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Our Puerto Rican Empanadas, or Pastelillos de Carne, are beef-filled baked meat pies with so much flavor! They’re easy to make a big batch of in under an hour, and are perfect for lunch, dinner, and snacking. Everyone loves these tasty hand pies!
Best Beef Empanadas
Oh, how I love these baked beef empanadas! I’ve been making this easy recipe for years for my family as a lunch box treat and an after-school snack. They’re good hot or cold, and are perfect for dipping in your favorite sauces (try romesco!).
I just know you’re going to love this recipe. The flavor of these beef empanadas is incomparable! They’re tasty, and easy to make using homemade dough or even store-bought empanada dough or Goya discos.
This is a simple dish from start to finish, but its flavors are complex and so satisfying. Try it out and let me know what you think!
🥟 What is an Empanada?
An empanada is basically a savory pie that’s perfectly hand-sized. You cook ground meat down with spices, then pack it into a pastry shell.
You can use homemade empanada dough, or save some time by using pre-made Goya empanadas dough. They can be baked or fried, depending on your preference!
Ready-Made Empanada Dough
We love to make our own empanada dough – it’s easy and fun! But it does take extra time, so if you’re short on time or just want to speed up the process, you can use premade dough.
You can purchase ready-made empanada dough like Goya Discos. They are sold in the frozen food section at most supermarkets. We love to make these baked empanadas with Goya discos!
Another easy option that works well is using a refrigerated pie dough. Any of these methods work well because the filling is packed with so much flavor!
What is Sofrito?
Sofrito is a Puerto Rican cooking base consisting of tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, and spices. You can easily find it in the international aisle of most grocery stores.
What is Sazon Seasoning?
Sazón means “seasoning” in Spanish. It is usually a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic or garlic powder, coriander, and cumin.
Sazón con Azafran, or Sazón with Saffron, is a seasoning packet sold in an orange and yellow box by the Goya brand. You can easily find it in the international aisle.
🥔 How to Parboil Potatoes
Parboil, meaning to partly cook food by boiling, is a technique used to soften foods (like potatoes) before cooking with them.
To make these Puerto Rican beef empanadas, we parboil potatoes before cooking them in the filling.
- Place your potatoes in a pot and cover them with cold water.
- Add a pinch of salt, cover the pot with a lid, and turn the stove on high heat.
- Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat slightly to keep it from boiling over. Continue boiling for approximately 5-10 minutes. Shorter if you diced the potatoes and longer if you left them whole.
- Test your potatoes with a fork, if it goes in with only a little resistance, you’re done.
- Remove the boiled potatoes from the heat and drain your pot. Let the potatoes cool a little. And that’s it, your potatoes are parboiled!
⭐ Family Foodie Tips
- Adding a little water to the pan as the beef cooks makes it easier to break up into small pieces.
- While you are making the filling, preheat your oven to 350°F to prepare the meat pies for baking.
Can I fry empanadas instead of baking them?
Yes! We make these Puerto Rican Empanadas baked, but you can easily fry them in a skillet.
Make sure the empanadas are nicely sealed, and then fry them until golden-brown and crispy in a neutral oil.
Fill a skillet with enough oil to cover the empanadas and fry them just so the skillet isn’t overcrowded. You may need to fry in batches.
The best oils for frying are oils like vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, or any neutral oil.
❄ Can you freeze empanadas?
Yes! To freeze the baked pastelillos, place them next to each other on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Be careful they aren’t touching or they’ll wind up sticking together!
Let them freeze that way, then transfer them to a freezer bag or other freezer-safe container. We recommend bags so they don’t get any freezer burn.
Label with the freezing date.
🔥 How to Reheat Empanadas
For frozen empanadas, you can bake them straight out of the freezer, but be sure to add approximately 5 minutes to the cooking time.
Once the easy meat pie recipe is finished, remove the pan(s) from the oven and serve immediately!
The meat is savory, the dough is a little sweet, and the olives provide a salty kick. You will LOVE these meat pies!
🥗 What to Serve with Empanadas
We recommend trying a dipping sauce with these beef empanadas! An avocado crema or even a Mexican crema is delicious with this dish. Our all-time favorite dish to pair them with is Elote Recipe (Elotes Mexicanos).
If you’re enjoying these baked empanadas as the main course, try pairing them with our favorite rice, Portuguese Rice. It is so easy to prepare and truly the best rice!
📖 Easy Mexican Recipes
- Mexican Lasagna with Corn Tortillas
- Papas Rellenas Recipe (Stuffed Potato Balls)
- Authentic Carne Asada Recipe
- Slow Cooker Carne Picada
- Chilaquiles Rojos Mexican Skillet
- Instant Pot Mexican Chicken and Rice Soup
And don’t forget dessert! These easy dessert recipes with few ingredients pair perfectly with any one of the above recipes.
- Carlota de Limon (Charlotte Russe Dessert)
- Fresas con Crema – Strawberries and Cream
- Mexican Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
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📖 Empanada Recipes
Empanada filling varies across cultures, but the basic concept is the same. The one thing all homemade meat pies have in common is they are all delicious!
I’ve never had one I didn’t like. You can even make dessert empanadas! If you love them as much as I do, you must try our other empanada recipes.
Another favorite type of meat pie you might like to try is our Individual Guinness Beef Pot Pies. These homemade meat pies feature a rich Guinness beef stew topped with a flaky puff pastry crust.
💬 Reader Reviews
Take it from our readers – here’s what makes our beef empanadas the best!
My kids thought these were better than the ones we buy from a restaurant. Thank you for this delicious and easy to follow recipe.@kama410
Fried these empanadillas and they were delicious!!@meiju_o
Delicious .. my taste tester came back 3 times!@dcividan
Turned out really well. Very flakey and buttery. Used some of the dough to make berry tarts.@crystalyn3
Added some adobo to make the flavor pop a little more and fried them in canola oil, they turned out delicious 😋@lovetopin94
Only a few left before I remembered to take a pic! They were delicious!@jojoduff
I fried mine instead of baking. They were extra yummy!@brownsugar1272
Fried my empanadas and they were SO good! Also made sopapillas with the left over dough & rolled them in cinnamon sugar. Dinner AND Dessert, just perfect! 👌🏼@rrdz87
Did you give these empanadas a try? Leave a comment and photo on Pinterest! We would love to see and share it!
Puerto Rican Empanadas Recipe
Dough (or use 12 Goya Discos)
- 2 1/2 cups All purpose flour plus more for sprinkling
- 1 stick butter
- 1 egg beaten
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pound ground beef (we recommend Certified Angus Beef® brand)
- 1 medium potato (parboiled, peeled, and diced small)
- 1/4 cup Goya Sofrito plus 2 additional Tablespoons
- 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 packet Goya Sazón con Azafran
- 20 Spanish olives roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup Water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese shredded
Making Empanada Dough
- Add 2 ½ cups AP flour, 1 stick of cold butter cut into small pieces, 1 egg, ¼ cup cold water, and a pinch of salt to a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.Pour dough mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap. Form mixture into a ball with your hands. Wrap the ball of dough tightly in the plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove dough from the fridge. Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface. Roll the dough out with a floured rolling pin as thin as possible. Place a 5-6 inch round bowl or plate onto the dough. Run a knife along the edges of the bowl until you have cut a round disc. Remove the dough round and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the dough. The dough will need to be formed into a ball and rolled out a few more times to cut the rest of the dough rounds. Repeat until all the dough has been cut into rounds.
Making Empanada Filling
- Parboil a medium potato for 7 to 10 minutes, then peel and dice into small pieces. Mince 20 Spanish olives.Heat a large skillet to medium and add ground beef. Cook completely and chop it into pieces as it cooks. Drain any excess grease when finished cooking. Add the potato, sofrito, and ¼ cup water to the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Add tomato sauce, 1 Sazon con Azafron seasoning packet, ¼ cup water, and a pinch of salt. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring often. Toss the olives into the pan and stir.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.Place the pastry rounds onto a clean surface. Spoon 2 Tbsp. or so of the meat filling into a pastry round. Top it with a sprinkling of Monterey Jack cheese. Rub the edges of the pastry round with a little bit of water. Pull one side of the pastry over the other and press the edges together with your fingers. Seal the edges tightly and crimp them together with your fingers or a fork. Try not to over-stuff the pastry rounds or they will break as they cook. Repeat with the remaining pastry rounds.
- Spray a baking sheet(s) with cooking spray. Place half of the empanadas on each pan. Place the pan(s) in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. You can use two separate pans or bake them in two separate batches.Remove the pan(s) from the oven when the empanadas are finished baking and serve immediately.
- You can substitute making dough for frozen Goya pastry rounds. Make sure to defrost for at least 30 minutes before you begin cooking.
- Goya Sofrito and Sazón con Azafran can be found in the international aisle of most grocery stores. Sofrito is a Puerto Rican cooking base consisting of tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, and spices, while Sazón con Azafran means “seasoning with saffron”, and it’s a seasoning packet using salt, pepper, garlic or garlic powder, coriander, cumin, and other seasonings.
- We recommend using Certified Angus Beef ® brand beef for the ground beef filling.
- Parboil your potatoes for an easy experience peeling and chopping them. They will also cook more quickly in the filling, costing you less time overall. If you’re not sure how to parboil a potato, it’s easy to do. Parboil, meaning to partly cook food by boiling, is a technique used to soften foods (like potatoes) before cooking with them. You can also parboil foods with skins like potatoes, for example, to easily peel them. In this case, we parboil potatoes to partially cook them in addition to making them easier to peel and cut.
Photo Credit: Christine Rooney