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Beef Empanadas: Cuban Street Food

User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)




Copyright 2012 Kevin D Weeks
In most major U.S. cities you can find a hotdog stand every block or so. They're America's street food. But although you can also find hotdog stands elsewhere, in the Caribbean area empanadas are far more popular. An empanada is a meat pie, usually fried, and may be filled with beef, pork, chicken and seafood. In some places they're appetizer-sized, but big ones – five to six inches across – are meant for munching on as you wander the streets. This recipe is filled with a beef mixture known as picadillo. (Larger image.) Makes six.

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: Makes 6.


  • Pastry:
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. corn flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 Tbps. cold vodka
  • 2 Tbsp. cold waterFilling:
  • 1/2 sm. onion; chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 sm. green bell pepper; seeded and chopped (about 1 cup)
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 cloves garlic; finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pitted olives; coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. raisins
  • 1 Tbsp. capers
  • 1 egg (for glazing)


1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, corn flour and salt in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses.

2. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).

3. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining 1/4 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

4. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Shape dough into a ball and flatten into 4-inch rectangle.

5. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

6. Heat olive oil over medium heat then sauté onion and green pepper for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened.

7. Add ground beef, salt and pepper, garlic, cumin, oregano, cinnamon and cloves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned - about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

8. Stir in olives and raisins and simmer 5 minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste.

9. Cool to room temperature and then chill for a couple of hours or overnight.

10. Heat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

11. Roll into a rectangle about 10 inches wide and 15 inches long.

12. Using a plate or bowl 5 inches in diameter, cut out rounds (you should get about 6).

13. Place a heaping spoonful (about 14 cup) in the center of each round. Brush the edge of half of a circle with water, fold over other half, and crimp with your fingers to seal. Place on a baking sheet.

14. Repeat for remaining rounds and then remaining dough.

15. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush each crescent with egg wash then cut a slit in the top.

16. Bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until pastry is golden.

User Reviews

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 5 out of 5
Meal in a pastry, Member foodiesleuth

We love empanadas and my picadillo recipe is a 'killer' recipe...According to my research empanadas originated in Galicia, Spain and are the cousins of the Brittish and Irish pasties. You can fill them with anything you wish, which is a wonderful way to use up left overs. also, they can be baked in the oven and not just fried. In Cuba I learned to make 'pastelitos de carne' which is a type of empanada but using puff pastry instead. I'm enclosing a pic of my own pastelitos de carne.

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