Beef Empanadas

Our favorite Mexican dish – Beef Empanadas in Red Chili sauce. This crispy, airy taco made from dough and filled with red chile sauce, shredded beef, and olives is one of our favorite Mexican recipes!

Using our favorite red enchilada sauce, beef/roast recipe and this amazing empanada dough, these beef empanadas are requested in my home more than any other recipe. Every time we have a Mexican meal, these always make an appearance!

Beef Empanada on a white plate

Grandma’s famous Empanadas

Being hispanic, Mexican food is something I’ve grown up enjoying. From Mexican Rice to Chimichangas to Chicken Enchiladas – we love it all, but there is one recipe that my family loves most – my grandma’s empanadas.

Have you had them before? You can find them in restaurants, but in my opinion, they don’t taste 1/10 as good as the ones my Grandma Luna would make. Fortunately, my grandma taught my mom how to make them and my mom has in turn taught me how to make them.

So, what are empanadas exactly? They’re a a crispy, airy fried taco filled with red chile beef and olives.

The name comes from the spanish verb empanar which roughly translates to “wrap in bread”, so an empanada is essentially a breaded pastry filled with a savory center. They are so delicious that we have tons of family and friends who tell us all they want for their birthdays is a plate of empanadas.

Dependent on which country you have them, these can be sweet or savory. Most often they are filled with meat, like our classic recipe, but they are also may have fruit and other kinds of fillings.

We recently tried a green chili pork version that was phenomenal. Once you can master the dough, you can customize the fillings to what you like best.

Empanada Dough on a plate covered with saran wrap

how to make Empanada Dough

The recipe isn’t very difficult at all, but if there was a difficult part it would be the empanada dough. That’s just because you want to make sure it’s mixed and rolled out to become the airy, pastry-type dough everyone loves in this recipe.

MIX. To make the empanada dough, begin by mixing your flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Add shortening or lard (we think lard works best) along with the water and use a wooden spoon to mix. The dough will be a little sticky, but that is what we want.

SEPARATE & LET SIT. Pinch away a golf ball size piece of dough and roll into a ball. Set onto a plate and cover with Saran wrap for 4-6 hours (we usually make ours in the morning to be ready for dinner). If you want smaller empanadas, you can make the dough ball even smaller.

Beef Empanada Meat Filling in a bowl

How to Make Empanadas

MEAT. Once you have your empanada dough made and covered for several hours, you will make your meat portion. As mentioned above, we typically cook up our meat as a classic Pot Roast recipe and shred the beef once done cooking.

SAUCE. We also like to make our Homemade Red Enchilada sauce (we use this most often in these empanadas and our Red Cheese Enchiladas), but you can also used any canned red sauce you like. Coat the shredded beef in the enchilada sauce and add a small can of diced olives. Set aside to start working on your dough.

FILL. Roll out a ball of empanada dough onto a floured surface to be about 5-6 inch. When dough is rolled out, put about ¼ cup of meat mixture on one side of the dough, fold the other half of the dough over and pinch around the edges.

FRY. Deep fry these in about ½ inch deep oil on medium heat in a frying pan. You will fry until the dough is golden brown and then let set on a paper towel lined paper plate or dish.

Folding Tips:

  • You don’t want to be chincy with the meat mixture, but also be careful to not overfill the center.
  • Once assembled place the beef empanadas in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. This can help them “set” and stay together while being cooked.

Recipe Notes:

How to Make Empanadas - process shots of rolling and folding dough

MAking Ahead & STOring TIPS

You can make beef empanadas ahead and either keep them in the fridge or freezer.

  • Store as separate ingredients: make dough and roll into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap. We typically make it 6-8 hours in advance and let it rest on the counter at room temp. You can also make this 24 hours in advance, and then the morning of, take out of the fridge and let rest on the counter until ready to fry up.
  • Store as assembled empanadas: Prepare according to recipe directions, but do not bake. If storing in the fridge, then place empanadas in an airtight container separating the layers with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 1-2 days. If freezing, then place empanadas on a baking sheet, be sure they do not touch, and flash freeze. Once frozen transfer them to an airtight freezer safe container, label and freeze for 3-4 months. Thaw in fridge and cook according to directions. NOTE: Be cautious of how wet the meat mixture is. If it’s too saucy it may cause the dough to become soggy.
  • Freezing: If freezing, then wrap again with foil. Make the filling and store in a separate freezer safe, if applicable, container. Store in the fridge for 1-2 days or freezer for 3-4 months. Thaw if needed, assemble and cook according to directions.

How long do empanadas last? Like most fried food, beef empanadas are best fresh. Having said that, you can store in a Ziploc bag and place in the fridge for up to 24-48 hours before reheating and enjoying.

Empanada Recipe on a plate

I really hope you give these a try, because I think you’ll love them just as much as we do. They really are our favorite Mexican empanadas and ALWAYS get rave reviews.

What to serve with Beef Empanadas?

More Similar Main Dishes:

Beef Empanada Recipe

5 from 18 votes
Beef Empanadas are one of our favorite Mexican dishes. They are a crispy, airy taco made from dough, filled with shredded beef, red chile sauce, and olives.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Let dough set 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 303 kcal
Author Lil' Luna



  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening or lard
  • 1 1/4 cups water


  • 2 1/2 lb roast beef cooked and shredded (I cook mine the day before using my Crock Pot Roast Recipe)
  • red enchilada sauce
  • diced olives
  • vegetable oil for frying


  • Dough: Mix all ingredients together with a wooden spoon until mixed well and a little sticky. Pinch away a golf ball size piece of dough and roll into a ball. Set onto a plate and cover with seran wrap for 4-6 hours (we usually make ours in the morning to be ready for dinner)
  • Coat meat with red enchilada sauce and add a small can of diced olives (however much you like). Set aside.
  • Roll out dough ball on a floured surface to about a 5-6 inch round.
  • When dough is rolled out put about ¼ cup of roast beef mixture on one side of the disk. Fold the other half over and pinch around the entire edge.
  • Deep fry in ½" oil on medium heat on both sides until golden brown.
  • Let set on a paper towel lined paper plate. Serve warm.


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About the Author

Kristyn Merkley

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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  1. What can I use, prepackaged, dough for these empanadas? I don’t have the patience to make homemade. Thx!

    1. You definitely could 🙂 I personally haven’t tried, so they might come out a little different, but that’s ok 🙂


  3. I don’t see the actual recipe just instructions, no amounts of flour, baking soda, shortening, etc.

  4. I’d love to make these, but I don’t see the recipe anywhere? I looked over the post several times and read your notes, but what is the recipe, I think it has disappeared? How much flour, lard, ect? Thanks! I’ve loved every recipe that I’ve made from your blog.

  5. 5 stars
    Mexican food is requested by my family often. These are so simple to make and everyone loved them. Making them again soon.

  6. 5 stars
    Very good recipe! Whole family loved it! One question on frying temp. A few came out a little to oily. I tried to fry at 350 -375. Is there a recommended temp? In 3 days I’ve tried 6 of your recipes (Enchilda sauce, cheese enchiladas, mexican rice, cream cheese bean dip, sopapilla cheesecake) All were great! thank you!

    1. Lol..I never check to see what the temp is, I just know medium high works best 🙂 They are a little oily. I like to put them on paper towels when I take them out of the oil, to suck up any excess oil. I am so glad you’ve tried other recipes! That makes me so happy! Thank you!

  7. Great recipes!!! I cant Wait to try the enchillada sauce and cheese Enchilladas. ANd many more.
    ONE PROBLEM was trying to print. Too long and too many ads. Makes it hard to trim.
    And i also would love a carnitas recipe.

  8. 5 stars
    My entire family loves these (if you have kids, you know what a big deal this is 😂) and I love that I can mix up the toppings if I want to but as is, they’re fabulous!

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