Cheese Empanadas

Cheese Empanadas

This is the type of pastry you pick up with a coffee on a weekday morning in Santa Cruz. Each empanada would only cost a couple of bolivianos (about 30cents). I miss that type of pricing and I love the simplicity of these, they are just melted cheese wrapped in sweet dough and fried. Nothing can go wrong here.

These empanadas are one of my husbands favourite snacks and so became the first of many recipes I learned while I was in Bolivia. Me and Fabio would often get a couple of these before work in the mornings and I grew quite accustomed to them. When Fabio was away on a trip to the Caribbean, our friend Cathe taught me the process and recipe so that I could surprise Fabio with homemade empanadas on his return. I should have just made these… but I had actually prepared a whole breakfast feast including fruit salad, dulce and salado crepes, and a huge platter of these empanadas. I hadn’t taken into consideration that Fabio had just been on a cruise ship eating non-stop for the past 12 days….I actually have a tendency to get carried away with these things that I can only recognize in retrospect. We usually make these on their own for an easy Saturday morning breakfast – just like this with coffee on the side, just like in Santa Cruz.

This dough is enough for about a dozen larger empanadas. Every single time I intend to make mini ones – cause how great is mini food? but I always look at the extra work folding all those edges would be and chicken out. One day…. one day….


  • 3 cups flour / tazas de harina
  • 1/2 cup sugar / taza de azúcar
  • 1 tsp baking powder / cucharilla de polvo de hornear
  • 1/2 tsp salt / cucharilla de sal
  • 1 egg / huevo
  • 3 Tbsps melted butter or margarine / cuchara de mantequilla derretida
  • warm water (approx 1/2 cup) agua tibia (approx media taza)
  • Grated cheese – approx 2 cups Mozzarella, Asiago or a mix of the two / Queso rallado aproximadamente 2 tazas


  • Mix together in a large bowl the dry ingredients – Flour, sugar, baking powder and salt / Mezclar en un recipiente grande los ingredientes secos – la harina, azúcar, polvo de hornear y sal
  • Melt butter in a saucepan or microwave / Derretir la mantequilla en una sartén o en el microonda
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients and add 1 beaten egg and stir a few strokes then pour melted butter over mixture and add enough warm water to form a soft dough / Poner el huevo batido a los ingredientes secos y batir un poco, Derretir la mantequilla sobre los ingredientes y añadir bastante agua tibia para formar una masa suave
  • Using your hands to form dough, add water little by little and flour to balance out the dough if it gets too sticky. The end result should be soft with a bit of elasticity. the dough should return after a few seconds if you push your finger into it / Usa las manos para formar la masa, añadir agua poco a poco y usar un poco más harina si la masa es pegajosa. Al final la masa debe ser suave con un poco de elasticidad
  • Tear off small handfuls of dough and form a ball then roll out as thin as possible / Sacar bolitas de la masa y fuselear tan delgado como possible
  • Keep remaining dough covered in moist towel to keep from drying out / Cubrir la masa restante con una pañuelo mojado para que no se seque
  • Add a palmful of shredded cheese to center of the dough and close up / Poner approx 1/4 taza de queso rallado al centro de la masa fuseleada y cerrar
  • They call the folds that seal the empanada the ‘picos’ and the process consists of folding and pinching the dough together with your thumb and forefinger while working your way around the sealed edge / Este proceso de cerrar la masa se llama picos – hay algunas fotos abajo que muestran como hacerlos con tus dedos

how to close the empanada

  • Heat a neutral oil (we use Canola) in a frying pan on med high heat. Test the oil by adding a small piece of dough to the oil and watch for it to rise and bubble at the surface. Fry two to three empanadas at a time for one to two minutes per side. You want the color to be a light golden brown / Calentar el aceite (Estamos usando aceite vegetal) en una sartén sobre fuego medio alto. Prueba si el aceite esta listo poniendo un poquito de la masa al aceite y si es que salen burbujas y comienza a colorear la masa, es que la aceite esta listo. Freir dos o tres empanadas al mismo tiempo, por uno o dos minutos por lado. El color debe ser dorado
  • Remove when finished to a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil / Sacar las empanadas cuando estan listas a una toalla de papel para sacar el exceso de aceite
  • Dust lightly with powdered sugar and serve immediately / Polvorear con azúcar impalpable y servir inmediatamente