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Making Colombian Empanadas

February 24th, 2010

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ve heard that I grew up in Colombia, South America. I really enjoy Colombian cuisine and Mr Chiots has grown to love it as well. One of our favorites is Empanadas. Empanadas are eaten in many Latin American countries, and each country has their specialty, as does each region within each country. I grew up in the prairie region of Colombia so I make mine the way they do there. I use areparina for the crust which is pre-cooked corn flour, I can’t find it locally so my dad brings it to me when he travels back from Colombia. In many other countries empanadas are made with a pie crust type dough, or a potato dough.

Traditionally the empanadas in the prairie region of Colombia are filled with ground beef and rice or chicken and rice. Typically they’re not super seasoned, but they’re eaten with a spicy aji which is a blend of cilantro, green onion, vinegar, salt, pepper and hot peppers. I generally make mine with beef and it’s fairly spicy with toasted cumin seeds, coriander and a lot of red pepper. They’re usually fried or baked, I prefer to bake mine. I mix some shortening in the dough which makes them nice and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Since I can’t get the crust mix often, these are a real treat for us. They grace our table a few times a year. Last week I made a big batch with some of Mr Chiot’s venison. These are the ultimate Colombian comfort food, definitely one of my favorites.

What’s your favorite ethnic dish?

32 Comments to “Making Colombian Empanadas”
  1. pam on February 24, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Do you have a recipe for the spicy aji? That sounds fantastic!
    .-= pam´s last blog ..Garden Tuesday =-.

    Reply to pam's comment

    • Susy on February 24, 2010 at 8:18 pm

      Everyone makes it slightly differently but here’s the general recipe, change to suit your tastes:

      2 hot peppers
      1/4 cup vinegar
      2 green onions
      1 yellow onion
      1 tomato (optional, not always added)
      2 Tablespoons of cilantro
      salt to taste

      Dice all ingredients finely and mix together, let sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. annie on February 24, 2010 at 8:14 am

    i ran across an empanada recipe in “serious eats” last week and cooked the recipe up using her suggestions, then tweaked it a little. they were astoundingly delicious. so nice i talked my local cafe to make them from scratch for her customers. since they can be frozen, she’ll also offer them to the shoppers.!! it’s wonderful that you can use practically anything to fill them. the recipe i made used a combination of raisins, green olives, beef, hot sauce, zucchini, leeks, among other things. yummy yummy!!

    Reply to annie's comment

  3. C Aultman on February 24, 2010 at 9:14 am

    oh those look delicious!
    .-= C Aultman´s last blog ..Coupons………… =-.

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  4. Kelly on February 24, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Those look delicious! Would you share your recipe for the filling and aji? I’d love to try them.

    I think my favourite ethnic dish right now is yellow dal. I’ve been trying out indian foods (all at home since there’s nothing ethnic where I live) and it’s so easy and so comforting and delicious, I just love it!
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Bread =-.

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  5. Christine on February 24, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Yum. That looks amazing!
    .-= Christine´s last blog ..Try again? =-.

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  6. Jennifer on February 24, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I think I’d eat those for breakfast!
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Looking up =-.

    Reply to Jennifer's comment

  7. Rose on February 24, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Those are lovely! I actually managed to get aji peppers shipped to me in the UK and I am going to try and grow those and mulatto peppers in my growhouse; I miss proper mexican food here.

    I am not Creole (though there are claims to a placee being in my family tree somewhere), but I love making gumbo and etouffee; I do a lot of “soul food” when I’m feeling the mood, and most people here have never had it, so once they get over their squeamishness, they’re hooked. My buffalo wings are now the hallmark of summer for many of my mates.
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..1am – may as well do some sewing…. =-.

    Reply to Rose's comment

  8. Janine at Rustic Kitchen on February 24, 2010 at 11:52 am

    My husband is from Uruguay and I think he’s been craving empanadas since he arrived. This just might be my inspiration to make some.
    .-= Janine at Rustic Kitchen´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: duvet cover by Roberta =-.

    Reply to Janine at Rustic Kitchen's comment

    • Susy on February 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm

      They’re probably my most favorite food. Funny thing is I’ve made them for some of our friends and they get super excited when I make them now too. Everyone loves a good empanada.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. Rachel on February 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    my husband is a global studies teacher and loves to do a different ethinic food for the kids. We have tried lots of different things and some of them have made it to our regular menu. These look delicious!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog in the kitchen =-.

    Reply to Rachel's comment

  10. stefaneener on February 24, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    We like almost anything in pastry, really. I did have Vietnamese spring rolls on the menu this week, but it’s looking a little chilly for them. Maybe hot and sour soup instead.
    .-= stefaneener´s last blog ..Bees and tomatoes and beauty =-.

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  11. MAYBELLINE on February 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Sausage rolls (Scotland). Similar to empanadas. I’m hungry.
    .-= MAYBELLINE´s last blog ..Hummingbirds =-.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  12. Morgan G on February 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Empañadas! Delicious. I am a sucker for Pad Thai Je…or maybe just rice noodles…eggs, peanuts, sprouts, onion and lime!
    .-= Morgan G´s last blog ..Guest-bloggin’ at Inspired Design Daily: Healthy Home, Happy Home =-.

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  13. Frugal Trenches on February 24, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    oooh must make these! My favourite is dahl!
    .-= Frugal Trenches´s last blog ..Fair Trade Fortnight =-.

    Reply to Frugal Trenches's comment

    • Susy on February 24, 2010 at 8:18 pm

      I to love Dahl, love love love it. Must make soon!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  14. Melissa on February 24, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Those look absolutely divine!!! I’ve never had empanadas before. I must give those a try soon. Cumin and cilantro and jalepeno… does it get any better? Nope. :) Melissa
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..Melissa’s (Made from Scratch) Pumpkin Pie =-.

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  15. Amy on February 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Curry~the spicier the better!

    Reply to Amy's comment

  16. Sustainable Eats on February 26, 2010 at 1:23 am

    I’ve been dying to try and make those but of course now we can’t all get that magical crust ingredient. I bet you treasure those bags when your dad brings them!
    .-= Sustainable Eats´s last blog ..Organic Vermont Maple Syrup Buy =-.

    Reply to Sustainable Eats's comment

    • Susy on February 26, 2010 at 1:39 am

      You might be able to find the arepa mix at your local market if you have a Hispanic population in your area. I have a friend that lives in NY that is able to get Masarepa a Goya brand corn flour to make these at his local walmart.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  17. Greg on February 26, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Empanadas are great! I have never tried them this way (the ones I remember from Venezuela were more like a pastry I guess) but anything that is close to an arepa has got to be great! (Those are a favorite food in our home!)

    As for your question… I introduced my family to the Venezuelan national dish (pabellón) and they LOVE it :-) I’d say that’s one of (if not our most) favorite ethnic foods. (Unless you count Skyline chili….) ;-) In fact, I’m getting hungry for it right now… :-) Will have to make it this weekend!

    I just noticed that I had not posted it on my food site yet?! Crazy. So, the first part is now posted! (More to come… black beans recipe, and some ideas for arepas…)

    AND… I can’t wait to make these empanadas! :)
    .-= Greg´s last blog ..(Over) Ambitious Reading List =-.

    Reply to Greg's comment

  18. Greg on February 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    PS… :-) We were out shopping last night and I visited the latin foods isle in our local Wegmans (fantastic grocery store here in Western NY) and they not only had Goya Masarepa (white and yellow) but they also had the P.A.N. brand of the harina de maiz precocido. That’s the one I remember from Venezuela! (Though, it says it’s a product of Colombia…) So that was super fun! :-)
    .-= Greg´s last blog ..Pabellón Criollo (Carne Mechada) =-.

    Reply to Greg's comment

    • Susy on February 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm

      Yes, I remember that brand, doesn’t it have a little ear of corn cartoony mascot kind of guy?

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • Greg on February 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm

        Close… :-) Here‘s an image I found.

        OK… It’s settled. DEFINITELY having latin food for dinner tonight :) (At least arepas … maybe empanadas!)
        .-= Greg´s last blog ..Pabellón Criollo (Carne Mechada) =-.

        to Greg's comment

  19. Jaspenelle on February 26, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Tajine, it is a Moroccan dish, usually with chicken or lamb and vegetables. It is served with couscous. I use to eat it all the time when I was younger and lived in Spain. My mother made it with lamb, olives, carrots, preserved lemons, dried stone fruit and Ras el hanout (a blend of spices.) Makes me crave it just to think about it. I have a particular weakness for quite a bit of ethnic foods, moving around as much as I did growing up it feels homier to me then traditional American comfort foods. Of course, now I want to try my hand at empanadas…
    .-= Jaspenelle´s last blog ..Feline Friday: Aos & Swish =-.

    Reply to Jaspenelle's comment

  20. Sue: Farm-Woman-In-Training on February 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Eastern European Peasant Food

    Holopchi [Cabbage Rolls] are my fave but a huge pain in the butt to make. The filling is easy, rice with a sprinkle of scramble-fried ground meat (beef, venison, moose), a handful or more of crisp bacon bits, salt, pepper. But the boiling of the Cabbage, trimming the cores, separating the leaves and then the fiddly rolling of the filling into the leaves. Tightly packing the bundles into a roaster and the long slow cook in a tomato juice. Keep them moist enough so the cabbage cooks but not swimming.

    Takes 5 times longer to make than to eat.

    When we were both working, with a toddler, plus night school I came up with a concoction that gave the same taste with one tenth the work.

    Two bags of coleslaw mix, 2 litres of V8 juice, 2 cups of rice and to heck with the bacon. I’ve thrown it all in a roaster in the oven for an afternoon of catchin’ up on laundry, done it stove-top with a lot of stirring on a higher heat when I’ve been in a hurry. A friend who has a huge slow cooker does it that way.

    Peasant food Ukrainian Canadian style :)

    Reply to Sue: Farm-Woman-In-Training's comment

  21. Not yet rated by Michelin | Back County on January 21, 2011 at 7:58 am

    […] blogged: […]

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  22. Jane Levington on May 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Oh how I love Empanadas most especially beef Empanadas! But my frustration with this is the crust. I cant make a perfect crust… Can you give me recipe for the crust? Thank you…

    Reply to Jane Levington's comment

    • Susy on May 20, 2011 at 8:04 am

      It depends on what kind of empanadas you’re used to. In Colombia they’re made with pre-cooked corn flour. I simply follow the directions on the package and it works perfectly.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  23. Williams on February 13, 2012 at 9:06 am

    It is served with couscous. I use to eat it all the time when I was younger and lived in Spain. My mother made it with lamb, olives, carrots, preserved lemons, dried stone fruit and Ras el hanout (a blend of spices.) Makes me crave it just to think about it. I have a particular weakness for quite a bit of ethnic foods, moving around as much as I did growing up it feels homier to me then traditional American comfort foods.

    Reply to Williams's comment

  24. Sarah on February 17, 2012 at 4:39 am

    I have made several empanada recipes. I will def. have to try yours. These look amazing :) Since they are so much work, I usually make a lot, and freeze the others for a quick snack :P I love how you have a pic of each dish for the imagination!!

    Reply to Sarah's comment

  25. Kathy on August 10, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    In 1968 I had the fortune of living in Cali, Colombia. My dad was working there and we had a maid, Matilde, who made aji sauce for us and it was delicious, but I can’t remember exactly how she made it. I do know she cooked it. Yours is the closest. We ate empanadas at the country club, I had no idea what the filling was, but we made a meal out of them every time we went. Thank you for the recipe.

    Reply to Kathy's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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