How To Make The Perfect Fried Empanada

IMAGE Patrick Martires

Working with dough can sometimes get tricky. It's the same thing with making fried empanadas.

That's why we've made a detailed step-by-step guide to help you perfect your fried empanada game. With these tips, you'll be able to make a perfectly shaped, beautiful, crispy and tender crust that goes well with any filling. This step-by-step guide will walk you through a detailed journey not only explaining, but also why you need to follow certain steps.

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There is an imperfect shortcut to making empanadas.

The short way is to simply follow our recipe, don't mind imperfect circles, and only rest the dough for 30 minutes at a time. Sure, you can even skip resting the dough altogether to save you a lot of time but it will result in thick empanada dough which is why we highly suggest you take a break during that 30 minutes resting period.

Another way to make things faster is to invest in a tortilla press. Form evenly-sized dough balls and use a tortilla press to flatten it before shaping. This method will also eliminate leftover dough that you get when cutting circles. If you want to make money with empanadas, or expect to make a lot of it, then definitely invest. There are even empanada shapers you can buy on the cheap!

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This beef empanada becomes irresistible when you add cheese.
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Before you start, here are a few tips and notes when making the filling for your empanada:

1 Let the filling cool.

Whatever filling you're putting into your empanada, make sure that it's cool. It can be sweet jelly, chicken, curry, or whatever you can imagine. If you fill your empanadas with warm filling though, you run the danger of melting the butter in the dough. A cool filling will also be much more firm and easy to handle.

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2 Your empanada filling shouldn't be runny.

We suggest a filling that's saucy but not runny. The problem with empanadas that are too saucy or too wet is that when sealing them, you run the danger of having it spill or overflow. This might cause leakage later on when frying.

Want more sauce in your empanadaUse gelatin.

Here's what to do: For every 2 cups of liquid you have in your filling, use 1 10-gram sachet of powdered gelatin, bloomed, for 5 minutes in ¼ cup of cold water. Add the gelatin mixture once you're happy with your sauce while it's on low heat. Stir until the mixture is dissolved and be careful not to boil it. (Boiling can destroy gelatin.)


Fruit-based filling like saba-langka empanada will naturally turn into jelly with enough cooking. Fruit releases pectin when cooked with sugar that gives jams and jellies its texture. 

Next, cool your mixture. To cool it faster and safer, spread it thinly on a tray or deep plate. The more surface area exposed to air, the faster it will cool. Once the mixture is at room temperature, cool it down even further in the refrigerator. The gelatin will firm up your sauce considerably but will melt into gooey goodness once your empanadas are fried on high heat.

3 Don't overfill your empanadas.

It's always tempting to put a lot of filling because the filling is the best part! Too much filling would definitely cause your empanada to burst open. First, it will be more difficult to fill the empanada. Second, as the filling heats up, it produces steam, which fights against the seal you made. With too much filling, you'll get a lot of steam and a tenuous seal. One and a half to two tablespoons of filling in a half-circle mound right smack the center is a good amount of filling.

An easy beef filling is stuffed into this equally easy empanada dough recipe.
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Here are the ingredients for the perfect fried empanada:

  • 1 to 1 1/8 cups empanada filling, cold
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cubed
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 6 to 7 tablespoons water, cold
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour for flouring

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How to make fried empanada dough:

  • 1 In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. (Whisking makes sure that all the ingredients are evenly spread. You don't want the salt or baking soda concentrated all in one empanada.)

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For the next step, we highly recommend a ricer or pastry blender. Either do the job much faster and it's a good investment as you can also use it for mashed potatoes and pie crusts. A pastry blender will let you easily work with a bowl as it cuts against curved edges.

If you don't have a pastry blender, you can use two forks or two knives instead and do it on a clean, dry flat surface.

  • 2 Add in your cold cubed butter and egg yolks into your flour mixture and simply cut the butter into the flour until you have a grainy texture. (You don't want any large chunks of butter. Work fast as you don't want the butter to fully melt.)
  • 3 Add in water by sprinkling it all over the dough. (Depending on the humidity of the day, you may use more or less of the water recommended.) Add in your water one tablespoon at a time and mix. Once the mixture has come together, it's time to turn it out onto a very clean, dry, and lightly floured surface.
  • 4 Knead your dough until you can form it into a smooth, round ball. Just keep folding the dough in, press and pull the dough forward with the heel of your palm. If your dough is too sticky, add flour. If the dough isn't coming together well, add a little water.
  • 5 Once you have a good, smooth empanada dough ball, wrap it in cling film and press down lightly, forming a disc. If you doubled the recipe, divide the dough into two before wrapping in plastic and forming discs. After, let it rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Freshly kneaded dough may look beautiful and smooth, but you'll notice that when you dip a finger, the dough rises back because the dough, thanks to the formed gluten, has become elastic. Forming the dough right now will be difficult but possible. You'll notice that as soon as you roll it flat, it tightens back into a smaller form. Once you cut into circles, it'll then spring into a smaller, thicker circle. You won't just have a smaller crust to work with, but it will also be thicker.

A thicker crust might throw off the perfect crust-to-filling ratio. That's why it's important to rest the dough to let the gluten relax so you can form it later without any problems. It's also important not to leave it at room temperature which will melt the butter in your dough. Make sure you don't freeze it, as well, as that will be another nightmare.

Photo by Patrick Martires

How to shape and fill your empanada dough.

  • 1 Once your dough has rested and your filling is nice and cold, it's time to shape the empanada. Start with a clean, dry surface. Have 1/2 cup flour beside you. Generously flour your surface and your rolling pin. Unwrap your dough and place in the center.

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  • 2 First thing to do is to quickly flatten your dough without rolling. To do this, simply place your rolling pin on the dough and press straight down then lift. Repeat to the rest of the dough and then turn 45 degrees. Repeat pushing down until your dough is about 1/2-inch thick.
  • 3 Now, roll the dough until it's nice, even, and 1/8-inch thick. Sprinkle flour onto the dough and under it if your dough is starting to stick. Be careful not to sprinkle too much flour as you don't want to dry out your dough.
  • 4 Cut circles using a 5- or 6-inch cookie cutter or bowl. Flour your cutter before every circle cut. For the perfect edges, trim your circles with a knife. (Plan out the maximum amount of circles you can cut before pressing in your cookie cutter. If you find that your bowl is too thick and causes a very uneven, scraggly cut, simply use it as a pattern to follow with the tip of your knife.) 
  • 5 Generously flour both sides of a cut circle and set aside on a floured plate. (Because you've generously floured every circle, you can pile the next circle on top of the other without fear of it sticking together. If not using immediately, refrigerate the circles. If using for more than hour later, cover before refrigerating.) 
  • 6 When you've cut all the circles you can, set aside the leftover bits and knead together until you form a smooth, round ball. If it's too dry, sprinkle just a little bit of water. (You'll notice a very elastic dough.) Cover it in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. (During this resting time, you may start filling the circles you have made. If you doubled your portion, shape the next disc of dough.) 
  • 7 Prepare a tray or big plate heavily floured. Place one circle of dough on a flat, dry, floured surface. Place 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons filling in a mound at the center of your dough. Fold the circle in half, letting the two edges meet to form a half-circle. Move the empanada until it's sitting upright on your surface. (It should be sitting on its straight side where the fold was made.) Pinch the edges together starting from the top center down the sides. Fold the edges inward and pinch again until it's sealed together. (This double seal ensures your empanadas won't pop open.) Lay your empanada to one side and crimp the edges with a fork. Place your finished empanada on your floured plate. (They should be able to sit up on the plate.) Repeat with the rest of the dough circles. Refrigerate your formed empanadas so that they'll better keep their shape. You can even freeze them at this point.
  • 8 Start heating your oil for deep frying to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you don't have a thermometer, you can check using leftover dough. The dough should sink, lift, and sizzle, slowly turning a light brown.)
  • 9 While your oil is heating, make an egg wash. (You can use just a whisked egg, or make a 1:1 egg to fresh milk ratio wash for more browning.) Right before frying, brush all empanadas with the egg wash. (You can even use your hand to help you make sure that all sides are coated.) 
  • 10 Using tongs, fry your empanadas until golden brown. Add empanadas one by one into the oil so you don't cool down your oil. (Don't dip your tongs in the hot oil when unnecessary as this will heat it up. Hot tongs will melt uncooked empanadas. Better yet, you can use different tongs for placing empanadas into the oil than the tongs to use when flipping and taking out empanadas.)
  • 11 Place finished empanadas on a rack or strainer with a bowl or tray underneath to catch any excess oil. Serve empanadas hot for the best experience!

Now you're ready for the most impressive empanadas ever. You'll soon find out why it's worth all the effort.

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