savory beef empanadas

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When we make Mexican food at our house, it’s usually tacos or fajitas.  Something fast and easy.  What I have failed to realize all this time, is that with a little bit of preparation, empanadas can be that fast and easy dinner.

You see, I’ve been working a little bit of a later shift lately, and so I’ve been looking for things that are not only quick and easy dinners, but that the BF can easily prepare as well.  These fit the bill perfectly.  With just about 30 minutes of work over the weekend, I can have 10 empanadas in the freezer waiting to be devoured.

This weekend, we devoured them as a midday snack.

To make the recipe even easier, I found frozen empanada dough in our grocer’s freezer.  Next to these curious creatures:

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Have you ever seen these?  I’d been eyeing these little guys for awhile, I have to admit that the idea of not wasting money by constantly buying fresh herbs “just in case” I need them is very appealing to me.

I try to keep fresh herbs around, in the fridge or on the windowsill, but I swear that 9 times out of 10 by the time I go to use them they are already wilted and dead (I’ve got parsley on the windowsill now, wilting away as we speak!).

All that money can really add up, so the thought of always having fresh herbs within an arm’s reach sounds like something out of a dream.

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My first thought when I popped out my cube of garlic, “What’s that funny smell?”  Am I the only person who smells all of their ingredients?  It can’t just be me.  A quick glance at the ingredients list and I saw it’s not just garlic, they are suspended in a cube of oil, salt, and lemon juice, I assume for freshness.

I would be lying if I if I said that I wasn’t at least a little worried that my empanadas were going to taste funny.

Luckily, making the filling is just about as easy as browning beef, so I figured if they tasted funny I would just make a new batch and life would go on.  The good thing about empanadas is that, unlike with baking, you can taste your filling as you go so you will have a pretty good idea of what your finished product is going to taste like.

That being said, I was relieved when I tasted the filling… no sign of that funny smell.  Maybe that’s just what frozen garlic smells like, I’m not a frozen garlic expert or anything.  The best part?  I didn’t even have to smell garlicky fingers all night long like I would if I had minced the garlic by hand.  Garlicky fingers are the worst.

Garlic cubes = Success! I also picked up a package of basil cubes that I think I will try in my next tomato sauce.

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I made these empanadas last week; I baked a few fresh and then we baked some from frozen this weekend as a snack.  I don’t know if the freezer works some sort of witchcraft on them, but the empanadas that we baked this weekend from frozen were even better than the ones baked from fresh!

So, that being said, I’m going to recommend you make yours ahead of time and bake them from frozen.  If you decide to bake them fresh, just know that the ones you freeze are going to taste even better!

In the recipe below, I stated both the cube amounts and the fresh amounts for the garlic and cilantro that I used.  If you’d like to make your empanada dough from scratch, you can find a recipe here and here, but I can’t vouch for either of them.  I can vouch for the frozen dough I used, as it was super easy and it baked up super crisp and flaky, and even stayed crisp after I had to stash some leftovers in the fridge.

Also, I can already see that you’re thinking about leaving out the cheese.  Trust me, you need the cheese, don’t leave it out!  You can substitute some of that pre-shredded Mexican cheese if you want but you better put some cheese in there!  I did half of my empanadas with cheese and half without and the ones with cheese were markedly better, even though they didn’t necessarily taste “cheesy.”

Also, if you’d like a little more “control” over the flavor, you could probably substitute tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (I’d recommend fire-roasted) for the “salsa” called for in the recipe.  The filling is entirely customizeable, so don’t be afraid to play around a bit to find the perfect mix for your tastes!

Savory Beef Empanadas

Makes 10 empanadas

Printable Recipe

  • 1 Tablespoon oil, olive or vegetable
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ medium onion (about ¼ cup finely chopped)
  • ½ medium bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup your favorite salsa
  • 2 cubes garlic (or 2 cloves garlic, minced)
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons adobo from can of chipotles
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, minced (optional)
  • 1 to 2 cubes cilantro (or 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, minced, more or less to taste) (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup shredded cheese (I used ¼ cup sharp cheddar + ¼ cup monterey jack)
  • 10 empanada shells, I found frozen ones at my grocery store
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)

1.  Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Add beef and cook until well-browned.  Add onion and bell pepper and continue cooking until just softened, about five minutes more.  Lower heat to medium low and add remaining ingredients except cheese and shells.  Simmer about ten minutes; set aside to cool.  Once cooled to room temperature, mix in cheese.

2.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  While working on empanadas, keep unused discs covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying out.  Fill each shell with 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling, then seal tightly by dampening the edge of the disc with water and folding the disc over to create a crescent shape.  Press tightly to seal, or use a fork to press closed.

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3.  To freeze:  Place empanadas in a single layer on baking sheet, put in freezer 1 hour, then transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag for storage.

4.  When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375°F.  Brush empanada tops with egg wash, avoiding crimped edges, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool slightly before eating.

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[ I occasionally receive discounts or coupons to try products for you.  I received coupons to purchase Dorot spices, which I’d been eyeing for months at the grocery store and would have tried anyway.  All opinions about these spices and anything else on Wee Eats are always entirely my own. ]

8 thoughts on “savory beef empanadas

  1. I just bought those herb/garlic cube thingies after they were recommended to me and they’re amazing! I hate cutting garlic so much (stinky fingers for days!!!- by the way I totally typed that before I finished reading your post where you mention stinky fingers, haha) so this was like the start of a new life for me. The only thing is that the little cubes are so tiny that you shouldn’t take the package out until you’re ready to use it. I found that they melted very quickly and it made them harder to get out of the package.
    These empanadas look so good! Love that crispy crust. Now I just have to see if I can get my hands on some empanada dough….

    • Right!? Also, I was grating garlic last night (for comparison) and the “funny smell” might just be what grated garlic smells like… You should sniff your cubes and let me know if you think they smell funny! lol!!!

      I saw online that they also have like, ginger and red chile and stuff, but they didn’t have those ones at my store 🙁 Ginger would be great for stir fry since sometimes I keep even the jarred ginger in the fridge so long that I question if it’s still good to use lol.

      I used the “Goya” brand empanada dough, if you can’t find it in your regular grocery store (I have, like, 5 “regular” grocery stores) try to look for a Mexican grocer and they will definitely have it!

      • Where did you get them? Trader Joes has them…though I didn’t check what other herbs they have because I was so excited when i saw the garlic 🙂 I’ll give mine a sniff and let you know what I think. I’m big on smelling things- Nate and my mom both yell at me because I’m always smelling my fingers. Yeah, I know that’s weird but I’m just making sure they don’t smell! I’ve totally done that with jarred ginger too! So I finally just stopped buying it and buy fresh ginger the few times I need it.

        • I saw them at Trader Joes, but I think I actually purchased them at Albertson’s because they had more varieties… I know that Whole Foods has them too, so I should go back there to see if they have other kinds there too! I got the empanada dough at Fry’s grocer, which is “Kroger” in the midwest… not sure if you have them back east.

          I always rub my garlicky fingers on our stainless steel sink (because it ALLEGEDLY gets rid of the smell)… spoiler alert: DOESN’T WORK!

  2. stinky garlic fingers are the WORST: i had to chop both that and shallots yesterday and i died a little inside. and i have SEEN these packages in the freezer section for months now, but i hadn’t tried them yet; now i’m headed straight for the garlic one.
    empanada dough: i’m going to have to look for it up here; we have a few grocery stores who are very mexican food friendly, so i’ll start there, although i see way more of this type of thing when i’m in florida. like, TONS. i’m looking, though: or my fallback is the empanada dough in the Back in the Day Bakery cookbook.

    • Aren’t they though!? I always smell it when I’m going to bed later that night, like laying in bed WHY DO I SMELL GARLIC!? Maybe I’ll turn into one of those crazy people who just wears gloves all the time.

      You’re the second person to mention the “Back in the Day Bakery” cookbook… do I need it? I feel like I need it now…

  3. What are you all talking about? Garlic smells amazing!! If you don’t like the smell of garlic, chances are you have a damaged palette!

    • LOL, Jared! I love the smell of garlic when it’s cooking, not so much 5 hours later when it’s still on my fingers! 🙂

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