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Dinner for two: Empanadas with chimichurri de cilantro and salsa criolla


dinner42One of the things that my move thankfully and finally brought about is being much closer to Mr BBF. We now live less than two hours apart and it’s just amazing (it will be even more amazing once we actually live together again, one should hope, but in the meantime this will do). We can see each other every weekend now, unless one of us is travelling somewhere else.

When we were living five and a half hours apart and seeing each other only twice a month, we’d celebrate these weekends like mini holidays, complete with fancy dinners and all. If we kept up this rhythm on our new weekend schedule, we’d probably be quite broke rather quickly, so we’ve decided to do one thing a bit more that we both enjoy: cook together. This is how the idea for this new series was born. The thumbnail, by the way, is a photo of the sign hanging above the only table at an amazing bar in Donostia (San Sebastián), Néstor‘s. Néstor makes a delicious chuletón and the most amazing potato tomato salad ever to exist in this world. It’s the only place I’ve ever seen people eat their chuletón at the bar.

Yet the first edition of our new culinary adventures very nearly ended in what would’ve become known as the Great Empanada Disaster of 2014. But luckily, it seems that empanadas are a little more resilient than we thought to being mistreated by two inexpert empanada makers. We made two kinds of fillings for our empanadas, one with avocado and another one with minced meet (from here and here). We also made the empanada dough (original recipe here). This was where our problems began – the dough and the avocado filling didn’t have such a good time together. Whenever we lifted up one nicely stencilled out empanada disc, it’d begin to shrink. Pair that with our rather creamy avocado filling and you’ve got yourself a beautiful mess when trying to close the empanadas. So if you make this, you ought to mash the avocado a lot less than we did and you should be fine (or at least finer than we were). But even though our avocado-filled empanadas refused to stay shut and looked like delightful green little mussels that had opened up when they came out of the oven, they actually tasted better than the meat-filled ones. You’ll also notice that the avocado filling is basically almost a guacamole. We had some left over and it was delicious just by itself.

What we learned from this is that empanadas are definitely not the easiest thing to make for the first time, but perfection comes with practice, right? Oh, and we also made chimichurri de cilantro and salsa criolla. Fortunately, these were a cinch to make, so at least they didn’t mean more trouble in empanada land, just a lot of chopping.

Two final important notes: 1) we decided not to be purists and liberally combined empanada components from Argentina and Colombia, and 2) you can probably eat fewer empanadas than you think. This probably serves about 3-4 people with a normal appetite.

Recipes after the jump!

Empanada dough


  • 500g wheat flour
  • 160g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • about 100ml cold water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten and set aside


Place the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into little pieces and add it to the bowl. Add one of the eggs and some of the water and start mixing (if you have a food processor, you just dump it all in and whizz. I did it with my hands). After a while, add the second egg and the rest of the water if needed and knead the dough until it has a sort of crumbly texture. I think I might try with a bit more liquid next time to try and avoid the shrinkage issue we experienced later on. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30mins to 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll part of it out with a rolling pin. With a large round cookie cutter or a cup, stencil out round shapes. Don’t make them too small, otherwise filling them will be even harder than it already is! Place some of the filling in the centre, fold in half and press shut with a fork. Then brush with some of the beaten egg to glaze. Bake the empanadas for about 15 minutes until they’re nice and golden.

Avocado filling


  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 small handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime (1/2 might be enough if it’s juicy)
  • salt and pepper


Cut the avocado into cubes and mash them in a bowl with a fork (just a little, you don’t want almost guacamole texture as we learned from painful experience). Mix in the lime juice. Add the diced onion and tomato, the chopped cilantro, and mix carefully. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Try to) fill into the empanada discs as described above.

Meat filling


  • 500g minced beef (did I mention we had a lot of empanadas left over? We were super hungry so we went all out and made the full quantity of the recipe. A bit more than half would probably have done)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 white onions, cut into thin slices (or 1 large one will do)
  • 1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • about 6 green pitted olives, cut into slices
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, cut into slices (optional)
  • salt, pepper, and dried chile flakes to taste


In a large pan, heat the butter until it melts. Add the onions and sautée them until they become translucent. Add the minced meat and cook until it’s done, stirring regularly to keep the meat from forming large chunks. Add the spices and season with salt, pepper, and dried chile flakes to taste. Fill the empanadas. Before closing them, add a few slices of olive and one (or several, depending on the size of your empanadas) slice of egg.

Chimichurri de cilantro


  • one large handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, very finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt


Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Use enough olive oil to give it a saucy (yeahhh…) consistency. Salt to taste.

Salsa criolla


  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 white onion, very finely diced
  • 2 scallions (we left them out), sliced
  • 1 tomato, de-seeded and diced
  • olive oil
  • vinegar (e.g. white wine vinegar)
  • paprika, ground cumin (edit: Mr BBF informs me he put in a lot of cumin, about 1 tsp), salt, and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, add olive oil and vinegar in a roughly 2:1 ratio, and season with paprika, ground cumin, salt, and pepper to taste.


Author: bettinathenomad

Nomad. International Relations geek. Reader. Feminist. Swimmer. Boulderer. Runner. Hiker. Not necessarily in that order.

5 thoughts on “Dinner for two: Empanadas with chimichurri de cilantro and salsa criolla

  1. In case I haven’t mentioned it before – it’s super exciting that you’re writing again! It’s even more exciting that you’re writing loads! Also, can I come and visit you and have you make empanadas for me? Pretty please 🙂

  2. Nice recipe, Bettina. Glad to know tht you enjoyed making empanadas for the first time. Both of the fillings look wonderful – but the minced meat with onions, just reading the recipe is making my mouth water.

    • “Enjoyed” making them is maybe a bit of an overstatement, as it did get quite stressful when we realised the avocado ones wouldn’t really close and made a huge mess (I already saw us ordering takeout at that point). But eating them afterwards was totally worth the hassle!

  3. Thanks for the great post, I wanted to eat again …

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