A Taste of South America at Home: Argentinian Beef Empanadas

The empanada (meaning “bread-wrapped”) is a staple food across South America. It’s likely the first renditions appeared in the kitchens of immigrants from northern Spain in the 16thC. Follow this mouthwatering recipe, straight from the kitchen one of our local guides in Argentina, Mini Cambiasso, to make the perfect empanada.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

For the dough (makes 20 empanadas)

4 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter (chilled)
¾ cups chilled lard or vegetable shortening
¾ to 1 cup of water
2 egg yolks
Parchment paper or silicone baking mat and a baking sheet

For the filling

Olive oil to saute vegetables
1 kg (2.2 lbs) minced or chopped meat (roast beef or ground beef)
1 yellow onion
2 green onions (use the green part only)
1 red bell pepper
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 potato blanched and diced
1 teaspoon pepper or paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Red wine or water to pour into the filling
1 egg yolk (to brush over the empanadas before baking)

Preparing the dough

Sift the flour into a bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and the sugar. Then, blend the butter and shortening (or lard) into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, or with two knives, until fairly well blended.

Whisk egg yolks with ¾ cups water. Stir in a ½ cup of the water-egg mixture, a little bit at a time, until the dough starts to come together smoothly. Keep kneading the dough, adding more of the water-egg mixture as needed (you may need a few tablespoons extra of water), until the dough is smooth. The dough will seem a bit saggy until it has thoroughly chilled. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about one hour.

When ready to use, the dough should be soft and smooth, not elastic. If you poke a hole in the dough with your finger, the indentation should remain. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into discs 10 cm (3.94 inches) in diameter and 1 mm (0.0394 inches) thick.

How to Make the Filling

Dice all ingredients very small and blanch the potato. Bring your dough out to let it rise for 15 minutes.

Sauté the onion then add the red bell pepper, salt & pepper. Add the meat and let it turn from red to brown.
Add the potato, paprika, cumin, sugar (feel free to add more of each to taste). Pour in some wine or water to maintain moisture in the filling.1.4.

Once the ingredients come together and the meat is cooked, add the green onion (only the green part) and hard-boiled eggs (chopped beforehand). Let the mixture cool (you can put it in the fridge to make it faster).

How to make the empanada

1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C)

2. Take your dough disc in one hand and add in 2 spoonfuls of filling into the center of the disc.

3. Use your fingers or a brush to brush water around half the outer edge of each disc.

4. Fold the disc over the filling and pinch the edges to seal it.

5. Using the back of a fork you can press down and crimp the edges of the border.

6. Place your empanada on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. You should be able to fit 10-12 empanadas on each tray.

7. Brush the egg yolk generously over all the empanadas.

8. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown (rotate your tray halfway through for more even baking).

Some more expert tips to make sure your empanadas turn out perfect.

1. You can make the filling and the dough the day before and keep it in the fridge covered in foil

2. Let the filling cool before putting it into the dough

3. You can freeze the unbaked empanadas up to 3 months ahead of time. Once you have filled and sealed the empanadas, freeze them on the baking sheet for 25 minutes. Then transfer them into a freezer ziplock bag and keep frozen until you are ready to enjoy.

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