Friday, March 12, 2010

How To: Empanadas!

One of the things that you have to try if you come to Argentina are the empanadas. I mean, duh. Besides the wine and beef, Argentina is known for its ubiquitous empanadas, literal translation = little packages of yum. Seriously.

Empanadas are everywhere, and for good reason—they’re delicious, they’re cheap, they’re easy to eat and relatively easy to make, and they fill you up. It’s surprising really…I’m a big fan of eating and can generally pack away as much as the next fatty, but with empanadas I max out at three (hangs head in shame).

Here in BA, empanadas can be a meal or a snack, depending on the time of day. Order a bunch and you'll have a delicious if exceedingly unhealthy dinner, or just get a few to tide you over between lunch and dinner. They're also great as late night snacks and are a popular party food (see below picture of standard Argentine gathering fare--wine, fernet, vodka, beer, cigarettes, and a GIANT box of empanadas).

Empanadas come in many different forms, and I’m not just talking about fillings. You can get fried empanadas (fritas) or baked empanadas (al horno), tucumanas or salteñas. Since empanadas originate in the northwest of Argentina, empanadas from Tucumán or Salta are considered more authentic. The differences vary, the main one being that the filling in empanadas salteñas usually contains red pepper and peas, and the size is a bit smaller than other empanadas. But honestly, they’re all delicious, so it doesn’t really matter.

Common fillings you will find here in BA include:
Carne- beef (usually with pieces of hardboiled eggs, onions, olives, raisins, and/or peppers)
Carne picante- spicy beef
Carne cortado a cuchillo
Pollo- chicken
Cebolla y queso- onion and cheese (my favorite!)
Jamón y queso- omnipresent ham and cheese
Humita- sweet corn and white sauce
Verdura- vegetables, usually spinach, onions, or other vegetable with white sauce
Caprese- mozzarella, basil, tomato

Some places also offer a wider range of empanadas, such as:
Roquefort (cheese)
Champignon- mushrooms
Atún- tuna
Panceta y ciruela- bacon and plum
Cerdo- pork
Cordero- lamb

When you order empanadas, you’ll usually get a piece of paper with little pictures of the different shapes of each empanada so that you can tell what is what. For example, the jamón y queso ones might be round, while the pollo ones might have a braided edge. It all depends. If you don’t get a paper, you’ll just have to try them all, one by succulent one! Sometimes life sucks like that.

After living in BA for 8 months (it will be 8 in April, I always round up) I’ve had my fair share of empanadas. Some have been bad (late night request to a very obliging taxi driver resulting in a not-so-stellar next day), and some have been mediocre.

However, the best empanadas I’ve had are from Pekín, a pizza/empanada place in Palermo. They do delivery, and each delicious bundle of joy is only 3 pesos (except the classy cordero—apparently baby animals cost more). I highly recommend all of their options, except the humita—wasn’t so good. But the carne picante is actually picante, the ceballa y queso is to die for, and don’t get me started on the panceta y ciruela…DROOL. Order them today, you won’t be disappointed. Here’s the number: 4833-9600. Go. Now. You’re welcome.

Other Empanada Places:
El Sanjuanino- “raved” about by tourist guides…nothing super special in my opinion but still good
Tatú- empanadas salteñas
Solo Empanadas- cheapest chain out there, not the greatest but OK if you’re on a budget or under the influence
La Cupertina- another raver, never tried them so you'll have to let me know
Cumaná- never had their empanadas, but if they’re half as good as their fugazetta pizza, I’ll be happy

Happy Empanada-ing!


  1. Mmmmm, empanadas. I also really like La Americana on Callao near Congreso, and a chain called La Morena I think? I always recognize them by the little girl with bangs and braids on all of their signs. And of course I share the Pekin love!

  2. You Guys should try "El Noble Repulgue", the fried ones are excellent ! the baked ones are good as well :)

    -Juan Z