How to Make Beef Empanadas
Our Chilean-inspired beef empanada recipe is a great place to start when learning how to make beef empanadas. We’ll show you how to crimp and seal the dough and how to keep your empanadas from falling apart, with plenty of tips for other fillings and flavors.
No matter the meal or the time of day, it’s hard to go wrong with foods wrapped in dough, whether they’re steamed, baked, or fried to flaky, crispy perfection. Dumplings, samosas, calzones, pierogi, pastechi, knishes and so many more are universally loved and reliably delicious. And of course there are empanadas, the Spanish snack (or meal) with endless variations that’s found throughout Latin America, Portugal, the Philippines and parts of the Caribbean.
One of our favorite versions is this beef empanada recipe. While you could easily buy premade empanadas from stores like Costco or Trader Joe’s, learning how to make beef empanadas at home is so much more fun and rewarding, and lets you experiment with different flavors and fillings.
What Is an Empanada?
Loosely translating to “wrapped in bread,” empanadas are pastries with a savory or sweet filling that are baked or fried. You’ll often find them in crescent shapes about the size of your palm. A savory empanada might include:
- Dough: Empanada dough recipes vary across cuisines but are typically reminiscent of flaky pie crust. Some have egg, some don’t; some use cornmeal, some don’t; and some are specifically meant for frying rather than baking.
- Meat filling: The most common meats used in empanadas are ground beef, chorizo, shredded chicken and pulled pork.
- Vegetables: Onions are found in many empanada recipes. You’ll also see potatoes, corn, peppers and other vegetables.
- Spices: Cumin, paprika, chili powder and garlic are often used in empanada recipes, though the spices depend on the filling. If you’re making a creative twist on classic empanadas, like this Moroccan empanadas recipe, the spices might range from mint to coriander.
Different countries and regions have their own fillings, dough recipes, and sealing and crimping styles. Argentinian empanadas tend to use a generous amount of paprika in their filling, while Bolivian empanadas often add peas and potatoes. Colombian empanadas typically have cornmeal in the dough.
Our recipe is inspired by Chilean empanadas. It has a ground beef filling with chopped hard-boiled eggs, olives and onions. We’re using a store-bought empanada dough, but Taste of Home Food Stylist Josh Rink suggests substituting homemade pie pastry if you want to make the dough from scratch, too.
How to Make Beef Empanadas, Step by Step
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped pitted green olives
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 packages (14 oz. each) frozen empanada dough discs, thawed
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Salsa verde, optional
Step 1: Cook the beef and onion
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cook the ground beef and chopped onion over medium heat in a large skillet for about 6 to 8 minutes, breaking the beef into crumbles as it cooks. You’ll know it’s done when the beef is browned and the onion is tender. Don’t drain the grease from the skillet like you might for other ground beef recipes.
Step 2: Stir in the eggs, olives and spices
After the ground beef and onion are cooked through, add the chopped hard-boiled eggs, olives, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to the skillet. The mixture will only need a few more minutes on the stovetop. When everything is heated through, take the skillet off the heat.
Step 3: Brush egg over the edges of the dough circles and add the filling
Place the thawed empanada dough discs onto a flat, clean surface. Take a silicone brush and spread the beaten egg around the edges of each disc. The egg will act like glue when you fold the discs in half to form the empanadas and seal them shut.
Add about 3 tablespoons of the ground beef filling to one side of the empanada disc. It should be just enough so that folding over the other half is still easy.
Step 4: Fold dough over the filling, crimp and seal
Fold over the rest of the dough disc to cover the filling and lightly press around the edges to seal the empanada shut.
Now this is where it gets a little tricky: To make the “crimps,” begin by pinching a small piece of dough between your forefinger and thumb. Gently stretch the dough, pull it up and fold it toward the top of the empanada, pressing firmly. Repeat around the entire edge of the empanada until you form a pattern that looks like a rope.
Step 5: Brush the tops with egg wash
After you’ve crimped the edges, move the empanadas to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining beaten egg, which will give the empanadas that beautiful baked golden color later on.
Slide the baking sheet with the crimped and sealed empanadas in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up the dough before baking.
Step 6: Bake the empanadas
Pull the beef empanadas out of the refrigerator and pop them right into the preheated oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. They’re ready when they’re golden brown.
Step 7: Serve!
Be careful—the empanadas will be piping hot inside! You can eat them with your hands or with a fork and knife. If using your hands, you might want to wrap the bottom of the empanada in a napkin to catch any dripping juices.
These beef empanadas pair perfectly with salsa verde.
Tips for Making Beef Empanadas
Why are the empanadas falling apart?
Sealing your beef empanadas correctly is the best way to prevent them from falling apart. If there are any holes in the pastry dough, or gaps left when you’re sealing, the ground beef filling will spill out onto your baking sheet. If the dough is stretched too thin in spots, that’s where the filling might burst through as it bakes.
The egg wash brushed on the edges of the dough discs before sealing and on top before baking should help create a barrier that keeps the filling inside.
How else can you seal empanadas?
While we used a crimping method to seal our Chilean beef empanadas, there are plenty of other methods. One of the easiest ways to seal an empanada is by using a fork to make ridges in the edges. Food Stylist Josh advises dipping the fork in flour first so the tines don’t stick to the dough. Another common sealing technique looks like a braid.
What other kinds of fillings can you put in empanadas?
When it comes to Chilean empanadas, another popular ingredient to add is raisins, and black olives instead of green olives.
Other classic savory empanada fillings include chicken, cheese, chorizo and seafood—but the sky is the limit! Check out more of our empanada recipe ideas, like sun-dried tomato goat cheese empanadas or buffalo chicken empanadas with blue cheese sauce.
Sweet empanadas might be filled with an apple-cinnamon mixture, chocolate and caramel, pumpkin, or strawberry and rhubarb.
What do you serve with beef empanadas?
If you want to serve these beef empanadas as a meal, pair them with a side like Mexican rice.
How do you store beef empanadas?
After baking, the beef empanadas will last for 3 to 5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (Learn more about how to tell if ground beef has gone bad.)
You can also prepare empanadas ahead of time and store them in the freezer. Put the prepared, unbaked empanadas in a row on a parchment-lined baking sheet or tray, cover and freeze until firm. (Don’t stack them; they’ll stick together.) After they’re firm, transfer the empanadas to an airtight container and keep them in the freezer for 3 to 4 months. When you’re ready to eat them, they can go right into the oven. You might need to add 5 to 7 minutes to the baking time.