Recipe for classic Chilean empanadas

I just got back from a vacation in Santiago, Chile (where my stepfather is from). And although I could go on – at extreme, annoying length – about my love of Chilean food and wine, I will limit this post to my absolute favourite thing: empanadas.

Empanadas de pino with pebre from La Hacienda in Santiago, Chile

Empanadas de pino with pebre from La Hacienda restaurant in Santiago, Chile

Empanadas can be found all over South America, but my favourite are the Chilean beef-filled ones called empanadas de pino. They are typically served with pebre, Chile’s answer to salsa.

And by that, I mean the sauce, not the dance. Although I enjoy both.

Here’s how you make empanadas:

  • Make (or buy!) your favourite pie dough and chill in the fridge. Make enough for a double crust pie. (Classic empanada dough uses lard, so if your recipe calls for lard, all the better.)
  • In a Dutch oven, brown 375 g of lean ground beef.
  • Add 3 onions, finely chopped; cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and any liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in 2 tsp each ground cumin, smoked paprika and chili powder (or if you can get it, substitute 1 tbsp merkén, which is dried smoked Chilean goat’s horn pepper, for the paprika and chili); cook, stirring, for 1 minute, just to toast the spices.
  • Whisk together 3 tbsp flour and 1/4 cup beef broth or water; stir into the beef mixture.
  • Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt, to taste (but not too aggressively, since olives are going in and they’re salty!).
  • Let the mixture cool in the fridge; stir in 2 diced hard cooked eggs and 1/2 cup chopped, pitted green or black olives.
  • Let the pie dough stand at room temperature until softened, about 30 minutes. Divide dough in half.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out each half to 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness. Using whatever cookie cutter you have, cut out circles, rerolling scraps. (I like big empanadas, so I use an empty coffee can, but you can make little ones as hors d’oeuvres.)
  • Beat an egg with a little water; brush the egg wash around the edge of each circle. Place some of the beef mixture in the centre of each round. (The amount will depend on the size of your circles, but don’t get too excited and overfill! They’ll explode.)
  • Fold the pastry over the filling to make a semicircle. Fold the edge of the pastry over itself and crimp or press firmly to seal.
  • With the tip of a knife, pierce the tops to create vent holes. Place about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. (You can make these ahead and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Or freeze them until firm and then transfer them to an airtight container to freeze for longer; bake straight from frozen, adding a few extra minutes of baking time.)
  • Brush your egg wash over the outside of the empanadas. Bake in centre of 400° F (200°C) oven until golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Let cool slightly and enjoy with pebre, or your favourite salsa.
Yes, please!

Yes, please!

There are loads of South Americans living in Canada and, frankly, we’re lucky to have them. They help make Canadian cuisine the varied, delicious concoction that it is.

Have you ever tried Chilean food?