Curry Beef and Potato Empanadas with Cilantro Chutney (and a mini tutorial on flaky dough)

I have made this empanada recipe many times, and I always love it. This version is baked, but you coat the cookie sheets in oil and let the oil get hot in the oven before placing the empanadas on it, so it gives a more fried texture to the dough but without having to deep fry. You can fill these with any filling that sounds good. I chose to make a curry spiced beef and potato filling, and to serve them with my favorite cilantro chutney on the side. Kind of an Indian twist on an empanada. I served them with a simple veggie, basil, balsamic and feta salad, and some Indian pickles we had in the fridge.

This recipe requires a bit of prep time ahead of cooking. The filling needs to be prepared and cooled for an hour at least so the filling into warm enough to melt the butter out of the dough while you are filling them. Like pie dough, the dough also needs to be prepared ahead of time so it can rest before you use it. Ideally overnight, but 2 hours in enough if you don’t want to make it a day ahead. Also like my favorite pie dough, it uses vodka. I keep a bottle in the freezer that just gets used for this purpose. If you only have warm vodka, just add some ice to it before using. Don’t be tempted to skip and use water. The vodka all evaporates quickly and it really helps increase the flakiness of your dough.

Empanada Dough:

  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup ice cold vodka
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 5 tbsp oil, for baking

As I said above, this dough needs to be made ahead of time and allowed to rest in the fridge, so do this in the morning, or the day before. I’m planning to do a post on my favorite pie crust with more detailed info on how I get my crusts to have the best flaky texture, but some of the same things apply here. Everyone has their sworn technique for crusts like this, and this is the way I prefer to do it.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk them until well combined. I use my hands to incorporate the fat into the flour for doughs like this. It sounds a bit counter to the holy principle of keeping all your ingredients and equipment ice cold for optimal flakiness, but I find if you work quickly and don’t handle the fat very much, it is actually the best method to correctly judge how well your fat is incorporated and to control the size of your fat pieces. This isn’t as big a deal here, for empanadas, but for pie crust it really matters.

Take about 1/2 of your cubed butter and place it into the flour and toss it lightly. Use your hands to quickly break apart the butter pieces and toss the smaller bits into the flour. Handle the butter as quickly as possible and release it after touching briefly each time, so as to not warm it up much. Keep doing this until your butter is fairly well mixed in and has a sandy texture. Now the important part, toss the rest of the large butter cubes into that mix. Break these apart slightly, but not as much as before. Leave some pea size pieces of butter, or even a bit larger, because they will continue to incorporate once you start bringing the dough together.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over the mixture and toss with a fork. Now do 2 tbsps of vodka. Then repeat, tossing with the fork after each addition. Keeping going. There are 4 tablespoons in 1/4 cup so you will be doing 8 tablespoons total of water and vodka each. You may need to add slightly less or slightly more liquid. It depends on the humidity and your ingredients. Go by feel, not measurement. Every once in a while, grab some of the mixture in your hand and see if it sticks together in clumps when you squeeze gently. Once it is clumping together and doesn’t feel dry, you are there. It should not be wet. More dry than wet, but able to hold together. You can see the big clump here where I tested it out.

Now dump the dough onto a lightly floured counter and start bringing it together by using a bench scraper or large spatula to press the crumbs together into a mass and scoop up some of the bottom and fold it over on top and press down. Use your hands as little as possible, mostly using your tool. I will make a video on this at some point. Keep this up and your dough starts to stay together in a big block. Each time you are folding the dough over you are creating layers of butter that will add to the flakiness. You don’t want to overwork this though and create gluten, so you are just working it enough until it comes together.

Once it is cohesive, cut into 12 equal pieces. I use my trusty kitchen scale, which helps so much, but you can eyeball it too. I use my kitchen scale SO much and it was one of my most useful kitchen purchases. It is the Escali Pana V136 in case you are interested. Quickly shape each piece roughly into a circle and wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge to rest.


  • 1 lb ground beef (I use 85/15)
  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp vindaloo seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup water

Heat a sauce pan full of water to boiling. Peel and dice the potatoes into a small dice. Put into the water with some salt for about 5 minutes until not quite tender but getting there. Drain. Heat a skillet over medium high and add the ground beef, onions, and garlic and sauté until cooked through. While it is cooking add in your spices, along with the water. Let it simmer and taste and add more seasonings if needed. You want it pretty flavorful since it will be a filling for dough. Add breadcrumbs and stir and cook until it thickens up and isn’t watery. You don’t want any excess water in this filling to make your empanadas soggy so cook until water is evaporated out. Cool filling for at least an hour, or you can make ahead and put into the fridge until you need it.

Assembly and cooking:

Heat oven to 425. Place two baking sheets on the racks in the oven to heat too. Roll each dough ball out to a 6 inch circle and place about 1/3 cup of filling into the center. Brush the edges with water and fold the dough over the filling. Trim the edges to make it look nice and press to seal. Crimp the edges with a fork. Repeat for the remaining dough blocks.

Drizzle 2 tbsp of oil on each cookie sheet and place back into the oven to keep heating. Brush the tops of the empanadas with the remaining tbsp of oil and place 6 on each cookie sheet (use oven mitts, since the sheets where in the oven and are hot). Bake until well browned and crisp, about 25 mintues, but depends on your oven so check them. Rotate the cookie sheets half way through for even cooking. Cool for 10 minutes and then serve with whatever dipping sauce you like, in this case cilantro chutney!


There are many variants of cliantro chutney but I really like this one. It is a good balance of spicy, sour, sweet, and a bit creamy from the nuts.

  • 4 ounces cilantro
  • 2 ounces of unsalted and unroasted peanuts or almonds
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 garlic clove

Blend everything together in a blender or food processor with a little water to help it blend. It should not be watery and should have a consistency like pesto. Adjust all seasonings to your liking. You can store this in a jar in the fridge for about a week, or you can freeze it.

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