When it comes to this traditional treat, you’ve probably never heard the true story.
The empanada is all about diversity: each country in the West has their own version that represents the people who live there and their histories. So here are five tidbits to get you in on what’s between those breaded folds.
1) Variety is the Spice of Life
Every Central and South American country has their own version of this Latin classic.
From Argentina to Mexico, sautéed veggies, meats, and eggs are sorted into the empanada’s standard dough, spiced, and packed away for future (or immediate) delight. The differences come from local specialties; Argentina’s beef production, Colombia’s potatoes, and Spain’s Mediterranean veggies give their empanada recipes a national flair.
2) Less is Definitely More
The crispy turnover can only take so much meat. Adding ingredients to your stomach’s desire is not the way to go. The right balance is if you can keep all the fixings in small circle leaving enough room to fit a fork’s prongs to the end of the dough circle.
3) Tradition Totally Trumps
This turnover originally comes from a festive mixture of Arab and Spanish cultures. Now a staple across Latin America, the empanada tells a rich and exciting story about how its peoples came together to make one belly-busting dish.
Basically, a bite into an empanada is like reading a history book about our friendly Latin neighbors. So, to truly appreciate the irresistibly welcoming aroma coming from an oven full of home-made empanadas, you do have to know the history.
4) Baked Beats Fried
When it comes to empanadas, we often err on the side of oil. But, think outside the frying pan.
“De horno,” which means oven-baked, is the healthier alternative to the fried norm. When you kick the grease and bake these mini pies instead, you can easily enjoy without a drop of post-gym guilt.
5) It’s a Meat Point
In the Carribean, beef is key, but many empanadas are vegetarian-friendly.
In Colombia, potato filling reigns. In Spain, there is a difference between empanadas as we know them and empanadillas, the snack-ready twin, where spinach is the first ingredient. In Chile, eggs, olives, and caramelized onions make up most of the filling.
Whatever way you fold it, empanadas are more than meets the eye.
Shout out to the Hispanic Kitchen and their delicious Quinoa and Goat Cheese Empanadas recipe pictured above.
By Jack Meyers