EMPANADAS | Pica Pica-style goodness

YouTube Preview Image

Venezuelan empanadas differ form the more popular Argentinian and Chilean ones in that they are made with corn flour instead of wheat flour.  At Pica Pica we use the corn meal “Harina P.A.N.” made by Empresas Polar, which is the most popular flour used in Venezuela for empanadas, arepas, hallacas and bollos.   Venezuelan empanadas, akin to empanadas in other countries in the Caribbean, Colombia and Ecuador, are generally fried  instead of baked, as is customary in Chile and Argentina (although they sometimes fry them as well).

The word ‘empanada’ comes from ‘empanar’, which means to wrap in dough.  This is an ancient, and, by the way, very practical way of carrying food.  The empanada is similar in concept to the Samosa (Pakistan, India, Kenya), Stromboli (Italian-American), Calzone (Italy), Kibbeh (Lebanon), Strudel (Germany), Bridie (Scotland), Pirozhki (Russia), to name a few…!

The dough for Venezuelan empanadas is made similarly to the ‘arepa’ dough, using corn flour, water and salt.  In some cases the flour can be flavored with any desired ingredient, such as sugar cane, anise, annatto or just broth.

After the dough has been made and rested, make small balls (anywhere from 4 oz. to 8 oz., depending on how big you want the empanada to be).  At Pica Pica we make them small and serve three per plate, so that people can have the option of trying different flavors.  Using a tortilla press, a wood board, a plate or your fingers, flatten the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  I personally like them thin, to feel more filling when biting into it.  But do not make them so thin that they will crack when folding over or cooking.  I recommend using parchment paper to manipulate the flattened dough.

To stuff the empanada, place a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the flattened dough.  Do not overfill, as this will cause the dough to crack when being cooked.  Fold it over like you would a calzone pizza, making sure the edges meet.

Once the dough is folded over and closed, make sure to seal the empanada with your fingers.  Then, with a bowl or ramekin, press down to give it a clean cut and seal.  Leave the empanada wrapped in parchment paper up to the point of cooking, otherwise the moisture from the dough will evaporate and the empanada will dry out and crack, and it will stick to the surface and break.

To cook, make sure the oil is piping hot!  Lower carefully into the pot with oil.

Cook until golden.  Remember that the ingredients (the dough and the filling) are already cooked;  the frying is giving it a crispy and delicious finish!  So, do not over-fry!

We like to serve our empanadas with a dipping sauce — hot like Pica’Pun or sweet like Mela’o de Papelon (sugar cane sauce).

I went down to “Chile Lindo Empanadas” off 16th and Mission and got a delicious meat empanada.

I was curious to taste our ‘guiso’ empanada next to their meat one.  Like ours, these are artisanal, handmade, traditional empanadas but from Chile.  

You will see that the size and form are completely different from ours.  You can tell what the filling is by the way the empanada is finished or folded at the edges.

I found it interesting that Chile Lindo’s meat filling shares some ingredients with our ‘Guiso” filling- olives, raisins, peppers and some slight sweetness. Alas, we all have similar European origins!

I encourage you to try them all and enjoy!  Venezuelans, Chileans and Argentineans!




Carla - Hello Adriana!
I’m writting from Portugal.
I would like to know if i can freeze the Empanadas, before fryin them?
My husband lived in Venezuela until his 18 years, and he is now 47 and never ate Empanadas since then!!
Thank you.


Adriana - Of course you can! Actually things for frying are better when frozen
before. If things are not dehydrated a little bit before frying they
can fall apart. So yea you can make many and freeze and eat them ad
you need. Let me know if you need anything else!

Richard A Phillips - Hi Adriana
My empanadas always crack open when I fry them. The meat gets burned. I have tried several grades of corn meal including masa arena, Quaker, etc


Adriana - Hi Richard: try adding a little but of oil tithe dough. Also, you need to let the empanadas “rest”, which means that you shouldn’t fry them right after making them. Make them and set them aside to settle for a few hora and them fry them. Better yet put the in the refrigerator while resting. Also, make sure you don’t over stuff the empanadas with meat. It will like it is understuffed, but you need to put a little bit of filling. The heat of the fryer will make the stuffing expand and crack the dough if it is too filled. Let me know if this helps.

Plantain-Kale Empanadas | Veg-am - [...] used this empanada tutorial.  The recipe for the corn-based dough is on the pdf attached to the tutorial (at the bottom of her [...]

Pumpkin empanadas for Joelle and a new pop up announcement | soulfoodieblog - [...] Form your empanadas by placing a ball of dough between the two sheets of plastic foil. Take a heavy skillet, plate or (best case scenario) tortilla press and press the dough till it’s about 14 cm in diameter. Make it as round as you can but don’t be OCD about it(meaning don’t obsess over it, okay!). Remove the top bit of plastic and spoon about 1,5 tablespoons of filling in the center leaving enough room to seal the edges. Close the circle of dough into a half moon shape by folding over the plastic foil that is underneath it. Peel of the plastic foil that is now on top and seal the edges by pressing it with your fingers or by pressing a fork around the rim. Now sprinkle a dusting of yellow polenta on both sides of the empanada. Finish all of your empanadas in the same way and reserve on a plate until frying. You can find a tutorial on empanada folding here. [...]

Husband of a Venezuelan - Off topic but I have trouble picking ripe, sweet plantains. Can you help?

Grace Della - Woe, amazing recipe and explanation of the different types of empanadas. I conduct culinary tours in Miami showing people Latin cuisine and this is a great blog post. I loved it!

National Empanada Day: Yep, It’s a Thing | Arbiter News - [...] Venezuelan Empanadas at Picapica.com [...]

Why does my corn flour dough feel like wet sand? - The Simple Life - [...] I used the parchemin paper technique for shaping and it went [...]

Your email is never published or shared.