Cuban Empanadas are fried hand pies filled with a spiced ground beef mixture with lots of sliced green olives and served with a chimichurri sauce. Recipe for homemade dough is included!
Alright, I know this isn’t a very traditional or typical Labor Day recipe, but you just might become the hit of the BBQ party when you show up with a big ol’ tray full of these Cuban Empanadas. Let the other people bring the potato salad, you’ve got empanadas baby!!
Having grown up in South Florida, my love for Cuban food is deep and knows no bounds. This love is quite evident if you ever come over to my house for my full-on Cuban dinner.
All day I cook to present a meal consisting of Lechón Asado (roast pork with crispy skin), Moros y Cristianos (black beans & rice), fried and boiled yuca, tostone (fried plantains), sweet plantains, a salad with fresh tomato, red onion, and avocado, and a huge platter of these empanadas. I also serve a big bowl of chimichurri on the side to pour over the empanadas (and everything else).
Cuban empanadas are my favorite kind of hand pie of all time because they are fried (duh…) and they are filled with picadillo. A little piece of advice for those of you who want to save some calories and oven bake these…just don’t do it. I’ve done it before and it’s not the same, so don’t try to be all healthy making empanadas. Some things are just meant to be fried.
Maybe you can find some calorie saving comfort in knowing that the picadillo is pretty healthy and can be made with lean ground beef, turkey, or chicken. I make picadillo once a month, even when I’m not making empanadas, because I like to fill lots of stuff with it, like hollowed out potatoes, acorn squash halves, avocado halves, etc. If there are any leftovers, make some nachos with it (you’re welcome).
The picadillo can also be made a few days ahead, as the ingredients meld together and the flavor improves with time. A side note: Most of the Cuban picadillo I’ve eaten in South Florida had raisins in it to add a touch of sweetness. My recipes omits them but to make it the more traditional way, just add 1/2 cup raisins to the mix after the meat is browned.
The first time I ate a Cuban empanada, I thought I had died and gone to fried pie heaven. It was the most delectable fried pocket of flaky dough, filled with an ultimate green olive-y ground beef mixture, and I haven’t stopped eating them ever since that first bite.
What I absolutely love about empanadas are that they are a self-contained, all-in-one, sort of meal. Not quite feeling like eating the empanadas after they are cooked? Well, stick a couple of those bad boys in your pocket and go about your business. Later, when you are hungry, pull one out and eat it! Kinda like the Napoleon Dynamite movie scene with the tater tots. I would totally zip up an empanada or two in my side pocket…but then I might have people bugging me all day, saying “Give me some of your empanada”.
The empanadas can be made with store-bought dough discs that are found in the ethnic freezer section of the grocery store; however, I always make my own dough so I’ve included that recipe for y’all too.
Homemade dough is so superior over the pre-made variety, it’s easy to make, and can be frozen for convenience. Make up a double batch, freeze one, and take it out the next time you need homemade dough! The dough can also be used with other hand pies fillings, like fruit or veggies.
So go make some Cuban Empanadas for Labor Day, or any other day of the year, and hope you enjoy them!
- for the dough:
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup solid shortening, chilled and cut into small pieces
- ¾-1 cup warm water
- for the picadillo filling:
- 2 Tb olive oil
- ½ cup onion, diced
- ½ cup red or green bell pepper, diced
- 2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound ground beef (can substitute with ground turkey or ground chicken)
- ½-3/4 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- ¼ cup dry sherry
- 1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp Tabasco sauce
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- 2-3 cups of oil for frying
- chimichurri sauce
- to make the dough:
- In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the chilled shortening pieces and mix into the flour mixture using fingers, can also use a pastry blender or two knifes. Using fingers, lightly mix in the warm water a little at a time until the mixtures forms into a ball and isn't sticky anymore. Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- to make the picadillo filling:
- Place the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and once oil is hot, add the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add the ground meat to the skillet, stir well and continue cooking until beef is browned and fully cooked, about another 5 minutes.
- Add the sliced olives, tomato sauce, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, cumin, and dried oregano. Stir well so all ingredients are combined, cover pan and lower heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Set aside and let cool before filling the empanadas.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pot or deep fryer to 365F degrees.
- Remove dough ball from refrigerator and separate into 10 equal sized balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough ball into a thin circle. Place a few tablespoons of the picadillo onto the center and fold half of the dough over, sealing the edges by pressing down with a fork or twisting the edges over to form a seal.
- Gently place 1-2 empanadas at a time in the hot oil (do not crowd) and cook until brown on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from oil and let drain on wire rack. Repeat with remaining empanadas.
- Serve warm with lots of chimichurri on the side. Cooked empanadas can be frozen in a freezer proof bag or plastic container for up to 3 months. Let fully thaw before reheating in a 325F oven for 5 minutes. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Place the empanadas on a non-stick baking sheet, brush the tops with a beaten egg, and bake for 25 minutes.