June 21, 2021
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Classic hand-cut beef empanadas a.k.a.

La Portena

The La Porteña empanada is a crowd favorite and classic hand-cut beef empanada. In Argentina, empanadas are made with care and detail. There are numerous meat and vegetable varieties offered in bake shops. Hand-cut beef is a premium variety, favored by Argentinians. Ground beef is more common in American cuisine. Substitiutions for ground beef is given in the recipe instructions.

This is a good recipe that makes humble ingredients shine. Onion, carrot, and scallion bulbs are cooked slowly until “creamy” and sweet. Red peppers are roasted, highlighting their flavor. This creamy onion mixture or “sofrito”, is used in many of the empanada mixes Kiyas Delicias makes. 

The natural juice or “jus” from the cooked meat is added back to the mixture. Jus or concentrated stock is used instead of bouillon cubes, an ingredient used in a lot of recipes. Rice flour is used to bind the mixture, and keep the juices and moisture inside. This recipe can be modified with good results as long as a moist vegetable base, a binding ingredient, and premium quality beef.


Oil as needed

2 pounds beef chuck, boneless* or (ground beef)

Soften It`

1 bunch of scallions, bulb and stalks separated, and sliced 4 ounces

1 large onion minced, 6-8 ounces

2 large carrots minced, 6oz

2 roasted red peppers, diced

½ cup of chopped tomatoes*

Spike It

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon paprika 

1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cumin

1 tbsp tomato paste

Add In

¼ cup capers 

2-3 teaspoons of red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley 

2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme

Scallion stalks, sliced

Beef jus* (see sear)

1 tablespoons of rice flour or starch

2 tablespoons butter*


Drain and pat beef dry with a towel. Cut beef into small cubes, season with salt and pepper. Heat a large pan, about 2 minutes and add oil. Once oil start shimmering, and releases smoke, add a layer of beef. Keep space between pieces, and sear in batches. 

Put cooked beef in a colander/strainer with a bowl underneath to collect juices. 

Place bowl of jus in the freezer or fridge to congeal fat, (10 minutes). Remove fat and discard, or use part or all to cook onion mixture. Stir in rice flour and set aside.


Lower heat to medium-low, let any liquid evaporate. Add oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions, carrots, and cook until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add scallion bulbs and cook for a minute. 

Spike It

Add tomato paste, tomatoes, oregano, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and cook for a minute.

Add In

Add vinegar, capers, scallion tops, fresh parsley, thyme, and oregano. Cook for a minute more. Return beef to pan, add beef juice and rice flour mixture. Let cook for two minutes, stirring well to incorporate.

Turn off heat and pour mixture into a bowl. Taste, and adjust flavor adding more vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add butter and stir into mixture, letting butter slowly melt. Taste again. The seasoning should be somewhat concentrated to account for the wrapper.

Spread mixture out to cool for 10 minutes. Cover loosely with parchment paper, and refrigerate. After an hour put mixture into a container, and finish empanadas the next day. Empanadas could be made the same day, let mixture rest for two hours before filling.

*Buy grass-fed beef if possible, the flavor cannot be denied. The meat is aged creating heightened flavor. Stew meat is fine, but avoid lean cuts. Meat for empanadas need a good fat ratio to have good mouth feel.

Ground beef can be used. Heat pan for two minutes, and add a small amount of oil. Once oil starts moving around, put ground beef in and flatten it out. Check a small section, and turn once caramelized. Let cook for about 2 minutes. Remove once meat is cooked. Cook in two batches. Crumble the meat in the colander. 

Empanada dough 

4 cups all-purpose flour* (unbleached, not enriched, preferably organic)

4 ounces butter, melted (1 stick)

1 large egg

¾ cup water 

1 ½  teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

Make the Dough

Melt butter on low heat. Measure flour and add salt. Crack egg and mix to break up, and add the water. I use hands and the pasta or pie dough method of mixing. Make in a large bowl or heavy duty stand mixer following the same steps. If you don’t like dough on your hands, use a wooden spoon.

Make a volcano with the flour creating a hole in the center, and add butter. 

Work butter into the mixture. Break up pea sized balls, a few small balls is ok.

Make another volcano, add a hole in the center. Add the water and egg mixture in three parts.

Gather the mixture into a rectangle, with the palm of your hand press down into the dough. Fold the dough in half and do this once more. Shaggy bits and flour should not be added.

Allow dough to rest covered in a container for twenty minutes before rolling it out. Dust a clean and dry surface with rice flour, Thai rice flour is what I use because it’s super fine. Another brand alsos works.

Roll out dough to ⅛ “ thick and cut to rounds. Look for something with a straight edge about . I use a round cookie cutter container . Remove scraps of dough before picking up the disk of dough, aka tapas or discos in Spanish. Scraps should be stack scraps up, press them down, and gather the edges. Rest in a container for 30 minutes to an hour before re-rolling.

Assemble Empanadas 

The dough should be moist to account for rice flour from dusting. The technique used creates a flaky dough with chew but not doughy. The gluten also develops less.

Mix an egg with a splash of water. Lay out eight discos and lightly brush ¼ “ of the outeredge with egg wash. Add a heaping tablespoon of mix to all eight discos. Leave ½” border around the filling and close one empanada. Press the tines of the fork along the outer edge to seal the empanada. Survey the pie and add more filling to others if necessary. Close remaining empanadas. Then crimp them all at once.

Place empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and chill while oven is heating. Bake at 375-400 in the bottom part of the oven for 10 minutes. Rotate pan 180* and bake on the top shelf for 8-10 minutes more. 

Empanadas will bake faster with a fan. Depending on the oven, cooking time and temperature will vary. You