[1] Latin American empanadas are made in individual portions (photo courtesy Fairway | NYC).

Chicken Empanadas
[2] Chicken empanadas (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

Empanada Gallega
[3] Galician and Portuguese empanadas are made as a whole pie and served in slices (photo courtesy Maria Lunarillos)


May 8th is National Empanada Day.

Most Americans know empanadas as fried Latin American fare. They are savory turnovers: pastry dough that is filled, folded, baked or fried.

The concept came to Latin America with Spanish immigrants. The pies originated in Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain, and across the border in Portugal.

  • Latin American empanadas are typically made in individual half-moon-shapes (photo #1) filled with minced meat (photo #2), cheese or vegetables.
  • In Galicia and Portugal they are typically prepared as a large pie which is cut into slices (photo #3). The wedges are a portable yet hearty meal for working people.
  • Galician and Portuguese empanadas fillings include chorizo, codfish, pork, sardines or tuna, often in a tomato, garlic and onion sauce.
  • A specialty of Galicia is the empanada gallega, filled with pork and bell peppers.
  • Empanadas are found in cuisines worldwide. In Indonesia, they are known as panada or pastel filled with spicy tuna and chiles.
  • Italian calzones are close relatives of empanadas, but are seen as “folded pizza,” with ingredients such as mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, meats (ham, salami) and other pizza toppings. They are baked rather than fried.
  • Empanadas have become popular food truck fare.
  • Some Mexican restaurants serve dessert empanadas, and “gourmet” empanadas are created by fine chefs.

    Empanadas first appear in Medieval Iberia during the time of the Moorish invasions, which began in 711 C.E. A cookbook published in Catalonia in 1520 has recipes for empanadas filled with seafood.

    According to Majuraps, it is believed that empanadas and calzones evolved from the Arabic meat-filled pies, known as samosas sambusas, or samboksas.

    Yes, the crunchy fried food originated in Arabia before migrating to India. Indian cooks made it their own with fillings such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, lentils, cheese and minced lamb.

    The Spanish name empanada comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

    The dish traveled to Latin America and the Philippines with Spanish colonists, becoming widespread fare.
    What’s for lunch? Empanadas!



    THE NIBBLE Blog – Adventures In The World Of Fine Food

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