01 May2012

Filipino empanadas have become increasingly sweet and cloying, almost like a meaty dessert. I dislike this trend immensely, and while I have tried my hand at empanadas before, I was never really totally satisfied with the results (looks and taste). Maybe I had set my sights too high, too early, and wanted to master the scaley (kaliskis) empanadas here, and while I didn’t get the scales just right, here, the empanadas tasted pretty good… And since I can occasionally just buy some baked empanadas from Josie, a reader, who has a stall at the Salcedo Market, I haven’t spent too much time trying to master my own… Until I spied a recipe in Claudia Roden’s tome, “The Food of Spain” that seemed quite simple and yet intriguing…

This is a very straightforward recipe for a home cook, and yet it yields delicious empanadas that hit the spot. The dough is a snap to make, and when baked, has a very nice texture, sheen and flavor, plus it doesn’t have nearly as much fat as a deep fried empanada! I only made one change to Ms. Roden’s recipe, substituting half of the olive oil in the dough with melted lard instead. The result was a faintly porky flavor but not enough to be distinct to most folks munching on the empanadillas.

First make the dough — this recipe is good for 16-18 empanadillas (4-inch diameter dough disks). Into a medium sized bowl, add 1/2 cup of warm water, 1/2 cup of olive oil, or replace some or all of the olive oil with melted pork lard instead :), 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir with a fork. Slowly add all-purpose flour up to about 2 and 1/3 cups and mix then gently knead the dough. I used just over 2 cups of flour and about 1/4th cup for the counter while I was kneading. This results in a soft, supple dough that isn’t sticky… the oil prevents it from doing that. Cover the dough with some plastic wrap and make the filling.

One of the things that attracted me to this recipe was the classic filling of tuna fish flakes but mixed in with a copious amount of onions, tomatoes, olives, red peppers and parsley… now THAT is a tuna filling. I suspect this was close to the “original” tuna inspiration for current day empanadas that pretty much have mostly just canned tuna fish in them… the same applies to tuna pan de sals as well. It’s the other stuff that makes the stuffing REALLY delicious…

A quick check of our home pantry yielded a nice can of Spanish tuna so I was thrilled to be making this recipe with just about all the ingredients asked for, and about as authentic as they could get. Into a saute pan, I added a touch of olive oil and sauteed half a medium sized yellow onion, chopped finely. Next, add about 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes and let them cook several minutes until the liquid had almost all evaporated. It shouldn’t be watery, rather, the tomato flavor intensified by burning off much of the juice. Season geneoursly with salt and pepper, and add 4 ounces of flaked canned tuna and stir for a minute or so…

…add 1 grilled red pepper (freshly made or bottled), chopped, and about 12 black/green olives that were first pitted and chopped as well. Taste to ensure the mixture is well seasoned and add two tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley and turn off the heat. Let the mixture cool for say half an hour before stuffing your empanadillas.

Cut the dough into four portions and roll out each portion into say 1/8 inch thickness and cut out 4-inch diameter circles and stuff with some filling, and fold in half, sealing the edges with some water or egg wash and crimping the edges with a fork. Use all of the dough, you can re-roll the extra pieces of dough. Transfer the unbaked empanadillas to a lightly greased baking sheet and brush them with an egg wash and stick them into a pre-heated 350F oven.

After 25-30 minutes, remove the empanadillas when lightly golden. Let them cool for 20 minutes or so before serving. You may also serve them at a later point, either at room temperature or reheated in a small oven. The cooked crust was just the right thickness and tasted savory, not sweet. The filling was packed with flavor and texture. We were very pleased with the results, and Mrs. MM and I ate quite a few of these empanadillas for lunch along with a nice mixed green salad. Now that I have found a dough that I like, will have to experiment with other savory fillings as well… :)



  1. bluegirl says:

    Mmmm… that looks tempting! Some empanadas are baked, others are fried. Health-wise baking wins hands down. But taste wise, which do you think will win?

    Off topic MM, when will you reveal the correct answer to the survey?

    May 1, 2012 | 3:58 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    bluegirl, survey answer, up by tomorrow… thanks. :)

    May 1, 2012 | 4:31 pm

  4. MP says:

    MM, zubuchon lechon flakes empanadillas would probably be a safe bet….

    May 1, 2012 | 5:40 pm

  5. Marketman says:

    MP, yup, have done lechon as well as sisig empanadas and they turned out nicely… :)

    May 1, 2012 | 6:00 pm

  6. RobKSA says:

    i would kill for a zubuchon empanadillas :-)

    May 1, 2012 | 6:02 pm

  7. josephine says:

    I’ve been using a recipe almost like this but with some saffron in the mix – adds a really subtle but nice difference. Also in the Basque country where they love salt cod in all its forms, bacalao is often used instead of tuna.

    May 1, 2012 | 6:06 pm

  8. monique ignacio says:

    Oh i can almost taste this!!!!! Looks yummy!

    May 1, 2012 | 7:46 pm

  9. Chinky says:

    Will definitely try this as I prefer baking over frying.

    May 1, 2012 | 7:52 pm

  10. Footloose says:

    First and last pic look lovely.

    Lined up for freshly fried empanada for lunch in Montevideo once bewildered by the way they snorted off their Castilian and longing for a break from beef so asked for what I heard as tuna. Turned out they were the usual beef with azeituna.

    May 1, 2012 | 8:56 pm

  11. ConnieC says:

    Ha, ha, Footloose. While in Cuzco, I thought I heard the lady behind the counter say “tuna” as I pointed to the empanadas in the glass case. What a big surprise when I took a large bite and it was not as I expected.

    MM, your pastry looks very light. You said “gently knead the dough”, and that is exactly what my friend said is the secret to her light empanadas. ” Don’t work the dough too much”. She only told me this after years of my complaining that my empanadas were not as light as hers. By then she was no longer taking orders for her small cottage industry.

    May 1, 2012 | 9:40 pm

  12. Mari of NY says:

    MM, I know you meant fresh made “or” bottled (as a typo)….

    Thanks for featuring another empanada topic. Have been trying to look for a bake version for the dough as compared to a fried kaliskis dough. Although I know fried is different from baked, I have been opting for a more healthier versions of our Filipino comfort foods…except of course lechon or the lechon kawali or the chicharons for that matter. Nothing will replace that. i definitely will try this soon.

    May 1, 2012 | 10:01 pm

  13. Marketman says:

    Mari, thanks, edited. Josephine, saffron in the filling, or in the dough?

    May 1, 2012 | 11:45 pm

  14. Annie in LA says:

    One of the best empanadas in Los Angeles are made by Argentineans– and the thing that makes is special is their chimichurri sauce in which one dunks the empanadas. MM, your recipe dough looks good – will try making these on the weekend!! I was wireless for 4 days and that’s when I realized how much your blog is a part of my morning ritual!!

    May 2, 2012 | 1:15 am

  15. betty q. says:

    You know what the filling reminds me of?…your post on Salumi’s with the pork cheek sandwich! Maybe if you sub the tuna with cubed pork (leftovers done like pot roast), add chorizo or any smoked sausage, maybe it will be close to the ones you had at Salumi’s. I am only guessing the taste in my head for I haven’t had the pork cheek sandwich there yet! I bet that filling for the empanada will be a home run!

    May 2, 2012 | 4:17 am

  16. betty q. says:

    If you intend to sell this at your restaurants….a quick and easy way to do this rather than cutting out disks one at a time, is to shape each portion into a rectangle. the width is bahala ka na how big you want your empanadas and the length as well. Frozen filling works best so the bits of sauce does not leak out. So, just like making perogies by the dozens, put your filling in mounds on lower half of the rolled out rectangle and fold over the top half. Press around the filling removing as much air as you can. Then with sharp knife or glass, cut into half moons. My family prefers baby empanadas so I resorted to doing it this way so it is not a pain in the back side!

    May 2, 2012 | 5:17 am

  17. betty q. says:

    Footloose…I just thought of another use for your dumb bells! You know how many people remark that the polvoron moulds fall apart easily? I think that if you guys use the chocolate plastic moulds found in baking supply store, that would be best. You can make different shapes of polvoron. Silicone cookie moulds will also work. Cover top with parchment paper and now pack it in using the dumb bells or something similar. I bet you will no longer have a problem with flimsy polvoron moulds. If you can find a chocolate mould that is oval shaped which I know is out there, it will simulate the oval polvoron shape!

    The best part is you can make 1 dozen polvoron in less than 5 minutes using the mould I mentioned rather than having to stick that polvoron contraption one at a time in the bowl and unmoulding it onto the papel de hapon which seems to be a never ending mound of polvoron in the bowl!

    May 2, 2012 | 5:34 am

  18. josephine says:

    Saffron in the filling MM. A small pinch soaked in a little hot water.

    May 2, 2012 | 5:45 am

  19. KUMAGCOW says:

    I know that Lumpia in Max’s is fried in Lard, would that taste great for empanada too? =)

    May 2, 2012 | 6:38 am

  20. Footloose says:

    Oh IN the filling. Diluted in the liquid for the dough would also give that nice egg yolky glow plus that ineffable Spanish aroma.

    Betty Q, I turn out reasonably decent polvorones without the pesky mould. Roll the bulk mixture to desired thickness and cut with biscuit cutter. Use a slim medicine bottle to push out the cut polvoron free from the cutter. Crushed nougatine also gives a bit of crunch not much different from toasted pinipig. And we have pretty well edited out of our dinner guest list those who cannot tolerate a bit of novelty in what we serve. What’s the use?

    @ConnieC, you should be thankful it was not cavy meat. Cuzco was a culinary disaster for me. Was so paranoid about being unknowingly served cuy although they make it a point to serve them the grossest way possible so they are quite easy to avoid, just with the fur yanked off and with the buck teeth all too visible.

    May 2, 2012 | 6:57 am

  21. Betchay says:

    Looks terrific and appetizing….I will try this soon.

    May 2, 2012 | 7:14 am

  22. Dawn says:

    Here’s the original recipe form Claudia Roden – http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/empanadillas-tuna-tomato-pepper-filling.aspx

    May 2, 2012 | 7:18 am

  23. betty q. says:

    Even better, if you have to make thousands of empanadas one day, invest in a sheeter! Besides, you can freeze the unbaked empanadas! On second thought if anyone just has to do a few dozens and has a pasta maker collecting dust, bring it out and put it to good use and use that as your sheeter.

    May 2, 2012 | 7:27 am

  24. PITS, MANILA says:

    Haven’t thought of calling them ’empanadillas’, it was ’empanadita’ for us then. I attempted to make some only once. Deep-fried and not baked. Chicken for the filling. Seeing this now, I’m thinking of making some more. Deep-fried or baked. And using tuna-curry as filling.

    May 2, 2012 | 7:48 am

  25. linda says:

    MM,the Ortiz brand you used is so expensive here costing $15.00 a can. I’ll just use a John West one when I make this. Looks scrumptous,btw .

    May 2, 2012 | 8:14 am

  26. Toping says:

    My all-time favorite empanada filling is sotanghon. Do give it a shot, MM!

    May 2, 2012 | 11:05 am

  27. Marketman says:

    Toping, sotanghon flavored with what? Chicken, veggies, etc? I have had lumpia with sotanghon, so empanada with sotanghon isn’t so far out of the realm… :)

    May 2, 2012 | 12:03 pm

  28. Toping says:

    Chicken, shrimp, crabmeat if there’s any, plus the usual veggies. The sotanghon’s on the dry side, else you end up with soggy empanada. I’ve had some with cheese (weird, I know, but it works somehow). I usually end up eating about a dozen of these in a day; walang umay!

    May 2, 2012 | 1:08 pm

  29. Marketman says:

    Thanks Toping, will have to remember that the next time we make empanadas…

    May 2, 2012 | 1:11 pm

  30. corrine says:

    awww, I love empanadas!!! These are really nice looking and mouth watering! Will try this recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    May 2, 2012 | 8:51 pm

  31. marilen says:

    Thanks, MM, this recipe is a keeper!! My attempt did not turn out as beautifully formed as your empanaditas – but taste wise, delicious.

    May 3, 2012 | 3:20 am

  32. lookie says:

    I use the recipe of Jen Yu of the blog “Use Real Butter”. It’s almost the same as yours.Check it out ‘argentinian empanadas’.

    May 3, 2012 | 9:03 pm

  33. Jen Laceda | Tartine and Apron Strings says:

    Hi, Market Man, I haven’t been on your blog for quite some time, but I’m glad I landed here once again. I’m bookmarking this recipe for my weekend project next week!

    May 5, 2012 | 1:13 pm

  34. Pinksalmonlady says:

    I love empanadas and I was afraid of doing the dough myself. But your recipe seems to be easy so I will give this a go MM!

    May 8, 2012 | 6:04 am

  35. Cristina Rose Chua says:

    Hello Marketman!

    Those shells got me thinking as I’ve seen them in taiwanese pastries as well,
    I looked and found out they’re called “spiral pastries” and here’s a link of with pictures on the process!



    May 8, 2012 | 11:34 pm

  36. aince says:

    Thanks MM! This is a winner. I emptied the fridge today, turning leftovers into empanadillas.

    May 11, 2012 | 6:23 pm

  37. Odessa Ates-Villareal says:

    The dough recipe seems very easy. will try this one …, i just gave my small electric oven to my mom (other baking accessories) and haven’t bought a new one so will try it fried… i also seen an empanada molds the other day on the grocery store, wonder if it will work nicely than folding and crimping the dough yourself… thanks for sharing MM!!!

    May 29, 2012 | 1:39 pm


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