These Puerto Rican Empanadillas are made with fried buttery pie dough stuffed with seasoned ground beef, peppers and olives.

Many Puerto Rican recipes use the classic Picadillo filling we’re making today, like these Alcapurrias I’m sure you’ll love if you enjoy these Empanadillas. Also be sure to try these beef & cheese empanadas.

A plate of empanadillas

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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.

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make these:

For the dough (skip if using store bought):

  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Egg yolks
  • Water

OR your favorite premade pie dough! 

For the filling (picadillo): 

  • olive oil
  • yellow onion, diced
  • red bell pepper, diced
  • sofrito
  • ground beef (lean)
  • sazon seasoning
  • adobo seasoning
  • bay leafs
  • tomato sauce
  • pimento stuffed olives, sliced in half
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro to garnish

How to Make Empanadillas

flour and butter in a bowl
Make the dough (skip to making the picadillo filling if using store-bought dough.) Start by combining all ingredients in a bowl and mixing well until a ball begins to form.
a bowl with empanada dough
Knead on a flour dusted surface until no longer sticky and chill for 30 minutes while you make the filling. 
onions and peppers in a pan
Make the Picadillo filling. Start with oil, onions, and peppers in a pan over medium heat.
picadillo in a pan
Once onions become translucent, add sofrito and sauté another minute before adding ground beef. Break the ground beef into smaller pieces as it cooks.
picadillo in a pan
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. 
Empanadilla dough ready to be filled
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.
two hands pinching empanadilla dough
Spoon picadillo over half of each disc, fold the empty dough over top and pinch together with a fork. 
an empanada being fried
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. 

A plate of empanadillas

Store bought vs. homemade dough

Let me start by saying I 100% support using store bought dough for this recipe. 

Empanadilla dough in it's packaging

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. 

More Empanada Recipes:

A plate of empanadillas

If you enjoy this recipe, you should also try these apple pie empanadas!

Buen Provecho,

Salima

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A plate of empanadillas

Empanadillas (fried Puerto Rican turnovers)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 6 reviews
  • Author: Salima Benkhalti
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 1012 empanadillas 1x
  • Category: Dinner, Lunch
  • Method: Fried
  • Cuisine: Puerto Rican, Latin

Ingredients

Scale

For the empanadilla dough (if making from scratch):

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup melted butter

  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup water

For the Picadillo filling: 

    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 1 yellow onion, diced
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • ⅓ cup sofrito
    • 1 lb ground beef (lean)
    • 1 tsp sazon seasoning
    • 1 tsp adobo seasoning
    • 3 bay leafs
    • 1 (15oz) can of tomato sauce
    • ⅓ cup pimento stuffed olives, sliced in half
    • ¼ cup water
    • salt to taste
  • ½ cup vegetable oil for frying


Instructions

  1. Make the pie 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. 

  2. 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. 

  3. Prep the dough. Dust a clean surface with flour, divide the dough into small balls and roll the balls out into circular discs. Spoon picadillo over half of each disc, fold the empty dough over top and pinch together with a fork.

  4. 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!

More Puerto Rican recipes: