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All About Argentinian Empanadas: Origins, Recipe, Tips and Tricks for The Most Perfect Empanada

argentinian empanadas

Looking for the best Argentinian empanadas without a plane flight in between? Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

Hi there! This is Cami, an Argentinean writing about one of the best wonders that her gastronomy has to offer to the world. 

Here we will cover everything from the secrets about its origin in the region, to the best fillings ranked by Argentines, to all the key tips and tricks to achieve the perfect ending to the traditional recipe (the one that passes from hand to hand in Argentina).

So save this post, because once you discover the goodness of this guide for yourself, your cravings for authentic Argentinian empanadas will become more and more frequent.

When it comes to Argentinian food, after its famous parrillada and asados come Argentinian empanadas. There is no nook and cranny in the world that hasn’t tasted or at least heard of this traditional dish from the south of the world. 

But also the immense success of empanadas throughout Argentina itself goes hand in hand with the popular traditions surrounding them. Because Argentinian empanadas are not only pastries filled with diverse and tasty bits of heaven… 

Empanadas are a meeting ritual among friends, they are the key dish to decide whether or not to return to a restaurant, they are the recipe that is perfected from generation to generation, they are the lifesaver when you are lazy to cook, they are the comfort food on a blue day. 

Empanadas are pastries filled to the taste and measure of each day, each hour, each diner. They are the most delicious emblem of Argentinian culture.

But first things first. Where do the world famous Argentinian empanadas come from? Whence such communal joy turned into food?

The first references to stuffed pastries or breads date back 4,000 years. In their beginnings they were a common food of shepherds and travelers who placed stews inside breads as a way of transporting, preserving and easily consuming food on their long marches. 

With the expansion and apogee of the Persian Empire, some 2,500 years ago, these stuffed dumplings reached India to the East and Greece to the West. The oldest versions of Argentine empanadas that still survive to this day must be the fatay, a classic of Arab cuisine, originally prepared with sheep meat and bulgur wheat.

As time went by, the stuffed breads crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and settled in Spain. And that is where the famous Galician empanada, the direct ancestor of Argentinian empanadas, was born.

The book La comida en la historia argentina (Food in Argentine history) by historian Daniel Balmaceda takes up the idea that the empanada arrived in Argentina thanks to Spanish immigrants. In fact, he argues that in 1810 there were already empanada sellers in the territory of Rio de la Plata. They were offered by street sellers who prepared them in their homes and sold them in the main square. 

At that time, “the street sale of Argentinian empanadas was divided in two. On the one hand, the Spaniards: they offered their product fresh, but cold. The Italians from the south, on the other hand, sold the empanadas hot, although it was the way to disguise the lack of freshness. Because, in reality, they were reheated”.

Due to the great offer, their low cost and the ease of eating them anywhere, many workers of the time started to buy them before each working day and so they took the first step to create a new tradition.

Today, Argentinian empanadas bring out the best of both worlds: the freshness of Spanish empanadillas but the comfort of Italian warmth. All this mixed with local ingredients to reach its perfect final state. Each region of Argentina has perfected the recipe over time and, today, the most sought-after empanadas in the world are the Argentine empanadas.

Nowadays there is a great variety of empanadas in Argentinian cuisine, but among the most traditional ones, known as empanadas criollas, there are a couple that deserve a prominent place in this tribute guide…

Empanadas tucumanas: These historic beef empanadas are traditionally made with beef, eggs and onions. In Argentina, if a place offers empanadas tucumanas, it has a trust seal right from the start.

Empanadas salteñas: These delicacies from the north of Argentina add potato to the previous recipe. It may not seem like much, just a detail, but I swear it makes a big and delicious difference.

Empanadas catamarqueñas: These ones add some raisins to the mix. These are the most controversial of them all, but for those of us who love sweet and sour, I swear it is the best option.

These three traditional fillings are all from the north of Argentina (Tucumán, Salta and Catamarca), but fortunately they have reached every corner of the country. And then, of course, there are the other timeless classics: ham and cheese empanadas, vegetable empanadas and the famous Argentinian chicken empanadas. 

The type of cooking also varies: they can be fried or baked. That is the unique plus of Argentinian empanadas: their options are infinite. There is truly a special empanada for every preference, for every taste.

And now, the moment of truth. What we have all been waiting for. The reason why we have gathered here: the best and most authentic Argentinian empanadas recipe. 

To be faithful to the search for the authentic, we will go with the Argentinian beef empanadas recipe. Without a doubt, these are not only the best ranked empanadas worldwide but also the most common in every Argentinean home. 

Keep in mind that this recipe is for a dozen empanadas. It may seem like a lot, but the fun of this dish lies in the sharing. Generally, this quantity is suitable for serving approximately 4-6 people as a snack or appetizer, or 2-3 people as a main course, depending on appetite and serving size preferences.

(And in case it’s a me time night with the best of Argentinean food on the menu, you won’t regret it if you have a couple of empanadas left over for the next day, believe me.)

Ingredients for Dough
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup cold water
Ingredients for Filling
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup green olives, pitted and sliced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)
  • 1 cup potatoes, boiled and diced (optional)
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
Instructions for Dough
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cold water. Gradually add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until a dough forms.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Instructions for Filling
  1. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened.
  2. Add the ground beef, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook until the beef is browned, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.
  3. Stir in the olives, hard-boiled eggs, raisins (if using), and potatoes (if using). Remove from heat and let cool.
Assembly and Baking
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Roll out the dough on a floured surface to ⅛-inch thickness. Cut out circles using a round cutter.
  2. Place a spoonful of the beef filling in the center of each dough circle. Fold the dough over the filling to form a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal.
  3. Place the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with egg wash.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot and enjoy!

Small but mighty tip: Make lots of empanadas and freeze them for later. You’ll want to come back for more very soon. 

Empanadas de Carne in Atlanta GA - Argentinian empanadas

Warning: Once you taste the flavor of tradition, the flavor of authentic homemade Argentinian empanadas, your cravings will become more and more frequent. 

But now, recipe in hand, you can make your bellies happy every time. Whether it’s for a night of Netflix and chill with your new favorite comfort food or to treat your guests to authentic Latin American food on a Saturday night, Argentine empanadas will make your nights.

However, we know that we are not always in the mood to cook. It may be the best recipe in the world, but sometimes we just want a special night out to treat ourselves. 

And for that, for the best Argentinian empanadas near you, the best thing to do is to go to a South American restaurant. The best of Argentinian food, parrilladas and the one and only Argentinian empanadas, awaits you. 

Food in Argentina is very important when it comes to community. It is the perfect excuse to get together every Sunday at noon at grandma’s house or to share a movie and dinner with friends and special ones. 

The best get-togethers with friends are those that surround a few dozen empanadas and a few beers.

Argentinian empanadas are a whole culture and a set of traditions that forge community into food. They’re affordable, hearty and, above all, incredibly delicious and versatile. So just embrace this tradition and enjoy all the goodness that Argentine empanadas have to offer. 

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