Classic Colombian Empanadas

Kolumbianische Empanadas

Warning, these classic empanadas from Colombia are a labor of love. If you are going to make everything from scratch like I did, you will need a few hours. However, one of the good things about empanadas is that you can prepare a lot in advance. You may wish to make the filling and/or the dough one to two days prior and then “only” need to fill and fry the empanadas the following day. But before we get into the details, what are empanadas exactly? Empanadas are dumplings, each Latin American country has its own variation, heck, every region and city will be proud of their particular empanadas. Since I was born in Uruguay, I am used to empanadas made with wheat flour. The traditional filling in Uruguay is beef (duh) and they are usually baked in the oven. Yes, of course I have a recipe for Uruguayan empanadas on my blog. Colombian empanadas on the other hand are made with cornmeal, if using the right one, they will be gluten-free. Most of the time they are not baked in the oven, but deep-fried. The filling varies, some use a piece of meat that is later pulled apart, I simply decided to use already minced meat. One particularity of Colombia is the “guiso” or “hogao”, this is a thick sauce made of tomatoes, spring onions, onions and herbs that are typically mixed with the meat filling. This makes them Colombian.

Kolumbianische EmpanadasColombian empanadas are normally made with yellow pre-cooked cornmeal. Since I only had white cornmeal at home, I colored mine with “color” or “achiote”. For that reason mine look a bit more reddish than traditionally. “Color” is a typical herb from Colombia. If you want to know which herbs are often used in Colombian cuisine, I would say it is the powder or seeds from the achiote shrubs and cilantro. Those two are practically used on everything. Yes, Colombian cuisine is usually much milder in flavor than for example Mexican cuisine, which surprises a lot of people. Classic Colombian empanadas are typically served with “ají”, this is a herbs dip. For good measure I also included a simple recipe below. You can also see it in the pictures.

Kolumbianische Empanadas

Traditional Colombian Empanadas

Serves: About 30 Empanadas
Prep Time: 2-3hrs Cooking Time: 5min Total Time: 3hrs

These traditional Colombian empanadas are made with cornmeal and contain a potatoe, beef and vegetable filling.


  • Filling
  • 4 small to medium-sized potatoes (about 350 grams after peeling)
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper
  • 4 smaller tomatoes
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 1 garlic glove
  • 2 teaspoons achiote powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 500 grams of beef minced meat
  • 1-2 liters of sunflower oil for frying

  • Dough
  • 450 grams of yellow pre-cooked cornmeal (it needs to be pre-cooked, typicall the brand PAN is used)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1-2 teaspoon of achiote powder (only if you used white cornmeal and want to have yellow empanadas)
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 500-600 grams of cold water

  • Aji, the herbs dip
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 small tomatoe
  • 1-3 chilis, depending on gusto
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 freshly pressed lime or juice of half a lemon
  • 3-4 tablespoons of oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons of water



For the filling peel and cut the potatoes. Bring to a boil in a pot with salted water and boil for about 15-20min or until soft. Discard the water and immediately mash potatoes, seasoning with a bit of cumin. Set aside.


Peel the white onion and cut into cubes. Fry in a large frying pan with a bit of olive oil. Meanwhile cut bell pepper, and tomatoes into cubes and spring onions into rings, peel garlic. Add everything to the onions, you can either add the mashed garlic or cut it finely. Let everything simmer for about 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Add the herbs and let everything simmer for another few minutes, then take out of the pan and set aside.


Brown the minced meat in the same frying pan, you may want to use a bit more olive oil. Let it brown completely, add the vegetables again and fry for a few minutes. If you feel that seasoning is missing, add more, it should be properly seasoned. Mix in the mashed potatoes and set aside.


For the dough mix all ingredients and knead by hand for a few minutes. The dough should be moist, if it is crumbly, it needs more water. We are going to roll out the dough between parchment paper, so it cannot be crumbly, buts should be slightly sticky. Divide dough into 30 balls, the size of golf balls. Take a sheet of parchment paper and fold in half. You will now place one dough ball in the middle of one parchment half, place the second parchment half on top and first press it down with a cutting board or similar. Leaving the dough between the parchment paper, you will then roll it out more with a rolling pin. If you need a visual guide, check this short video. While rolling out with a rolling pin, you want to move everything a few degrees so that you have a nice round circle in the end. Your circle should be about 15cm in diameter. Once done, slowly release the circle from the parchment paper, we don't want it sticking when you add the filling. Place 1-2 teaspoons of the filling in the center in a line and fold one half of the circle over. Again, if you need visual help, check the video. Seal with your fingers. I usually cut off most of the overhang and seal it again. It is of utmost importance that the empanadas are properly sealed so nothing comes out when you fry them. You can also try to glue together everything with a bit of water. Prepare all empanadas like that. Tip: as the dough tends to dry quickly, cover empanadas with a damp towel.


Pour the oil in a deep frying pan and bring to medium heat. It should never be hotter than 180 degrees Celsius, 150 degrees is also fine. I usually tend to deep-fry the empanadas in a wide frying pan, as you a) will need less oil and b) you can fry more as you don't want to crowd them too much. I usually fry about 5. Fry for 5 minutes until crisp and golden. I usually turn them around with two forks. As the filling is already done, the main purpose of the frying is to get a crispy outside. You can "feel" this with the forks. If they still feel soft, continue frying. Take out with a ladle and get rid of any access fat. Serve immediately.


You can freeze prepared empanadas, frying them will require some more extra minutes at a slightly lower temperature, I recommend around 140-150 degrees.


For the herbs dip cut all ingredients you can cut and mix with the rest, season to taste. Ají can be made in advance and will keep a few days if covered in the fridge. The taste will intensify. Serve on the side with empanadas and if desired, some more lime juice you can drizzle over the empanadas.


For sustainability, I usually filter the oil once it has cooled off and then reuse it again.

Kolumbianische EmpanadasP.S.: If you would like to try out more empanada recipes, check out this blog post.

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  • Reply
    Petra aka Cascabel
    Friday November 17th, 2023 at 02:35 PM

    Liebe Jenny, Tausend Dank für das tolle Rezept, was ich mir für die aktuelle Koch mein Rezept-Runde ausgesucht habe! Wir waren ganz begeistert und werden die Empanadas sicher wieder machen, so lecker sind die 🙂

    • Reply
      Friday November 17th, 2023 at 02:47 PM

      Sehr schön, frittieren ist ja nicht jedermanns Sache, aber sie sind die Mühe wert!

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