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Best dough for empanadas

I love empanadas and like to serve them to company in the afternoon.
I used to make them quite often but haven't done it in awhile. The last time I made them it took me forever and was quite a hassle. Is there a hassle free way to make empanadas and what is your favorite dough? The easier the better.
I won't even get into fillings because there are endless variations and it's a matter of preference as well. I'll quote Cole Porter here and say "Anything Goes".
Thanks in advance.

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  1. P Macias,

    I'm going to monintor this thread! I'm cooking for my baby shower, and mini empanadas sound like a great idea! Two recipes I have use pastry pie dough, one with lard. Lard-based pastry dough makes sense to me, but I wonder if there is a more "foolproof" version w/ egg that might be a bit sturdier for hand eating?

    Interested in chowhounders ideas....


    2 Replies
    1. re: sljones

      I've always made them with a calzone dough, which I make from memory with no recipe - basically an olive-oil pizza dough with some egg for added elasticity. That is more similar to how Chileans make them - Argentineans tend to make them with a flakier pastry-type dough.

      I buy the frozen dough rounds for the latter now, as there is an Argentine butcher's and grocery round the corner from me (see Québec board) - they are made with vegetable margarine, not butter or lard. I'm sure there are lard, suet and butter versions, but both kosher and vegetarian empanadas do exist, so...

      1. re: lagatta

        Hi Lagatta,
        I know it was a couple of years ago, but you mention an Argentine butcher where you can get frozen empanada dough...

        I am from Montreal...do you have the details.

    2. Here is an amazing and simple recipe for plantain empanadas - the result is just slightly sweet.

      3 large yellow ripe plantains (about 2 lbs.)
      1 cup flour
      3/4 teaspoon salt

      cut the ends off the unpeeled plantains. make a shallow incision down their length, then cut crosswise in half. bake on a sheet for about 40 minutes at 350. remove, peel and release steam and cool. place in food processor and puree. add flour and salt.

      2 Replies
      1. re: howchow

        you use yellow plantains? I want to do this, but wasn't sure if you used it when they are yellow, or when they are at their soft sweet, ripe stage, when they are nearly black. Just want to clarify...

        1. re: howchow

          yellow ripe (yellow with some black spots that feel slightly soft but not black and mushy-soft). one other thing is that these empanadas should be deep fried not baked - they can also be fried and then reheated later. good luck.

        2. My pal from Argentina is a fantastic cook. She buys premade frozen empanada dough imported from Argentina and tells me that most Argentines use the prefab stuff. It's good quality and saves a lot of time. Strangely (in Ann Arbor, MI) the local Mediterranean market has a good selection of Argentine groceries. Go figure...

          1 Reply
          1. re: chococat

            Hi, I know this post about empanada dough is ancient, but I just moved to AA recently and was wondering what Mediterranean market you were referring to? Thanks!

          2. Good ones do take quite a bit of effort to make what with the cooking the filling, cooling, filling the empanada and cooking the whole thinng, but one shortcut you can definitely use is the premade frozen dough. The brand I've seen around the most is La Saltena. There are two different kinds though (one for frying and one for baking) so make sure you get whichever one is appropriate.

            1 Reply
            1. re: xtina

              I've been using the La Salteña shells (para el horno) for the past few years and highly recommend them. They're made with very few and simple ingredients (real butter!). I can find them (in the freezer section) at some of my favorite Latino markets for under $3 (15 shells in a package) - which for me often turns out to be cheaper than buying the butter and flour for a short pastry.
              I usually cut the whole stack of them in half while they're still frozen to make empanaditas.

            2. I grew up eating homemade empanadas and have got to say that the pre-fab pastry disks vary a great deal in quality, and are definately not as good as homemade dough. But, that said, they are very convenient and I use them myself most of the time, and leave the homemade version to my tia at home. It depends on if you are making fried or baked empanadas, too. I have never found pre-made dough that I like for baked empanadas (I don't really like any of the argentine brands that we get in the U.S.), and think you are really better of making this yourself. But for fried ones, the best brand I've found is actually from Brazil. I don't remember the brand right now, but it comes in a red package. I made some just a few days ago and froze the leftovers. If you check my blog in a week or so (by this wednesday) I should have some pictures posted. http://dinner-bell.blogspot.com

              1. My friend from Uruguay does spicy salmon empanadas that are so good I'm going to take a crack at them myself. Her instructions: Mission brand carb-balanced flour tortillas. Punch a circle with a plastic lid. Her filling is flaked poached salmon, lightly sauteed onion, minced yellow and red bell pepper, garlic, and red curry. Crimp, egg wash. Cookie sheet, short bake, doesn't turn them. My first effort will surely be one of those learning, fall-on-your sword experiences, but if I can eventually replicate hers I'll be a better person.

                1. This dough has never let me down...it's light and flaky and so easy to make!

                  2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
                  1 1/2 teaspoons salt
                  1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
                  1 large egg
                  1/3 cup ice water
                  1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

                  Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
                  Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)

                  Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

                  Cooks' note:
                  Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: lissah

                    Thank you all for your suggestions. I've seen the frozen doughs but never tried them. But I guess now that my family has grown I can maybe take a shortcut. Issah's dough is the closest to what I've always made and I do chill it a couple of hours and it's always good. I bake instead of fry because the fillings are more than enough calories, as a rule. I am going to cruise the Latino markets and experiment a little. I love the pizza dough suggestion! Guess I'll never stop playing with my food.

                    1. re: P Macias

                      You'll probably have better luck with a calzone dough (just means adding an egg and/or a bit more olive oil to improve elasticity) than with standard pizza dough. And roll it very fine - the dough shouldn't be too heavy on an empanada. I wouldn't fry them either - it really makes them too rich, and baked ones are plenty tasty.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        Personally I prefer fried empanadas to baked ones. The baked ones are often too doughy and dry or, if made with pastry crust, too greasy and flaky. I only really like the baked empanadas I've had in argentina which have a thin and kind of chewy crust.

                        1. re: dinnerbell

                          You should take a pilgrimage to Salta and see how real baked empanadas are done!

                          1. re: fame da lupo

                            Or Tarija, Bolivia, where empanadas are known as "saltenas".

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Saltenas are the small, baked style of empanada originating from Salta, Argentina, which then became popular all over Bolivia and even Peru. They are known as saltenas in Argentina, differentiating them from the fried and much larger Tucuman style empanada. You can find both styles in the Los Angeles area. The Empanada Factory in Venice (on the boardwalk) makes saltenas, and for Tucuman style empanadas there is an Argentine restaurant (Empanada's Place) at the corner of Venice and Sawtelle in Culver City. Both are excellent. The latter has Havanna alfajores for sale (yum).

                              1. re: fame da lupo

                                Sundays were the day for saltenas in Tarija, Bolivia, when I lived there in the 70s. The Tarija valley is famous for fruit, grapes, wines. The city for its flowers and, of course, the beauty of its women. Mid-mornings on Sundays, the two or three bakeries on the main plaza would turn out saltenas, with the aroma filling the area. People would stop in to eat a couple, stroll around the plaza. Groups of guys would hang out with the girls. Back then, one could get their picture taken in the plaza, old camera and then watercolored.

                      2. re: P Macias

                        Lissah's dough is the one I use for my standard pie pastry. I found the recipe amost 30 years ago in the Family Circle (OK) ... titled "No-Fail Pie Crust".

                        Indeed, I've never had a problem with it ... even re-rolling. Still flakey!

                      3. re: lissah

                        Is this an argentinean reciepie? My M-I-L uses La Saltena.... I remember reading the label, and they have lard.... If someone knows of a brand of argentinean empanada dough, that doesn't have lard... please let me know.... it would help me preserve my relationship with my MIL! (For years, she's been mad at me that I won't eat her empanadas!)

                        1. re: lissah

                          I used your recipe last weekend to try my hand at making empanadas for the first time to take to an Argentinian Malbec tasting and dinner. I'm not much of a baker and don't handle pastry much so this was a learning experience all round. My flour was so old and dry, I needed to use a half-cup of water, rather than just 1/3, and even then it was still a little drier than I supect it should be. I let it rest for 2 hours in the fridge after forming it into a thick rectangle. Then I used a dough scraper to cut it into 16 pieces, and rolled each of them into a ball and then used a rolling pin to flatten into 4" circles making them thinner on the edges. The first ones I baked, I just crimped the edges with the tines of a fork. Every one of them leaked. So for the rest of them, I wet my finger with some water and used that to glue the ends of the semicircle together, then folded up and crimped the edges. No leakers. Oh, I brushed them with an egg wash and baked for about 20 minutes at 375 degees.

                          For the filling, I made a thick bechamel sauce (2T flour, 2T butter, 1 c whole milk, lots of nutmeg and black pepper), and mixed it with 16 oz can of corn niblets (drained) and 1/4 lb grana padana grated. I'd had empanadas de humita at a local Argentine grill and wanted to try to duplicate the taste, basically Alfredo sauce studded with corn. Even with canned corn rather than fresh in the off-season, I was happy with the result, as were the dinner guests.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Oops, forgot to say that the filling also had one small onion, diced and cooked in butter until soft but not browned.

                            And for a little humor, "How to Make Las Empanadas Argentinas"

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Spent another weekend making empanadas, this time with a friend and in the giant style of Galicia. He'd made the raised, yeasted doughs in advance, using Penelope Casa's recipes. The one that rises overnight and is flavored with oil/lard used to cook savories was fantastic. The other one was no slouch either. My favorite of the fillings was fresh clams, steamed in white wine, then removed from the shell and mixed with sofrito. Tuna was nice too, made with steamed ahi tuna steaks, then broken up and blended with sofrito. But the most popoular filling was pork-based, chunks of pork belly and trotter, plus the deep-fried pieces of skin, braised in red wine and blended with sofrito.

                            2. re: lissah

                              Do you bake or fry your empanad dough recipe? which way is best? I made empanada dough yesterday from a recipe and baked it... it came out hard & bland. I think I should have fried?

                              1. re: fsolivan

                                A hard empanada baked would be a hard empanada fried. Both should be tender and relatively light.

                            3. Goya brand has both a flour and cornmeal empanada dough. It's quite good. I had a empanada made from a women from chile. I still dream about it...just simply amazing. The secret of hers is that she will only make a dough made with "La Venezolona" brand maize. If she cannot find it she will grind her own fresh corn! If you are able to find it I highly reccomend that you give it a try. I have only seen it online in 50lb bags and am seriously considering just going for it. Yeah ..it was that good!

                              1. My neighbor is Argentine, so you can think Señora Nuestra for this recipe!

                                Empanadas Pastry

                                4 c. flour
                                2 tsp. baking powder
                                1 tsp. salt
                                1 1/2 c. lard or 3/4 c. each lard and butter
                                (as a FYI, over the weekend, I noticed a tub of lard for sale in the grocery section of the Super Wal-Mart.)

                                Pastry Directions:

                                Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Cut the fat into small pieces and rub into the flour with your fingertips to form a course meal. Mix with cold water until the dough is stiff, but not dry. Gather the dough into a ball, cover it with waxed paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll the dough our onto a floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut it into 16 circles that are 4 to 5 inches in diameter, using a bowl as a guide. Cover and keep cool until ready to use.

                                Assembly Directions:

                                Spoon 2 tablespoons (+/-) of your filling into the center of each pastry, leaving 1/4 inch around the edges.Moisten the edges of the pastry with a beaten egg and then fold the pastry over to make a turnover, pressing the edges firmly. Curve the turnover slightly to make it more of a crescent shape, then turn about 1/4 inch of the pastry back over itself, pinching it between your thumbs and forefinger to form a rope-like pattern around the edges. Prick the tops of the turnovers several times with fork-tines and brush with the remaining egg mixture.

                                The empanadas are now ready to be baked, or may be frozen. If frozen, let them thaw for 3 hours at room temperature before baking.

                                Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the empanadas on a greased cookie sheet, at least 2" apart. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for 30 more minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Tehama

                                  I'm pleased with all the choices! I love the Arg. recipe, thank you, so much! I am definitely going to try that one. As for the cornmeal, wow, fifty pounds would outlive me but it sounds divine. Saving fillings for another post. Thanks, everyone.

                                  1. re: Tehama

                                    Lard recipe does not work!

                                    Tried Lissah's recipe far above and it worked much better for the dough. Empanadas turned out great!

                                    1. re: Tehama

                                      I used this recipe and I absolutely love it. I am from Mexico and this is by far the best recipe for baked empanadas. thank you for sharing it!!!

                                    2. This is not a recipe, but a product that I discovered, by accident, at a hispanic grocery store. First, let me explain how I found it; I was wandering around looking at the meat, and ther ewas a young woman there making these little mini empanadas. She spoke no english and I speak only a small bit of spanish, so instead of telling me how to do it, she demonstrated it. She mixed the dough, rolled in a ball, flattened it onto a circle. She then put a bit of refried beans (Costenos?) and a dollop of white cheese (surprisingly mozzarella), folded over, pinched the ends and dropped into a small deep fat fryer. In a minute or two she pulled them out and they were very tasty!

                                      Now, this is the product: http://mexicanfood.about.com/gi/dynam...

                                      Please tell me if this is a good thing to use. I also have some goya masa. Is that good as well? Just learning about this so any help would be appreciated.

                                      1. 1. I have just gone through the hassle of trying all kinds of recipes for the dough and I didn't have any success until I finally ordered online. I've heard that La Salteña shells (Criollas para Horno) is the preferred frozen shell in Argentina and by Argentinean cooks in the US. They're made with very few and simple ingredients (real butter!). You might find them (in the freezer section) at Latino markets for under $3 (12 shells in a package) - which for can be cheaper than buying the butter and flour for a short pastry. You can also buy them online at http://www.regionalesmarket.com/en/ve...

                                        1. Mexicans make them with corn meal masa (fresh if you can get) if not, Maseca prepared for tortillas (on the bag of flour). Use a tortilla press lined with a plastic bag (think produce bag from supermarket). Press them to tortilla thickness, fill with desired filling and seal using tines of a fork..

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: hankstramm

                                            Colombian style uses masa para arepas, aka Masarepa. It's precooked but not nixtamalized. Comes in yellow and white. No, you cannot substitute fine corn meal. My family uses the tortilla press method handstramm describes. Crunchy.

                                          2. Try Tyler Florence's recipe on Foodnetwork.com. His filings make more than enough for the dough and I found myself making 2x the dough. Potato chorizo ones were great. Banana chocolate, not so.

                                            1. I read the thread and so far you got advice for fried empanadas done with all purpose flour, fried empanadas done with cornmeal (Colombian/Venezuelan style), baked empanadas from Argentina, empanadas from Spain ....and their many permutations all mixed in. I think it would be useful if people mentioned to which style of empanada the advice applies.
                                              One empanada style I didn't see is for the ones done with green plantains.
                                              These empanadas are a bit hard to make (because the dought tends to want to fall apart) but they're delicious. This is probably the only kind of empanada which I would buy pre-made (they sell them frozen in Ecuador though I haven't seen them in the States) I don't like the pre-made dough circles because because what you save in time you loose in flavor.

                                              1. I'm getting down to the wire and can't find premade empanda dough in my area. I have one more stop planned but in a pinch would pie dough work? or is it really just better for me to bite the bullet and make the dough myself? Just how different is pie dough vs.empanada dough?

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: poached

                                                  Try this empanada dough, it's pretty forgiving

                                                  2 Cups A.P. flour
                                                  1/2 tsp Baking Powder
                                                  3 Tbls Sugar
                                                  3/4 Cup butter, unsalted, cut into small cubes
                                                  1/2 C heavy cream

                                                  Whisk flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and mix just until combined. Turn out onto a very lightly floured work surface and knead for a couple of minutes. Flatten into a disk, wrap and chill for at least a half an hour. When ready to use, simply roll and cut. The scrapes can be re-rolled. This is a very pliable dough and the finished results surprisingly flakey.

                                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                                    I whimped out on making the dough myself and time get the better of me (but I'll be trying your recipe next time!) The Pie dough worked GREAT! The flavor was a little different but when I rolled it extra thin it worked very well. Since I was doing thanksgiving flavors for the fillings the combo was good in the end. So in a pinch yes you can use pie dough!