A delicious National Empanada Day to celebrate

April 8th is a day to celebrate what many of us already know: empanadas are one of the most delicious snacks out there. Though empanadas…

April 8th is a day to celebrate what many of us already know: empanadas are one of the most delicious snacks out there.

Though empanadas originated in Spain, they’re extremely popular in both Latin America and, increasingly, the U.S. Typically, the pies we see today are a half-moon shape and are filled with chicken, fish, or beef, along with spices.

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However, the innumerable recipes for the empanada—baked or fried, meat-filled or vegetarian, half-moon or mini-pie—mean that everyone can find the right snack for their tastes.

Celebrate national empanada day by learning a little about the food’s history and then taste-testing a couple different varieties for yourself!

Spanish roots

Empanadas originally come from Spain’s Galicia region. Even now, there are several empanada festivals throughout the year celebrating the baked pie; our national empanada day pales in comparison.

While we more readily recognize the half-moon shaped pastry today, empanadas began as round mini-pies. Just like today’s variety, they were stuffed with meat, cheese, or whatever leftovers the cook has at hand. Those original snacks were most likely baked; today, they may be either baked or fried.

Luckily for us, the portability of empanadas meant that when Galicians left Spain for the new world, they brought empanadas along. As an easy-to-make and transport-friendly food, they were popular with many Spaniards on the move.

Wide variety

Traditional Colombian empanadas. (Shuttersotck)

The mini-pies we now celebrate on national empanada day take range of forms, with different Latin American countries forming these tasty, doughy treats in accord with what’s available and popular in a particular country.

For instance, in countries that rely on plantains and yucca for starch—such as those in the Caribbean and Andes—the pastry dough is usually made with plantain flour. In Mexico, on the other hand, empanadas are made out of corn dough.

The following countries have their own spin on empanadas.

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Argentinian empanadas are a tasty way to celebrate National Empanada Day.

Argentinian empanadas are made with different fillings. (Shutterstock)

Argentina is well known for its tradition of thick, mouth-watering steaks. It should come as no surprise that the country’s traditional empanadas also rely on beef filling.

Mendoza-style empanadas are baked, not fried, and are filled with ground beef, a slice of green olive, and a bit of hard-boiled egg. Spices include paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, and crushed red pepper. The pastry crust varies according to taste, but is often sealed around the filling by using the repulgue style, which involves folding the pastry edges over on itself to create a spiral pattern.


Salteñas are a delicious way to celebrate National Empanada Day.

Bolivian Salteñas, traditional bolivian meat and potatoe baked food. (Shutterstock)

Empanadas are so popular in Bolivia that they have their own national name: salteñas.

According to Bolivia Bella, the sweet cheese salteña is a popular mid-morning or tea-time snack. Though it’s easy to find heartier empanadas, as well—containing chicken or beef, potatoes, and raisins or olives, all of which is congealed by adding gelatin—cheese empanadas are a simple and delicious treat.

Bolivians may use a number of different hard white cheeses, many of which are similar to queso fresco or queso caique. The cheese is grated and beat with an egg, after which it should be poured into the pastry pockets. These can be either baked or fried. To finish the empanada, sift a bit of powdered sugar on top.

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Galicia, Spain

Empanada gallega is a great idea to celebrate National Empanada Day.

Empanada Gallega, traditional pie stuffed with tuna fish typical. (Shutterstock)

The traditional pork or tuna and pepper pie empanada, from Galicia, is still popular in Latin America. Unlike the empanadas we usually envision today, which fit in your hand, an empanada gallega looks much more like a full pie.

Much like making a pie, MyRecipes calls for a bottom and top layer of pie crust. Empanada makers should spread shredded pork tenderloin or shredded tuna, per preference, over the bottom crust. Sautéed onion, green pepper, and tomatoes are also added. For spicing, use garlic, smoked paprika, and plenty of salt and pepper.

Whatever your tastes, there’s only one way to celebrate National Empanada Day. ¡Buen provecho!