Mini Panamanian Beef Empanadas


At Panamonte Inn & Spa, chef Charlie Collins teaches students how to make perfectly flaky empanada dough. For fillings, he uses local ingredients like beef jerk and culantro (a long-leafed herb with a pungent flavor); ground beef and cilantro are fine substitutes. For a flakier empanada, he advises using leaf lard instead of butter.

Mini Panamanian Beef Empanadas
A savory finger food with a pastry-like exterior? New Mexico knows what’s up. We’ve miniaturized the classic empanada with a version that’s equal parts light, flaky, and meaty. Photo: © Quentin Bacon
Active Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 15 mins
24 empanadas



  • 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)

  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (cut into small pieces and chilled)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • ¼ cup dry white wine

  • 1 tablespoon sugar


  • ¼ pound ground beef

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • ¼ cup chicken stock (or low-sodium broth)

  • ¼ cup chopped, seeded tomato

  • ½ teaspoon achiote seeds (also called annatto seeds)

  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

  • 1 small onion (finely diced)

  • 1 garlic clove (minced)

  • Vegetable oil for frying

  • ½ tablespoon tomato paste

  • ¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper


  1. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat the eggs with the wine and vinegar and drizzle over the flour mixture. Pulse until the dough just comes together. On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the dough until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

  2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the achiote seeds and cook over moderately high heat until the seeds darken and the oil is orange, about 1 minute. Discard the seeds. Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no pink remains, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, onion and bell pepper and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato, tomato paste and chicken stock and simmer over moderate heat until the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

  3. On a generously floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. With a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, stamp out as many rounds as possible (you should have about 24). Reroll the dough scraps and stamp out additional rounds if possible. Brush the excess flour off the rounds. Working with 1 round at a time and keeping the rest covered with plastic wrap, form the empanadas: Spoon 2 teaspoons of the filling on one side of the dough round. Fold the dough over to enclose the filling and crimp the edges with a fork to seal. Cover with plastic wrap while you form the remaining empanadas.

  4. Heat oven to 350°F and place a baking sheet on middle rack of oven. In a deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil to 350°F. Fry 4 empanadas at a time, turning once, until browned and crisp, 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and transfer to baking sheet to keep warm. When all of the empanadas have been fried, remove them from the oven and serve.

Make Ahead

The filled, uncooked empanadas can be frozen on a baking sheet, then transferred to an airtight bag. Bake them in a 350° oven without thawing.


Alternatively, you can bake the empanadas: Preheat the oven to 350°. Beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of milk. Evenly space the uncooked empanadas on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper and brush with the egg wash. Bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Suggested Pairing

Juicy, black-fruited Chilean Malbec.

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