Empanadas, The Ultimate Argentine Snack Food!

Empanadas, The Ultimate Argentine Snack Food!

Almost every country has a signature pastry filled with meats, cheeses, or vegetables. Poland has Pierogies’; England, Pasties; India, Samosas.  We have a preference for the Argentine Empanada.  Tracing its origins back to 16th century Spain, the empanada is believed to have been brought to South America during the Spanish migration in the late 19th century.  Like the English pasty, the empanada was once considered a staple of the “working man” for its convenience. It could easily be carried and eaten on-the-go, serving as a complete meal.

The name Empanada comes from the verb “Empanar” which means to encase in bread, descriptive of how the Empanada is prepared.  Within Argentina, there is a great debate about which region does it best.  Are they better fried or baked?  Best eaten with your hands or cut with a fork and knife?  To be served with chimichurri, the traditional tangy parsley-based sauce, or salsa criolla, a red onion and tomato-based salsa? 

In our opinion, the best empanadas come from our home, Mendoza!   Below is our favorite recipe for traditional Mendocino Empanadas as well as Chimichurri and Salsa Criolla to accompany them.  We bake our empanadas in a traditional mud oven called a “horno”, but they bake just as well in a home oven!

Empanadas makes about 20




  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup of butter
  • ¾ to 1 cup of warm milk
  • ½ tsp salt


  • Mix the flour and salt in a food processor, pulse until well combined.
  • Add the lard or butter, blend well.
  • Add the egg yolk and the milk in small amounts, pulse until small dough clumps start to form.
  • Make a couple of balls, flatten into disks and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  • On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a thin sheet and cut out round disc shapes for empanadas (use round molds or a small plate).
  • Use the empanada discs immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

Note:  You can also buy pre-made empanada dough circles in the freezer section of your grocery store.




  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 white onions diced, about 3 cups
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 tbs smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder or any ground hot pepper adjust to taste
  • 1 tbs finely chopped fresh oregano
  • ½ tbs ground cumin
  • 1 bunch scallions finely chopped
  • 3 hard boiled eggs sliced in eighths
  • ¼ cup sliced green olives with pimentos
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg white and yolk separated and lightly whisked


  • Combine the ground beef, paprika, red pepper, cumin, salt and pepper in a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together and chill until ready to use.
  • Melt the lard in a large frying pan or sauté pan, add the onions and salt, cook until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes.
  • Add the meat mixture to the onions and cook on medium heat until the meat is done, stir frequently.
  • Let the meat mixture or picadillo cool down, and then mix in the chopped green onions and chopped oregano.
  • To assemble the empanadas add a spoonful of the meat mixture on the center of each empanada disc, add a slice of egg and sliced olive.
  • Brush the edges of the empanada discs with the egg whites, you can also use water but the egg white is a good natural “glue” that helps seal the empanada.
  • Fold the empanada discs and seal the edges gently with your fingers, twist and fold the edges of the empanadas with your fingers, as a final step use a fork to press down and finish sealing the empanadas.
  • Lightly brush the top of the empanadas with the egg yolk; this will give them a nice golden glow when they bake.
  • Let the empanadas rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until ready to bake.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 F and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden on top.
  • Serve warm with chimichurri sauceor other dipping sauces.


Chimichurri Sauce


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 3-4 cloves garlic , finely chopped or minced
  • 2 small red chilies , or 1 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon finely chopped chili) – Optional if you don’t want it spicy
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 level teaspoon coarse salt

Mix all ingredients and let sit for at least an hour before serving


Salsa Criolla


  • 1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 large Roman tomato, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 green onion, finely chopped 
  • 150 ml of extra virgin oil
  • 100 ml red wine, or white vinegar
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon Oregano fresh or dry, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, to taste 
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt, to taste
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf or curly parsley, chopped

Combine all ingredients and let sit for at least an hour before serving