butter, spoonful of strawberry preserves and little pile of sliced grapes. Each one is topped each with a sliced strawberry for ultimate cuteness.

pbj-empanadas

One tip I will give you, is to make sure the fillings you choose aren’t runny by nature (like certain sauces) and don’t sweat too much during cooking (like raw veggies…or certain cheeses). This is because the filling will start to seep out and mush up the dough during baking. So if you’re using cheese, just don’t go too heavy on it. And of course, when it comes to meats and such, you need to pre-cook and season them! Think of it like toppings on a pizza – certain ones will work when placed raw (like herbs and cheese) and some would be retchid (like, uh, raw chicken). Also, fillings you can scoop with a spoon tend to work best. And you want your filling to be room temperature so it holds a form when scooped and placed in the center of the dough. Oh yea, and try not to overfill or you’ll end up with a mess no matter what.

empanada-fillings

See, here I did creamed corn and roasted cherry tomatoes as mini empanadas and spinach & feta full-size ones. The creamed corn is seasoned with thyme and thickened with flour during cooking. Then it’s cooled to room temp to reach its thickest state. The spinach was cooked with red onion and seasoned with some garlic, salt/pepper, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and lemon juice. I added some feta and cottage cheese and let some of the moisture cook out before adding an egg white to help hold it all together. Also cooled to room temp, and excess moisture poured out before adding to dough.

Of course, there are all kinds of dough recipes out there too so if you’re gluten free or want whole wheat you can definitely make it work. We haven’t come upon a recipe that we like (or that reacts) better than the dough we get from a Cuban bakery we work with out of Miami, so for now we’re sticking with that…though we do plan to experiment with some whole wheat recipes in the future. Empanada dough is similar to most savory pastry doughs, and you can find a million recipes for it online. The pre-made and cut empanada dough is actually pretty good and authentic and can be found in the frozen section of most grocery stores and all Latin American supermarkets. Choose a brand with a short ingredient list (La Cubanita and Goya make good ones without all the preservatives and junk). Just check the labels to make sure you’re not getting a dough with lard in it if you’re vegetarian. Some use lard, some palm oil.

empanada-dough

Now, you can totally just place you filling in the middle and seal the edges of the dough using a fork (that’s how most people do it at home). But, you can also find these handy little presses at Latin supermarkets and restaurant supply stores. The press we use for the mini empanadas is actually just a dumpling press, which you should be able to get at your local Asian market. The presses make the job a ton easier when you’re doing large numbers, but you won’t miss out not using one if you’re just making a few at home. You’ll want your dough close to room temp before placing the fillings and should wet the rim of the dough before closing to help seal.

mini-empanadas-press

Once you’ve got all your guys filled, you can lightly grease a pan and apply and even egg wash to each empanada (back and front).

Then just bake them until they’re golden and crispy along the edges.

mini-creamed corn-empanadas

I’m giving you the recipe for the spinach ones because they’re by far the household favorite!

jason-spinach-empanada

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Recipe

Cook time: About 15 minutes for the spinach (plus time to let it cool) Empanadas only need about 12-14 minutes in the oven. Makes enough spinach for 4 regular sized empanadas or about 15 mini ones. If you want it pretty cheesy, add additional feta. Empanada press is not necessary – the edges of dough can be sealed using a fork just as well.

You need:

  • 1 bag pre washed spinach or equivalant
  • 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 clone garlic
  • 3 oz small curd cottage cheese
  • 3 oz feta crumbled
  • Squirt of lemon juice
  • 1/6 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Light sprinkle of nutmeg
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste
  • Drizzle olive oil + tad butter
  • 1 egg white (for spinach mixture)
  • 1 egg (for pastry egg wash)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Saute onion and garlic, pinch of salt and black pepper in olive oil + butter over medium heat until onions begin to wilt. Squeeze some lemon juice add as much of your spinach to the pan as will fit and cover so spinach can wilt. Keep adding remaining spinach to the pan in batches as more room becomes available. Uncover once spinach is wilted but still bright green. Pour out any excess water from pan.
  3. Add cottage cheese, nutmeg, lemon zest, touch more salt, red pepper flakes and toss in pan to release steam. Add feta crumbles and remove from heat. Transfer to bowl and fold in egg white while still hot. Toss in bowl to incorporate evenly (the egg white will cook from the heat of the spinach). Set aside and let mixture cool to room temp to thicken.
  4. If store bought, make sure your dough is a cool room temp before working with. Pour out any additional moisture that has formed around spinach and add about 2 tablespoons of mixture to center of a dough disk. Moisten rim of dough with water using fingertips. Fold over and seal by pressing prong end of fork all along the edges, creating even imprints. Skip the fork step if using empanada press.
  5. Prepare egg wash in a little bowl. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Give each empanada a brush of egg wash on both sides. Space evenly on baking sheet and bake until golden crispy! (about 15 minutes for full-size and 6 for mini ones)

HonestFare.com

40 Comments

  1. Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:22 AM | Permalink

    Ooooooh! These look divine! Especially the top one with the tomato – the photo is amazing. I love your blog – your posts never disappoint!

  2. Posted March 24, 2011 at 11:34 AM | Permalink

    Those look so good! I love how golden they get, I can just imagine how crispy and wonderful they are. How big is the bag of spinach you used? Some bags at my grocery store are small and others are large.

  3. Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:13 PM | Permalink

    Not only are the final products adorable but that press!! So so cute and so yummy looking!

  4. Posted March 24, 2011 at 12:33 PM | Permalink

    These look fantastic! I’m especially partial to the corn and tomato empanada. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Posted March 24, 2011 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    Those creamed corn empanadas look amazing!! Actually, all of them look amazing. Now I’m hungry!

  6. gabi
    Posted March 24, 2011 at 2:15 PM | Permalink

    Heidi – The bag I get is the same size as the bags of organic mixed salad greens. I THINK it’s 15 oz in weight, but I don’t have one around right now to check and we’re out of town ;)

  7. Posted March 24, 2011 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

    Dude. Gabi.
    I want whatever the hell that grape one was. It looks insane.

  8. Posted March 24, 2011 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

    Spinach and feta!

    I made pasties for a party one time and filled them with mashed potatoes, caramelized onion, and chunks of charred kielbasa. So so good. Anything in a dumpling.

  9. Posted March 24, 2011 at 6:53 PM | Permalink

    beautiful photos, colors, and especially food! It all looks so delicious from savory to sweet!

  10. Posted March 24, 2011 at 7:53 PM | Permalink

    I think I need one of those empanada makers like I need air. The combinations are endless!

    xoxo
    bianca

  11. Posted March 25, 2011 at 12:25 AM | Permalink

    Your empanadas look fantastic! Thanks for the spinach recipe. Now to get one of those presses!

  12. Posted March 25, 2011 at 9:55 AM | Permalink

    Now that it is Lent, different empanada fillings are making an appearance in Mexico, such as tuna with peas, an improbable filling that is actually quite good. Yours are very attractive — I like the idea of a little something affixed to the exterior of the pastry.

    Kathleen

  13. Posted March 25, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

    Oh wow. I want one now! I’ll have to find a way to come up with a gluten-free dough that works. These look amazing!

  14. Posted March 25, 2011 at 11:55 AM | Permalink

    I love your little empanada press1

  15. Posted March 25, 2011 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    I love your little empanada press! We’re off to Spain in two weeks, and I hope to eat all sorts of exotic flavors. In the meantime, I will put your recipe to good use.

  16. Posted March 25, 2011 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    I love your pictures and I love empanadas. Makes me want to run into my kitchen and start cooking. I haven’t made empanadas for quite some time, i’ll have to make some soon.

  17. Posted March 26, 2011 at 12:57 PM | Permalink

    These look amazing! I absolutely love your little empanada maker tool. Each of the varieties look fantastic as well. Thanks for the informative post!

  18. Di
    Posted March 26, 2011 at 4:05 PM | Permalink

    Any recipes for homemade dough? These look delicious!

  19. Posted March 26, 2011 at 8:46 PM | Permalink

    Mmmm, the PB&J one looks sooooo good. I love the little empanada-press too! Looks like it makes it a breeze.

  20. gabi
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    Hello Di –
    Right now I’m sticking with the dough we get from our Cuban bakery in Miami cause it’s too good! There are lots of empanada dough recipes on the Web, but I haven’t done too much experimenting myself (concentrating on the fillings right now). But, I’d say just give one a that sounds g00d a shot!

  21. Posted March 27, 2011 at 5:39 PM | Permalink

    Can we have the recipe for the creamed corn ones too? Mmm

  22. Natalie
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 1:20 PM | Permalink

    I’m so glad you’re making empanadas! These remind me of my Grammy’s recipe, handed down over generations – a desert empanada filled with mashed sweet potato, pineapple and coconut. Tropical heaven!

  23. Posted March 29, 2011 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

    Brilliant idea to top the empanada with a tomato, they baked up beautifully.

    -Brenda

  24. gabi
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    Tom – Sure! No exact measurements for this one though…but very easy :)
    I used fresh corn. Start by cutting raw kernels off the cob. Heat some butter and a little drizzle of olive oil in pan. Add corn, thyme, salt/pepper, some sugar, stir and bring to a simmer. Add nice splash of milk and bring to a simmer again. Then add some parm cheese and stir, stir, stir to help release the starches of the corn. Keep stirring and cooking on med heat while dusting with a little flour until it starts to thicken up real nice. You shouldn’t need to cook it too long (it’s better if the corn is still a little firm). Remove from heat when it’s the consistency of oatmeal. Transfer to bowl and let cool completely. It will continue to thicken as it cools. (refer to image in post)
    As for the tomatoes, toss them in a little olive oil and salt and poke them with a fork. Then either roast them in the oven (at like 375) OR you can cook them on a pan (med heat) until they’re browned and reduced, but still somewhat juicy.
    So good! You’re going to love it.

  25. Posted March 30, 2011 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

    What beautiful little empanadas! I love all of your filling suggestions, I’ve always kept mine so boring but now I’m inspired to experiment more!

  26. Posted March 30, 2011 at 9:44 PM | Permalink

    These look UH-MAZEING. I am so excited to pick up groceries now on Friday! :)

  27. Posted April 1, 2011 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

    YUM! What a cute little press; I’ve never seen those before.
    I wonder if this recipe would be good with lacinato kale swapped in for the spinach. I have a ton from my co-op!

  28. Chris Hardin
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 4:32 AM | Permalink

    Hi…. found the site by accident, but it’s awesome, nice work. Hope everything is great for you. Please email me sometime, I’d like to catch up.

    (I assume you can see my contact info)

  29. Posted April 6, 2011 at 3:53 PM | Permalink

    What a beautiful site you have here! I really like this post because these are one my fav foods to eat! Thanks!

  30. Posted April 7, 2011 at 1:54 PM | Permalink

    Yum…I totally love empanadas! I love how they are so versatile in what you can put in them. I tried to make some last month and forgot to buy an empanada press and boy it took so long to fold and shape each one by hand. But they were so delicious!

  31. Posted April 20, 2011 at 1:28 PM | Permalink

    your blog is beautiful!

  32. Posted May 4, 2011 at 6:20 PM | Permalink

    I am so inspired to go buy an empanada press and start making these. They look DELICIOUS!

  33. Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

    I’m a catalan girl living in the US and reading this post made me think of home! :) my aunt makes delicious empanadas with tuna, peppers, tomato sauce and onions! they are bigger than your average empanada, yet delicious! Could you share your dough recipe? I know there’s a ton, but you say yours works well and I’d love to try it! Thanks!

  34. gabi
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 7:54 PM | Permalink

    Hi Adriana –
    I’m so happy to hear you have such experience eating empanadas!
    Funny, my family is actually from Catalunya too. Barcelona and Villa Franca Del Penedes. I was there a few weeks ago enjoying all kinds of empanadillas. I love the tuna ones and cod ones with red pepper!
    Okay so about the dough, I mentioned loving the dough we use, but I’m not making it. Right now we get it from a bakery in Miami. In the future we will be experimenting with whole wheat recipes, but for now we are happy with this dough we buy. I know supermarkets sell pre-made dough specifically for empanadas. If I land on a recipe I love in the future, I’ll be sure to share it.
    Thanks for your comment!
    -gabi

  35. Posted May 9, 2011 at 1:16 AM | Permalink

    I’ve pretty much been obsessed with empanadas since my honeymoon in Argentina. I’ve made them at home numerous times, but I feel like to get really good I have to make them a bunch more times. I totally agree- there are so many possibilities!

  36. Posted May 22, 2011 at 3:21 AM | Permalink

    I’m french. food means a lot for me.
    I’m an infographist. Webdesign means a lot for me.
    you guys made in this two universes a complete succesfull stories.

    Congratulations. keep on the pace dudes.

  37. Posted June 25, 2011 at 1:53 PM | Permalink

    Thx for sharing your recipe. Looks very yammie!
    Good luck with your adventure! Love to live that kind of free life! ..

    ~joe

  38. Posted September 5, 2011 at 9:52 AM | Permalink

    On my way to work this morning I saw your new venture outside of the Black Bean Deli and I got so excited I came straight to my computer to look it up! That’s how I found this blog. I seriously can’t wait for the opening. I love the Black Bean Deli’s vegan empanadas and appreciate your creativity in coming up with more options to please a wide range of palates. Thank you!

  39. Posted September 7, 2011 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

    Damni Gabi, when is La Empanada going to have the PB&J ones?!

    Whatever you make, I get really excited (and hungry) every time I see the truck out :)

  40. Nicky Murillo
    Posted June 6, 2013 at 2:12 PM | Permalink

    Hi, I’m from Argentina I grew up with Empanadas and never thought about decorating on the outside… it is very yummy looking! Good job!!!! I will do this myself.

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