Buenos Aires Just Hosted Its First-Ever Empanada Championship
The winner, María del Carmen "Chacha” Vicario, can now claim the best empanada in all of Argentina.
Empanadas come in many different forms. The crescent moon-shaped dough pockets, often loaded with fillings like ground beef, onion, smoked paprika, green olives, and cumin, can be baked or fried. Some recipes call for a vegetable filling, like these spinach and green pea stuffed empanadas, while chef Charlie Collins opts for beef jerk and culantro (a long-leafed, pungent herb) in his Panamian-style empanadas. In Argentina, where empanadas are ubiquitous, each province has its own signature spin, with variances in the ingredients and technique. So this year, Buenos Aires decided to find out who makes the very best empanada by hosting the inaugural La Fiesta de la Empanada, a cooking competition dedicated to all things empanada.
The event, hosted by BA Capital Gastronómica and the Mataderos Fair in the city’s Mataderos neighborhood, took place on July 9. 15 professional chefs from all over the country competed, including representatives from Salta, Tucumán, Chubut, Córdoba, Jujuy, La Rioja, Mendoza, Corrientes, Santiago del Estero, and CABA. Each chef prepared 12 empanadas from their province, which the judging panel then evaluated based on the preparation of the dough and filling, the signature fold and crimp technique, and the cooking and baking techniques. A whopping 150,000-plus people came out to watch the competition—as it turns out, Mendoza’s empanadas reign supreme.
The winner, María del Carmen "Chacha” Vicario, hails from Tunuyán, Mendoza, and can now claim the best empanada in Argentina. She baked her winning recipe in a clay oven, and filled the empanada with thinly sliced beef tenderloin, onions, green olives, hard boiled eggs, and scallions—a traditional Argentine take not unlike Francis Mallmann’s recipe. The judges were comprised of renowned Argentine food critics, chefs, and other “empanada champions” too, so you know Vicario’s empanadas are the real deal.
If La Fiesta de la Empanada inspirex you to make your own empanadas at home, we have plenty of recipes. José Andrés makes open-faced crab empanadas that are a cross between a Galician empanada (savory pie) and Basque txangurro (crab simmered with tomato); Santiago Garat likes to cook the meat in lard for his flaky beef empanadas, so it’s extra succulent. All you have to do is pick which one to make first.