Rita's Bolivian Beef and Cheese Empanadas

by Jeremy Kunkle
(Casa Grande, Arizona)

I made the cheese empanadas at my Aunt Rita's house and she said they were just like the ones she had growing up in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. She also gave me the beef empanada recipe.

Dough Ingredients:
4 cups white flour
1 cup shortening (or lard)
1 1/2 cup of water
1 tsp salt

Filling Ingredients for Beef Empanadas:
1 lb lean ground beef(90% or better)
2-3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, minced(white or red)
2 scallions, minced
2 cup green olives with pimentos, minced
2 Tbsp brine from green olives
2 tsp salt(as needed)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup peas(optional)
cooking oil

Preparing the Filling:
Brown and crumble the beef in a deep skillet, season with salt and cumin. Use a little oil as needed to avoid sticking/burning with the lean beef. Add potatoes, onions, eggs, scallions, olives and olive brine, simmer over low heat. Allow to cool before making the empanadas. Overnight refrigeration is not needed, so same day preparation is possible.

Ingredients for Cheese Empanadas:
If you do not have a friend who can send you Bolivian Mennonite cheese, the Mexican cheeses work just as well.
1 lb Mexican queso menonita, crumbled
1/2 lb Mexican Oaxaca cheese, crumbled
These can usually be found in rounds.

Preparing the Dough:
Mix flour, salt and shortening in a large bowl(may need to sift flour). Kneed by hand until completely combined. This can also be done in a food processor or KitchenAide on low speed. Slowly add water and kneed until dough is firm, like pastry dough. Form the dough into 1 1/2 inch balls and cover with damp paper towel to keep moist while working. Do not kneed the dough too much once the water is added as this will cause it to become too hard to work with.

On a lightly floured surface, roll or hand press into discs about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Avoid getting too thin, but if dough tears, simply overlap the tear and press gently to seal. When adding the filling, do not over-fill as this will also cause the dough to tear. Add about one tablespoon of filling to each disc(may use less if dough is thin) and seal edge by twisting traditional style, or use a small folding pastry press. I found a cheap plastic set at W-mart that has 5 different sizes and this works great. Just moisten the edge with water and trim the edge after sealing. The excess will go back under the damp towel and make another ball later.

In a steel pot or fryer, heat oil to 350 degrees. Test oil by dropping in a tiny dough ball. The dough should began frying immediately. If not, then wait until the first one floats to the top and try a second dough ball. Deep fry to a light brown, takes only a few minutes.

Depending the size of the empanadas, this recipe will make about 25-30 small empanadas. Just right for a simple meal or watching the game on the weekend. Serve with a little of your favorite hotsauce.

I also modified the beef ingredients to give a more Southwestern flavor.
1 lb lean ground beef
2-3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, minced
2 scallions, minced
2 cups black olives, chopped
1 small can mild green chiles
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
Brown beef w/ a little oil, season w/ salt, chili powder. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until potatoes are done.

Took these to the neighbor and he says "Make 'em bigger next time".

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Feb 23, 2012
Recipe adjustments
by: Jeremy Kunkle

Looking back at this recipe, I realize that I may have gotten the portions of ingredients a little bit out of whack. Use just 1-2 potatoes, and only 1 cup of the green olives. My wife lets me make them, but she pointed out that the amounts should be less, so I'll go with her judgement on it. Enjoy!!

I've also used apricots to make a delicious dessert empanada.

1 pack of dried apricots in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to boil and then turn off. Add more water as needed to soften apricots and stir slowly to avoid sticking to the pan. Should end up smooth like a preserve for spreading over biscuits or toast. Put this in the empanadas, and then when done cooking, dust the empanadas with a mixture of cinnamon and powdered sugar.

Aug 19, 2011
Good eats
by: Jeremy

Thanks, glad you like them. I remember a lot of good times at our house in the kitchen, making not just empanadas, but lots of other good things to eat as well. Maybe I should look into the mail order thing. Not sure how that would work out though.

Jul 05, 2010
really good empanadas
by: Anonymous

I tried your recipe and they were awesome.

Nov 03, 2009
super empanadas
by: Bella

Wow, these sound amazing. I especially appreciate it when people submit recipes with ingredients that can be successfully substituted with something else when Bolivian ingredients aren't available.

So when're you gonna offer them mail-order?



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