These Savory Colombian Beef Empanadas – Gluten Free are the ultimate street food! A soft golden shell with a crisp exterior wrapped around hearty braised beef and potatoes will more than satisfy your cravings! Dip this in our easy Cilantro Aioli for an easy meal or snack!
If you haven’t had an empanada, especially a delicious one, you’re missing out! Empanadas are the ultimate handheld Latin American street food! Ranging from Argentina in the south and Mexico in the north, these popular delights come in a variety of doughs and fillings. If you want to hear more about each region’s variety, Wikipedia has a surprisingly detailed Empanada Page.
As mentioned, not all empanada dough is the same! The traditional Argentinian Empanada is made from a wheat based flour. These empanadas tend to have a thinner crust, with a bit more flake, and all around crispness. While absolutely delicious, the wheat based dough is a no-go in our household. On the other hand, we have Colombian and Venezuelan Empanadas which are traditionally made from masarepa (cooked and dried cornmeal). These empanadas tend to have a bit of thicker, yet have a soft crust (when done right), with a crispness around the edges of the shell. These Savory Colombian Beef Empanadas – Gluten Free are my most successful mix of the masarepa (I tried different proportions before arriving at this).
Masarepa, as mentioned is corn meal that has been precooked, then dried. It comes in either white corn or yellow corn. Not to be confused with Masa Harina, used for making corn tortillas, which is essentially cornmeal treated with lye. While you could potentially use Masa Harina, I accidentally did on my first ever empanada attempt, it’s generally not as good. If you’re in a pinch to make the dough, check out the Minimalist Baker’s approach in her How to Make Arepas post.
Empanadas are a world of variety! The fillings range from beans, meats, cheeses, fruit preserves, vegetables, or a mix of both! One of my all time favorites is an empanada filled with cheese (I used Chihuahua) and guava paste – my Brazilian wife approves! It’s perfect with just a coffee in the morning or for a hint of sweetness as dessert!
Savory Colombian Beef Empanadas – Gluten Free
I love variety. Other than pizza, making and eating the exact same thing tends to bore me. While perfecting this empanada crust, I had a bit of fun with the fillings! My first batch was a creamy adobo chicken, which was okay, but I didn’t feel it was blog-worthy. The second batch was braised beef with potatoes. These ones were absolutely delicious and more traditional. Generally, traditional ones are made with ground beef, which is quicker, but not nearly as flavorful as braised beef. The final batch was a mix of the classic guava and cheese empanadas, along with green chili chicken and corn. These last ones were also amazing and I will be posting about them soon.
Sazon for Savory Colombian Beef Empanadas – Gluten Free
If you’re not familiar with sazon, it’s a traditional Latin American savory blend of spices. Generally made from spices you can find at the local grocery store such as cumin, garlic, oregano, coriander, and achiote (this one can be found in the Latin American section, often where they have bagged spices and dried peppers).
If you’re interested, the Today’s Show website has an article called “What is Sazon?,” explaining much about the history and ingredients of sazon. As you would guess, sazon translates quite obviously to “seasoning.” The most popular version, Goya Sazon, can be easily recognizable in the Latin American section of your local grocer, it is delicious and great in a pinch. The trick is, it contains monosodium glutamate (MSG). While it occurs naturally in some foods such as tomatoes or cheeses, I prefer avoiding using it in excess. In turn, I’ve got an easy Sazon recipe for your empanada dough.
How To Cook These Savory Colombian Beef Empanadas – Gluten Free
Nearly everyone would agree, fried food is down right delicious! Since we’re trying to be somewhat health conscious here, I recommend either baking or air frying these empanadas. I’ve tried all three ways of cooking. While frying in oil is the quickest, flavor and texture enhancements were negligible compared to the messiness and excess grease. Air frying, if you have one at your disposal, is the optimal way. The immediate heat of the air fryer allows the dough to fluff a bit more than the other methods, and it takes approximately 20 minutes to cook at 400°F (from frozen), compared to 30-35 minutes in a traditional oven at 425°F.
Whether you choose to air fry or bake, I recommend lining the baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray the parchment lightly with oil, set the empanadas in place, and give them all another quick spritz with the same oil. Make sure you’re using a high heat oil such as Avocado or Grapeseed to avoid smoking. Flip the empanadas about half way through and continue baking. They’re going to be stifling hot, so give them a couple minutes to cool before biting in!
Time To Get Saucy
Colombian Empanadas are traditionally served with hot sauce or an Aji Verde sauce. If you’re going with a hot sauce, I’d recommend a green or habanero-based sauce. I think it pairs well with the beef. Luckily, I’m a sauce person! Everything needs its own sauce, so I created two simple sauces for these beef empanadas! They’re both very quick to make, so why choose just one?
First, the Aji Verde. Aji Verde is a traditional sauce made primarily of peppers, onions, vinegar, water, salt, and cilantro. It’s refreshing, bright, low heat, slightly sweet with a slight bite of vinegar. In texture, it’s closer to a very fine pico de gallo than it is an actual “sauce.”
Second, we have a Cilantro Aioli sauce! This is possibly the easiest aioli recipe you’ll ever make! Half the ingredients go in the blender until the sauce thickens to a mayo consistency. Next, you can add the remaining ingredients and continue to blend until you have a smooth, rich, and lightly green aioli!
My preference for the beef empanadas is the Cilantro Aioli. I would love to hear which sauce my readers prefer! Please feel free to comment if you’ve tried them! 🙂
Tips and Tricks of the Empanada
- Save the remaining Sazon seasoning for soups, french fry seasoning, tomato dishes, etc…
- If you’re inspired by the cheese and guava empanadas, skip the Sazon in the dough and simply add an extra 1/2 tsp of salt instead. Also, you can use cheese slices with the guava preserve in the middle to help avoid any sogginess from the preserves.
- Bulk Empanadas – If you’re making a double batch, freeze the empanadas immediately instead of placing them in the fridge to cool off. The fridge will dry out and crack the dough. I freeze them flat on a baking sheet, then transfer to ziplock bags once they are hard.
- Shaping your Empanada Dough- place 2-3 Tbsp of dough between 2 smaller pieces of parchment paper. Place a medium sized round storage container lid and press flat. The dough should be between 1/8th and 1/4 of an inch thick. You should end up with approximately 6 inch discs. You could also use the bottom of a round dinner plate…
- Play around with the fillings! In a pinch, a rotisserie chicken and flavored cream cheese filling (like this one from Whole Foods) sounds delicious! Just be mindful of the filling consistency – anything too “saucy” can turn your dough soggy. And we don’t like soggy dough.
- Again, if in a pinch, you can experiment with one of the many new mayo-based condiments at the grocery store as an alternative to the home-made sauces. (Hellmann’s has me curious to try this cilantro lime drizzle sauce!)