Make It This Weekend: Empanadas!

One of the ways we keep our spending low around here is to eat the vast majority of our meals at home. We do occasionally eat out, but it’s rare–in part because we’d rather spend on travel and in part because we live in the “country” as we say in the South. That means in the middle of nowhere. The nearest grocery store is 20 minutes away, for reference.


Therefore, I’ve become adept at making a lot of food. Since Mr. ThreeYear is Chilean, I occasionally make Chilean food. And my absolute favorite Chilean recipe is the meat empanada.

The Little Meat Pocket That Could

We make empanadas for everything–for dinner guests, to give as gifts, as dinner when we’re in a rush. Whip up a couple of sides and you’ve got a meal.  Freeze them, then pull them out and cook at the last minute (they last up to a year in the freezer). They make fabulous gifts.

The one downside is that they’re labor intensive. When you make them, it takes a while, and when you first start to make them, it takes time to get the hang of putting them together. So I generally make a bunch at a time, since once you’ve got your set up in place, you might as well make several batches.

While you can fill these baked empanadas with a variety of ingredients, I’m going to share arguably the recipe for the most classic filling today–pino. Pino is what Chileans call ground beef mixed with onions. It’s the basis for many classic Chilean dishes like pastel de choclo (recently a hit at our Multicultural Night) and pastel de papas.  

If you have a weekend afternoon handy, give these a try. You will not regret it!

Empanadas de pino (Chilean Beef empanadas)

Makes about 3 dozen

To make the pino:

  • 3 lbs fairly fatty ground beef (I use 80% or lower–the fat provides both flavor and moisture). We have used ground turkey and ground pork. Both work fine. Just use fattier versions of each meat.
  • 4-5 medium yellow onions (we like a lot of onions in our empanadas. I recommend using more than you think you should. You’ll be glad you did).
  • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1-2 healthy shakes of red pepper flakes, depending on your tolerance for heat (Chilean people, esp. From Santiago, contrary to popular belief, do not like spicy food. This is our Stateside addition).
  • Salt, to taste (you’ll need a good 1-2 tsp. or more). 
Gather your ingredients.

While you’re getting that stuff together, hard boil 3-4 eggs. If you don’t know how to hard boil an egg well (I didn’t), I recommend putting them in a small pot with water to cover most of the egg. Put in the eggs and let the water reach a boil. Let it boil for about 3-4 minutes, then turn off the heat. Let the pot sit for 10 more minutes on the burner and your eggs will be properly hard boiled.

Back to the pino:

Add 2 tbsp. cooking oil to a large pot. Finely chop your onions. I use this miraculous food processor that we just bought for $21 on Amazon. If you don’t have one, I recommend it. We use it almost every time we cook. 

Add them to the pot and start to saute them. Once they’re starting to turn clear, add the ground beef. This recipe will make a lot of empanadas, so just know that the browning process will take longer than you’re probably used to.

Brown the meat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. When the meat is browned, add salt, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Remove it from the burner and let it cool.
This is the finished pino–ground beef and onion.

To Make the Dough

You’ll need:

  • 6 cups of flour (about a kilo)
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 ½ cups Crisco (that’s vegetable shortening. You can use lard, instead, or Copha, if you live in Australia (you’ll need to melt it). Or Trex if you’re in the UK. I wouldn’t recommend all butter, as your crust will be too flaky. You need some kind of vegetable shortening, preferably.
  • 2 cups water

Once the pino is ready, it’s time to make the dough. Find a big bowl.

Add the flour to the bowl, then the salt. Next, incorporate the shortening. If it’s in solid form, add it in chunks to the flour and squish in your hands to incorporate. If it’s melted, make a little well in the flour and pour in. Then stir to incorporate. Once the flour and shortening are mixed, add the 2 cups of water. Stir everything until you get a doughy consistency. At this point, you can plop the dough ball on a floured surface and knead it a bit. Now, separate it into golf-ball sized circles.

The finished empanada dough

Assembling the Empanadas

Once you have the dough and pino, line up your pino, dough balls, raisins, hard boiled egg (cut up into small pieces), and olives. Roll out the dough to make a round disk about the size of a small dinner plate. Fill with one tablespoon filling, one piece of egg, a couple of raisins, and an olive (all of this goes in the middle of the circle).

Now, pull the top of the dough over, so you have a half circle, and fold the bottom edges over the top edges, twisting to close. You could also pinch with the tines of a fork to seal.

Filling your empanadas

Once your empanada is filled and sealed, set it on a greased baking sheet. Brush the tops with an egg yolk so they’ll be golden brown.

Bake for 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until the empanadas are golden.

Ready to
Empanadas, ready to bake!

Alternately, you can stick the baking sheet in the freezer for 3 hours so that the empanadas freeze, then slide them into a Ziploc bag. They’ll keep in the freezer for months, and you can pull them out, put them on a baking dish, and cook on 350 degrees F for 60 minutes or so.

There you have it! If you make them, let me know how they turn out!!

Happy weekend!

Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

4 thoughts on “Make It This Weekend: Empanadas!”

  1. Yum!

    I love empanadas. There’s this restaurant in New York City called “Empanada Mama” that is great inspiration for new fillings. Their dessert one “cheese and caramel” is surprisingly good.

    Homemade curry puffs are probably my favorite — once you know how to do a basic “fried dough with filling inside” thing, anything is possible, really.

    1. That sounds amazing! I am putting it on my list for next time I visit. And yes, I totally agree–fried dough with pretty much anything in it is a winner in my book!

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