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An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked in many countries of Latin America and the south of Europe. The name comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. Empanada is made by folding a dough or bread patty around the stuffing. The stuffing can consist of a variety of meats, vegetables, or even fruits.

Empanadas trace their origins to Galicia, Spain and Portugal. They first appeared in medieval Iberia during the time of the Moorish invasions. A cookbook published in Catalan in 1520, the Libre del Coch by Ruperto de Nola, mentions empanadas filled with seafood among its recipes of Catalan, Italian, French, and Arabian food. In turn, it is believed that empanadas and the similar calzones are both derived from the Arabic meat-filled pies, samosa. In Galicia and Portugal, an empanada is prepared similar to a large pie which is cut in pieces, making it a portable and hearty meal for working people. The filling of Galician and Portuguese empanada usually includes either tuna, sardines or chorizo, but can instead contain cod fish or pork loin. The meat or fish is commonly in a tomato, garlic and onion sauce inside the bread or pastry casing. Due to the large number of Galician immigrants in Latin America, the empanada gallega has also become popular in that region. In Sardinia, Italy, the salad cake is named Sa Panada, or Impadas, Sa Panada meaning "meat ball cake". The dish was carried to Latin America and the Philippines by Spanish colonisers, and to Indonesia by the Portuguese, where they remain very popular to this day. Empanadas in Latin America, the Philippines and Indonesia have various fillings, detailed below.


Mexican empanadas can be a dessert or breakfast item and tend to contain a variety of sweetened fillings; these include pumpkin, yams, sweet potato, and cream, as well as a wide variety of fruit fillings. Meat, cheese, and vegetable fillings are less common in some states, but still well-known and eaten fairly regularly. Depending on local preferences and particular recipes the dough can be based on wheat or corn, sometimes with Yuca flour. The state of Hidalgo is famous for its empanadas, or pastes, as they are locally known. These trace their origins from the Cornish pasties imported by British miners.

Argentine empanadas are often served at parties as a starter or main course, or in festivals. Shops specialize in freshly made empanadas, with many flavors and fillings. The dough is usually of wheat flour and butter with fillings differing from province to province: in some it is mainly chicken in others beef (cubed or ground depending on the region), perhaps spiced with cumin and paprika, while others include onion, boiled egg, olives, or raisins. Empanadas can be baked (Salta style) or fried (Tucuman style). They may also contain ham, fish, humita (sweetcorn with white sauce) or spinach; a fruit filling is used to create a dessert empanada. Empanadas of the interior regions can be spiced with peppers. Many are eaten at celebrations.

Colombian empanadas can be either baked or fried. The ingredients used in the filling can vary according to the region, but it will usually contain components such as salt, rice, beef or ground beef, shredded chicken, boiled potatoes, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and peas. In the department of Valle del Cauca, they are generally filled with ground meat, yellow potato or Creole potato. They are also served with peas, tomato, cilantro, and many other spices. In Santander, wheat flour pastry is the most popular with a variety of fillings that may include pineapple and even mushrooms, but the empanadas of ground or puréed manioc (stuffed with rice and shredded chicken or minced meat and, usually, chopped hard boiled egg and cilantro) are a representative traditional food.

Colombian empanadas are usually served with Aji (also called Picante and Ají Pique by some people), a sauce made of cilantro, green onions, red or black pepper, vinegar, salt, and lemon juice and, often, bits of avocado pear. Bottled commercially made hot sauces are also used to add flavor to the empanadas. The sauce is normally prepared with a spicy kick, balancing very well with the nutty, neutral taste of the meat, potato and spices that make up the typical Colombian empanada. Colombian empanadas are also known to contain carrots and chicken. Another variety include Stuffed Potatoes (Papas rellenas) which is a variant that has potato in the pastry instead of maize dough and have round shapes. Emapandas in Colombia are a favorite in most of the bigger cities, such as Cali, Bogotá, Barranquilla or Medellín.

Chilean empanadas can have a wide range of fillings, but there are two basic types; one is baked and usually filled with pino, a beef based filling, and the other is usually stuffed with seafood and fried. Empanada fillings may contain cheese and/or different types of seafood, for example; mussel, crab, prawns or locos (abalone); the most popular ones being pino, consisting traditionally of beef, onions, shortening, raisins, black olives, hard boiled eggs and hot peppers. Pino is a Mapuche recipe, and in Mapudungun it is called Pinu, so this filling is a true mix of indigenous Chilean and Spanish heritage. This street food is a real delicacy fot those who want a hearty and quick dish, nothing to say about the taste and flavors which are magnificently appetizing.

Peruvian empanadas are similar to Argentine empanadas, but slightly smaller. They are usually baked. The most common variety contains ground beef seasoned with cumin, hard-boiled egg, onion, olives and raisin; the dough is usually sprinkled with icing sugar. They are commonly sprinkled with lime juice before eating. Also very popular are cheese-filled (or cheese-and-ham-filled) ones besides chicken filled one. Recently, "modern" empanadas, with a variety of filling have appeared, e.g.: chicken-and-mushrooms, shrimp or "aji de gallina".

Cuban empanadas are typically filled with seasoned meats (usually ground beef or chicken), folded into dough, and deep fried. Cubans also sometimes refer to empanadas as empanaditas . Empanadas can also be made with cheese, guayaba, or a mixture of both. It can also be made with fruit such as apple. pears, pumpkins and pineapples.

Uruguayan empanadas are generally made out of wheat flour and can be fried or baked. There were introduced by the Spanish and Italian settlers in the middle of the 20th century. The most common empanadas are those with beef, but there are also other kinds, such as ham and cheese, olives, fish and spicy stuffing. The most famous sweet empanadas in Uruguay are those that combine dulce de leche, quince and chocolate covered by sugar or apple jam. In some regions even those with sweet meat.

Salvadorians often use the term "empanadas" to mean an appetizer or dessert made of plantains stuffed with sweet cream. The plantains are then lightly fried and served warm with a sprinkle of sugar. They also sometimes include red fried beans.

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