Beef Empanadas

Makes 10 Pocket Pies
Empanadas—pastry with a savory meat and vegetable filling—are a Spanish and South and Central American specialty and popular street food. At the ballfields in Riverside Park near our home in New York City, the “empanada lady” sells them during warm-weather months; we know it’s summer when she shows up. After playing soccer, the boys purchase either beef or cheese empanadas for two dollars each and absolutely devour them. Hers are fried; mine are a healthier baked version. I use cream cheese pastry, which isn’t authentic—but which is delicious and always easy to work with. You can make the filling up to 2 days in advance.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 cup pimiento-filled green olives, sliced
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Several dashes hot sauce
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 Cream Cheese Pastry Dough


  1. To make the filling, heat a large skillet over medium heat, and then swirl in the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper. Saute until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the beef. Cook, stirring constantly to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the cumin and cook for another minute.
  2. Stir in the olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Cook until the meat is golden brown, the liquid has evaporated, and the flavors have blended, about 4 more minutes. Cool the mixture completely in the fridge. Stir in the egg whites.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter or line a baking sheet.
  4. To form the empanadas, work with half of a disk of dough at a time, rolling out on a floured surface. Using an overturned bowl (about 5 inches across), cut out circles about 3 or 4 at a time from each piece of dough. Gather all dough scraps together, reroll once, and cut. Place 1/4 cup filling on one side of a dough circle. Wet the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough over to form a half circle. Pinch the edges of the dough together. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat the process until all the filling is used. The empanadas can be frozen at this point.
  5. Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet and chill for a few minutes. Prick each pie on top twice with a fork. When ready to bake, beat the egg yolks with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash over each empanada. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The empanadas can be cooled and frozen to reheat in a microwave.
cook's note
Make them bite-sized: For appetizers, follow the recipe but cut each piece of dough into 3-inch rounds. Fill with 1 to 2 teaspoons of filling. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
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