Empanadillas de carne (Beef Empanadas)

Empanadas, Empanadillas, Pastelillos. There is a cultural war about this. I shouldnt say way. I should say that it is more of a petty fight between the north side or the island with the south side of the island of Puerto Rico. What is this middle school brawl? What to call it and who is RIGHT. Obviously, I have my bias. The correct answer is Empanadillas. But here’s the thing. They’re TECHNICALLY empanadas. Confusing right? Why Because Empanadas (which honestly every Latin American country has their own version of this) are baked. Empanadillas and Pastelillos from Puerto Rico are DEEP FRIED.

In a technicality, its Empanadas, but for my heart, I say Empanadillas. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT!? What you should truly call it is DELICIOUS, because these beautiful empanadillas are delicious and you will want to eat ALL OF THEM.

There are places where they tell you to use either premade biscuit dough or pie dough, but honestly, if you are making these from scratch its not a stretch to make your own dough. And honesty they will taste SO much better! Here are my Empanadillas de carne.

Empanadlas de carne

This recipe makes around 12 to 16 empanadlas, so you will have leftovers. You can freeze them for up to 6 months and enjoy them when you have cravings!

How to make it:

I tried this 3 different ways: store bought biscuit dough; store bought pie dough; homemade. Honestly the homemade tasted better.

Using store bought pie dough
Using store bought biscuit dough
Homemade. (I should have cropped it more)

You be the judge of what you are doing and how much you are willing to put in. The pie dough was just dry and not a very mouth feel. The biscuit dough was ok, but because of the filling it got a little mushy. The homemade was a good in between. Nice crust, did not make the crust mushy because of the dough and was crispy. Score!

Ingredients for the homemade dough :

  • 4 ounces of lard
  • 1 ounce of lard for brushing the top (you can use ghee or butter for this)
  • 6 cups of AP flour (more for kneeling and just in case) You could substitute for gfree flour. \
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt

How to make the dough

  • Boil 2 cups of water (I used my electric kettle) and pour in a BIG bowl with the lard. Wait for the lard to melt. Add salt. Cool to room temperature This is a good place to start the filling if you are doing everything at the same time.
  • Gradually add the flour. Use a wooden or silicone spoon. Mix until everything is together. It will look farther shaggy.
  • Take dough out (if you want) or add a tablespoon of flour on top (inside the bowl) and kneed for a minute or so. Add more flour if it feels sticky. Wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of onion
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 ear of roasted corn (optional) this was my Iowa ingredient
  • 1/2 lb of potatoes (I used red)
  • 4 minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon of oregano (I used Mexican) I used a combo of fresh and dry.
  • 1 -2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of paprika
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup ofWater, Chicken Broth, or Beef broth. More as needed. You are using this if the filling looks dry.
  • Olives (If you want, I hate them)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (the way mom made them, I did not add them because I forgot).
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin.
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil or lard (hey you’re using it for the dough, why not the meat)

How to make the filling

  • Season the meat with salt and pepper, set aside for 10 minutes.
  • Add Oil or melt the lard in the skillet. I am using my 12 inch deep cast iron for this. Keep heat at medium to medium high.
  • Add beef and fry until deliciously brown. Keep beef separated and not into huge chunks (5-7 minutes depends on your skillet)
  • Make sure your skillet is in medium. Add onion, shallots, and garlic.If you are using corn in the mixture, you would have to take out out of the cob. Mix until well incorporated. Cook until shallots and onions are cooked (10 mins or so).
  • While the mixture is cooking. Slice your potatoes into bite size pieces. Remember this is going into a dough, so you don’t necessarily want a super huge crunch of potato.
  • Add potatoes (the garlic if you forgot), rest of the seasonings. Check seasonings (salt and pepper). Adjust as necessary. Let mixture get to know each other for 10 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste. Add 1 cup of broth or water. :Let it all hang out. Turn the heat to simmer.
  • Cook for 10 minutes. Until the potatoes are tender. You want the mixture to be juicy, but not have a lot of sauce. That would make the dough soggy. Soggy dough = not good eats. (Side note: good eats is coming back and I am SO EXCITED).
  • Cool the mixture to room temperature. If hot the mixture will make the dough a pain to work with,

Putting it all together

  • Preheating the oven to 375 degrees. (Its better to have the oven waiting for you than the opposite)
  • Divide the dough into 1 inch pieces. You need to roll each piece into 4 and 1/2 inch to 5 inch circles. I use one of these mats to make my life so much easier. You could make these as big or small as you want. All that would change is the baking at the end. No matter what size, you will bake them until the dough is golden brown. Everything else is cooked.
  • Once you have the dough all ready to go, lay them on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour. I left mine in a baking sheet with a silicone mat, you could use parchment paper as well.
  • Ready to go? Ok. Get a dough circle, circle dough, grab one. Moisten the out edge with water (if you want to be fancy you could use an egg wash – 1 egg + 1 tablespoon of water-. Put from 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling in the center. Wrap dough around the filling. Crip with a fork.
  • Once all of them are done, brush them with melted lard. They should be 1 inch apart (so that they have room to grow). Place them in the oven (375 degrees) for 10 -15. I had some that took up to 30 (because I made them bigger).
  • Serve warm!

If you made them ahead and froze them. Thaw them a little and put them in the oven. They will obviously take longer. About 45 mins.

If you choose not to make all of them at once, you can make filling and dough for up to 3 days in advance.

The fillings makes AMAZING burrito bowls.

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