Saltenas Pacenas and Sucrenses (A Bolivian Empanada)

by Alura Gonzales
(Santa Cruz, Bolivia)

These Salteñas are from La Paz and Sucre. You’ll need for the filling: (It must be prepared the night before)
1 1/2 lbs. top round steak cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 lb. potatoes cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup peas
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon aji (hot ground red pepper; see Note
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce (optional)
4 cups beef consomme (hot)
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

How to prepare:
Parboil potatoes and peas separately. Brown the onion and cook until tender. Dissolve the red pepper in 1/2 cup water. Add cumin and pour into the onions. Add sugar and salt.

In a big bowl mix the drained potatoes and peas, the meat (raw), the onion mixture, the parsley, oregano, mustard, Worcestershire Sauce and the consomme in which the gelatin has been dissolved. Mix well and chill.

You’ll need for the pastry:
8 cups flour
1 lb. vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water mixed with 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon achiote or oruco seeds (if not found, use vegetable yellow coloring)

How to prepare:
The achiote or oruco seeds are used to color the dough, which should be a deep yellow. Fry them in 1 tablespoon of shortening and strain, reserving the colored oil. Keep it hot.

Mix the flour with the sugar. Heat the shortening and pour over the flour and sugar, adding the oil from frying the seeds. Mix thoroughly with the flour and then add the water and salt, which has been warmed. Knead until the dough is smooth. Work while everything is still warm. Cut into pieces and roll into approximately 2-inch balls. With a rolling pin, flatten the balls until you have a stack of round, very thin pastries.

Before filling the pastries have ready:
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
4 oz. seedless raisins, soaked in water and drained
1 - 6-ounce can black ripe olives, pitted

Put a tablespoon of the filling crosswise on each pastry round, adding 1 thin slice of egg, 3 raisins and 1 olive. Moisten the edges of the pastry with water, bring the edges together and seal them, rolling them with your thumb so that the closing looks like twisted rope. The finished pastry should resemble a slightly deflated football laced from one end to the other across the top.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven until golden brown and serve immediately. Fifty empanadas.

Note: Salteñas are a local variation of the famous Empanadas, bought to the Americas by the Spaniards. Like most of Latin American food copied from the Conquistadores, every country has its own recipe with slight or radical variations. In the Bolivian case, the recipe above is the La Paz-Sucre one, which usually has raisins and is spicy. The Potosi version is different and is called Potosinas, which are fried empanadas. There’s also the Empanadas de Jigote in Santa Cruz, which are also fried and have a Jigote (mindec meat) filling. Other variations are the Salteñas de Pollo (chicken Salteñas), whose preparation is the same as above, just substitute meat for chicken.

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Aug 03, 2010
Our Bolivia Salteña Forum-ish Page
by: BoliviaBella

Hey John. Glad you have such nice memories. You know salteñas are such a HOT item (pun intended) that what began as another salteña recipe on our site turned into a full-blown forum all about them. Since you and your brother are brave enough to give them a try, you might want to read the messages that went back and forth including lots of tips for how to make things easier. Start at the bottom where it all began and scroll UP the page: check it out!

If you're successful, come back and post a picture!

p.s. I grew up in La Paz too - there is only one thing I like better than salteñas and that's llauchas! Hot, runny orange cheese dripping out of a huge enormous soft-baked empanada with just a little bit of red onion. (I used to live next to a bakery and I was addicted.)

Aug 03, 2010
by: john

I lived in La Paz as a child. Saltenas were the street food as most US citizens would consider it the hot dog. I have not found any country that makes it. They also had an empanada wich was cheese filled. The two versions of the Saltena were meat and chicken. The chicken version was larger and had the egg. It was also not as spicy as the meat. I preferd the later especialy for the aji and it packed more juice inside that would run down your arm and stain your skin. No mater like your arm. My younger brother and I were trying to disect the recipy two weeks ago as we had both tryed to replicate it. Not so easy.
We have fond memories of this food and I think your recipy gets us close and validates our taste buds. We'll give it a try.


Apr 22, 2010
Salteñas in Chicago
by: Chef Noly

Bella is right, altitude does play an important role in salteña making. I have two recipes, one that works well in La Paz and one that works well at the lower altitude of Chicago.

There are a few places in the U.S. that sell salteñas. In addition to Los Angeles there is a large Bolivian population in Virginia so you can find a few restaurants selling salteñas there. There also used to be a place in Rhode Island but I'm not sure if it is still in business or not.

In Chicago there is a decent sized Bolivian population and an organization (Renacer Boliviano) that promotes Bolivian culture by offering an annual picnic, Independence Day dinner/entertainment and occasional music and dance events. At all of these events there is Bolivian food available for purchase including salteñas.

If you are in the Chicago area and want to buy salteñas to transport back to New York with you, you can purchase them from my company, Noly's World Cuisine You can contact us via our website or at

We currently only deliver in the Chicago area but have several out of state customers who come to Chicago for their salteñas.

One of our goals is to develop a mail order business. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive the latest news, monthly specials and mail order updates. Chef Noly

Apr 22, 2010
Salteñas in the New York area
by: BoliviaBella

Hi there! I've found that salteñas are sort of hit-and-miss in the United States, even when Bolivians make them. I don't know if the problem is that the ingredients aren't the same, the lack of altitude, or just the fact that everyone has their own recipes and style. And since they are sort of hard to make, if you don't have the courage to make them yourself it's easy to get desperate when you're overseas.

But that just goes to show how amazing salteñas are when they're made correctly: salteñas are the most discussed recipe on our site and we're finding that people will go to great lengths to find a good salteña anywhere in the world!

When I was living in California I used to drive 8 hours round trip to Los Angeles to get them. That's at least $50 in gas alone! Miechi!

Salteñas are the reason we started Wacataya Wednesdays. Check it out!

Apr 22, 2010
Meat Pie (Natchitoches-Louisiana)
by: Oscar J. Delgado Vaca-Guzman

Right now we are living in West New York, NJ but we were living in Louisiana before to come this place.

My wife and I try salteñas in a Bolivian Restaurant located in Queens, NY. Were hilarious!!!

I heard some Ecuatorian Restaurant called "La Cascada" wich offer salteñas in Union City, NJ.

When we lived in Baton Rouge, LA we didn't have the oportunity to taste salteñas there, because nobody open a Bolivian Restaurant yet.

One day we ate "meat pies" in Natchitoches, Louisiana, it taste like typical "empanada de carne", mmm...I'm hungry now.

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