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Picadillo Empanadas

Serves: Makes 36 empanadas


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, including the juice, chopped
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ finely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water

  • Tender Pastry:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 8 tablespoons (or more) ice water
  • 1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar


Pure Cuban comfort food, these hand pies surround savory and spicy beef with a tender and flakey pastry.

Tender Pastry: Blend flour, sugar and salt in a processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until coarse meal forms. Add 8 tablespoons ice water and cider vinegar; blend until moist clumps form. Add more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.

Gather dough together. Turn out onto work surface and divide dough in half. Form each half into a ball and flatten into disks. Wrap disks separately in plastic and refrigerate for one hour. Dough can be made ahead. Keep it refrigerated for up to two days, or enclose in a resealable plastic bag and freeze for up to one month, then thaw overnight in refrigerator. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, chile powder, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat. Stir until the onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook the mixture, stirring and breaking up any lumps, until the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes with juice, raisins and olives. Simmer the picadillo, stirring occasionally, until it is thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated, 20 to 25 minutes. Let it cool. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Assembling the empanadas: Mix together the egg and water. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Work with one batch of dough at a time, while keeping the rest covered in the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Cut it into twelve 4 x 2-inch inch rectangles. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash around the edges of each rectangle. Put a scant tablespoon on the picadillo onto the bottom half of each rectangle and fold the top half over it, enclosing the filling. Crimp edges with a fork to seal.

Transfer the empanadas with a spatula to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make a small vent in the top of each one and brush lightly with the egg wash. Bake in the middle of the oven until they are golden, 10–15 minutes. Transfer the empanadas to a rack and let them cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tested and perfected in the Sur la Table kitchen

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