LAZY SATURDAY | Colombian Empanadas

March 01, 2014

I love cooking and I enjoy most finding recipes of dishes I discovered in other countries and trying them out at home.

In my post about Places to eat in Miami, I talked about Colombian empanadas, golden fritters made of cornmeal, fried to crisp perfection with a savory center of potatoes and minced meat. 

I adapted Erica Dihno’s recipe from her website My Colombian Dishes, and I was very proud of my results and everybody’s eagerness to reach for seconds. And thirds. 


1 ½ cups of precooked yellow cornmeal and additional ½ cup

2 cups of water

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1 packet of Sazón Goya with Saffron


2 cups of peeled and diced white potatoes

1 tablespoon of olive oil

¼ cup of diced white onions

1 cup of chopped tomato

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ chopped scallions or green onions

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tablespoons of chopped red bell pepper

¾ pound of ground pork or beef

For the dough, place the cornmeal in a large bowl with the sazón and salt. Mix well. Add the water and oil and mix until the dough comes together. I found two cups of water was a bit much, so I added half a cup more of cornmeal in stages until the dough came together.
Knead for two minutes until smooth and cover with plastic. Set aside for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes with a bit of salt for about 20 minutes or until a fork goes through them. Drain the potatoes and mash with a fork –or any utensil of your liking- while still hot. Set aside.

Next, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add the onions and cook over medium heat until translucent, for 5 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, green onions, garlic, red bell pepper and cilantro. Cook everything on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Add the ground pork or beef and break apart with a wooden spoon, cooking for 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the meat into the potatoes and mix thoroughly. The starch in the potatoes will hold the filling together and it will be much easier when spooning into the cornmeal dough.

Divide the resting dough into portions of about one tablespoon and a half. I used an ice cream scooper and filled it half way. Take each portion and rolled into a ball with the palms of your hands.

Place the dough balls between two pieces of plastic and roll out with your rolling pin. This became a very cautious and stressful process since the dough is quite pliable and soft. So I ended up slapping the heck out of it or pressing my palm firmly over the dough until it formed a flat disc. It’s your choice. Old school style or a tad of violence.

Remove the top film of plastic and add about a teaspoon of filling in the center of each disc. Once that’s done, fold them over to form a half circle and use a fork or your fingertips to crimp the edges.
Once they are all filled and folded and crimped, fill a large pot with vegetable oil, enough to cover the empanadas, and heat over medium heat to 360 ° F.

Carefully, and most definitely not throwing them in (like I did), place 3 to 4 empanadas into the heated oil and fry for about 3 or 4 minutes until golden and crispy on all sides. My tip is to not fuss over them. Let ‘em do their thing in the hot oil and if necessary, flip them over once. 

Once they are at that golden point, use a slotted spoon and transfer them to plain lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil. 

Serve them up with lime wedges to cut through the grease and hot sauce. The recipe makes about 20 empanadas and while that may seem like a lot, they go fast. Trust me.

I had a lot of fun exploring a bit of Colombian cuisine and eating every bit of it. It may seem a complicated recipe with many ingredients, but it was very simple to make and much of this can be made ahead of time. Plus, it's quite fun to create a working line with your friends. One cooks, one forms balls, another rolls away.

I hope you have a lovely weekend! x


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