The essence of an empanada is simplicity. It directly translates from the Spanish, Galician, and Portuguese verb empanar, meaning “to wrap in bread.” Despite the simplicity of this stuffed, golden-crusted pastry, it’s considered to be a culturally versatile dish–varying in size, shape, filling, dough, and cooking method (depending on the geographic location in which it’s being prepared). Using the different regions of Latin and South America as a template, the colorful variety of empanada combinations can be broken down into a handful of popular and traditional styles.
Fried Corn Flour Empanadas
Venezuela – In Venezuela, it is customary to stuff various combinations of gooey goodness into corn flour fried pockets. One common recipe uses the simple ingredients of white cheese and black beans. Aptly called the dominó, these black and white empanadas make for a perfect snack or appetizer. Pabellón is the national dish of Venezuela and pabellón filling is also very popular. It includes shredded beef, black beans, peppers and fried sweet plantains.
Colombia – The wide range of Colombian empanada recipes generally contain some combination of beef, chicken, pork, onions, peppers, potatoes, cheese, egg, and peas. The common thread is that they are typically corn flour based, fried to crispy brown perfection, and served with spicy aji pepper sauce (onions, cilantro, lime, vinegar). Also famous for their dessert empanadas, a few classics include rice pudding empanadas (empanadas de arroz con leche) and guava paste and cheese empanadas (empanadas de bocadillo con queso).
Belize– Known to Belizeans as panades, these corn dough empanadas are usually fried and filled with red or black beans, chicken, or fish and served with onion, pepper, and cabbage salsa. Coconut shrimp curry is a flavorful favorite combination. Belizean panades are typically lighter, though no less tasty!
Fried Yucca and Plantain Empanadas
Ecuador – Empanadas de verde are a specialty along the Ecuadorian coastal regions. Commonly fried, the dough is made from unripe plantains and engulfs a variety of cheese, ground meat, or seafood. Occasionally recipes call for adding ground peanuts or peanut butter to the dough and/or the filling!
Dominican Republic – Dominican yucca empanadas are called catibias. Typically packed with savory fillings like pork, chicken, beef, and cheese, tomatoes, and potatoes; the starchiness of the yucca crisps nicely when deep-fried.
El Salvador – Sweet plantains (platanos maduros) can be used both for a filling and for dough. In El Salvador they are used for the dough in a dessert-like empanada (empanadas de platano) that is stuffed with red beans and sweet-custard like milk, fried and sprinkled with sugar.
Baked (Salta–style) Wheat Flour Empanadas
Argentina – Known for its cattle-raising regions, Argentine empanadas usually incorporate animal fat and meat into the outer wheat dough shell. Most commonly baked (unless in Buenos Aires), a typical Argentine empanada may consist of ground beef, onions, potato, hard-boiled eggs, cumin, and paprika.
Chile – Like Argentina, the baked beef and onion combination is popular (empanadas de pino). However, with 2,647 miles of coastline, this country is famous for empanadas of the seafood variety. The camaron y queso (shrimp and cheese) empanada is a favorite among many. Mussels and clams are also common fillings.
Bolivia– Salteñas are the Bolivian bread and butter of empanadas. Usually eaten for breakfast, Salteñas consist of sweet pastry dough with a savory meat, egg, and vegetable (pea and potato) stew filling. The broth is achieved by a gelatin that solidifies when refrigerated, and then melts again into molten goodness when baked.
Experience the Crave!
If you’re looking for the perfect place to experience Latin American empanadas, look no further than Empanada Loca. Once you’ve tried one of our handmade empanadas, you’ll be experiencing the crave in no time.