Empanadas are a delicious and satisfying pastry enjoyed all over the world, with different regions adding their own unique spin on the dish. But at the heart of every empanada are the same basic ingredients: dough and filling. Let’s take a closer look at each component and what ingredients are commonly used to create this beloved snack.
A brief history of empanadas
Empanadas have a rich history dating back to the time of the Spanish conquistadors. They were originally brought to Latin America and the Caribbean by the Spanish settlers, but quickly gained popularity among the indigenous populations. Today, empanadas are a staple of Latin American cuisine and enjoyed all over the world.
Empanadas come in many different varieties, with each country and region having their own unique take on the dish. In Argentina, for example, empanadas are often filled with beef, onions, and spices, while in Chile they are commonly filled with cheese and seafood. In Mexico, empanadas are known as “empanadas de horno” and are typically filled with sweet ingredients like pumpkin or apple. Regardless of the filling, empanadas are a delicious and versatile food that can be enjoyed as a snack or a meal.
Understanding the different types of empanadas
There are many different types of empanadas, each with their own unique flavor and ingredients. Some of the most popular types include:
- Empanadas de carne (beef empanadas)
- Empanadas de pollo (chicken empanadas)
- Empanadas de queso (cheese empanadas)
- Empanadas de jamón y queso (ham and cheese empanadas)
- Empanadas de verduras (vegetable empanadas)
Empanadas are a popular dish in many Latin American countries, with each country having their own unique take on the dish. For example, in Argentina, empanadas are often baked and filled with beef, onions, and spices, while in Chile, they are typically fried and filled with seafood or cheese.
Empanadas can also vary in size, with some being small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, while others are larger and can be shared between multiple people. Additionally, some empanadas are sweet rather than savory, filled with ingredients like fruit or chocolate.
Common fillings for empanadas
When it comes to fillings, the possibilities are endless. Some of the most common fillings for empanadas include:
- Ground beef
- Shredded chicken
However, empanadas can also be filled with sweet ingredients such as fruit, chocolate, or dulce de leche. In some regions, empanadas are even filled with seafood, such as shrimp or crab. The type of filling used often varies by region and personal preference. Empanadas are a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as a savory snack or a sweet dessert.
Vegetarian and vegan options for empanada fillings
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, don’t worry! There are plenty of delicious empanada fillings for you to choose from:
- Black beans
- Roasted vegetables
- Spinach and feta
Another great vegetarian option for empanada fillings is sweet potato. The natural sweetness of the potato pairs well with savory spices and creates a delicious and filling empanada. Additionally, lentils can be used as a protein-packed filling that is both vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
For those who prefer a meat-like texture in their empanadas, there are also plant-based meat substitutes available. Brands like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods offer vegan ground beef and sausage options that can be used as empanada fillings.
How to make the perfect empanada dough
The perfect empanada dough should be flaky and buttery, yet sturdy enough to hold the filling. To make the dough, you will need:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup cold water
To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and use your fingers or a pastry cutter to mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water, a little at a time, until the dough comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.
Once the dough has chilled, it’s time to roll it out. Dust a clean surface with flour and roll the dough out to about 1/8 inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter or a small bowl to cut out circles of dough. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle, then fold the dough over and crimp the edges to seal.
For a crispy crust, brush the empanadas with an egg wash before baking. Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot and enjoy!
Tips for creating the perfect empanada shape
Shaping empanadas can take some practice, but with a few tips and tricks, you can create beautiful empanadas every time:
- Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch
- Cut out circles of dough using a 4-5 inch round cutter
- Add the filling to the center of the dough circle
- Brush the edges of the dough with egg wash to help them seal
- Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges together
- Use a fork to crimp the edges and help seal the empanada
However, there are a few additional tips that can take your empanada shaping skills to the next level:
- Make sure the filling is not too wet, as this can cause the dough to become soggy and difficult to work with
- Experiment with different shapes, such as triangles or half-moons, to add variety to your empanadas
Another important factor to consider is the cooking method. While baking is a popular option, frying empanadas can give them a crispy, golden exterior. To fry empanadas, heat oil in a deep pan and carefully place the empanadas in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, then remove and place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
Baking vs frying: Which method is best for cooking empanadas?
There is no right or wrong way to cook empanadas, but there are two main methods: baking and frying. Baking empanadas is a healthier option, while frying will give you a crispy, golden crust. To bake empanadas, preheat your oven to 375°F and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. To fry empanadas, heat oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
Another option for cooking empanadas is grilling. Grilling empanadas gives them a smoky flavor and a crispy texture. To grill empanadas, preheat your grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grates. Place the empanadas on the grill and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown and crispy. Grilling empanadas is a great option for outdoor cooking and adds a unique twist to this classic dish.
Regional variations in empanada ingredients and flavors
Empanadas are popular all over the world, and each region has its own unique twist on the classic pastry. In Argentina, empanadas are often made with beef, onions, and spices, while in Chile, they are filled with cheese, onions, and sometimes seafood. In Mexico, you might find empanadas filled with sweet potatoes and black beans, while in Spain, they are filled with tuna and peppers.
In Colombia, empanadas are often made with a cornmeal dough and filled with ground beef, potatoes, and spices. They are typically served with a spicy salsa on top. In the Philippines, empanadas are filled with a mixture of ground pork, vegetables, and sometimes raisins. They are often served with a vinegar dipping sauce.
Empanadas have also become popular in the United States, with many variations popping up in different regions. In the Southwest, empanadas are often filled with green chilies and cheese, while in the Northeast, they may be filled with lobster or other seafood. Vegetarian and vegan empanadas have also become more common, with fillings such as mushrooms, spinach, and tofu.
Gluten-free options for making empanada dough
If you’re gluten-free, you can still enjoy delicious empanadas. Simply substitute the all-purpose flour in the dough with a gluten-free flour blend, such as almond flour or rice flour.
Another option for making gluten-free empanada dough is to use a combination of gluten-free flours, such as tapioca flour, potato starch, and cornstarch. This blend creates a dough that is pliable and easy to work with, while still being gluten-free.
It’s important to note that when making gluten-free empanada dough, you may need to adjust the amount of liquid used in the recipe. Gluten-free flours tend to absorb more liquid than traditional wheat flour, so you may need to add more liquid to achieve the right consistency.
Tips for storing and reheating leftover empanadas
If you have leftover empanadas, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, simply place them in a preheated oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, or until heated through. Alternatively, you can microwave them for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until heated through.
It’s important to note that if your empanadas have any type of dairy or meat filling, they should be consumed within 2 days of being cooked. Additionally, if you plan on freezing your empanadas, make sure to wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing them in an airtight container or freezer bag.
If you’re looking to switch up the flavors of your leftover empanadas, try adding some fresh toppings or dipping sauces. Salsa, guacamole, and sour cream are all great options to enhance the taste of your empanadas. You can also try reheating them in a skillet with some oil to give them a crispy texture.
Pairing suggestions: What to serve with your homemade empanadas
Empanadas make a great snack or meal on their own, but they can also be paired with other dishes to create a delicious and satisfying meal. Some great pairing suggestions include:
- Spanish rice
- Black beans and corn salad
- Guacamole and chips
- Fried plantains
- A refreshing salad
If you’re looking for a heartier meal, consider pairing your empanadas with a warm bowl of soup. A creamy tomato soup or a spicy chicken tortilla soup would complement the flavors of the empanadas perfectly.
For a more indulgent meal, try serving your empanadas with a side of cheesy queso dip. The gooey, melted cheese pairs well with the crispy crust of the empanadas and adds an extra layer of flavor to the dish.
Frequently asked questions about making homemade empanadas
Q: Can I make empanadas ahead of time and freeze them?
A: Yes, you can freeze uncooked empanadas for up to 2 months. Simply assemble the empanadas, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and freeze until solid. Once frozen, transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag. To cook, simply bake or fry as usual.
Q: Can I use store-bought dough for my empanadas?
A: Yes, you can use store-bought dough if you’re short on time or not comfortable making your own dough from scratch. Look for pre-made pie crust or empanada wrappers in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.
Q: Can I make sweet empanadas?
A: Yes, you can fill empanadas with sweet fillings such as fruit compote or chocolate. Simply use a sweetened dough or add sugar to your filling to balance out the sweetness.
Now that you know what goes into making the perfect empanadas, it’s time to get in the kitchen and start cooking! Whether you prefer beef, chicken, cheese, or veggies, there’s a perfect empanada filling for everyone.