Beef Empanadas

This is the classic beef empanada filling that I think of when empanadas come to mind.  Its the most popular with my friends and family, even with our friends from South America!

The seasonings have a Cuban influence, but I bake instead of fry them. Even though this is a healthier take on beef empanadas, the flavors are still all there.  The ground beef has a nice richness to it.  The fresh onions and bell peppers add a sweetness, and the tomato sauce and vinegar add a hint of acid.  The green olives are an unexpected pop of flavor.

You can use homemade empanada dough or pre-made discs.  The discs are found in the frozen section of the grocery store.  The pre-made discs are small so they make good appetizer sized empanadas.

Flavors of the Islands

Call them hand pies, pasties or empanadas, Joe likes almost anything that comes packaged inside of dough, so I created this recipe for him.  We lived in Florida for quite a while and we enjoyed the Cuban and Puerto Rican food in the area.  This empanada is influenced by those cuisines.  

Make a big batch of beef empanadas to eat now and freeze some for later

Lots of times, I’ll make these early in the day, chill them in the refrigerator and then bake them just before serving.  Pairing these with a salad make the perfect meal.

These empanadas freeze well.  I bake all of them and then wrap them individually in plastic wrap and put them in a freezer bag.  When we’re ready to eat them, we pull a couple out of the freezer, unwrap them, microwave them for one or two minutes and then finish warming them up in the oven at 350F so the outside dough can get crispy again.  

I like to make big empanadas, but little ones are great as appetizers.  If you make smaller ones, bake them at 375F.


Beef Empanadas

4 from 6 votes
Recipe by Margaret Sanfelippo Course: Appetizers, Main DishCuisine: SpanishDifficulty: Medium


large empanadas
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This recipe makes 12 large empanadas or 20 small empanadas. A big empanada with a salad makes the perfect meal.


  • 1 recipe 1 homemade empanada dough

  • 2 tbsp 2 olive oil

  • 1 lb 1 ground beef

  • 2 tsp 2 garlic salt

  • 1 cup 1 red bell pepper, chopped (about 1 red bell pepper)

  • 1 cup 1 onion, chopped (about 1/2 a large onion)

  • 1 tbsp 1 garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)

  • 2 tbsp 2 tomato paste

  • 8 can 8 can tomato sauce

  • 2 tbsp 2 vinegar

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 green olives, chopped

  • 3 tsp 3 ground cumin

  • 1 tsp 1 chili powder

  • 2 tsp 2 dried oregano

  • 1 1/2 tsp 1 1/2 salt

  • 1 1 egg

  • 1 tsp 1 water


  • In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the ground beef and garlic salt.  Cook until the beef is browned.  Drian and set aside.
  • In the same pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and bell peppers.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt.
  • When the onions and bell peppers are translucent, add the garlic and cooked ground beef.  Then add the tomato paste, tomato sauce, and vinegar. Season with cumin, chili powder, oregano and 1 tsp salt.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes over low heat, just to let the flavors come together.  The mixture should be moist, but not dripping wet.
  • Remove from heat.  Add the green olives.
  • Cool slightly before filling the empanadas.
  • To assemble the empanadas, place a spoonful of the filling on the bottom half of the circle of dough leaving about an inch around the outside of the dough.  The amount of filling will vary based on the size of the empanada .  It is easier to seal an empanada that isn’t overstuffed.
  • To seal the empanadas, fold the dough and seal the edges by pressing the top of a fork against the edges.
  • Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.
  • Once you have finished making the empanadas, put them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill the dough again.
  • Before baking, brush your empanadas with an egg wash (1 egg and 1 tsp of water whisked together).  This will give them a nice golden color.
  • Bake the empanadas in an oven pre-heated to 400F.  Bake approx 25 minutes until the outside is golden brown.


  • These are great on their own or you can dip them in sour cream.


  1. I love the empanadas! They turned out really well, delicious! They are not as pretty as Margaret’s. I will make them again and will improve on how they look.
    Thank you Margaret and Joe!


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