3 empanada recipes from regions across Latin America that you can make at home – Tricks and Tips

3 empanada recipes from regions across Latin America that you can make at home

Recipes can stand the test of time when passed down for generations, and evoke an exactness of technique and taste that can define a culture’s take on cuisine.

To celebrate the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, “Good Morning America” tapped into three iterations of empanadas from food experts who have slightly different reference points based on regionality.

The turnover pastry that can be baked or fried is a common dish in Spanish and Latin American cultures.

Check out a few full recipes that range from savory to sweet below.


Empanadillas from “Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook” by Illyanna Maisonet.

Erika P. Rodriguez, Dan Liberti, Ten Speed Press

Chef Illyana Maisonet, shared her recipe for empanadillas-pastelillos from her new cookbook, “Diasporican,” to represent Puerto Rican cuisine.

“Empanadillas are a quick snack that has been sustaining children for generations,” she said. “So much so that this current generation’s favorite variation is empanadillas de pizza: pastry dough stuffed with pizza sauce, cheese and sometimes pepperoni. Paired with a Coca Cola Icee.”

The cover of Illyanna Maisonet’s cookbook.

Ten Speed Press

Makes 10 servings


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 pinch kosher salt

1/2 cup vegetable shortening or manteca

1/2 cup water with 2 ice cubes

11/4 cups picadillo (recipe below)

Canola oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. With the tips of your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut the shortening into the flour. Gradually add the water without letting the ice fall into the bowl. Continue to combine the mixture until it comes together, then knead for a few minutes and form into a disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes.

Flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the chilled dough to 1/8 inch thick. Using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter or mold (sometimes I use the tops of margarine containers), cut the dough into 10 circles.

Put 1 to 2 tablespoons of picadillo in the center of each dough circle. Bring one side of the circle over to the other side and enclose the filling. With a fork, press the tins all along the crescent seam to seal it closed. Alternatively, you can fold a small section along the crescent seam onto itself, repeating the process to create a rope effect.

Place a wire cooling rack in a baking sheet and set near the stove. Fill a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 2 inches of canola oil and place over medium-high heat. You want enough oil to slightly cover the empanadillas. Heat the oil until it registers 350 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (Sprinkle in a little flour; if the oil sizzles, it’s ready for frying.)

Place the filled empanadillas in the hot oil a few at a time and fry for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until they turn a deep golden brown. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer to the prepared rack.

Serve the empanadillas immediately.

Note: You can substitute store-bought empanada dough, found in the freezer section of your international markets, or use rolled pie crusts, which are sold in the refrigerated section of the market.


Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 russet potato, coarsely diced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, coarsely minced

1 pound ground bison or ground beef

1 tablespoon sazón (see below)

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup sofrito (see below)

2 tablespoons finely minced olives, plus 2 tablespoons olive brine

1 tablespoon finely minced capers


Add the olive oil to a skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add the potato, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until translucent.

Add the bison to the skillet and season with the sazón, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix to combine the meat and spices and then brown the meat for 3 minutes, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Stir in the tomato sauce, sofrito, olives and capers and cook the mixture down for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the olive brine and cook for 5 minutes more.

Serve the picadillo over rice.

All-purpose sazon seasoning

Makes 10 tablespoons

1/4 cup ground achiote

1 tablespoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons granulated garlic

2 tablespoons granulated onion

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In an airtight container, mix together the achiote, cumin, granulated garlic, granulated onion and pepper. Store in a cool place for up to six months.


Makes 2 cups


2 Roma tomatoes, quartered

1 yellow onion, quartered

6 garlic cloves, smashed

1 green bell pepper, quartered

1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped

1 bunch culantro, coarsely chopped

In a blender, process the tomatoes until finely chopped. Add the onion and garlic and process until finely chopped and incorporated. Add the bell pepper, cilantro and culantro and process until the mixture is well combined and mostly smooth.

You can use the sofrito immediately, cover it and store in the refrigerator for up to a day, or pour it into an ice-cube tray and freeze for up to six months.

Takeaway tips:

If you can’t find empanada discs in your local supermarket, use the pie dough in the refrigerated section.

If you don’t like the texture of olives, just use the olive brine.

Not a fan of frying? Empanadillas can also be baked in the oven or the air fryer.

Reprinted with permission from “Diasporican: A Puerto Rican Cookbook” by Illyanna Maisonet copyright ©2022. Puerto Rico location photographs by Erika P. Rodriguez. California location and food photographs copyright © 2022 by Dan Liberti. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Apple empanadas

Chefs Linda and Veronica Garza, creators of Siete Foods and authors of “The Siete Table,” shared a family recipe that they said is a perfect representation of what they call “the hyphen” — the bridge between their Mexican American identity.

With apples being an iconic American staple and empanadas that speak to their Hispanic heritage, these apple empanadas are a great way to celebrate their dual, connected identities for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Makes 12 empanadas

Note: Because this is a grain-free dough, it will be delicate to work with and tearing is normal. If your dough does tear while shaping the empanadas, you can just patch it back together.


For the filling

2 large honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and diced

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 whole clove

Pinch of sea salt

For the dough and finishing

2 cups almond flour

1 1/4 cups cassava flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 cup tapioca flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

Avocado oil, for frying

Coconut sugar, for dusting


In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the apples, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and salt and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a healthy simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the apples are very soft but retain some of their shape. Remove the pan from the heat and let the apple mixture cool completely. Remove and discard the clove.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cassava flour, tapioca flour and salt. Add 1 cup of water and stir to combine. Use your hands if needed to help the dough fully come together.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Dust the plastic sheets of a tortilla press with cassava flour and press each dough ball into a round. Dust a kitchen towel with cassava flour and place the dough round on one portion of the towel. Cover the dough with another layer of the towel and sprinkle the surface again with cassava flour. Repeat with the remaining dough, pressing it into rounds and layering between floured sections of kitchen towels.

Place a few tablespoons of the cooled apple filling in the center of each round. Use your fingers to fold the dough over the filling and press the edges down to seal. If you find your dough doesn’t want to seal, wet your finger and dampen the outer edges of the dough before pressing and sealing. Crimp the edges of each empanada with the tines of a fork or decorative twists, if you like.

In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat about 3 inches of oil to 350 degrees.

Fry each empanada for about 2 minutes per side, until golden and crisp. Transfer the hot empanadas to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet and dust generously with coconut sugar. Repeat with the remaining empanadas and serve warm.

Takeaway tips:

If needed, use your hands to knead the dough to help it fully come together.

Be sure to use a floured surface or parchment to keep the dough from sticking.

Because this is a grain-free dough, it will be delicate to work with, so tearing is normal! If your dough does tear while shaping, you can simply patch it back together with your fingers.

Let the apple filling cool completely before using. If you are making these for a large group, this step can be completed the day before! The day of, simply use the filling straight out of the fridge.

Wet your finger and dampen the outer edges of the dough before pressing and sealing to ensure the dough seals.

Serve warm and enjoy on its own — or with your favorite ice cream!

Spicy Chicken Empanadas

PHOTO: The cover of "Colombiana: A Rediscovery of Recipes and Rituals from the Soul of Colombia" by Mariana Velásquez.

The cover of “Colombiana: A Rediscovery of Recipes and Rituals from the Soul of Colombia” by Mariana Velásquez.

Harper Collins

Chef Mariana Velasquez is representing Bogotá, Columbia as a celebrated food stylist, chef and cookbook author of, “Colombiana.”

She also has a new line of sauces called “Our Pantry,” where she developed a Roasted Tomato Onion Salsa based off Hogao, a versatile Colombian cooking sauce with roasted onions and smoked chipotle chiles.

Makes 16 to 24 large empanadas or 32 to 36 small empanadas


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 medium red pepper, finely chopped (no seeds)

Salt to taste (about ¼ teaspoon)

Pepper to taste

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 ¾ cups (½ chicken) roasted chicken (use both white and dark meat), finely chopped

5 tablespoons sour cream

¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (use leaves and stems)


In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Cook the onion and pepper for 3 to 5 minutes until slightly brown. Add salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, and turmeric, stir well with a wooden spoon and cook for 1 more minute.

Lower the heat and add the chicken to the skillet. Stir well making sure you scrape all bits and pieces stuck to the skillet. Transfer the chicken mixture to a medium bowl and cool.

Add the sour cream and fresh cilantro to the cooled chicken mixture and mix well with a fork. The filling should be moist but not too wet for perfect empanadas.

For filling, shaping, and cooking empanadas follow the instructions on the empanada dough recipe.

Savory Empanada Dough


12 ounces all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

4 ounces corn flour (fine)

1 teaspoon salt

3 ounces butter, melted

7 ounces greek yogurt, plain unsweetened

2 to 3 tablespoons warm water or milk (can use more depending on atmospheric humidity)

1 egg, beaten


In a large bowl, mix the all-purpose flour, corn flour, and salt very well with a whisk. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork. Add the yogurt and mix again with a fork. At this point you will have flour that has not been incorporated into the wet ingredients. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time, and using your hands, incorporate all ingredients until you can form a smooth ball.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Reserve the piece you will use later in a bowl covered with a moist heavy duty paper towel so it doesn’t dry up.

On a floured surface, extend half of the dough with a rolling pin, pressing from the center out until it reaches a thickness of ⅛ to ¼ inches. Using a round cookie cutter, press down on the dough making sure the cutter goes all the way through to the surface. Make sure you make the best use of the dough by cutting out the discs very close to one another.

Place the discs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover with a moist paper towel.

Form a ball with the leftover pieces of dough and extend again with a rolling pin and repeat the same steps for cutting out the dough.

Note: The second time you extend the dough, you will notice that it is more rubbery and a little harder to work with. Also, when you cut it out, you will notice the discs will spring back a bit and will be a bit smaller than the first round.

Place the dough discs on the lined baking sheet, cover with the moist paper towel, and get the second piece of dough that you reserved in the bowl and repeat the steps.

You should have 30 to 32 discs if you used a 3-inch cutter, and 16 discs if you used a 4-inch cutter.

At this point you can fill the empanadas with either a savory or a sweet filling. Place a spoonful of the filling on the middle of each empanada disc.

Use about 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons of filling for the 3-inch round empanadas and 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons for the 4-inch empanadas.

Make sure that you don’t under fill (the empanada will be too doughy) or overfill (the filling will leak out).

To seal the empanadas, fold the disc and seal the edges by pressing the dough with your fingers. If you’re having a hard time sealing the edges, you can brush the inside edges with egg white, it will act as a glue for the empanadas. You can also use a fork to help seal the edges, just press the top of the fork against the edges.

At this point, you can bake the empanadas or fry them.

For baking: If you want your empanadas to have a nice golden finish, then you can brush them with egg wash (a whole egg whisked or egg yolk plus a few drops of water whisked).

For best results, I recommend refrigerating the empanadas for at least 30 minutes before baking. This helps them seal better and prevents the filling from leaking out.

Bake the empanadas in a preheated oven. Bake the smaller sized empanadas at 375 degrees and the larger empanadas at 400 degrees. Bake anywhere from 18 to 25 minutes – the empanadas will be ready once they are golden. Baking time will depend on the size of the empanada or different ovens.

Takeaway tips:Use rotisserie chicken to make an easy filling.

These freeze so well! Make a large batch and freeze half. Empanadas are an ideal bite for last minute guests.

Directly from the freezer to the oven or air fryer- add 10 more minutes to cooking time.

The proper way to eat an empanada — take a small bite from the corner, squeeze some lime juice or hogao sauce and enjoy.

Reprinted with permission by Harper Collins.