How to Make Perfect Empanada Dough

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The key to perfect empanada dough is to find the balance between a dough that is sturdy enough to hold the filling without breaking or falling apart while still being delicious. My recipe strikes that perfect balance and is easy to make!

Upclose picture of four baked empanadas.



I just discovered the culinary joy that is empanadas. I cannot believe I have lived this long and had never heard of an empanada until Maria Empanada opened near my home. I am now completely obsessed with this little pocket that can be filled with so many amazing flavors.

What is an Empanada?

Empanada comes from the Spanish word empanar, which means to coat or wrap in bread. The recipes are closely guarded family secrets and can vary from household to household. However, all recipes have one thing in common: the dough is rolled out, filled, and then folded into a half-moon shape and baked or fried.

Nine baked empanadas on a plate.

Empanada Dough

In researching how to make an empanada, I came across many recipes similar to pie dough. They were the same as basic pie dough. The result was a dry and flaky empanada, where the flavor of the dough was stronger than the filling. I did not like the result and wished for a dough closer to the dough at Maria Empanada.

I kept going back to the drawing board. I researched different fillings and watched interviews with the owner of Maria Empanada to determine why her empanada shell was different. The best I could tell was that she incorporated margarine and baking powder while removing vinegar from her recipe. This seemed to be very different from any other empanada recipe.

It took a few tries, but I developed a dough recipe that forms a nice shell, has a bit of a crunch, and complements any empanada filling. This dough differs from Maria’s because I added sugar and warm milk. However, I felt it was just perfect, and I am very excited by how it tastes and holds up against soggy bottoms.:)

Four finished pockets on a plate.

Instructions

First, gather all your ingredients. You will probably already have most of them in your kitchen.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • I large egg (optional)
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  1. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar using a whisk. These are your dry ingredients.
  2. Add the margarine to your dry ingredients and use your fingertips or a pastry cutter; mix until the flour mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  3. Add the egg yolk and the milk in small amounts until the dough forms. Pat dough into a round disk.
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/8 an inch thickness. Cut the dough into equal pieces in a circle. The size of your empanada depends on personal preference and what you are cooking. Here is the general rule of thumb I use when making empanadas.
    • Appetizer – use a pastry mat or a bowl and cut the dough into 6-inch rounds.
    • Main Dish – use a pastry mat or a plate and cut the dough into 8-inch rounds.
    • Dessert – use a drinking glass to cut about 3-inch rounds.
  6. Fill the empanada with the desired filling/s.
  7. Fold in half and pinch into shape. For a traditional look, you can press your fork into the dough, where you just pinched the dough together. Place on a baking sheet.
  8. For a golden, shiny look, brush the top of the dough with a beaten egg. (Egg wash)
  9. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Expert Tips to Make the Perfect Dough

TipDescription
Cut the dough into uniform circles.Use an empanada press, cookie cutter, or a small bowl to cut the dough into desired-sized circles. This will help ensure that your empanadas are uniform in size and shape.
Don’t overwork the dough.Overworking the dough can make it tough and chewy. Mix the dough until it comes together, then knead it gently until it is smooth and pliable.
Carefully fill the empanadas.Seal the edges well.
Keep your ingredients cold.Empanada dough is similar to pastry dough. The key to getting it just right is to keep your ingredients cold. This includes not overworking them with your hands or fully incorporating the butter into the dough.
Roll the dough to the right thickness.Empanada dough should be rolled out to about 1/8 inch thickness. If the dough is too thin, it will tear or break when you fold it around the filling. If it’s too thick, the crust will be doughy and heavy.
Seal the edges.Use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edges of the empanadas together, sealing in the filling. Ensure the edges are tightly sealed, or the filling may leak out during baking.


Empanada Filling Ideas

There are countless options to make empanada fillings, which can be tailored to suit individual tastes and preferences. The fillings can range from savory to sweet and can be made with various meats, vegetables, cheeses, and fruits.

Empanada filling can also be adapted to suit different dietary restrictions and preferences. For example, vegetarians can enjoy fillings made with mushrooms, cheese, and vegetables, while vegans can use tofu, lentils, or sweet potatoes as a base. Those on a gluten-free diet can make empanada dough with alternative flour, such as almond or chickpea flour. Endless variations can be created by combining different ingredients and seasonings, and here are a few ideas to get you started.

CategoryFilling Ideas
AppetizersBeef and cheese, chicken and cheese, spinach and feta, spinach and ricotta, shrimp and cheese.
BreakfastBacon and egg, ham and cheese, sausage and egg, potato and egg, chorizo and egg.
DessertBlack bean and corn, cheese and onion, mushroom and onion, roasted vegetables, spinach, and cheese.
Main MealsBeef and potato, chicken and potato, pork and apple, spinach and mushroom, vegetable and black bean.
VegetarianBlack bean and corn, cheese, onion, mushroom and onion, roasted vegetables, spinach, and cheese.
VeganBlack bean and sweet potato, lentil and vegetable, mushroom and spinach, potato and onion, vegetable and tofu.

Flavors from Around the World

The fun thing about empanadas is you are not limited to the flavor of one region. You can have fun and fill these delicious pockets with various flavors worldwide. My favorite is making a samosa empanada filled with potatoes and peas. Here are just a few flavor ideas from around the world.

CountryFilling Ideas
ArgentinaBeef and onion, ham and cheese, spinach and ricotta, tuna and tomato
BrazilChickpea and potato, lamb and onion, paneer and spinach, potato and pea
ChileChicken and cheese, corn and cheese, seafood and cheese, squash and onion
ColombiaBeef and potato, chicken and potato, pork and chorizo, plantain and cheese
CubaBeef and tomato, chicken and peppers, ham and cheese, picadillo (ground beef with raisins and olives)
IndiaChicken and shiitake mushrooms, pork and cabbage, shrimp and vegetables, teriyaki chicken
JapanChorizo and potato, ham and cheese, seafood and tomato, spinach and chickpea
Middle EastBeef and eggplant, lamb and feta, spinach and feta, za’atar chicken
MexicoChicken and green chiles, pork and pineapple, potato and chorizo, refried beans and cheese
SpainChorizo and potato, ham and cheese, seafood and tomato, spinach, and chickpea
United StatesBBQ pulled pork, buffalo chicken, cheeseburger, green chile mac and cheese, red chile Frito pie


Inside of a baked pocket that is filled with corn and black beans.

Make-Ahead and Storing

Refrigerator Instructions: Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap for up to two days.

Freezer Instructions: Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag for up to three months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and roll into shape the next day.

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Empanadas on a plate.

How to Make Perfect Empanada Dough

How to make the perfect empanada dough that can hold all of your fillings, but not take away from the flavor, while having no soggy bottoms!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Dessert, Main Course
Cuisine: American, argentinian, hispanic, spanish
Servings: 10 people
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Equipment

  • No special equipment needed

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ cup margarine
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 large egg (optional)
  • ¾ cup warm milk

Instructions

  • Using a whisk, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to fully incorporate all ingredients. These are your dry ingredients.
    3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Cut the margarine into small pieces and, using your hand's mix margarine into the dry ingredients. The result should look like bread crumbs.
    1/2 cup margarine
  • Add the egg yolk and the milk in small amounts until the dough forms.
    1 large egg yolk, 3/4 cup warm milk
  • Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with the heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together.
  • Flatten the dough into a disk, then wrap in cling wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least1 an hour.
  • Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired circles using a pastry mat, bowl, plate, or glass. See notes for circle size suggestions.
  • Fill empanada with the desired filling/s and then fold in half and pinch into shape.
  • Whisk an egg and brush the top of the empanada with an egg wash for a shiny golden look.
    1 large egg (optional)
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Notes

The size of your empanada depends on personal preference and what you are cooking. Here is the general rule of thumb I use when making empanada’s I use the following guidelines.
  • Appetizer empanada – use a pastry mat or a bowl, cut the dough into 6-inch rounds.
  • Main course empanada – use a pastry mat or a plate, cut the dough into 8-inch rounds.
  • Dessert empanada – use a drinking glass to cut about 3-inch rounds.  
* Depending on the size of empanada you make will determine the number of servings.  To increase the recipe size, click on the desired multiplier in the upper right-hand corner of the recipe.
* The traditional shape of an empanada is a folded circle. However, there are many different ways to shape the dough. I like to make dessert Nutella empanada’s that look like dumplings. Bottom line, have fun making different shapes.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
How to Make Perfect Empanada Dough
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
243
Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
11
g
17
%
Cholesterol
 
39
mg
13
%
Sodium
 
261
mg
11
%
Carbohydrates
 
30
g
10
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
1
g
1
%
Protein
 
5
g
10
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Everyone enjoyed the empanadas I made using your recipe! Super easy to make and tasty. I actually cut the dough to 13 equal parts, and rolled each dough ball out individually; it work es well.

    1. Hello Liz, I am so happy you liked my recipe. Your comments made my day so much brighter. Thank you for taking the time to let me know. ??

  2. 5 stars
    I made this recipe vegan by using oat milk instead of dairy milk, and substituting 1 tablespoon tapioca starch for the egg yolk. My family loved them made with vegan taco filling or sweet potatoes and black beans for dinner, and blueberry and apple pie filling for dessert. After chilling the dough for an hour, it is so easy to roll out and prepare the empanadas from. A great recipe that bakes up beautifully and doesn’t get soggy when leftover!

    1. Hello Maria, I am so happy you liked it! I have vegan empanadas on my list of recipes to develop. Would you be ok if I used your modifications? They sound perfect!

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