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In Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Philippines, an empanada (Portuguese empada) is essentially a stuffed pastry. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Usually the empanada is made by folding a thin circular-shaped dough patty over the stuffing, creating its typical semicircular shape. Empanadas are also known by a wide variety of regional names (see the entries for the individual countries below).
It is likely that the empanadas in the Americas were originally from Galicia, Spain, where an empanada is prepared similar to a pie that is cut in pieces, making it a portable and hearty meal for working people. The Galician empanada is usually prepared with cod fish or chicken. Due to the large number of Galician immigrants in Latin America, the empanada gallega has also become very popular in that region. The idea of an empanada may originate from the Moors, who occupied Spain for 800 years. Middle Eastern cuisine to this day has similar foods, like simbusak (a fried, chickpea filled "empanada") from Iraq.
Varieties by country
Argentine empanadas are a common dish served at parties, as a starter or in festivals. Shops specialize in freshly-made empanadas for parties, with many flavors and fillings.
The filling usually consists primarily of ground beef, perhaps spiced with cumin, and onion, green olive, chopped boiled egg and even raisins. While empanadas are usually baked, they can also be fried. They may also contain cheese, ham and cheese, chicken, fish, humita (sweetcorn with white sauce) or spinach; a fruit filling is used to create a dessert empanada. Empanadas of the interior regions can be spiced with peppers.
In restaurants where several types are served, a repulgue, or pattern, is added to the pastry fold. These patterns, which can be quite elaborate, distinguish the filling. In modern restaurants in Argentina, adventurous new fillings are being tried, with the traditional recipe being reinvented by modern chefs.
In Argentina, due to the large number of Galician immigrants, the "empanada gallega" is very popular.
Widely known as salteñas (after an Argentine province bordering the country to the south), they are made with beef or chicken, and usually contain potatoes, peas and carrots, as well as a quail's egg, an olive, or raisins. They are customarily seamed along the top of the pastry and are generally sweeter than the Chilean variety, though there are levels of spicy (non sweetness). Salteñas are traditionally only served in the morning but now can be found as a quick lunch or dinner.
In the afternoons, fried cheese empanadas are served, brushed with icing sugar.
In Brazil, empanadas, or empadinhas are a common ready-to-go lunch item available at fast-food counters. A wide variety of different fillings and combinations are available, with the most common being chicken, palmito (heart of palm), cheese, shrimp, and beef.
The filling of empadinhas often have olives or olive pieces mixed in. Many people see this as a crucial aspect of the food, originating the expression "olive in the empadinha" for something important, desirable or beneficial.
The cheese empadinha is usually open, resembling a portuguese Pastel de Belém
Chilean empanadas also use a wheat flour based dough, but the meat filling is slightly different and often contains more onion. Chileans consider the Argentine filling to be seco, or dry, but since beef is more costly in Chile than in Argentina, Chileans have become more accustomed to the higher onion ratio, including the pequenes which replace all beef with onion. The two varieties of Chilean empanadas are baked (de horno) and fried. The baked empanadas are much larger than the fried variety. The three savory Chilean empanada fillings are pino, cheese, and seafood. Pino (similar to Mexican picadillo) consists of chopped (or sometimes minced) beef, onion, chopped boiled egg, an olive and raisins. Fried empanadas containing prawns and cheese are a favourite dish of coastal areas, such as Viña del Mar. Seafood empanadas are essentially the same as the pino kind, but with seafood instead of beef. There are also sweet empanadas, made of a different dough, and filled with dried pears (empanada de pera). Empanadas are widely consumed all year, but especially during the 18 September national celebrations.
Colombian empanadas can be either baked or fried. The ingredients used in the filling can vary according to the region, but it will usually contain components such as salt, rice, beef or ground beef, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and peas. However, radical variations can also be found (cheese empanadas, chicken-only empanadas, and even Trucha - Trout - empanadas). The pastry is mostly corn-based, although potato flour is also used. Colombian empanadas are usually served with Aji (also called Picante by some people), a sauce made of cilantro, green onions, vinegar, salt, and lemon juice. Bottled hot sauces are also used to add flavor to the empanadas. Colombian empanadas are also known to contain carrots and chicken. Another variety include Stuffed Potatoes (Papas rellenas) which is a variant that has potato in the pastry instead of maize dough and have round shapes.
Cuban empanadas are typically filled with seasoned meats (usually ground beef or chicken) folded into dough and deep fried. These are not to be confused with Cuban pastelitos, which are very similar but use a lighter pastry dough and may or may not be fried. Cubans eat empanadas at any meal, but they usually consume them during lunch or as a snack.
Similar in their preparation and method of consumption to Cuban empanadas. More modern versions, promoted by some specialty food chains, include stuffing like pepperoni and cheese, conch, Danish cheese and chicken, etc. A variety also exists in which the dough is made from cassava flour, called catibías. Adobo seasoning, diced boiled eggs and raisins can be added as way to provide additional variety and enhance the flavor of the meat filling.
Very similar to those of their neighboring country, Colombia, Ecuadorian empanadas are made of corn seasoning or flour. Their components may include peas, potatoes, steamed meat known as carne guisada, or many other varieties of vegetables. The many types of Ecuadorian empanadas include empanadas de arroz (rice empanadas), which are deep fried for added crispiness, and flour empanadas or empanadas de verde which are empanadas made from plantin. Empanadas are also followed by aji (a type of dipping sauce for added flavor), which varies by region. The major components of "aji", or "picante", as it is also known, are cilantro, juices from red peppers (for a spicy kick), lemon, Spanish, red, or green onion, and sometimes chopped tomato. In la costa , or the shore region of Ecuador, aji may contain only onions, chopped tomatoes, and lemon juice.
Mexican empanadas are most commonly a dessert or breakfast item and tend to contain a variety of sweetened fillings; these include pumpkin, yams, sweet potato, and cream, as well as a wide variety of fruit fillings. Meat, cheese, and vegetable fillings are less common, but still well-known and eaten fairly regularly in Mexico; certain regions like the state of Hidalgo are famous for the empanadas, which are the favorite local dish. You can find savoury and sweet varieties of those also known as pastes.
Empanadas are usually filled with beef but sometimes may also be filled with chicken. They are smaller than their counterparts elsewhere in Latin America and are considered snack, appetizer, or luncheon food.
Peruvian empanadas are similar to the Argentine empanadas, but slightly smaller. They are usually baked. The most common variety contains ground beef seasoned with cumin, hard-boiled egg, onion, olives and raisin. They are commonly sprinkled with lime juice before eating.
Filipino empanadas usually contain a filling flavored with soy sauce and containing ground beef or chicken meat, chopped onion, and raisins in a wheat flour dough.
However, empanadas in the northern Ilocos region are very different. These empanadas are made of a savory filling of green papaya and, upon request, chopped Ilocano sausage (longganisa) and/or an egg. Rather than the soft, sweet dough favored in the Tagalog region, the dough used to enclose the filling is thin and crisp, mostly because Ilocano empanada is deep-fried rather than baked.
In Portugal, empadas are a common option for a small meal, found universally in patisseries and often being chosen as a good partner to a quick coffee. They are usually about the size of a golf ball, though size and shape changes from place to place or even from establishment to establishment. The most common fillings are chicken, beef, tuna, codfish and, more recently, mushrooms and vegetables, though this also varies from place to place. They aren't usually served hot.
Puerto Rican empanadas, called pastelillos, are made of flour dough and are fried. They can be filled with ground beef, chicken, guava, cheese, or both guava and cheese. This is also true for their neighboring country of Dominican Republic.
Uruguayan empanadas are generally made out of wheat flour and can be fried or baked. There were introduced into the country by Spanish (mainly from Galicia) and Italian settlers in the middle of the 20th century. Argentine influence over the region has enriched the national cuisine by mixing new flavors and recipes. The most common empanada is of ham and cheese, but there are also other kinds, such as those containing beef, olives, raisins, fish and spicy stuffing. The most famous sweet empanadas in Uruguay are those that combine dulce de leche, quince and chocolate covered by sugar or apple jam.
Venezuelan empanadas use corn flour based dough and are deep fried. The stuffing varies according to the region; most common are the cheese and ground beef empanadas. Other types use fish, "caraotas" or black beans, oyster, clams and other types of seafood popular in the coastal areas, especially in Margarita Island.
- How to Make Empanadas - Step-by-step guide with pictures on how to make empanadas.
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