Empanadas are a typical South-American dish. This recipe will teach you how to make delicious Venezuelan empanadas with a tasty beef filling. The beef filling has a surprise ingredient that enhances its flavor and adds a flair of mystery to it.

Empanadas can come in different flavors using different techniques. It all depends on the region where the recipe is originally from. I’m half-Venezuelan and I grew up with one particular ‘Empanadas Venezolanas’ (the Spanish name) recipe. However, since I know I can never top her creation I won’t even try. Instead, I decided to give my own to the classic recipe to add more flavor and creativity to a fairly standardized recipe.

How to Make Venezuelan Empanadas

Venezuelan Empanadas aren’t hard to make, but it is time-consuming. That’s why this is a dish you usually make on the weekend. Making empanadas Venezolanas consists of 3 parts:

  1. Making the filling
  2. Making the dough
  3. Frying the empanadas
Ingredients for Venezuelan empanadas filling

Venezuelan Empanada Filling

How you choose to fill your empanadas is completely up to you. There are various Venezuelan empanada filling recipes you can try. You can go classic with cheese, beef, or chicken. Or, you can get more creative and try unique flavor combinations, like my Guava & Bacon filling. Since the taste of Venezuelan empanadas isn’t as pungent, you have tons of space to get creative.

The key is to a good filling is having something that is easy to eat especially since you won’t be using a knife and fork for this dish. A slice of bacon in an empanada won’t be the best option as one bite can end up with the bacon strip falling out. For this specific recipe, I went with something more classic. Venezuelan beef empanadas using just the normal ground beef are one of the most popular and loved choices.

Making The Dough for the Venezuelan Empanadas

Making the filling is easy, but making the dough can require some practice to perfect. It took me at least 3 times to get it the way I wanted.

To make the dough you start by mixing the pre-cooked cornmeal with water. My choice of brand for cornmeal is P.A.N. While there are other types of brands, I found this one to be the most reliable one. It’s been the one generation have used for years in Venezuela (and in my house). There are various cornmeal brands out there, but not all are pre-cooked and you can’t always know whether they are or not. So, I always choose P.A.N when making Venezuelan arepas or empanadas.

You gradually add the water while kneading the dough. You know the dough is ready when there are no lumps and the dough is soft but firm and not sticky anymore. It shouldn’t stick to your hands or the bowl.

How to Shape Your Empanadas

After making the dough you make little balls and flatten it on top of a greased wax paper or plastic wrap. To flatten it push it with the palm of your hand to form a thin disk, about 1 inch. It’s best to wet your hands first. You want to make sure that the edges are smooth and if they happen to split just use your finger to smooth it over.

After creating a disk, add the filling on one half of the circle. Fold the other half on top of it using the wax paper or plastic wrap as help. Press the empanada closed using the side of your index finger. You want a smooth thin edge. A thick edge can burn easier when frying and become stale.

Frying the Empanadas

This is possibly the easiest part of making the empanadas but a very important part though. The best empanadas are nice and crunchy on the outside with a soft layer of dough on the inside. Here are few things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure to have plenty of oil to cover at least 3/4 of the empanadas;
  2. The oil has to be super hot, so only use high-temperature oil;
  3. After placing the empanadas in oil use a spoon or spatula to splash some oil on the top;
  4. The frying goes quickly. As soon as they get a nice dark yellow crust they’re good to turn or taken out.

A common question people have is whether it is better to bake or fry empanadas? I have yet to find a good way to bake empanadas and still have them taste similar to it being fried. Because it uses cornmeal, baking won’t give you the same results. For now, I recommend fry empanadas instead of baking them.

What goes best with Empanadas?

Empanadas are often paired with a delicious sauce. My family loves garlic sauce for Venezuelan Beef Empanadas, but I recently made an extremely delicious Guasacaca which is perfect for any savory filling, honestly. Guasacaca is a spicy avocado sauce that traditionally is served with Venezuelan empanadas, next to the garlic sauce. It’s very worth making.

A close up of a Venezuelan empanada garnished with coriander.
Venezuelan empanadas spread on a board. Garnish with coriander and Guasacaca in a bowl.

Venezuelan Empanadas Recipe

Empanadas are a typical South-American dish. This recipe will teach you how to make delicious Venezuelan empanadas with a tasty beef filling. The beef filling has a surprise ingredient that enhances its flavor and adds a flair of mystery to it.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Breakfast, Lunch
Cuisine Latin-American
Servings 8 pieces

Equipment

  • Plastic Wrap or Wax Paper
  • Paper Towels

Ingredients
  

Filling

  • 3 tbsp. sunflower oil
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • ½ medium onion diced
  • ¾ lbs. (325 gr) ground beef
  • 1 small green bell pepper diced
  • ¼ cup loose packed (50 gr) cilantro/coriander chopped
  • 2 tbsp. scallions chopped
  • ½ cube beef stock
  • ½ tsp paprika powder
  • ¼ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ⅓ cup (28 gr) raisins
  • 1 tsp habanero chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. guava jam

Dough

  • 2 cups (325 gr) P.A.N. Pre-cooked Yellow Corn Meal
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • sunflower oil (see note 1)

Instructions
 

  • Heat the 3 tbsp of sunflower oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the ground beef and paprika and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro, scallion, beef stock, paprika powder, cumin powder, garlic powder, raisins, habanero, and stir. Cook for a few more minutes until the ground beef is browned. Lower the heat, add the bay leaves, and guava jam. Let it simmer for 5 minutes more until all liquid is absorbed but not dry. Put aside when done.
  • In a medium bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Gradually add water while kneading. Keep kneading and adding water until the dough is soft, firm, and not sticky anymore.
  • Place a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper on the countertop and grease it with a bit of oil. Create dough balls of 0.2 lbs/70 gr (size of a tennis ball). Press it on the wrap to form a disk of about 1 inch (2½ cm). Use your fingers to smooth the edges. Add 1 tbsp. of filling to one half of the circle. Fold the opposite side over it using the wrap. Use the sides of your index finger to press the edges down.
  • In a deep pan, add plenty of oil to cover at least ¾ of the empanadas. Heat the oil on medium-high and add the empanadas when the oil is very hot. Use a spoon to splash some oil on the top side. Turn them as soon as the empanada gets a nice crust (about 3 minutes). They're done when both side have a nice crust.
  • Place them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the grease.

Notes

  1. How much oil you need depends on the size of your pan. The wider the pan, the more oil you need. Just make sure to have enough to cover 3/4 of the patties and for greasing.
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