Crew’s Mess: Beef Empanadas

May 4, 2017 by Capt. John Wampler

Crew’s Mess: by Capt. John Wampler

Whether it’s a pastel in Indonesia, a calzone in Italy, a gujiya in India, a meat patty in Australia, or Hot Pockets in the freezer section of the supermarket, the root of these delicacies is the empanada. Empanadas, originating in Portugal and Spain, can be filled with meat, fish or vegetables, or made as a dessert filled with fruits such as guava with cream cheese.


I like to make small, traditional empanadas as hors d’oeuvres or tapas. Empanadas are easy to make and are the perfect party food, served standing alone or with a dipping sauce. They may be frozen once made and reheated in the microwave.


2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 small onion, chopped

2 small green bell pepper, chopped

2 pounds ground beef

2 tsp. ground cumin

5.75-oz. jar sliced pimiento-filled green olives, drained

1 cup golden raisins

2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. coarse salt

1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

Several dashes hot sauce

2 large eggs, separated and whisked

1 pkg. mini pastry dough (3-inch squares)


Heat a large skillet over medium heat; swirl in the olive oil.

Add onion and bell pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.

Raise the heat to high and add the beef. Cook, stirring constantly to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the cumin and cook for another minute.

Stir in the olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Cook until the meat is golden brown, the liquid has evaporated, and the flavors have blended, about 4 more minutes.

Cool the mixture completely in the fridge.

Stir in egg whites to help bind the filling while baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with no-stick or line in parchment paper.

To form the empanadas, unpeel each leaf of pastry dough and lay out on a floured surface. Brush the edges of the dough with egg yolk whisked with 1 Tbsp. water.

Place I tsp. filling in center of dough. Fold the dough over to form a triangle and pinch the edges together with a pastry crimper or fork. Repeat until all the filling is used. The empanadas can be frozen at this point.

Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet and prick each one on top twice with a fork. Chill them in the refrigerator for a few minutes.

When ready to bake, brush the remaining egg wash over each empanada. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The empanadas can be cooled and frozen at this stage. Reheat in a microwave. Enjoy, JW.

Capt. John Wampler ( has worked on yachts for more than 30 years. His recipes are casual enough for anyone to prepare. Comments are welcome below.