Beef Empanadas

I absolutely love to play with new flavours and I am crazy about spicy foods. Mexican food is so much fun to experiment with in particular because there is a huge variety of ingredients which lend themselves to a balanced flavour profile. The chilies are not always spicy, they can be sweet and smoky, spicy or bitter and even light and fresh; balanced with fatty meats and avocados and bright lime and cilantro, there are endless possibilities.

This recipe is a combination of a Mexican empanada and an Argentinian empanada, I love the sweetness of the raisins in contrast to the briny olives which is then paired with smoky and slightly spicy chilies all wrapped up in a sweet corn dough and deep fried…yum! I serve this with chimichurri which is a very bright and fresh salsa made of herbs, lemon zest and juice, garlic and olive oil (recipe coming soon).

I’m not going to lie, this is a recpe that will require some equipment and some unusual ingredients, it’s worth a trip to your local latin market or online. This is something to try if you are an adventurous home cook who wants to make something out of the ordinary.

One word of caution when making this type of empanada, the corn dough or masa comes together very quickly but the dough can dry out and crack causing the empanadas to allow oil inside when frying. The masa is made mainly of corn and the corn will absorb a lot of liquid, if your dough is too dry to begin with it will crack for sure so don’t cut back on the liquid in the recipe. The dough can still crack even if you’ve made the dough correctly so to avoid any cracks, line a baking sheet with a very damp (clean) tea towel and lay the finished empanadas on it, cover with another damp tea towel, the corn will absorb the moisture from the tea towel if it’s starting to dry out. Keep the empanadas in the fridge lined with the tea towels and then wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 24 hours if not frying right away or freeze for up to 3 months.

These make great go to dinners if you’ve made them ahead of time or amazing lunches for the kids.


Beef Empanadas


410g Pan Masa, white or yellow

1 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

35g Shortening, melted

580g Water

2 Tsp. Annatto Seed Powder (optional)


To make the dough, combine all ingredient and mix with clean hands until all liquid is absorbed. The masa will continue to absorb and tighten up over the next few minutes so please don’t add more masa thinking it’s too wet.


Makes 20-30 Empanadas (depending on size)

700g Ground Beef, lean

20g Oil

85g Yellow Onion, small dice

100g Bell Peppers, small dice

1 Tbsp Oregano, dried (Mexican if possible)

2 Guajillo Peppers, dried

2 Chipotle Peppers in adobo sauce, chopped fine

2 Ancho Chili Peppers, dried

60g Green Manilla Olives, sliced

100g Golden Raisins

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

7g Smoked Paprika

7g Cumin, dried

210g Beef Stock

15g Cornstarch

2 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

60g Chili Sauce

30g Green Onion, sliced


Prepare all veg and have them ready to go. In a dry pan on medium heat, toast the ancho and guajillo peppers, paprika and cumin to bring out the flavour, this should only take 2-3 minutes while stirring. In a blender, add the toasted peppers, cumin and paprika, the beef stock, chipotle and chili sauce. Blend until smooth, do not strain. Set aside.

In a large pot on medium heat, add the oil and the diced onion, sweat the onions until soft and translucent, approx. 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and raise heat to medium/high, brown the beef while breaking it up into small pieces. Once the beef is browned and no liquid remains in the pan, reduce heat to medium/low and add the garlic and peppers, cook gently for 2-3 minutes. Add oregano, raisins and olives and stir to combine, add the chili and spice blend and increase the heat to medium/high, bring the mixture to a boil to activate the cornstarch and tighten up the mixture so it’s not too runny.  Turn off the heat and cool completely before filling the empanadas. This can be done up to three days in advance and kept in the fridge.

Line a tortilla press with plastic wrap, scoop out a small ball of the masa dough (I used a 2oz scoop for the dough and a 1oz scoop for the filling) and place it in the middle of the tortilla press plate, close the press and press firmly to flatten into a disc. add a small amount of filling to the disc near the top/middle of the dough, use the plastic to fold the dough over and then seal firmly with your fingers being careful not to press through the dough. Cut off excess dough using a cutting wheel or a sharp knife and place on a damp towel, cover with another damp towel; use the dough scraps to continue making the discs. Repeat for all dough and filling. (see video for full instruction tutorial)





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