Cooking 101: Empanadas

I thought by my fourth year of Spanish I would not have to review eating habits. I do not want to appear conceited, but it seems like a trivial topic to cover right now. Nevertheless, my Spanish class was tasked with making tapas to bring in and savor to understand why the Spanish love them so much. Each person was assigned/volunteered to cook a different dish. I agreed to whip up some empanadas de pino.

I say “whip up” very loosely, for making these little savory pastries is somewhat of a challenge. To make empanadas properly (which I technically did not do), one must follow many-many-many steps. However, during my frenzy in the kitchen, I felt empowered. My Chilean guardians’ essences were hovering over me, metaphysically guiding and assisting my knife work with their collective energies. The movie Julie & Julia hummed in the background as well, and I wondered while adding a pound of ground beef to some chopped onions and garlic – would Julia Child ever cook empanadas?

Empanadas are a wildly eaten Spanish meat pie. Its origins come from Spain naturally, but as Spanish has changed as it has traveled, so has Iberian cuisine. Empanadas are like Spanish dialects. There are many different, country specific styles, and each is more delicious than the next. The empanadas I made are Chilean (surprise), and I did not follow a cookbook. I looked online, found some recipes, mixed them, consulted my 1st Chilean host mother about the procedure, and then went for it. I should say I made a variation of empanadas de pino.

De pino specifically is a mixture of ground beef sautéed with browned onions, garlic, and spices with hard boiled egg, raisins, and chopped olives. Yum!

I made the sautéed filling and the cold fixings a day before I put them in the little dough pies. Here is the recipe (I apologize for my euphemisms and liberal creation of measurements i.e. a whiff) –


I tried to use authentic Hispanic Pillsbury Pie Crust … Sadly, this didn’t really work out, so I had to wing a dough recipe after 2 test drive empanadas were not satisfactory. I will not supply a recipe for the dough because I am not sure it can be recreated … ¡Tengo la culpa! Many recipes exist online and should work with this recipe for these fillings. Look for recipes that include butter and sugar. These ingredients will highlight the salty and savoriness of the delicious insides.

Warm Fillings:

2 Medium Sweet Onions

1lb. Ground Beef

2 Teaspoons of Cumin (More like 3 1/2)

1 Teaspoon of Chili Powder

1 Tablespoon of Smoked Paprika

1 Beef Bouillon Cube (Brand: Telma)

2 Tablespoons of Flour

2 Cloves of Garlic

(Oil and Butter for the pan)

Cold Fillings:

1/2 Cup of Raisins

1/2 Chopped Olives

3 Hard Boiled Eggs


1 Egg Yolk

2 Tablespoons of Milk (I used whole milk)

1. First, mash the garlic. Then, dice both the sweet onions and mashed garlic. Put the pungent mix into a bowl.

2. Put about a 1/3 cup of canola oil and 1 teaspoon of butter into a warm pan on the stove. Then, add the eye watering mixture (diced onions and garlic) to the pan.

(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

3. As the mixture browns, add the ground beef, paprika, chili powder, and cumin. Mix thoroughly. Break up that meat!

4. Now, add a pot of water with your three eggs to a different burner, and turn on the stove to bring it to a boil. You will need the cooked eggs for the cold filling.

5. For the bouillon cube … One recipe said to add a little hot water and put the little brown sucker into the hot mess in the pan. However, my host mother told me it should not be juicy, so I added the cube anyway without water. There were enough juices in the pan already, and after man-handling it a little bit with a spatula – the cube blissfully dissolved. By the way, check those eggs, darling!

6. At this stage, I added a little more cumin (just a whiff). I thought it tasted a little bland, and the cumin just smelled like my host sister’s home that night I celebrated a birthday with empanadas and a host family. It had to add it.

7. After the bouillon cube is completely dissolved, add the flour to absorb the remaining juices and thicken the brown mass of spiced meat.

(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

8. Turn the stove off and put the meaty mix aside to cool. When cool, put it in a bowl to store in the fridge until the next day.

(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

9. De-pit your olives and cut them up into small pieces. Add them to a different bowl to store in the fridge.

10. Put the raisins in this new bowl as well and break open your beautiful hardboiled eggs (which should be done by now). Add the eggs to the mix after cutting them up. You can break them up a little more when you add everything to the pastries the next day if you please.

(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

The meat mixture should stay good for a few days after it is cooked. You can save time and energy by being proactive in the kitchen!

The next day …

11. Use whatever dough you have and make small balls out of it. Then, flatten these balls, making each dough ball into a flat circle.

12. Fill a little less than a tablespoon of each filling into each wrapper.

(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

13. Now, seal the dough into a dumpling shape. Enforce the seal with some water by pinching its sides with wet fingers and use a fork to decorate/meld the sides even closer together. Depending on how many you make – this can take awhile!

(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

14. Be sure to put the empanadas on something that won’t stick. Then, brush the empanadas with a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons whole milk. This is the glaze for the pastries.

15. Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. You want a golden brown empanada.

16. Let cool and enjoy! They also can be stored in the fridge overnight.

(Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

*Note: as a result of my … “winging it”, I had a good amount of leftover filling. I recommend adding some sriracha and going to town on it. It was meaty, spicy, and sweet all at once.

“Delicious and meaty. Hmmm. Phrasing.”

Empanadas are such a staple party food down south. Who gives a shit about pizza rolls?! I’ll take an empanada any day. I think my empanadas came out great – enough to get praise from actual Spanish speakers! It’s sure to be a recipe I try again but possibly next time with more of an idea of what I am doing.

More to come about college acceptance/declination – but let’s just say I am at ease right now, WWOOFing (if Sweden will have me), and more foodie related things! Also, my upcoming adventure this New Year’s Eve in NYC/ New Jersey! The real Chewonki reunion will be crazy. I can’t wait.

(All photography by PintsizedPioneer)