Beef empanadillas Recipe
Beef empanadillas
Flavors of Puerto Rico
Total time: 30 to 60 minutes

Prep time: 30 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

Difficulty: Easy
Chef's Note

Called an empanadilla, empanada or pastelillo, this turnover is a tasty popular dish in Latin and Caribbean countries. It is a stuffed flaky pastry, baked or fried in the shape of a half-moon. There are different fillings in each country, with beef and chicken being the most popular.

In Puerto Rico, empanadas - known as empanadillas - are fried treats, never baked. The empanadilla de carne (ground beef empanada) is Puerto Rico's favorite, but fish, crab, conch, and chicken empanadillas are also found in every kiosk around the island.

(1) Sofrito
Sofrito, a potpourri of onions, garlic and peppers browned in either olive oil or lard and colored with achiote (annatto seeds), imparts the bright yellow color to the island’s rice, soups and stews.

For 10-12 empanadillas

- 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 1/2 tablespoon lard or shortening, chilled
- 1 egg - well beaten
- 3/4 cup cold water

- 675 g / 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
- 2 Tbsp. sofrito (1)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 6 large stuffed olives, diced
- salt and pepper
- 250 ml / 1 cup tomato puree
- 1 Tbsp. oil + oil for frying


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture. Add the egg and water and mix until incorporated. Use just enough water to form a dough ball.
  2. Turn the empanada dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough for 3 or 4 minutes. Cover and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.


  1. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to a large skillet. Stir in the beef and cook until browned. Add the sofrito and sauté for 2 minutes at medium-high temperature. Add the tomato puree, olives and spices, salt and pepper.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens. .
  3. Let cool completely.

Making the empanadillas

  1. Divide the dough into 10 pieces.
  2. Roll out each piece with a rolling pin until it is the size of a small plate.
  3. Place a tablespoon of filling in the centre; fold in half.
  4. Seal the edges by pressing with a fork.


  1. Heat  the oil in a deep saucepan on medium heat. Be sure to use plenty of oil for frying so that the empanadillas expand: about 5 cm /2" depth. 
  2. Cook the empanadillas in batches, turning to brown on both sides.
  3. Drain on paper towels to absorb extra oil. Serve hot.
More recipe ideas

 Photo: Puerto Rico Tourism Company

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