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Colombian Empanadas (Now posting from San Antonio, Texas!)

October 14, 2012


Since the last time I was able to update Mrs. Smith Cooks, this family has moved across the country! I’ve been cooking a lot in the new house, but most of what we’ve been making has been old standbys for family meals and/or recipes that are already posted here. Just recently, as we’ve started to settle in to a routine, have I been branching out and trying some new recipes that I think Mrs. Smith Cooks readers will enjoy.

Continuing my quest to create food that Elias loves from home, I embarked on a journey to make empanadas like the ones he enjoys at home in Barranquilla, Colombia. A couple of things intimidated me about these empanadas, namely that they are deep fried, and that they involve working with a very soft dough. I managed to conquer both of my fears and create these. Elias helped me to refine the technique for filling them, which I will share here. These are a labor of love. They require first making the dough, then making the filling, then assembling and frying them. If you want to make them with the aji dipping sauce (and of course we did!) that’s another step and more chopping. This project is much more manageable if broken down a bit. Make the filling one evening and do the rest the following day, for example.

A few notes about Colombian style empanadas.

  • They can be made with two types of dough, one type is made much like a pastry dough with flour, baking powder, cold butter, etc. This is the method detailed in my favorite Colombian cookbook Secrets of Colombian Cooking. This is not the method familiar to Elias, however. Elias is familiar with an empanada made with precooked corn flour called masarepa. This is the same flour used to make Colombian arepas (I will put these on the blog soon). Masarepa should not be confused with Masa Harina, which is also used to make empanadas, just not this particular type. Some clues you have bought the right stuff for the recipe here? It says masarepa on it, or precooked (precocida) on the bag.
  • The dough created is a very soft dough, which makes it hard to work with, and it also makes the filling want to poke through the sides of the dough and create a mess. Some hints to make it easier to work with: Do not, (I repeat NOT) work with the dough too much. Don’t do what I did at first and keep poking it and playing with it to make it work. That just makes a mess. Don’t roll it out too thinly…about 1/4 inch is ideal. Don’t overfill (the worst sin of all). The fried dough tastes delicious enough on its own, one doesn’t have to worry about getting enough filling in there… a modest amount so that it will easily close.
  • Another tip? Use a thermometer for the oil. Elias made fun of me for this. (After all, no self-respecting Colombian grandmother HE knows needs to use one.) The reason, however, the people Elias knows don’t need to use a thermometer is that they do all kinds of frying in oil for all kinds of reasons. (Tostones, empanadas, arepa con huevo, etc.) Those of us who don’t deep fry every day, we need the thermometer. When he saw the delicious results, even Elias was convinced the thermometer was a win.

Colombian Empanadas – Modified from My Colombian Recipes

For the Dough:

1 1/2 cups masarepa (see note above)

1/2 T Sazon Goya w/azafran

1 tsp. salt

2 cups water

1 T vegetable oil

For the Filling:

2 small russet potatoes, chopped, cooked and slightly mashed
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
½ t salt
¼ cup chopped green onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoon chopped red bell pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ pound ground beef or turkey


Prepare the Dough

1. Mix dry ingredients together and stir to mix well. Add water and oil and mix to form the soft dough.

2. Knead dough until smooth (2-3 minutes)

3. Form dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap while the filling is prepared.

Prepare Filling

1. Heat 1T oil in a large nonstick frying pan. Add onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the tomatoes, green onions, garlic, bell pepper, and cilantro. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Add ground beef or turkey and continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes or so, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon. Mixture should be dry.

3. Add the cooked and mashed potato to the mixture and stir to combine.

Assemble the Empanadas

1. Roll medium sized pieces of dough (2-3 T) between your hands to form balls.

2. Place balls on plastic wrap and roll out to discs 1/4-1/2 inch in thickness.

3. Place filling (1-2T, do not overfill) on one side of the dough disc and fold the empty side over the filling.

4 Press dough together or crimp with a fork.

Fry the Empanadas

1. Fill a medium sized pot with vegetable oil and heat to 360 degrees

2. Drop empanadas in the oil two or three at a time and fry for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown

3. Drain on paper towels

4. Serve with lime wedges or aji (recipe below)



1 jalapeno pepper  (remove seeds and veins for a less spicy option, or remove entirely)

½ cup white vinegar

¼ cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 bunch each of cilantro, parsley, scallions

1/2 tomato


1. Process all ingredients together in a food processor until the consistency of a smooth salsa

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mandy permalink
    October 14, 2012 9:32 pm

    You go girl! Not only did you have time to make this time-intensive recipe but you also had time to blog about it…I’m impressed!

  2. October 15, 2012 12:17 am

    These look amazing!

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