Spicy Beef Empanadas

Spicy Beef Empanadas
Spicy Beef Empanadas

A tender flaky crust, filled with spicy ground beef and vegetables, these empanadas are baked to golden brown perfection.

I warn you that there are a few things in this recipe that may shock you. There are ingredients that you may want to either substitute or recalibrate.  Let’s start with the crust.  It has really cold lard.  Yes, lard.  Rendered pork fat.  It has a bad reputation, but honestly, it’s lower in saturated fat than butter and has none of those nasty trans fats everyone is warning you about.  Look it up, I’ll wait.  I’m not saying you should use lard on your morning toast or something crazy like that, but like anything else indulgent, moderation is important.

My life is about when to say “yes” and when to say “maybe next time.”  Lard also makes a flakier and lighter crust than butter or shortening.  Them’s the facts.  There’s a lot of science behind it, but trust me lard = flaky crust.  That being said, if you don’t want to use lard, or can’t find it, plain old shortening will do the trick.  Just use some Crisco.  No judgement.  It’s still gonna be delicious.

Now, on to the word Spicy.  When I say Spicy Beef Empanadas, I mean spicy.  I want my nose to run when I’m eating something spicy.  I want to know I’m eating spice, while still being able to enjoy all the other flavors.  That being said, if you want your empanada milder (or spicier), you can definitely adjust the amounts of chili and jalapeño.

So, let’s get going.  It’s Empanada time!

Spicy Beef Empanadas

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Empanada Dough

  • 3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup very cold lard (I keep mine in the freezer. It won't ever freeze solid, but will stay quite cold)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup cold chicken broth
  • 1 large egg, whisked, for the tops of the empanadas before baking

Empanada Filling

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano (if you can't find this in your International aisle at the Mega Market, you can use generic oregano. It's fine.)
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper, diced (can you tell I like color?)
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (seeds and white-ish ribs from inside removed. That's where most of the "hot" lives. If you like it hot, leave 'em in. I did!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, chopped


  • Gather together all of your dough ingredients. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in your food processor. Pulse to mix well. Add in your lard (or shortening) in small pieces and pulse until the mixture is the texture of wet sand or coarse cornmeal. In a measuring cup, combine the chicken broth and egg and whisk together. With the food processor running, pour in the liquid until the dough comes together. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times until it all comes together and no longer feels sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest while you prepare the filling.
  • In a large skillet on medium high heat, cook the ground beef until it is no longer pink. Drain the beef and set aside. In the same pan, add about one tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat back up to medium high. Sauté all of the vegetables until they are just beginning to soften. Remember, if you don't want it too spicy, just use less (or no) jalapeños. If you want it spicier, go crazy. You are in charge of your flavor intensity here! Add the ground beef back to the pan and continue browning. Now is when you'll add in your spices. The chili powder and the chipotle powder are where the real heat is. Adjust as needed, okay? After everything is cooked and seasoned, turn off the heat and toss in the chopped cilantro and tomato. They will soften from the heat of the mixture and need no further cooking. Allow the filling to cool while you prepare the dough.
  • Lightly flour a work surface and roll out your dough to about 1/4 inch thick. I found it easier to work the dough in quarters, not trying to roll everything out all at once. Cut out circles about 5-6 inches in diameter. I used a bowl and a paring knife to cut out nice even circles. Using a brush or your fingers and the whisked egg, trace around the edge of the dough circles to help when sealing your empanadas.
  • Add about 2 tablespoons of filling to the center of each circle. Fold the dough in half and press around the meat to remove any extra air. Use a fork to press shut and seal the edges of each empanada. Place finished empanadas on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Using a brush, egg wash each empanada with the whisked egg. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes on the pan before serving or you'll liquify the inside of your face. I served my empanadas with my Mexican Rice. This was as authentic as I can imagine and frankly, quite delicious! Enjoy!

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