Colombian Empanadas

in Dinner

Colombian Empanadas //

This is a recipe redo.

A few years ago I posted this recipe. For some people, it worked great. They loved the filling, the dough was perfect. You know, general hand claps all around. But then, a few other readers stated they had issues with the dough. It left me scratching my head and giving me anxiety. What went wrong? Were some people using corn flour and others using cornmeal? Was that the issue? Was the recipe the problem? I couldn’t figure it out. I took the recipe down, vowing to retest it to figure out the problemo. It kept getting pushed onto the next day’s to-do list until admittedly I forgot about it. UNTIL!! someone emailed me a few weeks ago saying WHERE IS THE RECIPE I LOVED IT!

So, here they are. Recipe reworked!! This is a recipe redo.

Colombian Empanadas //

Let’s start with talking about the difference between Colombian Empanadas and empanadas from Argentina.

For starters Colombian empanadas are fried, while other empanadas are generally baked. The doughs are the other big difference. Colombian and Veneuelzean empanadas are both made with P.A.N., which is a white or yellow corn flour. It’s different than cornmeal, which is definitely much coarser.

Growing up in South Florida, P.A.N. was easily available, I could go to the nearest Publix and find it. Well, it’s not so easy to find elsewhere–even in Los Angeles, where I just assumed the Latin American Market would have it. Nope.

I used Bob’s Red Mill corn flour. That was the closest I could find and it worked out great. So just beware that if you do use P.A.N., the ratios might be slightly off bit.


And if you use cornmeal or MASA, these ratios below won’t work at all. Look for yellow or white corn flour. The texture is much softer and lighter.

The filling to these is my absolute favorite part. It’s almost like a Colombian picadillo, filled with potato and ground beef. There’s a sauce made of ground cumin, a bit of paprika and a few tablespoons of tomato paste. I could literally eat it on top of a mound of rice and call it a day.

There were so many days in high school when these were my after-school snack. There was a Colombian restaurant on my way home and I’d stop to get a few empanadas and a Colombiana (a neon orange soda).

They’re my favorite.

Colombian Empanadas //

Colombian Empanadas

Yield: 12 empanadas

Colombian Empanadas


  • 2 1/2 cup (290 g) corn flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water (plus a splash or two of water)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Simple Tomato Aji:
  • 3 ripe-vine tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 serrano pepper, de-seeded and diced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, loosely chopped
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Empanadas:
  • 1 medium russett potato, peeled and diced
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • Salt


  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the corn flour and salt. Create a well in the center and pour in the water and olive oil. Mix until dough forms a ball. If the dough is on the drier side, add a splash or two of water until the dough feels moist and pliable. Wrap the ball of dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest on the kitchen counter for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the aji and filling.
  2. Aji:
  3. Mix together all of the ingredients until combined. Set aside.
  4. Filling:
  5. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the diced potato and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. When done, transfer to a colander to drain. Mash the potato lightly with a fork and set aside.
  6. In a medium skillet, set over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Add shallot and cook until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add red bell pepper and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Place minced garlic atop vegetable mixture and cook for an additional minute. Mix in the tomato paste, cumin, paprika, crushed red pepper and a few pinches of salt.
  7. To the skillet, add the ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until the meat is in small crumbles. Cook until the meat browns, mixing it regularly, about 7 minutes. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add the mashed potato. Mix until combined and salt to taste.
  8. Empanada Assembly:
  9. Scoop a few tablespoons of dough (about 2 ounces) onto your palm and roll into a smooth ball. Place the ball in between two pieces of plastic wrap and using a rolling pin, gently press the dough into a circle. (It's ok if the dough cracks a bit around the edges, but if it cracks completely that means it's not moist enough. You can fix it by adding a splash of water to the balls of dough, kneading it in and then re-rolling it. Not a fun solution but I've done this and it works great.)
  10. Place a teaspoon or two on one half of the dough circle. Using the bottom plastic wrap, lift and fold the dough over, creating a half moon shape. Using the tines of a fork, crimp the edges tightly and if you're really fancy, you can trim off any scraggly edges with a knife. Gently move the finished empanada to a cutting board and repeat this process until you've gone through all of the dough.
  11. In a cast iron skillet (or medium pot), add enough vegetable oil until it reaches about 3 inches, and heat until a thermometer reaches 350F. If you don't have a thermometer, not that big of a deal--add a tiny bit of scraped dough and if it sizzles, it's ready for the empanadas. Carefully add three empanadas at a time, being sure to not overcrowd the pan. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until the empanadas are golden brown and crispy. Drain on a bed of paper towels and repeat until all of the empanadas are fried. Serve immediately with the aji.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Elisa @ Insalata di Sillabe March 3, 2014 at 2:22 am

I have to admit – and I’m ashamed of this – that I had somehow missed the post about the colombian empanadas! So I’m SO glad you redid the recipe and posted it again! Can’t wait to try these out :)

xo, Elisa


Belinda@themoonblushbaker March 3, 2014 at 2:36 am

Deep fried corn pastry? with that spiced filling? You definitely know how to re work a recipe! Once I get my hands on special corn flour; my kitchen will smell of these fancy pockets.


ileana March 3, 2014 at 4:29 am

Colombian empanadas are my favorite!! I guess I have to try and make my own now that I have a recipe. :)


Marie @ Little Kitchie March 3, 2014 at 4:50 am

Ohhh I love empanadas. I missed the first post, but so glad you re-visited it so I can give it a try now!


Noelle (@singerinkitchen) March 3, 2014 at 9:05 am

Rico! These look awesome!


Arthur in the Garden! March 3, 2014 at 9:12 am



Stu Borken March 3, 2014 at 9:23 am

What did I miss? I have both yellow and white coarse corn meal and 2 bags of P.A.M. in my pantry. Which is the best one to use and what are the measurements for the P.A.M. since you already gave the one for the coarse corn meal?
I would like to make these for my kids and grandkids. They love the foods of Central America and especially these.


Adrianna Adarme March 3, 2014 at 11:12 am

Don’t use the cornmeal. Only corn flour. P.A.N. will be very close to the corn flour I used for this recipe. Use the measurements above and just feel it out a bit (maybe adding a splash more of water, if needed). Should work great!


Jamie | Jamie's Recipes March 3, 2014 at 9:38 am

The first time I had an empanada was on a culinary tour in Miami. We were in love. I am so glad your reworked the recipe. I can’t wait to give this Columbian version a try.


Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) March 3, 2014 at 10:06 am

These look ridiculously good. Love this!! And I missed the first recipe post, so I am thrilled that you shared them again.


sandra March 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

wow – I am impressed that you took down the recipe that didn’t work for everyone and reworked it. That’s dedication! Thanks!


Adrienne | Appetites Anonymous March 3, 2014 at 12:02 pm



Joanne T Ferguson March 3, 2014 at 5:43 pm

G’day! I LOVE empanadas, true!
WISH I could come through the screen and try one right now too!
Cheers! Joanne


cheri March 3, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Oh I just love these, they look amazing.


Chrissy March 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm

These look great. I’m definitely book marking them for when I get to cooking South American food!


Cósima March 4, 2014 at 2:25 am

Excellent post. Thanks for sharing the difference between one and other empanadas. I went to Colombia two years ago and I still have corn flour I bought at central market in Bogotá.
I’ll try to do your recipe.
Thank you very much.


Kasey March 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I can’t wait to make these! We spent 10 days in Colombia a few years ago and I’d love to relive them at home.


Unoaked Chardonnay March 4, 2014 at 3:31 pm

We’re in Miami, so I’m confident of finding PAN at my local supermarket, but out of curiosity and because we always keep it in the pantry, do you know if it’s possible to take course-ground corn meal and whip it around the food processor until it’s “flour”?


Adrianna Adarme March 4, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Hmm…I doubt it’ll get fine enough. It might I’m just not sure. Corn flour is so fluffy and soft, I’m just skeptical that a food processor can get it the point it needs to be.


dishing up the dirt March 5, 2014 at 8:43 am

I’ll have to give these a whirl. They sound fantastic!!!


Christine March 5, 2014 at 9:53 am

these look SO delicious!

from–The Lion’s Den


ramona March 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Can these be baked and eaten like pasties?


Adrianna Adarme March 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Hmm…I’m not sure. I didn’t bake any of them. I’m sure it’d be ok, but they just won’t be crispy, which is sort of the whole point with Colombian Empanadas.


Ramona March 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Got ya. They look delish and I look forward to making!!


Steph March 6, 2014 at 9:02 am

I remembered your old recipe and haven’t been able to find it for months now. I thought I had gone crazy! I’m so glad it’s back and I can’t wait to try these!!


Ana Paula March 6, 2014 at 9:18 am

They look amazing!

I’ts actually a little difficult for some non-english speakers or /non-residents in USA to know some differences between the kinds of flour. I really missed in this post the habitual photo with all the ingredients.

Here in Brazil there’s so many differents produts from the corn.. I might have an idea, but can’t realize wich one is the perfect one for this recipe. (:

Anyway, amazing post anyway! so wanna try it. <3


Adrianna Adarme March 6, 2014 at 9:30 am

Oh! Sorry about that. Though, because of the subtle (but important) differences, I’m not sure a photo would illustrate their differences, since at first glance all of them somewhat look the same. You want to go with one that describes it as corn flour. Hopefully that helps!


Dominique March 7, 2014 at 9:18 am

They look amazing. Love this recipe. I’m pinning it and making them soon. Can’t wait!


Tessa April 18, 2014 at 9:20 am

Can you oven bake them? will that work?


Adrianna Adarme April 18, 2014 at 9:31 am

I’ve actually never tried baking them because the point to Colombian empanadas is so that they’re crispy. But if you like, you can try it!


Mike April 27, 2014 at 7:58 am

Help! I tried these last night and it was a semi-failure. Everything seemed to come together beautifully until assembly. I wasn’t sure how big to roll the circle out, but not matter how many different sizes I made, the dough would just break when I tried to fold it over. I added more water, tried rolling different sizes, nothing work. I ended up just flattening the balls and frying them like fritters and serving the beef mixture on top. It was all very delicious, but I would have like to put together the empanada. The only things I can think of that may have affected it:

1) I used 2.5 cups of flour by weight based on the grams per .25 of a cup on the back Bob’s Red Mill Corn Flour package. Maybe I should have just used the measuring cup?
2) I let the dough rest for way longer than 20 minutes. Probably an hour. It was still warm from the water after 20 minutes, maybe the warm dough breaks less?

Let me know if you have thoughts or suggestions. Thanks!


Adrianna Adarme April 27, 2014 at 9:45 am

Hmm…sorry this recipe gave you trouble. Admittedly this dough is a bit fickle. The additional water should have worked. Definitely weighing the dough shouldn’t have affected anything because I usually measure by weight and then convert here in my recipes so it’s exact. Maybe the dough resting could’ve given you trouble. Warm dough definitely breaks less. The warmer the dough, the more pliable it is. So perhaps that was it? My dough was definitely warm when I was molding making the empanadas, so maybe it was the longer rest time?


Mike April 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Thank you! They were still super delish and I will try them again soon!


Francesca June 1, 2014 at 5:50 am

I tried these this morning and also had a corn flour fail. I ended up dumping the whole dough batch.. but I LOVED the filling! I made more dough with AP flour and we stuffed our faces anyways.
*still a faithful reader :)


Dan June 12, 2014 at 8:54 pm

The PAN harina and Goya masarepa are pre-cooked corn flours (i.e., the corn is cooked, then dried, then ground). The corn is not prepared with lime, so it tasted different from mexican corn flour. They absorb water much more easily than regular corn meal, which is why they are better for this recipe. I’ve actually tried baking some tonight, and they come out stiffer than the fired empanadas. I might try again with a bit more oil in the dough. I found my flour in a Caribbean store, but I’ve heard larger Asian stores also carry them.

I also found it easier to use a heavy book or a cutting board on top of the dough (with plastic) and pushing down to make perfect circles. Also, you can only fit a small amount of filling in there. I was always overfilling, which caused cracks.


Lynda Sarsfield June 22, 2014 at 5:40 am

I am using this method to make 60 empanadas in work on Wednesday I will let you know how they turn out hopefully yummy


Kat September 10, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Thanks for the recipe! I saw these being made at a street food night market and had to try it.

In case anyone is wondering, you don’t have to deep fry them, frying them normally with a little extra oil is fine. The colour won’t be as even but they still crisp up nicely.

Also if you press an upside down mug over the empanada after you fold it (but before you pull back the wrap) it will seal and trim it neatly, the people at the night market were using large round cookie cutters.


Xavier January 7, 2016 at 6:56 am

I’m sorry but I’m having a hard time believing this recipe was ever tested by the poster. The dough is absolutely impossible to work with as it’s much too dry. The ratio of dry to wet ingredients makes no sense, as was confirmed by checking numerous other recipes for the same style of empanada.


Adrianna Adarme January 7, 2016 at 6:17 pm

Hi Xavier,

I did test it. Are you using PAN? If it’s too dry, you can add more water a tablespoon at a time.


Xavier January 8, 2016 at 2:04 am

I am using P.A.N, and their own recipe for this dough calls for twice as much water for an equivalent amount of dry ingredients as in your recipe.


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