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Savory Colombian Beef Empanadas - Gluten Free with aji verde and cilantro aioli

Colombian Beef and Potato Empanadas – Gluten Free

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!

Savory Colombian Beef Empanadas - Gluten Free with aji verde

The Empanada

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.

The Dough

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.

The Filling

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.

Colombian Beef Empanada sliced in half with cilantro aioli

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!

Aji Verde in a wooden dish

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! 🙂

Venezuelan Cilantro Aioli in a wooden dish

Tips and Tricks of the Empanada

  • Save the remaining Sazon seasoning for soups, french fry seasoning, tomato dishes, etc…
  • It’s easiest to use a Danish Dough Hook to mix your dough. This is the exact one I have from Amazon: Jillmo Danish Dough Whisk
  • 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!)

Check Out Some Other Great Recipes:

Savory Colombian Beef Empanadas – Gluten Free

5.0 from 4 votes
Course: Appetizer, Snack, DinnerCuisine: Latin American


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  • Beef Empanada Filling
  • 2-1/2 Lbs Beef Chuck Roast- remove half the fat and cut into 2x2in pieces

  • 2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • 1 Cup Red Onion – Finely Diced

  • 1/4 Cup White Wine Vinegar

  • 1 tsp Fresh Garlic – Crushed

  • 1-1/4 Cup Beef Broth

  • 1/2 Cup Red Pepper- Finely Diced

  • 1/2 Cup Banana or Wax Pepper- Diced

  • 1/2 tsp Cumin

  • 2 tsp Dried Oregano

  • 2 tsp Ground Coriander

  • 2 tsp Ancho Chile Powder

  • 2 Tbsp Lime

  • 2 Cups Yellow Potatoes- Finely Diced and Boiled

  • Empanada Dough
  • 2 Cups Masarepa

  • 1 tsp Xanthan Gum

  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder

  • 2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt

  • 2 tsp Sazon (See Homemade Recipe)

  • 2-1/2 Cups Hot Water (Start with 2 Cups, add more as needed)

  • Steve’s Sazon Seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp Ground Coriander

  • 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder

  • 2 tsp Achiote Powder

  • 3 tsp Ground Cumin

  • 2 Tbsp Dried Oregano

  • 2 tsp Paprika (Not Smoked)

  • 1 Tbsp Himalayan Pink Salt

  • Aji Verde Sauce
  • 3 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar

  • 1/3 Cup Tap Water (Cold)

  • 3/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro (Stems on and Rinsed)

  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley (Stems on and Rinsed)

  • 1 Poblano Pepper- Seeded

  • 1-1/2 Cup White Onion

  • 1 Tbsp White Granulated Sugar

  • 1 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt

  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Venezuelan Cilantro Aioli
  • 2 Large Eggs

  • 3 Large Garlic Cloves

  • 1-1/3 Cup Canola or Avocado Oil

  • 1/4 Cup Lime Juice

  • 2 tsp Ground Coriander

  • 1/4 tsp Cumin

  • 1/4 tsp White Onion- Chopped

  • 2 tsp Granulated White Sugar

  • 2/3 Cup Fresh Cilantro (Stems on and Rinsed)

  • 1 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt


  • Beef Empanada Filling
  • In an Instant Pot, saute on high the cubed Beef Chuck with Salt and Olive Oil. Saute for approximately 10 minutes on high until browned on most sides of the meat.
  • Add the Diced Red Onions, White Wine Vinegar, and Garlic. Using a wooden spoon deglaze the Instant Pot with the White Wine Vinegar by scraping the carmelized bits stuck to the pot.
  • Add the Beef Broth, Red Peppers, Banana Peppers, and Spices.
  • Set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook on High, place the lid on and cook for 28 minutes.
  • While the Instant Pot is cooking, dice the Yellow Potatoes and boil in water for approximately 7 minutes. Strain the potatoes and set aside.
  • When the 28 minutes is complete, remove the pressure, and open the Instant Pot lid.
  • Using a fork shred the meat, then add the lime juice, and fold in the diced potatoes.
  • Empanada Dough
  • In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the Masarepa, Xanthan Gum, Baking Powder, Salt, and Sazon. Mix so the ingredients are homogeneous.
  • Slowly pour in hot water and mix with either clean hands or Danish Dough Hook.
  • Once the water and dry ingredients have been thoroughly combined, knead the dough with your hands until the dough starts binding to itself (approximately 4-5 minutes).
  • The dough should be firm, but moist. Add more water as needed 1 Tbsp at a time. If the dough is too dry, it will easily crack.
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • On a 12×12 inch piece of parchment paper, place approximately a 2-3 Tbsp ball of empanada dough on the parchment paper, place a second 12×12 inch piece on top and press down with a round container lid to form a 6 inch disc. Each disc should be approximately 1/8th-1/4th inch thick.
  • Set on the side a custard cup of room temp water. With your fingers wet the edges of the empanada dough.
  • Place approximately 2 Tbsp of beef filling in the center of the empanada dough disc and gently fold the disc in half, gently massage the filling down if need be.
  • Wet the outside rim of the empanada and seal the empanada using a fork around the edges.
  • Set aside on parchment paper and continue until all your dough is used.
  • Frying
  • Fry medium sized frying pan with ½ inch of Grapeseed, Peanut, or Avocado Oil fry each empanada for approximately 3 minutes/side at 350°F oil temperature.
  • Remove from heat and set onto a cooling rack or on paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  • Baking
  • Line a baking pan with parchment paper, give it a light spray of Avocado Oil (or other high heat oil). Place the empanadas on the pan with a little space in between.
  • Spray the top of the empanadas and bake from frozen in a preheated oven at 425°F for approximately 30 minutes. Flip after 15 minutes. If the empanadas are fresh and not frozen, they should be done in approximately 20-22 minutes.
  • Air Frying
  • Line a baking pan with parchment paper, give it a light spray of Avocado Oil (or other high heat oil). Place the empanadas on the pan with a little space in between.
  • Spray the top of the empanadas and air fry from frozen at 400°F for approximately 20 minutes. Flip after 10 minutes. If the empanadas are fresh and not frozen, they should be done in approximately 10-12 minutes.
  • Sazon
  • Mix the dry ingredients together. Store any unused sazon in an airtight container for later use.
  • Aji Verde Sauce
  • Combine all ingredients into a blender. Blend until the ingredients are very finely diced, but not entirely smooth.
  • Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week!
  • Venezuelan Cilantro Aioli
  • In a blender combine the Canola Oil, Garlic, Lime Juice, and Eggs. Blend until the consistency reaches that of Mayonnaise.
  • Add the additional ingredients and continue blending until the aioli is smooth with a light green tint.
  • Refrigerate for up to a week in an airtight container.
    **Due to the raw eggs, do not leave the aioli out of the fridge for long periods of time.

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