The Philippine Cookbook: Empanada.


When I first moved away from California and started yearning for my favorite home-cooked Filipino comfort foods (arroz caldo! pork adobo! sinigang!), my mom recommended I start reading and making use of The Philippine Cookbook by Reynaldo Alejandro. This book has been a staple in my mom’s kitchen for many years, so I enthusiastically picked up a copy at my local bookstore. Sadly, the book has been unceremoniously neglected since then, collecting dust in our kitchen. Now, one of my current goals is to (finally) learn how to cook every single recipe in this book.

Today, I start this challenge with the empanada, a.k.a. the meat turnover.

Empanada Recipe

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic (minced) or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 small onion (minced)
  • 1 cup diced potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup seedless raisins

empanadas1Disclaimer: I didn’t precisely follow the recipe instructions from the book. First off, I left out the raisins because I hate them (I don’t eat dead grapes). I used about 3 cloves of minced garlic because I love me some garlic! And I didn’t have a small onion in the pantry, so I used half of a large white onion. I peeled and diced 2 medium sized white potatoes for my filling, which yielded about 2 1/2 cups– if you want just 1 cup as written in the original recipe, just use 1 medium sized potato.

empanadas2 empanadas3


Now down to business. First, I browned the ground beef in a pan with about 2 teaspoons of canola oil over medium-high heat, seasoning the meat with some salt and pepper. Next, I removed the beef from the pan and set it aside. Using the same pan, I sautéed the minced garlic and onions until they were translucent, then added the potatoes. I seasoned with the remainder of the salt and pepper. Once the potatoes were cooked through, I reincorporated the ground meat into the mixture. (At this point, you would also mix in the raisins.) Then I removed the pan from the heat to cool down.

Ingredients for the empanada pastry:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 egg yolks (plus some egg whites for sealing empanadas)

Alternatively, the book notes that you could use ready-made pie-crust mix for the pastry. I had all the above ingredients in my cupboard, so I figured I’d do things the hard way and make it from scratch. So…


In a large bowl, I mixed together the flour, sugar, and salt. Then I added the water, oil (I used vegetable oil), and egg yolks to the bowl and kneaded the ingredients together into a soft ball of dough. I set aside the egg whites for sealing the empanadas and for making an omelet the next morning.

On a floured cutting board, I rolled the dough out to about 1/8th of an inch thick. I then cut the dough into circles using a wide-mouthed mason jar lid. Note, the cookbook says to cut circles that are 4 or 5 inches in diameter, and the mason jar lid I used was about 3 1/2 inches in diameter. So after I cut my circles, I rolled them out just a little bit more to get the desired measurement.

empanadas4 empanadas5

Hopefully by now, the meat filling is cool enough to the touch for you to handle. Once I had all the dough circles cut out, I placed about 2 teaspoons of meat in the center of each circle. Then I folded the dough into a half-moon shape, lightly wet the edges with some egg white, and pressed down the edges to seal everything in.

After you have all your pastries filled, you have two options for cooking: 1) deep fry them to a golden brown and drain the oil; 2) bake them in the oven (preheated to 425°F) for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. I’m currently more health-conscious than usual and am trying to lay off the fried stuff, so I chose the latter option. Here, I placed the empanadas on a baking sheet sprayed with some canola oil:

empanadas6While I was waiting for them to bake, I created a dipping sauce with my favorite Datu Puti vinegar and fresh ground pepper.

empanadas7  Twenty-five minutes later… DONE! YAY, MINI MEAT PIES!

empanadas8 empanadas9

The Verdict:

Overall, this recipe was relatively easy and took me about 2 hours to cook from prep to finish. The cookbook says that the recipe yields 20 empanadas, but I actually ended up creating 16, with some additional filling left over. Next time I’ll try to make the pastry a bit thinner (this would yield more empanadas and probably take less time to bake in the oven). Finally, make sure that you seal the sides well and don’t overfill the dough, otherwise you will end up with some of your empanadas baking (breaking) open!

I’d love to hear others’ suggestions for different empanada fillings and dips to try. Also, if you have other Filipino cookbooks that you recommend, I am all ears!

– j.

6 thoughts on “The Philippine Cookbook: Empanada.

  1. mycebuanochallenge says:

    Looks great!!! I’ve just started s similar blog – but for Yasmin Newmans book called 7000 islands. I highly recommend this book!!! Good luck and can’t wait to follow your journey

    • fivesouth says:

      Thanks for visiting!!! I look forward to reading your blog and your experiences working through 7000 islands. The challenge sounds awesome and yummy 🙂

      • mycebuanochallenge says:

        Thank you!!! my blog is very very new and find the time is difficult. But I am committed to this and can’t wait to get into the swing of things. Well done on your challenge, and I too look forward to sharing your experiences. How very exciting 🙂

    • fivesouth says:

      Hi! Chicken-filled empanadas sound really good. I’m considering making longanisa-filled breakfast empanadas this week… I’ll have to update on that experiment soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s