I spent my teen years in Southern California, which has a large population of immigrants whose families are originally from Mexico. We were lucky to have plenty of places to eat authentic Mexican food, which is much more complex than many of my friends, who are mostly accustomed to eating crunchy beef tacos and bean and cheese burritos, have experienced.

I now live near Washington, D.C. and have gotten to know families who originally came from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Argentina. Each of these countries has distinctive cuisines with varied ingredients and flavors.

Because this month (September 15 – October 15) celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes from Argentina, where I lived and worked for a summer in the 1980s.

Like the U.S., Argentina is a melting pot for people from all over the world, especially Italy, Spain, Germany, Paraguay, Chile, and Uruguay, so its food incorporates influences from all of these countries and many others.

My favorite lunch or snack in Buenos Aires was the empanada. These are delicate little pastries that are often filled with ground meat, spices, olives, and raisins. I’ve created my own recipe for empanadas that can easily be made in less than an hour and tastes remarkably close to the flavors I remember from that summer.

Using a prepared piecrust rather than making and rolling your own dough makes these easy enough for a weeknight dinner. If you have time to make your own empanada dough, here is a recipe from Laylita’s Recipes.

Your kids will enjoy helping you fill and fold the pastry pockets and seal their edges with the tines of a fork.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, you and your family can take a virtual tour of some of the Smithsonian museum’s most interesting objects that illustrate Hispanic contributions to art and culture.

Have you ever tried empanadas? If so, what was your favorite filling?

Recipe: Beef or Turkey Empanadas (Flaky Meat Pies

  • Prep Time: 25 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 20 min(s)
  • Servings: 8

Using a prepared piecrust rather than making and rolling your own dough makes this recipe for empanadas easy enough for a weeknight dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef, turkey, or vegetarian ground “meat”
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup raisins or 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 ready-made refrigerated pie crusts (the kind you unroll, such as Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large heavy skillet, brown the meat and onions over medium-high heat. Once the meat is browned (about 5 minutes) add the salt, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, vinegar and raisins (or pine nuts), and simmer it for about 10 minutes. Remove it from the heat.
  3. Unroll and cut each of the pie crusts into 4 even quarters. Put each section of the crusts on the baking sheet, fold it gently in half to find the middle seam, and put a small scoop of the meat mixture along the seam. Fold it over and seal the edges with the tines of a fork to make a pocket. Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the empanadas to cool for a few minutes before serving.
  4. Tip: If you find that you have any holes or openings in the dough when you pull it over the meat mixture, gently pinch a little of the dough off one of the edges and use it as a patch for the hole.

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  • http://motherwouldknow.com/ Laura Kumin

    Love this recipe. I’m going to try it this week. I discovered another way to save time making empanadas. Goya sells empanada shells in frozen foods section – they are small rounds, ready to be filled with this delicious looking filling.

    • http://www.thescramble.com Aviva Goldfarb

      Laura, I’d love to hear how the empanada shells work out. Please let us know!

  • http://www.northdallasnutrition.com Karin Hosenfeld

    My favorite empanada fillings:
    mozzerella/basil/tomato/garlic
    humita (creamed corn)
    acelga (swiss chard
    queso y cebolla (cheese and onion)
    I miss being able to call the take out store down the block in Buenos Aires and order empanadas that they deliver so piping hot you burn your tongue on them– good to douse the flame with an Argentine Malbec (red wine). Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

  • Aviva Goldfarb

    Karin, those sound so delicious! Thing I better go crack a bottle of wine and contemplate those combinations.