Easy Peasy Pastelillos Recipe: Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas

Easy Peasy Pastelillos Recipe: Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas

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Prepare to embark on a culinary journey to the vibrant streets of Puerto Rico with our Pastelillos Recipe: Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas. These savory, golden-brown pockets of deliciousness are a beloved staple of Puerto Rican cuisine, offering a delightful blend of flavors and textures that will transport your taste buds to the Caribbean. Whether new to empanadas or a seasoned enthusiast, this recipe promises a taste of Puerto Rican culture right in your kitchen.

Beef Pastelillos Cover Image

What Are Empanadas?

Empanadas, known as “pastelillos” in Puerto Rico, are a popular snack and comfort food found throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond. The name “empanada” is derived from the Spanish word “empanar,” which means “to wrap or coat in bread.”

These delectable treats are essentially filled turnovers made by encasing a flavorful mixture—often meat, vegetables, cheese, or fruit—in a pocket of dough, which is then folded and sealed before being baked or fried to perfection.

Empanadas come in various shapes and sizes, with different names and regional variations. In Puerto Rico, they are affectionately referred to as “pastelillos.” These handheld delights are often filled with a savory blend of ground beef, aromatic spices, and a hint of olives and raisins, resulting in a symphony of savory and slightly sweet flavors.

One of the charms of empanadas lies in their versatility. While beef is a classic filling, you can get creative with your choices, exploring combinations like chicken, pork, seafood, or even vegetarian options. Empanadas are cherished for their taste and convenience—perfect for on-the-go snacking, picnics, family gatherings, or just satisfying your craving for a savory pastry.

In the next sections, we’ll dive into the step-by-step process of crafting these irresistible Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas, bringing a taste of Puerto Rico right to your kitchen.

Puerto Rican Beef Empanadas Ingredients:

Beef Pastelillos ingredients

1 lb Ground Beef: Choose lean ground beef for a hearty and flavorful filling. It’s the star of your empanadas.

⅓ cup Tomato Sauce: The tomato sauce adds a rich, saucy element to the beef filling, enhancing its taste and moisture.

1 Packet Sazón Seasoning: Sazón is a popular Latin seasoning blend that includes a mix of spices and herbs, often with a touch of annatto for color. It infuses the filling with a burst of authentic great flavor.

1 tablespoon Adobo Seasoning: Adobo seasoning is a flavorful blend of garlic, oregano, and various spices. It’s a key element in Puerto Rican cuisine, adding depth and complexity to your empanada filling.

2 teaspoons Cumin: Cumin is known for its warm and earthy flavor. It complements the other spices and gives the filling its distinct Puerto Rican flair.

1 teaspoon Oregano: Oregano contributes a fragrant and slightly citrusy note to the filling, enhancing the overall taste.

1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes: Add red pepper flakes to taste if you prefer a bit of heat. It’s a wonderful way to tailor the spiciness to your liking.

2 cups Diced Frozen Potatoes with Peppers: These frozen diced potatoes with peppers add a delightful texture and a hint of sweetness to your filling. They are a convenient and tasty addition.

2 Pie Crusts: Use ready-made pie crusts for convenience. These will serve as the golden, flaky encasement for your savory beef filling.

With these carefully selected ingredients, you’ll create a filling that’s packed with flavor and authenticity for your Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas. The combination of spices, ground beef, and the unique touch of sazón will transport you to the heart of Puerto Rican cuisine with every bite.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Prepare the Beef Mixture Filling:

cook ground beef for the pastelillos

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef, breaking it apart as it cooks. Season with salt, pepper, sazón, adobo seasoning, cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes if using. Cook until the beef is fully browned and well-seasoned.

Incorporate the Sauce and Potatoes:

stir in the veggies for the pastelillos

Stir in the tomato sauce and add the diced frozen potatoes with peppers to the skillet. Combine the mixture thoroughly and cook until the potatoes and peppers are heated through. This step allows the flavors to meld, creating a delicious filling.

Prepare the Pie Dough:

prepare beef pastelillos dough

Take your rolling pin and roll out the pie crusts on a lightly floured surface. Using a round cutter or a template, cut 4-6 inch circles out of the pie dough. These will be the encasements for your empanadas.

Assemble the Empanadas:

assemble beef pastelillos

Place a tablespoon of the beef and potato mixture in the center of each pie dough circle. Fold the dough over to create a half-moon shape, ensuring the edges meet evenly.

Seal the Edges:

seal edges of the pastelillos

Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges of each empanada securely. This not only ensures the filling remains intact during baking but also adds a decorative touch.

Prep for Baking:

Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (not wax paper!) to prevent sticking. Place the assembled empanadas on the parchment paper, leaving some space between each one.

Bake to Perfection:

Bake the empanadas in the preheated oven until the crusts turn a golden brown color, typically around 15-20 minutes. Keep a close eye on them to prevent over-baking.

Serve and Enjoy:

bake pastelillos until golden brown

Once your Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas are beautifully golden and crispy, remove them from the oven. Serve them hot and enjoy the delightful blend of flavors and textures that capture the essence of Puerto Rican cuisine.

These empanadas are perfect for sharing with family and friends, whether as a snack, appetizer, or a satisfying meal. They combine the heartiness of seasoned ground beef with the comfort of a flaky, golden crust, making each bite a savory delight.

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Can You Fry Them Instead?

Absolutely! Empanadas can be fried instead of baked, and frying gives them a crispy and golden exterior. Here’s how to fry your Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas:

Frying Instructions:

Prepare the Empanadas: Follow the steps mentioned in the recipe to prepare your empanadas, including assembling and sealing them with a fork.

Heat the Oil: In a deep frying pan or a pot, add enough vegetable oil to submerge the empanadas. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of about 350°F (175°C). You can use a kitchen thermometer to ensure the oil is at the right temperature.

Fry the Empanadas: Carefully place the empanadas into the hot oil, one at a time, in a single layer, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry them for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until they are deep golden brown and crispy. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to turn them over.

Drain Excess Oil: Once fried to perfection, remove the empanadas from the hot oil and place them on a plate lined with paper towels. This will help absorb any excess oil.

Serve Hot: Serve your freshly fried Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas while they are still hot and crispy. Enjoy the wonderful combination of flavors and textures.

Frying empanadas provides a slightly different texture and flavor compared to baking, with a crispy crust that many find irresistible. Just remember to exercise caution when working with hot oil, and ensure the empanadas are drained well before serving to prevent excessive oiliness.

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What to Serve with Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas:

Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas are delicious on their own, but you can enhance the dining experience by serving them with a variety of accompaniments:

  1. Salsa: A zesty tomato-based salsa, whether mild or spicy, pairs wonderfully with empanadas. It adds a refreshing and tangy contrast to the savory filling.
  2. Sour Cream: A dollop of cool sour cream complements the spiciness of the empanadas and provides a creamy contrast to the crispy crust.
  3. Avocado: Sliced or mashed avocado is a creamy and mild option that balances the flavors and adds a touch of richness.
  4. Cilantro: Fresh cilantro leaves or chopped cilantro can be sprinkled over the empanadas for a burst of fresh herbal flavor.
  5. Lime Wedges: Serve lime wedges alongside the empanadas for a squeeze of citrus to brighten up each bite.
  6. Rice and Beans: A side of classic Puerto Rican rice and beans makes for a hearty and satisfying meal. The combination of fluffy rice and seasoned beans complements the empanadas perfectly.
  7. Tostones: Crispy fried plantains, known as tostones, are a popular Puerto Rican side dish. They offer a sweet and savory contrast to the empanadas.
  8. Salad: A simple green salad with a vinaigrette dressing can add a fresh and light element to your meal.

Switch It Up

Empanadas are highly adaptable, and there are countless variations to explore. Here are some delicious variations of empanadas to try:

Chicken Empanadas: Replace the ground beef in the meat filling with shredded cooked chicken. Season it with a blend of spices and mix it with sautéed onions and bell peppers for a flavorful filling.

Vegetarian Empanadas: Create a vegetarian option by using a mixture of sautéed vegetables like mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and zucchini. Add black beans or chickpeas for extra protein.

Seafood Empanadas: Fill your empanadas with a savory seafood mixture, such as shrimp or fish, combined with onions, garlic, and a creamy sauce made with mayonnaise and lime juice.

Cheese Empanadas: For a cheesy twist, use a combination of mozzarella, cheddar, and cream cheese as your filling. You can add diced green chilies for a touch of heat.

Sweet Empanadas: Empanadas can be a sweet treat too! Fill them with fruit preserves, such as guava or apple cinnamon, and dust with powdered sugar for a delightful dessert option.

Spicy Empanadas: Amp up the heat by adding jalapeños, hot sauce, or diced green chilies to your filling mixture. Spicy empanadas are perfect for those who enjoy a little kick.

Pizza Pastelillos: OOOH! Green peppers, diced onions, green olives, garlic cloves, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese – dip it in Marinara sauce!

Breakfast Empanadas: Start your day with breakfast empanadas by filling them with scrambled eggs, cooked bacon or sausage, and shredded cheese. They make a satisfying and portable morning meal.

Dessert Empanadas: Explore sweet dessert empanadas with fillings like Nutella and banana, caramelized apples with cinnamon, or chocolate and marshmallow for a decadent treat.

Regional Variations: Empanadas come in various shapes and sizes depending on the region. You can experiment with Argentine, Chilean, or Mexican empanada recipes, each offering its unique twist on fillings and flavors.

Remember to adjust the seasonings and spices to suit the specific filling you choose. Empanadas are all about customization, so feel free to get creative and tailor them to your taste preferences and dietary needs. Enjoy your culinary adventures with these delicious empanada variations!

How to Store Your Leftover Pastelillos Recipe: Beef Puerto Rican Treats

If you have leftover Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas, here’s how to store them properly to maintain their flavor and texture:

  1. Cool Completely: Allow the empanadas to cool to room temperature before storing them.
  2. Refrigeration: Place the cooled empanadas in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. To prevent them from sticking together, you can separate them with parchment paper.
  3. Refrigerate: Store the empanadas in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. They should remain safe to eat during this time.
  4. Reheat: To enjoy leftovers, you can reheat empanadas in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 10-15 minutes or until they are heated through. Alternatively, you can use a toaster oven or microwave, but the oven is preferable for maintaining their crispiness.
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Final Thoughts

Exploring Puerto Rican cuisine, with its rich flavors and vibrant traditions, is like embarking on a flavorful journey. These savory beef turnovers, known as Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas, offer a taste of Puerto Rico that’s both accessible and delightful. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or just beginning your culinary adventures, these empanadas showcase the heartwarming essence of Puerto Rican recipes.

As you prepare and savor each bite of these empanadas, you connect with the culinary heritage of Puerto Ricans—a culture known for its warmth, hospitality, and love for good food. With readily available ingredients from your local grocery store, you can recreate the authentic flavors of Puerto Rico right in your own kitchen.

Empanadas, with their origins deeply rooted in different cultures, have become beloved around the world. They’re a testament to the power of food to bring people together, transcending borders and languages. These Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas are a flavorful representation of this global culinary connection.

Whether you’re sharing them at a family gathering, enjoying them as a snack, or simply indulging in their savory goodness, these empanadas are a delicious reminder of the diverse and flavorful world of cuisine. Embrace the flavors of Puerto Rico, savor the journey, and discover the joy that comes from celebrating different cultures through food. Enjoy your culinary adventure!

Empanadas FAQs:

1. Can I freeze empanadas?

  • Yes, you can freeze empanadas. Once they are fully cooled, place them in an airtight container or resealable freezer bags, separating with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Empanadas can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. To reheat, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and then follow the reheating instructions.

2. Can I make empanadas in advance for a party?

  • Absolutely! Empanadas can be prepared in advance and either baked or fried just before your event. Alternatively, you can partially cook them, freeze them, and then finish cooking them when needed.

3. Can I use a different filling?

  • Yes, empanadas are incredibly versatile. You can fill them with various ingredients such as chicken, pork, seafood, cheese, or vegetables, depending on your preferences.

4. What’s the best way to seal empanadas to prevent filling from leaking?

  • Using a fork to crimp and seal the edges is an effective method. You can also lightly moisten the edges of the dough with water before sealing to ensure a tight closure.

5. Can I make the dough from scratch?

  • Certainly! While the recipe mentioned using ready-made pie crusts for convenience, you can absolutely make empanada dough from scratch using flour, water, salt, and fat (such as butter or lard).

Enjoy your Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas, and feel free to get creative with your choice of accompaniments and fillings!

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Yield: 10 - 12 empanadas

Easy Peasy Pastelillos Recipe: Beef Puerto Rican Empanadas

Beef Pastelillos

These savory, golden-brown pockets of deliciousness are a beloved staple of Puerto Rican cuisine, offering a delightful blend of flavors and textures that will transport your taste buds to the Caribbean.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 32 minutes


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ⅓ cup tomato sauce
  • 1 packet sazon
  • 1 tbsp adobo seasoning
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups diced frozen potatoes with peppers
  • 2 rolled out pie crusts


  1. Heat brown the ground beef with the seasonings in a skillet over medium-high.
  2. Stir in the tomato sauce and the potato & pepper mix.
  3. Cook until the potatoes & peppers are hot.
  4. Cut 4-6 inch circles out of the pie dough.
  5. Place a tablespoon filling in the center and fold over so the edges are even.
  6. You can use a fork to seal the edges.
  7. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees until the crust is golden brown.
  9. Serve & enjoy!

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 242Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 201mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 14g
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