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What is an Empanada? An In-Depth Look at This Delicious Latin-American Delight

A jewel of the food world, Empanadas are loved for both their delicious fillings, adaptability and simplicity. Coming in a variety of different flavours and textures, Empanadas can be enjoyed as a snack, a main meal or the perfect addition to a party buffet.

In this blog, we explore exactly the question 'What is an Empanada?', uncover their amazing history, how you can make them, where to eat them - and pretty much everything you need to know about these delightful pockets of golden goodness!

What are Empanadas?

Beef Empanadas

Empanadas are pastries stuffed with a savoury or sweet filling that are either baked or fried until golden. Many different countries have their own take on Empanadas, but for the Brits among us, it's most closely aligned with the British pasty' (except much more delicious in our opinion!).

The name 'Empanada' comes from the Spanish verb "empanar," which translates as "to wrap or coat in bread". Whilst all Empanadas are enclosed in some form of pastry, there's no set rule on the specific shape and size of an Empanada, nor the filling itself! As such, you can find many different styles of Empanadas in Spain, Portugal and Latin-America.

The most traditional Empanadas tend to be those that consist of a savoury filling, stuffed with cheeses, meats or vegetables. Fillings such as 'Beef', 'Chicken', 'Ham & Cheese', usually tend to be some of the most popular Empanada flavours, although anything from fruits and vegetables, to nutella and banana can also be added.

At Empanada Express, we offer a selection of 12 delicious fillings. In addition to all the most common Empanada fillings aforementioned, we also have a mixture of other delightful varieties, including 'BBQ Pulled Pork', 'Caprese', 'Apple & Cinnamon' and a super sweet & sticky 'Dulce de Leche'!

The History of Empanadas

Empanada Dough

When tracing Empanadas back to their exact origins, there's a couple of different theories as to when and where it was created. Many believe that Empanadas got their influence from a Middle Eastern pastry called "sambousek," which were introduced to the Iberian Peninsula during the Moorish conquests. The idea of encasing a filling in dough soon caught on in Spain and Portugal, and so the Empanada was born!

Following the Spanish and Portuguese colonisation of Latin America, Empanadas quickly became a popular snack and gradually developed into a diverse range of regional delicacies. Each country in Latin America has a slightly different way of preparing their Empanadas, as well as the fillings that go inside it:

The Argentinian Empanada

  • Small to Medium Size - fits well in the hand

  • Mostly baked, although fried Empanadas are also available

  • Argentinian Empanadas have a slightly thicker, bread-like texture

  • The most popular fillings are Beef (Carne), Chicken (Pollo), Ham & Cheese (Jamón y Queso) and Corn (Humita)

  • Commonly served with a Chimichurri sauce

The Chilean Empanada

  • Similar consistency and texture to an Argentinian Empanada

  • Due to its long coastline along the Pacific Ocean, Chilean Empanadas commonly contain seafood (Mariscos) such as mussels, shrimps and clams, and their own beef variety which they call 'Pino'.

  • Raisins are often added to give that added sweetness to the salty flavours of the Empanada

The Peruvian Empanada

  • Peruvian Empanadas are typically a little bit smaller and have a much thinner dough compared to other countries

  • Baked Empanadas are most popular

  • Empanadas are very much seen as a street food snack in Peru, rather than an actual meal.

  • Most Empanadas are dusted with icing sugar and served with a slice of lime on the side.

The Colombian Empanada

  • Colombian Empanadas are arguably the most distinctive from the rest due to the use of a yellow cornmeal dough which gives them a much brighter colour

  • Typically deep-fried, they are usually serve with Colombian aji sauce and a slice of lime on the side.

  • Normally filled with minced pork or beef, potatoes, vegetables and spices

The Brazilian Empanada

  • In Brazil, Empanadas are known as "pastéis" and are typically much bigger than the traditional Empanada.

  • Often rectangular in shape, this popular street food is usually deep-fried and served with a variety of savoury fillings.

  • The crust is much crispier than a traditional Empanada, resembling more a 'Spring Roll' texture.

How to Make Empanadas

Empanada with Name

As you can see, there are many different ways of making Empanadas, so the exact recipe that you want depends on the type of Empanadas that you like.

The most popular way of cooking Empanadas is by baking them, due it being the healthier alternative than fried, but many people still prefer the crispy exterior that you get from deep-frying Empanadas.

Furthermore, whilst we've not seen it for ourselves, some people have claimed that they are grill or steam their Empanadas - but this is definitely much less common than the aforementioned!

Cecilia Tupac has a selection of free Empanada recipes on her website or YouTube channel showing how to make Peruvian-style Empanadas. For a taste of Brazil, you can check Olivia's Cuisine for an Empanada, or Pastel, with 3 different fillings. Alternatively, if you like the look of the Colombian Empanadas, take a look at mycolombianrecipes where Erica will teach you how to make an amazing Colombian style Empanada with Aji sauce.

Where to Order Empanadas Near Me

Empanada Filling

If you prefer the idea of having delicious, high-quality Empanadas delivered straight to your door, then why not buy from us instead?

At Empanada Express, we really do love Empanadas! So much so, that we offer 12 different fillings to suit every taste.

Whether you're hosting a party or looking for a quick and satisfying meal, we've got you covered! Simply order your favourite Empanadas from our website, and have them delivered directly to your home in a matter of days, anywhere in the UK!

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