These tasty little beef and cheese empanadas are so easy to make and a great way to savor leftover picadillo. Empanadas are a popular Cuban snack sold at Cuban bakeries and restaurants. You’ll also find them in just about any snack counter in Miami. I love to have these as tapas with a little wine or sangria, but they also work as a snack or light lunch.
Empanadas are originally from Spain, but you’ll find them in most Latin American cuisines. The term comes from the verb empanar, which means to coat or wrap with bread.
While empanadas are from Spain, many cultures have a recipe for meat pie. It’s an early version of convenience food. I just love that they are so super easy to make and are a great appetizer, especially served with a little sriracha aioli on the side.
Beef Picadillo Empanadas
My favorite stuffing is spicy ground beef (picadillo), but you can stuff these little hand pies with so many other yummies. The ones you’ll find most often at Cuban bakeries are filled with guava and cream cheese, picadillo, or chicken. This beef and cheese empanada recipe is stuffed with cheese and picadillo because that’s my daughter’s favorite combo. I used a Colby Jack cheese mix because it pairs so well with the spicy ground beef.
You’ll need about one and a quarter cups of picadillo to make these empanadas. You can use my Authentic Cuban Picadillo recipe. Picadillo is a very popular Cuban dish made of spicy ground beef with olives and served with black beans and rice. It’s the ultimate Cuban comfort food! Make the picadillo for dinner and then use the leftovers to make these cheesy beef picadillo empanadas.
Some people make their own empanada dough, but I’m not one of them. I usually buy the frozen empanada discs that are ready to go. So, I can make these empanadas on a whim, whenever I have some picadillo leftovers. One day when I grow up, I’ll make my own dough.
You Can Fry or Bake Empanadas
I like to bake these beef and cheese empanadas because it’s so much easier than frying. But my daughter loves them fried (of course she would… especially when I’m the one frying them :P). But I must say the dough is definitely crunchier and tastier when you fry them.
If you’re frying these, you need to make sure you have a good seal on the dough, so the stuffing doesn’t come out and the oil doesn’t seep into the picadillo filling. To do this, you just need to wet the edge of the dough with a little water and then use fork tines to seal the edges.
If you’re baking the empanadas, add a little egg wash and paprika to the tops before baking.
Let’s make some empanadas ya’ll!
When I make these, I think of my Abuela Melba. She used to make empanadas for me and my brother. Years later, after I was married, she would make a batch for me and my hubby and call me to come and pick them up. That was a great way to get me to stop by her house often!
She would always ask me how I liked them and if they were better than my mom’s. That woman loved a little competition! As she got older, her cooking skills started to decline, and her empanadas were a little too greasy with the filling seeping out of the dough. I would still come and pick them up and tell her how good they were, because I knew it pleased her.
Cooking for us was one of the ways she could communicate my hubby. She didn’t speak any English and Jay didn’t speak any Spanish at that time. So, the empanadas were her way of saying she liked “Jerry” (she could never get his name right!).
Food is a connector and memory maker. It helps bridge the gap between languages, generations, and cultures. So, the next time you want to connect and love on your peeps, cook up a batch of your signature dish and share it with them.
These super tasty, cheesy Cuban beef empanadas are very easy to make and can be fried or baked. They are a perfect way to use up Cuban picadillo leftovers!
1 1/4 cup Authentic Cuban Beef Picadillo
1 1/4 cup Shredded Colby Jack Cheese
1 package of frozen empanada discs (they come 10 to a pack and can be found in the freezer section)
1 egg (for brushing on the baked empanadas)
Paprika for garnish (for baked empanadas)
1 cup oil (if you’re frying)
Picadillo: Prepare Cuban Picadillo according to recipe found here. If you’re using leftovers, don’t reheat. We want to use the filling cold. If you made picadillo for this recipe, let it come to room temperature before filling. Otherwise, it will make the dough too soft and it could tear. Take out the shredded cheese.
Dough: Thaw the frozen dough, it should take about 15 minutes. You can pull apart the discs once they begin to thaw to speed up the process, but be careful not to crack the dough.
Prep: Flour your working surface so the dough doesn’t stick. Get a little bowl of water for sealing the dough. If you’re baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and beat the egg and set aside.
Filling: Add two tablespoons of picadillo and two tablespoons of cheese to one empanada disc. Dip one finger into the water bowl and wet the edges of the dough.
Fold the dough and seal with fork tines.
Baking: Brush the empanadas with the egg wash and sprinkle a little paprika on the tops. Bake for 27 minutes or until golden.
Frying: pour oils into a shallow frying pan and heat to about 350 degrees on medium high. Carefully place each empanada into the oil and lower the heat to medium. Fry on each side for about 3 minutes. Take out with tongs and drain on paper towels.
Cooking time is based on baking the empanadas. If you’re frying, you can shorten the time by about 10 minutes.
You can opt for making all-beef empanadas and leave out the cheese. If you do that, use 1/4 cup of picadillo filling.
Serve with sriracha aioli.
Keywords: beef and cheese empanada, beef picadillo empanadas, how to make empanadas, cheesy ground beef empanadas