Empanadas, or flaky hand pies, will bring major flavor to your next casual get-together. Their individual servings—and the versatile filling options—make it simple to calculate what's needed to feed a crowd.
Cookbook author Sandra Gutierrez learned about entertaining from her grandmother, who frequently hosted huge parties at her home outside Guatemala City. "It's my greatest inheritance: her love for style, food, entertaining, and making people happy," says Gutierrez. Those gatherings often featured empanadas, flaky hand pies filled with savory or sweet fillings. Gutierrez developed an appreciation for the portable turnovers: "I love them for parties," she says. "They're easy to eat—perfect for standing and talking." Take a cue from Gutierrez and create your own memorable gathering with the make-ahead empanada recipes that follow.
First up, a classic empanada recipe: Rojo Vieja. In Latin American cuisine, flank steak is the go-to choice for recipes that call for boiled meat because it shreds beautifully and offers bold flavor. It's also inexpensive, making it ideal for feeding a crowd.
You can roast and peel the poblano chile up to 1 week before you make this filling. Letting the filling chill before assembling the empanadas congeals the liquids—an essential step to ensuring the pies are properly formed.
Freezing Tip: Freeze unbaked empanadas in a single layer on a tray, and then transfer to a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 4 months. Bake straight from the freezer as directed (brush with egg wash first), adding 5 to 8 more minutes to the bake time.
You may be more familiar with the Latin American variety, but the savory pocket pie called the empanada originated in Galicia in northwest Spain. This version is filled with a typical combination of seasoned meat and tender onion and bell pepper.
The empanadas can be made ahead of time and chilled until ready to bake. For less heat, seed the jalapeño peppers after roasting.
Have a filling you want to make but need an empanada dough recipe? This Whole-Wheat Empanada Dough is light and flaky and can be baked rather than fried. Wine in the recipe adds yeast flavor and aids in flakiness; its acidity also breaks down the gluten, allowing you to stretch the dough easily when forming the empanadas.
Beef Empanadas are popular throughout Latin America, and Argentineans devour them with gusto at the start of any serious meal. This recipe uses won ton wrappers instead of pastry for the crust, and the empanadas are baked instead of fried. Aside from the obvious health benefits, using won ton wrappers makes assembling the empanadas quick and easy. Placing the uncooked empanadas on preheated baking sheets helps make them crisp.
In Latin America, empanadas (em-pah-NAH-das) are small, fried turnovers or pies that are usually built around seasoned meat. We have taken the terrific flavors but abandoned the frying to create a soul-warming potpie.
Empanadas de Cangrejo y Mango (Crab-and-Mango Empanadas)
Cangrejo y Mango (Crab-and-Mango Empanadas) are a rich combination that is as surprising as it is delicious. The complex layers of flavor belie the simplicity of this empanada.
Finish off your empanada bash with Rum-Spiked Horchata. This drink, a modern twist on the Latin American favorite, is fun and easy to make. In Mexico, it's traditionally made by soaking or cooking rice and blending it into a milk. To save time, purchase riche milk instead. You can make this drink up to a week in advance; give it a good stir before serving to remix the superfine almond and rice solids.