5 min Read

Easy Beef Empanadas

Who doesn’t love a pie you can eat out of hand?

I’m a huge fan of hand pies of all sorts – empanadas, calzone, sweet pies – you can wrap just about anything in dough or pastry, seal it up and bake it and have something that seems to be universally appealing. Handmade pockets make easy meals to go (wrap it in a napkin and take it in the car), after school snacks and portable lunches. There are so many possibilities.

A tube of Pillsbury Pizza Dough makes the packaging easy – it’s soft, easy to work with, and suitable for sweet or savoury fillings. It won’t make fingers greasy, or crumble and flake like pastry tends to, which means you can take them to go without making a mess.

Empanadas are Latin-American turnovers made with ground beef, onions and peppers, browned with garlic, cumin and paprika, and moistened with salsa (one of my favourite ingredients, as it adds a bit of heat along with the tomato). You could easily switch it up and use pasta sauce and add a handful of grated cheese, or spice the meat with chili powder and add some drained black or kidney beans – anything goes, really, and when the filling is contained in soft dough, you don’t have to worry about anything beyond it tasting good. Empanadas could be plain meat pies, chili pies, sloppy Joe pies or calzone – and of course you could swap the ground beef for chicken or turkey, or even drained canned chickpeas. The filling could even be made ahead of time and frozen in a zip-lock bag; break it up and shake it out onto unrolled and cut squares of dough whenever you’re ready for it.

I cut a tube of dough half lengthwise, and then into quarters to make rectangles that can be folded into squares or triangles, but feel free to cut any size you like – tiny empanadas make a perfect party nibble that kids will love as well as grownups. A quick brush with beaten egg gives them a shiny finish.

Once you get the hang of making a quick filling to stuff into pockets, ideas will present themselves; leftover roasted chicken? Make chicken pot pie pockets! Leftover stew? That works, too – having a tube or two of dough on hand will let you transform all kinds of leftovers into tasty pockets. Add a handful of cheese, if you like – leftover butter chicken and grated mozzarella is a divine combination. Baked empanadas freeze well – or freeze them unbaked, and slide them into the oven straight from the freezer, adding an extra 5 minutes to the baking time. (Brush with egg when you’re ready to bake them.)

Try making breakfast pockets with scrambled eggs, cooked crumbled bacon or sausage, sauteed peppers and grated cheese packaged up in Pillsbury Pizza Dough and baked until golden. Sweet fillings work too – use your favourite fruit pie filling (think berry, Saskatoon, cherry, peach) or to make apple pie empanadas, sauté a large peeled, chopped apple in a tablespoon of butter until soft; toss with 1/4 cup brown sugar and a shake of cinnamon. Fill the empanadas and bake as directed. So many delicious possibilities!

Easy Beef Empanadas

Empanadas are essentially little hand pies – the beef mixture can be spiced however you like. Add a handful of shredded cheese too, if you like things cheesy. 

canola or other vegetable oil, for cooking

1 lb (500 g) lean ground beef, turkey or chicken

1 small onion, chopped

1 red, yellow or orange pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (optional)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons paprika (sweet or smoked)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup (85 mL) salsa

flour, for dusting

2 tubes Pillsbury pizza crust

1 egg, lightly beaten

Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and cook the beef, onion and pepper, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until it’s no longer pink and the vegetables are soft. Add the corn and cilantro if you’re using them, and cook for another minute.

Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and salt and cook until the mixture starts to brown and turn crisp; stir in the salsa, cook for another minute, then remove from the heat. 

Unroll the pizza dough and pat into an even rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Cut in half lengthwise, and then crosswise in quarters, making 8 pieces. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Place a spoonful of filling on each piece of dough and fold in half, forming a square or rectangle, depending on the shape of the dough (and your preference). Press down on the edges with a fork to seal. 

Brush the tops of each with a little beaten egg, and poke each with a fork. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until deep golden. Serve warm. Makes 16 empanadas – enough to serve 6-8, with leftovers for lunch the next day or to freeze for later. (Reheat in the oven or microwave.)

* This post was sponsored by Life Made Delicious – as always, all words and other content are my own.

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