how to fold an empanada

Hello, world. Jessie is back!

It was over before it was even over. With around 20 questions left to go, I started celebrating. No more Sundays at B&N, pilfering knowledge through the pages. No more mornings on the treadmill, trying to read about fixed income with my head bobbing up and down. No more of this for… another month or two, provided that all goes well.

On Thursday, right as a my brain was full (see here for a reference), I decided that I had to do something with all that left-over turkey still sitting in my fridge. I think I’m about a third-through it now, even after making empanadas. It sounds strange, doesn’t it? Tur-key em-pan-a-das. I don’t know, something just sounds off about it. But at the end of the day- turkey, chicken. Eh, they all taste the same. Sort of.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was taught how to make and fold empanadas! Honestly, I probably should have photographed what we made that day because mine are incomparable to those of the woman who taught me. She’s been doing this for years and hers’ look so much more professional. I guess for a second timer, mine ended up decently.


First thing you want to start off with is finding the empanada “discos” or “tapas.” It’s the dough (shell) that you use to enclose the filling. Let’s not get too ambitious here. Maybe after I get super good at folding, I’ll attempt to make the dough. You can generally find the empanadas tapas at your local supermarket in the international foods section (ie. ShopRite!). They were on sale for $1.69 for 10, which clearly is pretty cheap.

I’m actually not a big fan of these Goya tapas. Some of the edges were dried off, which makes for a mean crack when you fold them. The recommended brand is La Saltana, which you can find at your local hispanic mart. Clearly, I have no idea where my nearest hispanic mart is. If, however, you’re stuck with Goya tapas and your sides are dried/cracked, carefully run a knife around the circumference of the disk and peel off any of that dried dough.

Also, another word about these tapas. The ones that you generally find are used for FRYING. There are different tapas for frying and baking. So be sure to carefully read the instructions as the ones that are used for frying won’t turn out very well when you bake them. If you don’t believe me, you can scroll down a bit as I decided to experiment to see what exactly would happen if I baked an empanada that was meant to be fried.

stuffing the empanada

Common meats used in empanadas include carne (beef), pollo (chicken), jamon/queso (ham & cheese), and in this case, turkey-o! Inthe case with turkey, you want to shred all the meet into little bits. Heat it up in a skillet then season it as you would with a fajita. The easy way out is to buy fajita (or taco) seasoning but the general spices include paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, some cornstarch to thicken, and yeah. That’s it.

After you prepare all that, let the meat rest in a ceramic container so that it can cool faster. Hard boil some eggs and then peel them. When they’re cool, mash them with a fork into tiny chunks. I like to salt the eggs too. Some people also like to add an olive, but I’m not a big fan of those.

Step 1: Put a generous filling into the center of the tapa. Don’t overdo it as it’ll overflow when you try to fold the empanada.

Step 2: Fold the empanada and pinch the center top. Then, carefully pinch the side and slowly work your way up so that the whole empanada is sealed. Make sure the edges are securely sealed (or else the shell will break and the innards will leak out upon frying!)

side ends tightly sealed

Step 3: If this is your first time, make a little crease like shown in the photo below.

Step 4: Using that crease as a guide, use your thumb and middle finger to make the rest of the folds. The index finger guides the other two fingers. Your thumb should be under your middle finger. In essence, you’re making a winding motion in a clockwise function. After, securely pinch the fold onto the back side of the tapas. Repeat.

pinching guide
In case if you need some more photographic guidance…

crease, fold

Step 5: Continue until you get to the very end. At that point, you want to fold the end of the tapas backwards and seal that with a pinch. Just make sure that everything is securely sealed so that nothing leaks during the frying.

the process of folding

After you finish everything, it’s time to fry them! But seeing as how there’s something like 120 calories for every tablespoon of oil, I wanted to see what would happen if I baked an empanada that used a tapa that was meant to be fried.

The result looked like this-

the experiment
The fried one, which looks all shriveled and full of air bubbles, came out delicate and light. When you bite into it, you get this satisfying crunch. The baked one however, sort of looked like shredded sweet potatoes. I mean, the taste of the empanada wasn’t at all off, but the texture totally was. It was chewy and dry. I guess if you don’t really care about texture, you might as well safe yourself some calories by baking the empanada.

Then I asked myself, what if I fried the empanada that I just baked? The result was er, interesting. Baking the empanada hardens the shell so that the oil isn’t as easily absorbed. So while you get a darker, golden, brown color, you’re still missing all that airiness.


Can you see the difference?

In other words, just fry the damn thing.