Empanadas: The perfect pocket food (Recipe: Apple Pie ‘Panadas)


Written by Stephanie of Keeper of the Home and EntreFamily Travels.

Have you ever noticed that nearly every culture has its own variation on a “pocket” food?

Chinese gyozas, Japanese rice balls with fish inside, German bierocks (beef, onion and cabbage filling), Mexican burritos and tamales, Italian calzones,  Polish pierogies, Indian samosas, English hand pies.

Hand held “pocket” foods, filled up with whatever is seasonal, available or simply leftover, just makes sense. Excellent for sending off with hard working husbands, or when you need a quick meal for hungry children.

They’re economical, easy to eat, and filling. The perfect homemade convenience food!

Empanadas… an Argentine staple

Aside from the famous asado (BBQ beef) and alfajores (slightly crumbly cookies with creamy, sweet dulce de leche oozing in between), empanadas are one of the most loved traditional foods here in Argentina, where our family is currently located during our year-long travels around the world.

Part of the joy of engaging in and experiencing a new culture for me is to experiment with the local foods. My husband conquered BBQ asado perfectly, and I made a pretty tasty batch of alfjores cookies, if I do say so myself. Last on my list was homemade empanadas.

The dough

I’ll be upfront and tell you that I have not been making my own dough. The dough recipes are simple enough, and I make plenty of pastry dough back home in Canada, but cooking in various types and sizes of kitchens (with various amounts of kitchen tools) has meant that sometimes I take more shortcuts than I might normally.

Here, most people buy their own empanada dough, and there are several brands which make an artisan-style wrapper out of the simplest of ingredients: flour, salt, butter, water, eggs. If you know how to make pie pastry, you can make empanada dough.


In this post, Shaina gives a good tutorial in making empanada dough. Or, you could use puff pastry filling, as Danny did for these Mini Tortiere Hand Pies (more pocket food!). Frozen filo pastry would be another option.

As for the folding, the main thing is the half-moon shape, and the edges can be folded or crimped according to your preference. Here are some examples of how I usually fold them:

how to fold an empanada

 The fillings

This is where I get excited, because it’s not about the dough pocket… it’s the filling that really makes a pocket food!

Here are some varieties we’ve encountered in our travels:

  • Chicken (usually with small amounts of green onion, or sometimes olive or red peppers or potatoes, and cheese)
  • Beef (very standard in the Northwest, where we stayed in Salta and Jujuy provinces- usually ground beef, hard boiled eggs, olives, onions, seasonings, and even raisins)
  • Ham and cheese
  • Four cheese
  • Cheese and onion (yum)
  • Chorizo (slightly spicy Italian style sausage, with peppers and cheese)
  • Arabe (these have a Middle Eastern flair and are usually ground beef with onions and red peppers, seasoned with lemon, cumin, allspice- they’re a.maz.ing. Wow.)
  • Verdura (mixed vegetables)

My first attempt at empanadas were the traditional beef ones, Salta style. With this recipe as my basis, they turned out juicy and delicious. My husband wasn’t crazy about the olives, but then again, he usually isn’t. I did not add raisins, because I hadn’t tasted one with raisins in it and wasn’t so sure about that addition.

Then, I tried chicken ones (similar to this recipe). The key with chicken is to keep them very moist, and it can help to add a bit of chicken broth to the chicken and vegetable mixtures as it cooks.


Getting creative with my fillings

For me, much as I love some of the specific flavors I’ve tried, making my own empanadas just screams “please clean out the fridge and find a use for what you’ve got”. And so I did.

For lunch the other day, I had leftover cooked ground beef, seasoned with onions and salt, then mixed in cubes of soft, mild cheese, which melts nicely. I filled them so that they would be quite full, but not overflowing. This is key with empanadas. It takes a few tries to perfect the amount, but you’ll find it quickly.


For Ryan and I, we needed something more sophisticated. Using leftover chicken breasts from a whole chicken I roasted the night before, I diced red peppers and green onions, then gave it all a quick saute with some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, then added soft cheese cubes, to melt all the flavors together.

Endless filling possibilities

Empanadas fillings can range from simple to gourmet. This is why I’ve become so enamored with them. There is no right or wrong way to make an empanada!

My next goal is to create one with sweet potatoes and beans, or what about one of these varieties I found online?

apple pie empanadas

The empanada recipe you have to try

One night, craving something to satisfy his sweet tooth, my husband took to creating a masterpiece. It involved apples, cinnamon, sugar, and plenty of butter.

We affectionately named them Apple Pie ‘Panadas. This is how hand-held apple pies were meant to be.

Before I get booed for empanada heresy, they are plenty of sweet versions available as well. I tried one served cool with a sweetened squash filling, and an icing-sugar coating. I’ve also been told that as you go further north in South and Latin America, it’s not uncommon to find varieties that include fruit fillings, such as apples, bananas, guavas or even pineapples.


Recipe: Apple Pie ‘Panadas

Apple Pie 'Panadas

5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Desserts
Servings: 12 empanadas
Calories: 211kcal
Author: Stephanie


  • 3 medium apples fancier varieties like Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady, etc. are nicest, though any will work
  • 12 empanada wrappers or your choice of pastry sheet with a 6 inch diameter
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup honey or 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon


  • Pre-heat your oven. I'm currently cooking on Argentine gas ovens that have no temperature gauge, so I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest around 400 F.
  • Peel and dice apples, in 1/2 inch pieces. My hubby thinks they're best when diced small. It's his recipe, so I'll defer to him on this one.
  • Lay out your empanada wrappers. Place about 1/4 cup chopped apples in the center. You want it to be good and full, but not overstuffed.
  • Sprinkle the apples with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and a generous drizzle of honey or sprinkle of sugar (honey is sweeter than sugar, so keep that in mind depending on which one you use). Note that you can absolutely cut the sweetener back if you enjoy a more tart apple taste. Add a couple dabs of butter onto the top of your apples.
  • Fold the wrapper in half, pulling and stretching the edges just a bit as you seal them, to give yourself dough for folding over or crimping. Make your edges look as simple or fancy as you like.
  • If you're my husband, you will want to melt a small amount of butter to brush on top of the finished empanadas, then finish with a light sprinkle of more cinnamon and sugar. This step isn't necessary, but it does add to the presentation.
  • Put on a greased baking sheet or pan, with just a bit of space between each empanada as they will puff up a little.
  • Cooking time is approximately 25 minutes, give or take. I've baked these in so many different ovens, in different amounts of time. Start checking in around 15 minutes. You're waiting to see the soft dough all begin to firm and crisp up, and the tops should be lightly browned when they're finished.


Calories: 211kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 93mg | Potassium: 72mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 145IU | Vitamin C: 2.1mg | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 0.8mg

Do you make any variations of pocket food? What are your favorite fillings?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie's interest in food began when she used whole food and traditional nutrition to bring healing to her health challenges, but it quickly grew into a love for backyard gardening, fresh flavors, and simple but lovingly crafted family meals. This year will find her stepping on every continent in the world, as she and her husband take their 4 young children globe-trotting. She's eager to study cooking in as many countries as possible, scout out the local markets, savor the unique cuisines, and glean inspiration from the pots and pans of the people she crosses paths with. You can find her sharing about natural homemaking at Keeper of the Home, or weaving travel tales on EntreFamily Travels. She has also written 3 books to help families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods.

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  1. Thanks for the inspiration, Stephanie! How have I not thought of these before?! What a great way to get kids involved in the kitchen, too: choosing their fillings and trying their hand at folding. I think we may make empanadas next time we have friends with kids over for dinner. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    I can SOOOOOOOOO relate! I’m in Argentina too (my husband and I are doing 6-month volunteer stints in the South American office of our denomination) and we are crazy about empanadas!! My oven is finicky and, like yours, has no temperature control either. Fortunately, we inherited an oven thermometer from a missionary who returned to the States. That doesn’t solve the “finicky” aspects of the oven, though! I’ve got dough in the fridge and apples in the fruit bowl and I’m ready to make Apple ‘Panadas!!! When the grandkids visit us in the States in July, we’ll have to make these again!

  3. Yum.. I love empanadas.. In Texas and Mexico that borders the S. Tex region, we grew up eating empanadas.. usually filled with sweet potato or pumpkin, pineapple, or lemon jelly.. The dough is heavier though than these shown and are a bit sweet with anise in them.. One of my most favorite things!

  4. These look so good!!! So good! I love the filling!

  5. Perfect. Our family is headed to Buenos Aires for 3 weeks in June. I’ve been working on trying to come up with different ways to introduce our kids to the culture before we go. Any other ideas on things we make to prepare them for the cuisine and/or culture? Do you have suggestion on what we should do while there – we’ll be downtown. My kids are 2 and 5, but we’re going with a group of college students, so we’ll have access to some babysitters while we’re there. I’ve also been thinking about organizing a small service project for our family and some of the college students who may be interested. Do you or any of the posters have ideas? I see some of you are missionaries and may have contacts there.

    • We spent a fair bit of time downtown with our kids, and what they loved most were the parks (especially in Palermo), and we wanted to go to the zoo because we heard that was also fantastic, but we didn’t end up making it there. We also loved the Sunday market in San Telmo. Puerto Madero is a really nice area for walking around (it’s a nature reservation backed onto a high-end neighborhood right on the water). There’s a lot of tasty street food available there as well. The kids found the Recoleta Cemetery really interesting, and we also took the Tren de la Costa out to the Tigre Delta, where we took a boat tour, and that day was definitely a highlight for us.

      Also, just eat a lot of helado (ice cream). That makes any days fun with kids. 🙂
      I’m not sure what to suggest without kids, as we had our kids with us the entire time, no babysitters available to us. The one thing we would have really enjoyed doing was seeing a show at Teatro Colon (the famous opera house), and they also do theatre tours, which are supposed to be excellent.

  6. Oh yum! I learned to make empanadas when I was in Chile but I don’t do it nearly enough. Maybe next week…

  7. This reminds me of a delicious fruit empanada I enjoyed at one of my favorite mexican restaurants, though their version included bananas, raisins, walnuts, and a drizzle of honey.

    I love anything wrapped in dough. Thanks for this inspiring dairy-free recipe!

  8. Hi Stephanie, it is so nice to discover your blog. I make pie dough but use it usually for pies only. I have never made Empanadas before but I am inspired to try now. Thanks.

  9. Oh.my.goodness. I’m excited about this. I lived in Argentina for a year right out of high school and we ate our weight in empanadas! I’ve tried making them here before but I didn’t use a pie pastry dough. They were good, but I’ll be excited to try it a different way.
    I’m really interested in how you made alfjores. I’ve never tried making them here and it would be so much fun to share them with my family now. Maybe this calls for some experimenting?! 😉
    Thanks for sharing and enjoy Argentina! I would LOVE to get to go back one day!

    • I made the traditional alfajores dough using part flour and part corn starch. They had that perfect crumbliness to them. I just used the recipe on the back of a corn starch box from the local grocery store. I would say that they’re nice slightly on the smaller side, rather than larger. At least, that was our families preference.

  10. Mmmmmm…we ate tons of empanadas in when we were in Colombia – there, they are usually savory with a cornmeal crust (which means they’re gluten-free, too). Here in South/Central Texas where we live, they’re usually sweet with a regular pie pastry crust.

  11. Oh my goodness, I love empanadas. These look divine, the crust is just perfectly flaky

  12. Sorry if someone’s already asked this or you’ve already addressed this, but how are you finding recipes for the foods you’re eating in the places you’re visiting? Do you try it on the street and recreate it in the home, ask your neighbors, Internet, off the boxes at the grocery store (like the corn starch box as you mentioned in a comment above), etc.?

  13. Add the raisins to the beef empanadas! They are SO good! I miss Argentine food! I haven’t lived there in 8 years now. My favorite empanadas were a carbohydrate delight… corn empanadas (empanadas de choclo). Usual flour-based empanada shell filled with a creamy corn mixture. Delicioso!

  14. Reita Bulock says

    It was brilliant, I’ll definitely make it again, thanks!

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