These Puerto Rican Empanadillas are made with fried buttery pie dough stuffed with seasoned ground beef, peppers and olives.
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Even with all of its beauty and splendor, my fondest memories about Puerto Rico all revolve around food.
Whether it was stopping at a roadside shop to see a coconut freshly plucked from a tree, chopped open with a machete, and handed over with a straw or visiting a local panaderia (bakery), it was always an unforgettable experience.
The bakeries were usually full of amazingly decadent sweets, but I was always pulled to the savory section.
And that’s where I discovered empanadillas.
Empanadillas are a lovely blend of buttery, flaky pie dough stuffed with the most delicious ground beef seasoned with traditional Puerto Rican spices, tomato, sofrito and olives. These savory hand pies are then lightly fried until golden brown and crisp around the edges.
Here’s what you’ll need to make these:
For the dough (skip if using store bought):
- Egg yolks
OR your favorite premade pie dough!
For the filling (picadillo):
- olive oil
- yellow onion, diced
- red bell pepper, diced
- ground beef (lean)
- sazon seasoning
- adobo seasoning
- bay leafs
- tomato sauce
- pimento stuffed olives, sliced in half
- salt to taste
- cilantro to garnish
How to Make Empanadillas
- Make the dough (skip to step 2 if using store-bought dough.) Start by combining all ingredients in a bowl and mixing well until a ball begins to form. Knead on a flour dusted surface until no longer sticky and chill for 30 minutes while you make the filling.
- Make the Picadillo filling. Start with oil, onions, and peppers in a pan over medium heat. Once onions become translucent, add sofrito and sauté another minute before adding ground beef. Break the ground beef into smaller pieces as it cooks. Add sazon, adobo, bay leaves, tomato sauce, olives, and water. Bring it to a boil before simmering with a lid partially on, for 10 minutes or until the beef is fully cooked.
- Prep the dough. Dust a clean surface with flour and roll dough out to about ¼ inch thickness and cut out circular discs using a large cookie cutter or small bowl. Spoon picadillo over half of each disc, fold the empty dough over top and pinch together with a fork.
- Fry. Heat oil to around 350 degrees before frying empanadas on each side for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on the edges. Enjoy!
Empanadas vs. empanadillas vs. pastelillos
If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out the difference between these three… you’re not alone.
I’ve heard this popular treat being called by the name empanadas, empanadillas and pastelillos.
Originally I thought the difference was a simple change in cooking method (I thought empanadas were baked and empanadillas were fried).
Now I’m pretty certain that they are all names for the same treat.
Depending on what area you grew up or which neighborhood your family is from you may have one you grew up with.
Store bought vs. homemade dough
Let me start by saying I 100% support using store bought dough for this recipe.
Obviously freshly made pie dough is a special experience in itself and will certainly add some love to this recipe, but in a pinch I will absolutely buy a premade pie dough and cut out discs, or use this premade empanada dough if I can find it at the store.
So whether you’ve can’t find the time to make your dough from scratch or you really couldn’t care less about how it happens, know that store bought will result in equally delicious empanadillas.