Empanadas are Easy

We like to make and give fruit empanadas as one of our favorite holiday treats. Some of our friends make and share tamales – so we have fun exchanging.

Easy Empanadas

I think empanadas are so simple – but it is like anything. I have had a great deal of practice. I have kinda forgotten some of my newbie mistakes. I will try to include some of the things to NOT do in this post.  That said, think about how long it took you to learn to walk. Mastering any new skill takes some practice.

There are three parts to the entire empanada effort. Filling. Dough. Putting it all together.

Here the edges are pressed together with fingers and they are ready to go onto the baking sheet.

Empanada Filling

Get your filling ready first.  The easy way to do this is to open a can of pumpkin pie filling, taste it, and maybe add some spices (pumpkin pie spice if you have it – or just some cinnamon if you don’t.). You could also use a can of apple or cherry pie filling. Maybe even blueberry – but not sure that is very traditional.  To be honest I make my apple pie filling from scratch when apples are on sale and can it in quart jars. All I have to do is open a jar.  I have also use a giant dollop of jam to fill these.  It came out mighty fine, if a tad sweet for my taste.

Newbie Note – I did try this once with applesauce. Not a success.

Empanada Dough

The dough is somewhat like any pie crust dough – except it doesn’t have a nice pie plate to lean on, so you have to be more careful mixing this.

Newbie Note – “All-purpose flour” is a jack of all trades, and just fine for cookies, cornbread, or making gravy.  All-purpose is not ideal for any purpose where gluten content is critical – like here or in bread. Get some bread flour if you want this to really work.

Half batch. Easier to work with if you make several balls of dough.

Dough Ingredients

3 cups bread flour
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
6 oz COLD butter, chopped into 6 slices
1 COLD egg
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of COLD milk or COLD water. Even bread flour will be variable. You will need to adjust the amount to get a soft and smooth dough.

Newbie Note – Stressing the COLD here because room temperature eggs, water, or butter will result in an inferior dough, problems rolling out, and breaking or cracking of the empanadas.

Cut the butter into smaller pieces before adding it to the flour.

Dough Instructions

I now use a food processor but you can do this by hand (how I started).

Mix the flour and salt in a food processor.
Add the butter a slice at a time and pulse.
Add the egg, pulse.
Add the liquid (water or milk) in small increments, and continue pulsing until a clumpy dough forms.


Empanada dough by hand.

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
Add the butter a slice at a time and mash it into the flour mixture with a fork or pasty fork.

pastry fork

Add the egg, scramble it up, then blend in with the fork.
Add the liquid (water or milk) in small increments, and continue using the fork, or a spoon, blend well until a clumpy dough forms. Try to NOT use your hot human hands to mix because it will melt the butter, and make a less flakie crust.

Nap time!  Once made, the dough needs to rest for about half an hour. You can split it now or later. If life happens wrap this dough well in plastic or a nice beeswax saturated food saver cloth (post coming) and store in the fridge for up to 2 days – maximum.

Newbie Note – You can store in the fridge but not in the freezer. It was a disaster the time I tossed it in the freezer for use later, even though it was well wrapped.

Putting Empanadas Together


Depending on the size of your surface – you will roll your dough out and cut the empanada crusts. Our board is almost commercial sized – 3 feet by 4 feet. I can just roll out the whole batch. Most folks have a smaller surface so divide the dough into 2 or 3 balls for rolling.


Lightly flour the surface. LIGHTLY. You don’t want tough flour-y crusts. Also, too much flour makes it harder to seal your empanadas.

Roll out the dough into a thin sheet about 1 /4 inch thick.


If you have a 4 or 6 inch crust cutter – great. Otherwise find a nice bowl with a thin rim and use that as your cutter. You can also cut around a saucer with a knife.

There are cheat-sheets for rolling on. If you find you like making these fruit-filled treats, then it is worth it to purchase one.

If you want to, you can make small individual balls with the dough and roll out each individual ball to a round shape, since it doesn’t need to be perfectly round.

Assembling the Empanadas

Assemble the empanadas by placing a generous spoonful or two of your filling on the middle of each empanada disc. The amount of filling will vary based on the size of the empanada, but in general, it’s easier to seal an empanada that isn’t overstuffed. Once you have made these a few times, it becomes easier to stuff them to the max and still seal them properly.

To seal the empanadas, fold the disc and seal the edges by pressing the dough with your fingers.

Fancy fluted edges are for your fifth or sixth foray into empanada making. Walk for a while before you try to race the hurdles.

Sealing might be tough at first.

Fingers generally work to seal but if not – separate one egg into two dishes and use the egg white here and the yolk later (see below). If you’re having a hard time sealing the edges, brush that egg white along the edges and it will act as a glue for the empanadas. You can use a fork to help seal the edges, just press the top of the fork against the edges. There are empanada molds that you can buy and will help seal the empanadas, but my kitchen has little space for specialty gadgets.

The spray bottle is for the water to seal the empanadas. The glass of wine is said to help entire process.

Place the empanadas on a cookie sheet. About 1 /2 inch apart. They will puff a little but not a lot.

Newbie Note – No need to butter the pan but parchment paper if you have it – makes clean up easy. If you butter the pan you can get burnt edges to your creation and that doesn’t look (or taste) so pretty.

For a nice golden finish on your empanadas, brush them with an egg wash. Make your egg wash with a whole egg whisked, or just an egg yolk plus a few drops of water whisked.

Now here’s my my real secret – refrigerate the entire tray for at least 30 minutes before baking. It seems to help them seal better and prevents the filling from leaking out. Best of all the crusts will be flakier and crisper.

If your oven is too hot – you will end up with spots where the butter inside the crust got a little too browned. They still tasted fine and we snarfed them down – but these were not for gifting.


Bake the empanadas in a pre-heated oven. I usually bake them at 375F-400F. Sorry but the temperature should vary based the size of the empanadas.
Smaller sized empanadas at 375F. The larger ones need a higher temperature – but not too high!
Baking time varies depending on your oven. Generally the time is 18 to 20 minutes. I had one batch take 25 minutes – guess they had been in the fridge too long. The empanadas will be ready once they are golden brown.

Need some Stocking Stuffers?

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Price is what you would pay on Amazon – only when you buy from us you get a signed copy – and you help support some local Southwest folks!
From the review:
“Honey is for more than desserts and this book can help! Using honey in cooking savory dishes helps engage all your taste buds and adds a layer of added flavor to everyday dishes – plus holiday fare.”

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