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 chowed down during short lunch breaks, taken home after work for dinner, delivered by reckless scooter riders late into the night, and prepared lovingly in kitchens all over the country. Of course no fútbol game would be complete without beer and juicy empanadas.
Although originating from Spain, today empanadas are more ubiquitous in Argentina. Argentines can’t live without them, and many foreign visitors soon find themselves addicted as well. Empanada houses will usually offer the choice of oven-baked or fried empanadas.
Common Types of Argentinean 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)
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 this more Andean region of the country, the empanadas can’t be missed. Salta’s empanadas are probably the most famous country-wide, so native Salteños sell empanadas throughout the country.
Empanadas of Northwest Argentina
Empanadas Salteñas are the smallest empanadas, but what they lack in size they make up for in flavor. The juicy filling has ground beef, 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,’ are also considered a staple snack food. They were brought there by a native Salteña exiled to Bolivia in the early 19th century, who sold her native snack to make a living. She later married a Bolivian president, which happened to be great marketing for her snack.
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 may also find the empanadas in Jujuy are filled with llama meat instead of beef.
Tucumán is in the middle of the northwest provinces and gets influences from the provincial neighbors on all sides. Typical empanadas Tucamanas 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 and also cooked in a clay oven.
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. They also have the most tender meat, as its boiled before it is sautéed in beef fat. Then the meat is spiced with paprika, cumin and oregano. Also cooked in a clay oven.
La Rioja’s empanadas got a dash of Arabic flair thanks to many Levantine immigrants here. These smaller empanadas are filled with rump steak, onion, scallions, potato, olives, bell pepper, chopped boiled egg and raisins, which add a nice touch of sweet to the savory.
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 in Catamarca.
Best Empanadas 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 Recoleta is a popular restaurant with Andean cuisine that has northwestern style empanadas.
Rodríguez Peña 1149
Learn to Make Empanadas in Buenos Aires
• 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
• Pizza Güerrin is famous for their pizza, but the lively hole-in-the-wall also has typical, savory empanadas.
Av. Corrientes 1368
•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,
•La Cuartito in Tribunales, is another place famed for its pizza but if stopping by, their empanadas are worth trying as an appetizer at least.
• 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
• 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.
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.
Sanchez de Bustamonte 1788
José Hernández 2345
• 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,
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.
→ 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