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Beef and Cheese Empanadas Recipe

Empanadas are a beloved culinary treasure found throughout Latin America, Spain, and beyond. These delightful pastries are made by folding dough over a stuffing, which can range from savory to sweet, and then cooking them to perfection. The versatility of empanadas makes them a popular choice for snacks, appetizers, or even main courses. The dough, akin to a pie crust, is flaky and tender, serving as the perfect vessel for the rich and flavorful fillings it encases. From the spicy and tangy to the hearty and comforting, the possibilities within the realm of empanadas are virtually endless, making them a true reflection of the diverse culinary landscapes from which they hail.

Why Beef and Cheese?

The combination of beef and cheese within the realm of empanadas is nothing short of heavenly. Beef offers a robust and savory flavor that forms the backbone of the filling, providing a satisfying depth and richness. Cheese, with its creamy and sometimes sharp flavors, complements the beef beautifully, melting into the meat and adding a layer of indulgence and complexity. This pairing is not only delicious but also provides a hearty and fulfilling option that appeals to a wide range of palates. The popularity of beef and cheese empanadas is a testament to their irresistible appeal, combining the best of savory fillings with the timeless allure of melted cheese.

The History and Cultural Significance

Origins of Empanadas

The empanada’s history is as rich and layered as its fillings. Tracing back to Spain and Portugal, empanadas began their global journey in the medieval Iberian Peninsula, where they were prepared as large pies. These were then cut into pieces, making them an early form of portable and convenient food for travelers and pilgrims. The concept traveled to Latin America with Spanish and Portuguese colonizers, where it evolved to suit local tastes, ingredients, and culinary traditions. The word “empanada” comes from the Spanish verb “empanar,” meaning to wrap or coat in bread, a simple name for a dish that carries centuries of history and adaptation.

Beef and Cheese Empanadas Across Cultures

As empanadas spread across the globe, each region infused them with local flavors and ingredients, giving rise to a fascinating variety of fillings. In Latin America, beef and cheese empanadas have become a staple, reflecting the agricultural practices and dietary preferences of the region. Countries like Argentina and Chile are renowned for their beef production, which naturally finds its way into their empanadas, often accompanied by locally produced cheeses. This combination has also traveled north, finding a home in the diverse culinary landscape of the United States, where it is celebrated in both traditional and innovative forms, showcasing the universal appeal of this simple yet satisfying dish.

Ingredients and Variations

Essential Ingredients for Beef and Cheese Empanadas

The foundation of any beef and cheese empanada lies in its essential ingredients: the dough, ground beef, and cheese. The dough, typically made from flour, butter, and water, is rolled thin and cut into circles. Ground beef is seasoned with a blend of spices—commonly onions, garlic, cumin, and paprika—then cooked until perfectly browned. Cheese, ranging from mozzarella to cheddar or even regional varieties like queso fresco, adds a creamy, melty contrast to the savory beef. Together, these ingredients create a harmonious blend of textures and flavors that define the classic beef and cheese empanada.

Variations in Different Regions

While the basic components of beef and cheese empanadas remain constant, regional variations abound. In Argentina, hard-boiled eggs and olives are often added to the filling, offering a unique texture and flavor profile. In Colombia and Venezuela, the dough is made from cornmeal, giving the empanadas a distinctively different taste and texture. In the United States, variations include the addition of beans, rice, or even jalapeños, reflecting the diverse culinary influences that shape American cuisine. These regional differences not only highlight the adaptability of empanadas but also the way in which they serve as a canvas for cultural expression through food.

Making Beef and Cheese Empanadas

Creating beef and cheese empanadas from scratch is a rewarding culinary adventure. Here’s a step-by-step guide to crafting these savory pastries.

Preparing the Dough

  1. Mix the Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine 3 cups of all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cut in ½ cup of cold unsalted butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Add Water: Gradually mix in about ¾ cup of ice water, stirring until the dough comes together.
  3. Knead and Chill: Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Making the Filling

  1. Cook the Beef: In a skillet, cook 1 pound of ground beef over medium heat until browned. Drain excess fat.
  2. Add Flavors: Stir in 1 diced onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the onion is soft.
  3. Mix in Cheese: Remove from heat and let cool slightly before mixing in 1 cup of shredded cheese (cheddar or mozzarella works well).

Assembling and Cooking

  1. Roll Out Dough: On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about ⅛ inch thickness. Cut out rounds using a 4-inch cutter.
  2. Fill Empanadas: Place a spoonful of the beef and cheese mixture in the center of each dough round. Fold the dough over the filling to create a half-moon shape. Seal the edges by pressing with a fork.
  3. Cook: Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Alternatively, fry in hot oil until crispy and golden.

Cooking Tips and Tricks

  • Achieving the Perfect Crust: For a golden and crispy crust, brush the tops of your empanadas with an egg wash (1 beaten egg mixed with a tablespoon of water) before baking.
  • Preventing Leaks: Ensure the edges of your empanadas are well sealed to prevent any filling from leaking out during cooking. Crimping with a fork is an effective method.
  • Freezing for Later: Uncooked empanadas can be frozen on a baking sheet, then transferred to a freezer bag for storage. Bake or fry straight from frozen, adding a few extra minutes to the cooking time.
  • Customizing Your Filling: Feel free to add other ingredients to your beef and cheese filling, such as chopped olives, hard-boiled eggs, or bell peppers, to introduce new flavors and textures.
  • Even Cooking: When baking, place empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet to ensure they cook evenly and don’t stick.

Following these steps and tips will help you create delicious beef and cheese empanadas that are perfect for any occasion, from family dinners to festive gatherings.


Serving and Pairing

How to Serve Beef and Cheese Empanadas

Beef and cheese empanadas are best served hot, straight from the oven or fryer, allowing the cheese inside to be deliciously melted and the pastry perfectly crisp. Presenting them on a platter with a garnish of fresh cilantro or parsley adds a touch of color and freshness. For a more formal setting, empanadas can be served as an appetizer on individual plates, accompanied by a side of dipping sauce. They’re versatile enough to fit into any meal – from a casual snack to a party appetizer or a main course.

Pairing with Sauces and Sides

The rich flavors of beef and cheese empanadas pair wonderfully with a variety of sauces and sides. Consider the following options:

  • Sauces: A tangy chimichurri, a spicy salsa, or a creamy guacamole can complement the savory filling of the empanadas.
  • Sides: For a lighter meal, pair empanadas with a fresh green salad or a tangy coleslaw. For something heartier, consider serving them with a side of rice and beans or roasted vegetables.


What are the best cheeses to use in beef empanadas?

  • The best cheeses for beef empanadas are those that melt well and complement the savory beef filling. Mozzarella and cheddar offer a nice melt and a mild flavor, while Monterey Jack provides a slightly sharper taste. For a more authentic touch, consider using queso fresco or queso chihuahua, which add a traditional Latin American flavor to the empanadas.

Can beef and cheese empanadas be made ahead of time?

  • Yes, beef and cheese empanadas are perfect for making ahead of time. You can prepare and assemble the empanadas, then freeze them on a baking sheet before transferring to a freezer bag. When ready to eat, bake or fry them straight from the freezer, adding a few extra minutes to the cooking time. This makes empanadas an excellent option for meal prep or for having a quick and delicious meal on hand.

Are there any gluten-free options for empanada dough?

  • For those requiring a gluten-free option, several alternatives to traditional wheat flour can be used for empanada dough. Gluten-free all-purpose flour blends are readily available and can be substituted in most recipes. Another option is to use masa harina, a corn-based flour, which not only is gluten-free but also adds a distinct flavor and texture to the empanadas, making them similar to those found in parts of Latin America.

Beef and cheese empanadas are more than just a delicious meal; they’re a journey through history and culture, offering a taste of the rich culinary traditions of Latin America. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, making empanadas at home is a rewarding and delicious experience.

Beef and Cheese Empanadas Recipe

Savor the flavors of Latin America with these homemade Beef and Cheese Empanadas. Filled with seasoned ground beef and melted cheese, these empanadas are perfect for any occasion, from family dinners to festive gatherings. Follow this easy recipe to create a delicious treat that everyone will love.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Latin America, Spanish
Servings 12 empanadas
Calories 250 kcal


  • Mixing bowls
  • Rolling Pin
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Skillet
  • 4-inch round cutter


For the Dough:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter cubed
  • ¾ cup ice water
  • 1 tsp salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup shredded cheese mozzarella or cheddar
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For Assembly:

  • 1 egg for egg wash


Prepare the Dough:

  • In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Gradually add ice water, stirring until dough forms. Wrap in plastic; chill for 1 hour.

Make the Filling:

  • In a skillet, cook ground beef over medium heat until browned. Add onion, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook until onion is soft. Let cool, then mix in cheese.

Assemble Empanadas:

  • Roll out dough on a floured surface to ⅛ inch thickness. Cut out rounds with a 4-inch cutter. Place filling in the center of each round, fold over, and seal edges with a fork.


  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Place empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
  • Serve hot with your choice of dipping sauce.


  • Freezing Instructions: Unbaked empanadas can be frozen for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen, adding a few extra minutes to the cooking time.
  • Variations: Feel free to add olives, hard-boiled eggs, or bell peppers to the filling for extra flavor.
  • Gluten-Free Option: Substitute all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend for the dough.
Keyword Beef Empanadas, Cheese Empanadas, Empanada Recipe, Latin American Cuisine