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Beef Empanadas

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  • Prep 35 min
  • Total 55 min
  • Ingredients 9
  • Servings 8
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Literally, empanadas mean “to bake in pastry”. Delicious fillings are wrapped in a flaky, buttery pastry and either baked or fried. The most common places they show up is as a hand-held, portable dinner, appetizer, or snack, where the pastry is filled with a savory meat and veggie mixture. But they can also show up with fruit fillings, for a delectable dessert, depending on regional variations. They can range in size from tiny, ravioli-size snacks to one huge empanada that feeds the entire family! The versatility of the fillings is part of the reason empanadas are so loved.

Starting with Pillsbury™ crescent rolls is an ideal option for making empanadas, as it gives you a jump start on the prep because you don’t have to make your own dough. It bakes up with a can’t-beat flaky texture in these “turnovers” without having to have the mess and time of frying them!

Hot and hearty, empanadas deliver the perfect ratio of flaky crust and tasty filling in every bite! Celebrate the culinary fusion that brings together this Mexican and Spanish delight with the convenience of Pillsbury flaky, yummy crescent dough. These pastries are so loved, April 8th has been proclaimed National Empanada Day! Join in on the fun with this easy and delicious dinner recipe that’s on the table in under an hour. We’ll take all the mystique out of making empanadas, with the helpful tips below!

By Paula Jones
Updated Jun 26, 2024
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How To Make Beef Empanadas

We’ll show you how to make empanadas easily with our detailed empanada recipe and these tips, straight from the Pillsbury test kitchens for scrumptious results. Empanadas can be changed up to suit your tastes or what you have available. When you’re ready to branch out and fill your empanadas with your own filling recipe, use these directions as a guide for how long to bake empanadas.

Make the Filling

Cook ground beef with onion and seasonings in a skillet. It’s then simmered with tomato sauce, chili powder, and cumin, to infuse the beef with spicy flavor. Be sure to cool the filling at least 5 minutes before spooning onto the dough. If the mixture is too hot, it will make the dough soft and hard to handle.

Separate and Cut the Dough

Be sure you’re purchasing 2 cans of the kind of crescent rolls (not biscuits) specifically called for in the recipe, so that the amount of filling will fit perfectly in the 16 empanadas. Each person will get two of these tasty turnovers for dinner! Using one can of crescent roll dough at a time, unroll the dough and separate it into 4 rectangles, using the perforations. Cut each rectangle in half to create 8 squares.

Fill the Dough

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling onto one side of each square. (Don’t worry—you’ll use the remaining filling to fill squares you make from the second can of crescent roll dough.) Stretch one corner of the dough up and over the filling, matching the edges, to form a triangle. Press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal. Place the 8 triangles on one cookie sheet and repeat with the second can of crescent dough and the remaining filling. Place these 8 filled triangles on the second cookie sheet.

How to Make Empanada Dough

If you were making your own empanada dough recipe to make empanadas, you’d have to mix flour, salt and butter or shortening first and then add water, a tablespoon at a time to get the right consistency of dough what would bake up flaky and buttery. You’d have to roll the dough out to an even thickness and cut it into squares. That would take approximately 30 minutes additional time to get empanadas on the table! Luckily, swapping crescent rolls for this dough cuts down on the prep time dramatically.

Brush Tops with Egg

Brush the tops of the empanadas with a beaten egg—it gives the top crust a beautiful golden-brown shine to our beef empanada recipe, making them even more irresistible when baked.

How to Bake Empanadas

When made and baked fresh, empanadas only need 9 to 12 minutes to get beautifully brown—which is also your doneness cue to ensure the filling is piping hot!

What To Serve with Empanadas

Since these empanadas are hearty and filling, all you really need to make it a complete meal is either a side salad or veggies and fruit!

Terrific Empanadas Sides: You can get a clue of what to serve with empanadas from what's inside an empanada. For our hearty beef-filled turnovers, serve a light green salad, or veggie, such as our Cucumber Pepper Salad or Greek-Style Green Beans and apple slices or red seedless grapes.

Or, what goes with empanadas if they have a lighter filling, such as beans and cheese, would be a heartier salad or veggie and fruit. Try Ranch Pasta and Potato Salad and a slice of watermelon or Apple-Walnut Salad and fresh, raw pea pods.

Or use up what you have in the fridge! Toss leftover cooked veggies with salad greens and your favorite dressing and croutons. Or make a salad out of the fruit you have on hand, such as cantaloupe, grape and strawberry halves.

Sumptuous Sauces: If you’ve got sauce lovers in your family, serve up an easy sauce to drizzle or dunk bites of the empanadas in. Try salsa, sour cream, enchilada sauce, or even spicy red pepper sauce, if you like spice!

How to Store and Reheat Empanadas

Portable, hand-held and such a yummy meal idea, use these helpful tips for storing and reheating our delicious beef empanadas:

How to Refrigerate Empanadas: For the best texture, make and bake empanadas at one time. If you like, you can cover and refrigerate the unbaked empanadas up to 2 hours before baking. (Brush with the beaten egg just before baking.) Or you can prepare the filling portion only of the recipe as directed in Step 2, cooling it before spooning it into a resealable food storage bag or food storage container. It can be refrigerated 3 to 4 days before making the empanadas.

Can You Freeze Empanadas? If empanadas are frozen unbaked, they may not have the same flaky texture as they would if freshly made. For that reason, we suggest only freezing baked empanadas. Wrap them individually with foil and freeze up to 2 months. Or, if you made the filling only (as directed above), you can freeze it up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before continuing as directed in Step 3 of the recipe.

How to Reheat Empanadas: Refrigerated unbaked empanadas can be baked as directed in Steps 4 and 5, adding an additional 5 minutes of bake time to account for the cold empanadas. Frozen baked empanadas can be reheated one at a time on those days when someone needs a quick meal. Unwrap the frozen empanada and place it on a microwavable plate. Cover loosely and microwave on medium-high (70%) 2 to 3 minutes, or until filling reaches at least 165°F.

Explore Other Empanada Recipes

Once you know how to make homemade empanadas with Pillsbury™ dough (and how much your family adores to eat them), try some of our other favorite empanada recipes:

Delectable Dinner Empanadas: Beef, Potato and Chorizo Empanadas are a wonderful variation and perfect for the hungriest crowd. Looking for a meatless option? Try Black Bean and Cheese Empanadas next.

Scrumptious Appetizer or Snack Empanadas: Looking for a unique appetizer to bring to a party? Our Mini Picadillo Empanadas will be the perfect 2-or 3-bite choice!

Can’t get enough Mexican-inspired dinners? Check out these other south-of-the border favorites.



  • 1
    Heat oven to 400°F. Line two large cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
  • 2
    In 10-inch skillet, cook beef, onion, salt and pepper over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain. Return beef mixture to skillet; reduce heat to low. Stir in chili powder, cumin and tomato sauce; cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until heated through. Remove from heat; cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
  • 3
    Unroll one can of dough, and separate into 4 rectangles; firmly press perforations to seal. Cut each rectangle in half to form 8 total squares; place on one cookie sheet, spaced at least 1 inch apart.
  • 4
    Spoon 2 tablespoons beef filling on one side of each square. Carefully fold dough over filling to form a triangle; firmly press edges with fork to seal. Repeat with second can of dough and remaining beef mixture.
  • 5
    Brush tops of triangles with beaten egg.
  • 6
    Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Do Empanadas Originate?

If you’re wondering, “where are empanadas from?”, they originated in Mexico and Spain. The tasty turnovers had varied fillings by region. With a flaky crust and tasty fillings of so many flavors, no wonder they have gained popularity worldwide! With the help of Pillsbury™ crescent roll dough to slash prep time, you can celebrate their Mexican or Spanish-American heritage for dinner, lunch, snacking, parties, or dessert, with a variety of recipes!

Check out all our empanada recipes that will suit any mood or occasion, deliciously.

Are Empanadas Gluten Free?

By their nature, empanadas are not typically gluten free. An integral part of empanadas is the flaky pastry. The dough types used to make empanadas--pie pastry-like dough or flaky crescent roll dough, for example--usually contain wheat-based (all-purpose) flour which naturally contains gluten. Gluten provides the structure necessary to make a sturdy dough that can be stretched over the filling without tearing and provides the flaky texture when baked.

What’s Inside an Empanada?

Our easy-to-make beef filling uses ground beef with chopped red onion and a few other ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. But the options for empanada fillings are endless! Whether it’s a savory, cheesy filling for dinner-sized empanadas or small 2-3-bite appetizers or a sweet fruit filling for dessert empanadas, the options are endless!

The trick is to have the right amount of filling to fill the pastry; enough that it doesn’t feel skimpy, yet not so much that you can’t seal all that yummy goodness inside the dough or end up with leftovers.

From a large, family-size empanada to empanadas made in the air fryer or breakfast empanadas to Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Empanadas, we’ve got many empanada recipes to enjoy with the perfect amount of filling to pastry!

Nutrition Information

320 Calories, 16g Total Fat, 15g Protein, 27g Total Carbohydrate, 8g Sugars

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 2 Empanadas
Calories from Fat
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrate
Dietary Fiber
% Daily Value*:
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
1/2 Starch; 0 Fruit; 1 1/2 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Skim Milk; 0 Low-Fat Milk; 0 Milk; 0 Vegetable; 0 Very Lean Meat; 0 Lean Meat; 0 High-Fat Meat; 1 Fat;
Carbohydrate Choice
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
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