Looking for tasty, filling party food? Empanadas are a perfect choice. These hand-held pies are common in Southern Europe, Latin America and the Philippines, and they’re great for serving a crowd—or enjoying all by yourself. 

An empanada is a baked or fried crescent-shaped pastry that can contain a variety of fillings—just like a little pie. Fillings range from sweet—like apple or pineapple—to savory—like beef, chicken, potato or even cheese. Once you learn the basics of making empanadas, the possibilities are endless.  

How to Make Empanadas

Any empanada recipe comes down to two components: dough and filling. Whether you want to learn how to make chicken empanadas or apple empanadas, follow the same basic steps:

  1. Make a pastry dough with a few basic ingredients
  2. Mix up a savory or sweet filling
  3. Roll out the dough in small circles
  4. Add filling
  5. Fold the empanadas into half-moon shapes 
  6. Fry or bake the hand pies 

What Kind of Dough Is Used for Empanadas? 

Empanada recipes typically call for a pastry dough, which is made from flour, butter (or shortening), salt, and water. For sweet empanadas (e.g., pumpkin or sweet potato empanadas), you may also include some sugar or cinnamon in the dough. However, for savory empanadas, you can simply omit those two ingredients. 

While learning how to make empanada dough from scratch will give you the best results, if you’re looking for a shortcut for how to make empanadas easy, you can also use store-bought refrigerated pie crust. 

Three beef empanadas on a wood cutting board. One of them is broken in half, showing the filling. Next to them is a jar of pico de gallo with a spoon, a rough stone pestle, and sprigs of fresh cilantro.
Photo by Patryk Pastewski on Unsplash

Is It Better to Fry or Bake Empanadas? 

If you’re making a big batch of empanadas, baking will allow you to make several pastries at a time. Frying, on the other hand, can take more time and attention, since each empanada will fry for about 5 to 7 minutes. However, deep-frying can produce a richer flavor and keep the filling moist. 

For the best of both worlds, you can also make empanadas in an air fryer, producing a crispy hand pie without the hassle of deep-frying. To make an empanada in an air fryer, preheat the fryer to 400°F and cook for about 5 minutes on each side. 

Beef Empanada Recipe

This cheesy picadillo empanada recipe uses a filling made of ground beef, potatoes, tomatoes, and Monterey Jack cheese.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk

Step 1: Mix the Empanada Dough

cooking materials
Learn how to make empanada dough with a few basic ingredients: flour, baking powder, shortening, salt, milk, and eggs. 

First, create a simple pastry dough by mixing the dry ingredients first, then adding the wet components.

You can use a stand mixer if you have one, or can use your hands to combine the ingredients. The baking powder helps you achieve a tender dough that rises well before and during baking.

Once the dough comes together, split it into two portions, wrap each ball in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while you make the filling. 

Step 2: Prepare the Filling 

In a large skillet, heat ½ cup of chopped onion in olive oil. Add two pounds of ground beef and cook until brown. Add salt, pepper, four chopped tomatoes, and one to two peeled, chopped potatoes, and cook over low heat until the potatoes are cooked through. 

Step 3: Assemble the Empanadas 

cookie cutter
Use a four-inch circle cutter to cut individual portions of dough. 

Roll out your dough and use a four-inch circle cutter to cut individual portions of dough. Alternatively, you can portion out sections of dough first, and then roll each ball into a flat circle.

Place a spoonful of filling onto each circle, then top with a slice of cheese. Use an egg wash to dampen the edge of the bottom half of the circle, then fold the top half over creating the half-moon shape. Seal the edges by pressing with a fork. 

Step 4: Bake and Enjoy!

done empanadas
After they’re cooked through, broil empanadas for a few minutes to achieve a golden brown finish. 

Place the empanadas on a baking sheet. Brush the top of each empanada with egg wash, and use a fork to pierce a few holes in the top of each. Bake on the lower oven rack at 350℉ for about 20 minutes.

Switch the oven to broil, and bake for couple more minutes, until golden brown. Allow them to cool for a few minutes, and then enjoy!

Empanada Sauce

Empanadas can be served with a variety of sauces, based on the type of filling you choose. For savory empanadas, try salsa, chimichurri sauce, cheese sauce, cilantro cream sauce, or even hot sauce. Sweet empanadas could pair well with a caramel or chocolate sauce. 

¡Buen Provecho!

Empanadas are versatile, filling, and perfect for feeding a crowd. Once you master the basics of how to make empanadas, you can experiment with sweet and savory fillings until you find your favorite. You’re only limited by your imagination.

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Written by:

Katie Wolf