Empanada deĀ Ecuador

June  5, 2011
2 Ratings
  • Makes 8 empanadas
Author Notes

When my husband and I were recently traveling in Ecuador, we visited a beautiful old town in the southern part of the country called Cuenca. Many centuries ago, it was the second largest and important city in the Inca days (second only to Cuzco in Peru), and is today a World Heritage Site. The first day we arrived there, we walked all over Cuenca and saw street vendors everywhere selling street food. While we saw lots of different food, almost everyone sold fried empanadas filled with cheese. In Ecuador, it is common practice to fry the empanadas versus baking them, and in fact didn't see one baked empanada the entire two weeks we were there. While some are filled with meat, it's much more common to see them filled with cheese, sometimes sprinkled with sugar. After a little pleading, the owner of one restaurant where we lunched, Villa Rosa Restaurante, wrote down her recipe for me. I've made theirs a few times at home now and while the original recipe is delicious, I couldn't help but make my own changes with each batch. In this version, I've switched out the shortening for butter, added honey and orange zest, and increased the flour just a bit. I've experimented with the best way to fry them to prevent any filling from seeping out, and have played with the temperature of the oil quite a bit to determine the optimum temperature for quick browning, but not so quick the cheese doesn't have a chance to melt. I've included all these tips in the directions. The result is a consistently beautiful, delicious treat. I hope you try these - and if you go to Ecuador I strongly encourage you take a side trip to Cuenca and try the cheese empanadas. You won't regret it! - ChezSuzanne —TheWimpyVegetarian

Test Kitchen Notes

It's hard to argue with a fried sweet treat that is stuffed with melty cheese, and ChezSuzanne does a great job creating an exceptional empanada. I love the touch of orange in the dough. Chilling it in eight small balls helps it chill quickly and makes for easy empanada making. I like mine a little smaller, but to each their own. - biffbourgeois
Stephanie Bourgeois

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (9 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons honey (I used orange blossom honey)
  • orange zest from 1/2 large navel orange
  • 8 ounces Mexican white cheese (I used Queso Fresco)
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon fine granulated sugar for dusting
  1. Combine the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Process while you pour in the water. Add the honey. Process until the dough comes together into a ball (about 30 seconds). Remove the dough and knead a couple minutes until it's smooth.
  2. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll them into a tight ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll the balls out with a dusting of flour until they are very thin, about 1/8" thick. Sprinkle a little orange zest over the top and roll it into the dough with 1 clean sweep of a rolling pin.
  4. Roughly grate the cheese and form a small ball of it, about 1 ounce in weight or a big heaping tablespoon. Place the ball on the round of dough a little off center. Stretch 1/2 of the dough circle over it and seal it on top of the other 1/2 of the dough circle. As you seal it, make sure you are fitting the dough around the cheese as tightly as you can. Any air trapped in there will expand with the heat of the oil, and while the bubbly surface is desired from the air expansion, you don't want so much expansion that the cheese starts to leak out. If the dough is not sealing well, brush a little water on the bottom half of the semi-circle and stick the top half of the semi-circle to it. You can press down the edges with the tines of a fork, or do what I did (pictured) which was to stretch and fold sections over each other.
  5. Heat oil in a pot (I used a Crueset casserole pot) at least 2" deep to 380F. You want to use an oil that has a high smoking temperature like grapeseed oil or Canola. Pop the empanadas into the hot oil. They will immediately puff up and float to the top. Keep the oil between 375F and 385F for the best results and fry for 1 minute on each side or until they are a golden brown. I was able to fry 3 at a time in my pot. If you fry many more than that, the browning will get away from you since it's very quick work.
  6. Remove the empanadas from the oil, place on paper towels and lightly dust with sugar immediately. Serve warm.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • lorigoldsby
  • dymnyno
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • lapadia
  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly

21 Reviews

lorigoldsby August 8, 2011
Thanks for reposting this...I'd forgotten I wanted to try these! On the menu for this weekend!
TheWimpyVegetarian August 8, 2011
Great!! Please let me know what you think, Lori! Have a great week!
dymnyno June 16, 2011
Congratulations on the EP. I am definitely making this recipe soon!
TheWimpyVegetarian June 16, 2011
Thanks Mary!! I would to hear what you think if you make them!
Thanks so much KB! And I can't wait to try your Sugo!! It looks just wonderful!
Sorry for the multiple replies, BTW. It never registered that it posted at all although I tried to post an answer a couple times, obviously. Then had to leave for an appt and came back to see both posts registered. Sigh. I understand about busy schedules! I want to try your oven baked ones too - I've saved the ones you've posted. I'm a new fan of empanadas for sure!
lapadia June 8, 2011
Thanks for your reply, I will definitely get back to you after trying...which might not be as soon as I would like, due to my schedule, lately. I have an oven baked recipe (various fillings) will compare it against yours for oven time and heat etc. BTW - I can't express enough how tasty this sounds and looks :) :)
Kitchen B. June 8, 2011
Love stuffed anything with a cheese centre! These are no exception.........involving fried dough!
Thanks so much lapadia! I've not baked them, so am only guessing at the changes, but I'm not sure I'd change anything except to lightly brush them with butter and sprinkling some sugar on top before popping in the oven. The dough is stretchy, so it stretches with the heat. But in the oven that might cause uneven browning, so maybe vent them. If you try them I'd love to hear how it goes baked!
Thanks lapadia! I've not baked them to be be honest. I wouldn't change the recipe itself to accommodate baking except to brush them lightly with butter and sprinkle some sugar on top before popping them in the oven, but you might need to play with the baking time and whether you want to vent or not. The dough is stretchy so that it expands when it hits the heat of the oil. It would expand in the oven too, but think the browning of the crust may not be even. The biggest difference will be texture - it will be more flakey than crispy, but the flavor should be just as delicious. If you try them baked, please let me know how it goes! I'd love to hear back from you on it.
lapadia June 8, 2011
These look and sound Great, ChezSuzanne, do you think the dough would work baked in the oven...or maybe need to modify a bit?
hardlikearmour June 6, 2011
Wow, CS, these sound amazing! I love the idea of the slightly sweet orange cheese filling.
Thanks so much, HLA! I'm seriously considering finishing them off for lunch today...
fiveandspice June 6, 2011
Yum!!! These look unbelievable. I'm still generally scared of deep frying things, but man are these tempting me to be little more brave!
I deep fry very, very little here I must admit. But I used a combination of grapeseed oil and flax seed oil (mainly b/c I ran out of grapeseed oil and did NOT want to make another trip to the store...) for a high smoking temperature, and I kept a temperature probe in the oil the entire time to monitor the temperature. The nice thing is the empanadas fry up very quickly, so you're finished in just a few minutes. I then strained the oil once it was cooled to room temp and put in a jar to reuse. I'd love to hear how it goes with you if you try them!
lorigoldsby June 6, 2011
my mouth is watering! And that was just from the picture--even before i read the recipe! But curious, do you prefer the butter or shortening in the pastry when frying empanadas?
Thanks so much lori! On the butter vs shortening, I prefer the flavor of butter and the texture of shortening. The shortening makes it a little crispier IMO, and flakier. The switch was really prompted by the hydrogenated fat in the shortening. Barring that, I'd probably opt for butter flavored shortening and have the best of both worlds!
lorigoldsby June 6, 2011
Thx! like fiveandspice I don't deep I wondered if the shortening vs butter decision was due to the frying.
No, not at all. The original recipe called for shortening and either will work well. Would love to hear what you think of them if you try them!
EmilyC June 5, 2011
Oh yum...these look right up my alley!
Thanks EmilyC! I'd love to hear how you like them if you make them! I confess, they were dinner for me tonight.....