Pastelillos (Empanadas)

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An empanada is a type of baked or fried pasty, consisting of pastry and filling, in Latin American cultures. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, and literally translates as "enbreaded", that is, wrapped or coated in bread.


  • Filling
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, small diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped recao culantro or cilantro
  • 1 pound ground 80/20 beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry adobo
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 10 pimiento stuffed olives, cut in half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Dough
  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup of water


  1. Filling
  2. Heat skillet at med-high, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté onions, garlic, and recao culantro (or cilantro) until onions are translucent.
  3. Drizzle beef with a tablespoon of olive oil and season with dry adobo and salt. Add beef, potatoes, olives, bay leaves, raisins (if using), water, and tomato paste to the skillet, stir until well combined. Raise heat to bring to a boil.
  4. Lower heat to a simmer cover and let cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and let simmer for another 15 minutes or until sauce thickens. Set aside.
  5. Dough
  6. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
  7. Add flour and shortening in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or fork cut the shortening into the flour. Add the egg and mix using a fork.
  8. Add the water a little at a time, mixing with a fork. When done mixing the dough will be brittle or in pieces.
  9. Dust a work surface with flour, turn the dough out on the work surface. Press the dough together into a rough ball. Knead the dough using your palm, as if you were washing clothes on an old washboard.
  10. Knead until the dough is soft and smooth. Form into a ball, cover with a plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  11. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll dough out into a rope about 15 inches long. (I roll, pull and squeeze) Once rolled out cut off disks about ¾ of an inch thick. Dust your rolling pin and workspace and roll out into a 1/8 thin circle.
  12. If you have a pasta roller, you can use it to roll out the dough rounds. Lay dough rounds on a prepared sheet pan and cover with a clean kitchen towel. If you need to layer, the rounds place a piece of parchment between the layers.
  13. Assemble
  14. Take a round of dough and place 1 spoonful of filling in the center. Be careful not to get any food along the edges or it will not seal properly.
  15. Using the tip of your fingers wet the edges of the dough with water. Fold over to make a half-moon. Pinch the dough together using your fingers, then go over it, pressing it with the teeth of a fork. Return to sheet pan and cover. Repeat with remaining rounds and filling.
  16. Bake at 350F degrees