Empanadas: Argentina’s Favorite Fast Food

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Empanadas are Argentina’s favorite fast food.

These little pastry parcels are sold almost everywhere and eaten by almost everybody, save the most loyal dieters.

Empanadas are chowed down during short lunch breaks, taken home after work for a quick dinner, delivered by reckless scooter riders late into the night, and prepared lovingly in kitchens all over the country.

In Argentina a fútbol game isn’t complete without beer and juicy empanadas.


Although originating from Spain (and before that, India in the form of samosas) today empanadas are more ubiquitous in Argentina that the homeland.

Argentines can’t live without their tasty turnovers, and many foreign visitors soon find themselves addicted as well.

Argentina style empanadas

Common Types of Argentinean Empanadas

Argentinean empanadas are made with a flour dough. They are filled with beef, chicken, ham and cheese, sweet corn or swiss chard and cheese before being sealed into a turnover.

Empanada stands or speciality restaurants will usually offer the choice of oven-baked or fried empanadas.

In empanada specialty houses, the repulgue, or pattern of the pastry fold, helps to indicate the filling of each empanada.

A chart will often be provided to guide the diner. Here is a guide to the most common varieties of empanadas served up in Argentina:

  • Carne suave – Meat (The basic mince meat empanada which also contains ingredients such as onion, egg, and sometimes olives)
  • Carne picante – Spicy Meat (a hotter version of the meat empanada)
  • Carne cortada a cuchillo – Knife-Cut Meat (An empanada made with diced beef instead of minced)
  • Jamón y queso – Ham and Cheese
  • Roquefort – Blue Cheese (sometimes with ham as well)
  • Queso y cebolla – Cheese and Onion
  • Champignon con queso y jerez – Mushrooms, cheese and sherry
  • Pollo – Chicken (Like the meat empanada, contains onion, egg, etc)
  • Atún – Tuna (some varieties are a tad spicy, others not)
  • Humita – Sweetcorn cream
  • Choclo y queso – Corn and Cheese
  • Acelga – Swiss chard and ricotta
  • Capresse – Mozzarella, tomato and basil (like a caprese salad in empanada form)
  • Quatro Quesos – Four Cheeses
  • Calabreza – Cheese and hot salami
  • Verdura – Spinach or chard (usually in a Béchamel-like white sauce)
Empanadas fresh out of the oven

Easter Holiday empanadas

Argentina is mostly a Catholic country so many people avoid meat during Easter week, especially Good Friday and Easter.

Argentina fast food dinner of empanadas
A typical Argentine family about to sit down to an empanada dinner

There are two types of empanadas made with fish that are popular on Easter.

Empanada de Vigilia

Empandas de Vigilia are extra large puffy holiday empanadas.They are prepared in a similar manner to meat empanadas but filled with a fish, such as tuna and may include Swiss chard.

Empanadas Gallegas

Empanadas Gallegas or Galician empanadas are a little more elaborate with with a sautéed onion, tomato and red pepper and egg. Eaten as an appetizer, or main course, it is typically made into a pie with homemade dough surrounding a tuna filling.

On the Atlantic coast, it’s more common to use another fish or even a seafood mixture. The juicy seafood empanadas made with freshly caught fish shouldn’t be missed if visiting the Patagonia coast.

Where to Travel for the Best Argentina Empanadas

Every province in Argentina has their own style of empanada, but it is widely agreed that the Noroeste, or northwest provinces have Argentina’s best empanadas.

If you travel to the Andean region of the country, where empanadas are a speciality, it’s hard to resist trying them at every pit stop.

Salta’s empanadas are probably the most famous country-wide, so native Salteños sell empanadas throughout the country.

Empanadas of Northwest Argentina

Salta

Empanadas Salteñas are the smallest empanadas, but what they lack in size they make up for in flavor. The juicy filling contains a minced meat cooked in a large helping of lard with onion, green onions, bell pepper, ground chili, boiled egg and potatoes cooked in a clay oven, which adds to the homemade flavor. Black or green olives are optional.

In neighboring Bolivia, empanadas are called ‘Salteñas,’ and are a staple snack food. They were brought there by activist and native Salteña, Juana Manuela Gorrit. Exiled to Bolivia in the early 19th century, Gorrit sold her homegrown snack to make a living. (She later became Bolivia’s First Lady, which happened to be great marketing for her snack.)

Jujuy

Empanadas from Jujuy are similar to those of Salta, but they are a little spicier and often contain peas in meat filling.

Travelers who get off the beaten track and up into the hills will find empanadas made with llama meat, which taste like beef, but is leaner.

Tucumán

Tucumán, in the middle of the northwest provinces, is famous for its juicy empanadas.

This humble province takes their empanadas very seriously: every September since 1979 they have hosted the National Empanada Festival in Santiago del Estero.

Typical empanadas Tucumanas tend to have less vegetable ingredients. The filling is made of meat, sautéed onion, garlic, cumin, pepper and paprika. They are larger than the Salta variety, made with lard and also cooked in a clay oven.

One popular variety in Tucamán is made with mondongo, or tripe, but beef and chicken are just as common.

Santiago del Estero 

Those with big appetites will want to try empanadas from Santiago del Estero. These empandas tend to be the largest in the country.

Empanadas in Santiago del Estero tend to have the most tender meat, as its boiled before it is sautéed in beef fat. The meat is spiced with paprika, cumin and oregano. Also cooked in a clay oven.

La Rioja

La Rioja’s empanadas got a dash of Arabic flair thanks to many Levantine immigrants here.

These smaller empanadas are filled with rump steak or chevon (goat meat), onion, scallions, potato, olives, bell pepper, garlic, chopped boiled egg and raisins, which add a nice touch of sweet to the savory.

Catamarca

Catamarca doesn’t get much as much credit for their empanadas compared to the neighboring provinces. The medium-sized empanadas from Catamarca are similar to those from Santiago del Estero, although you may find goat meat instead of beef.

Other ingredients are potato, onion, green onions, ground chili, paprika, and a diced hard-boiled egg simmered with laurel. Olives and raisons are optional, so they depend on the cook in Catamarca.

Best Empanadas in Buenos Aires

Good empanadas are not hard to come by anywhere in Argentina. Here is a list of some the most famed empanada places in Buenos Aires

• El Hornero For typical empanadas salteñas, head over to the San Telmo Market for a beer and some empanadas. They have traditional empanadas cooked in a traditional large clay oven and more unique varieties such as Cantimpalo Y Queso (chorizo & cheese).

Carlos Calvo 455 — San Telmo Market

• Cumaná in the heart of the Recoleta neighborhood is a popular restaurant with Andean cuisine that has northwestern style empanadas.

Rodríguez Peña 1149
Tel: 4813-9207

Learn to Make Empanadas in Buenos Aires

A special evening with other foodies, a gastronomic experience that includes wine tasting, empanada cooking class and delicious Argentine meat.

Available everyday except Sunday and Monday

Argentina finger food: canapes

Learn to Make Empanadas in Buenos Aires

A special evening with other foodies, a gastronomic experience that includes wine tasting, empanada cooking class and delicious Argentine meat.

Available everyday except Sunday and Monday

• La Morada is a porteño favorite for empanadas, with two locations — its original downtown/Monserrat location and a second locale in Barrio Norte. It’s also popular for delivery.

Hipolito Yrigoyen 778
Monserrat
Tel:4343-3003

Larrea 1336
Barrio Norte
Tel:4821-6349

• Pizza Güerrin is famous for their pizza, but the lively hole-in-the-wall also has typical, savory empanadas.
Av. Corrientes 1368
Downtown
Tel: 4371-8141

•Ña Serapia is a typical bodegón across from Plaza Las Heras famous for its flaky empanadas. Favorites include the ‘La Porteña’ with raisins and olives, and the ‘Salteña’ style empanada.

Las Heras 3357,
Palermo
Tel: 4801-5307

•La Cuartito in Tribunales, the judicial district of the city,is another place famed for its pizza but if stopping by, their empanadas are worth trying as an appetizer at least.

Talcahuano 937
Tribunales
Tel:4816-1758

• La Carbonera Venezuelan Empanadas offers something different from the typical Argentine empanada.

This humble locale has Venezualan-style empanadas filled with ingredients such as black beans, plantain and cheese and they are accompanied by an ingredient that can be quite elusive in Argentina: hot sauce (it’s a miracle!) and guasacaca (avocado dressing).

El Salvador 4401
Palermo
Tel: 4832-9801

• La Cocina offers Catamarca-style empanadas, which can be hard to find in Buenos Aires. A house favorite is the ‘pickachu,’ a filling of cheese, onions and a ‘spicy’ sauce. Their ham and cheese empanadas are made with ricotta cheese in place of the usual soft cheese.

Pueyrredón 1508
Recoleta
Tel: 4825-3171

El Sanjuanino is rustic favorite popular with families that has also received accolades in the New York Times. They specialize in San Juan-style empanadas and diners are treated to live Argentine folkloric music.

Posadas 1515,
Retiro
Tel: 4804-2909

Sanchez de Bustamonte 1788
Barrio Norte
Tel: 4822-8080

José Hernández 2345
Belgrano
Tel: 4783-6459

• The Stand is an American-Argentina fusion restaurant new on the empanada scene, located in the neighborhood of Almagro. Some of their unusual empanada offerings include pepperoni and cheese, potato or curry chicken, lamb curry, and bacon cheese burger. If those sound weird to your Argentine friends, have them drink a couple of the delicious pints to loosen their rigid palates.

Av. Córdoba 3528,
Almagro
Tel:4863-1235

Vegan & Vegetarian Empanadas in Buenos Aires

Empanadas aren’t usually vegetarian, and certainly not vegan as the dough is made with lard or butter, but they can be made vegan or vegetarian at home quite easily.

It’s also fun to experiment with ingredients such as lentils and eggplant.

De Rosa Pizzería is one of few places that can accommodate vegetarians and vegans on the hunt for empanadas they can eat. De Rosa offers lard -free empanadas with fillings such as polenta, acelga (chard), and onion and peppers.

Lafinur 3275
Palermo
Tel: 4807-3809

Argentine Empanadas

→ Take an expedition to taste delicious juicy empanadas at the Feria de Mataderos, that takes place on Sundays just outside Buenos Aires.

→ Learn how to make empanadas yourself on one of our Buenos Aires Food Tours.

⇒ Sign up online now for the chance to learn how to make empanadas on the Buenos Aires Food & Wine Experience

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