Empanadas across South America – whose is the best?

by on 8th July, 2016

Chilean Empanada de Pino, Chile


Almost every South America country has its version of the emblematic empanada – but who makes the tastiest version?


Baked, or fried?

Pastry, or bread?


Empanadas are staples in many countries in South America with differences in sizes, stuffings and spices but a firm favourite with locals and travellers alike.

What’s your favourite? Have we missed any off? Who do you know that makes the best empanadas?

Here, in no particular order (Ed: except alphabetical), are just a few of the many you may munch through, as seen through the eyes of our Alan.



In Argentina you will find many different varieties of Empanadas from different parts of the country.

Mostly they are semicircular in shape (and not larger than 20 cm) and the seal/crust shape varies depending on the filling.

The fillings will vary due to the province they are from and may contain beef, chicken, ham and cheese or vegetables – usually spinach or chard. The meat empanadas will usually also be mixed with onion, chopped hard-boiled egg, olives and in some provinces raisins, potatoes or peas.

Some of the most famous are the Salteñas (from Salta) which favour beef and the month of July in Salta is when they hold an annual empanada competition.

Empanada Salteña, Salta Argentina

Salteña Empanada in good company


In Bolivia you can come across a variety of empanadas.

Some are the Salteñas that originated in the city of Tarija and are wheat flour-based pastry filled with spiced beef or chicken and potatoes.

The pastel frito is a large fried empanada with a thin pastry and stuffed with cheese and sometimes can also have tomato or onion.

In Santa Cruz you might come across the Empanada de Arroz, which is stuffed with rice and pork.



The most popular empanada you will find in Chile is the Empanada de Pino. This is a large oven baked empanada stuffed with pino (minced beef or chopped beef, cumin, onion, black olive, hard-boiled egg and raisins). Particularly popular on Sundays or in September with the Independence celebrations.

Other tasty options are the Empanada de Queso (cheese emapanda fried or oven baked) or the Empanada de Marisco which is stuffed with shellfish.

Chilean Empanada de Pino, Chile

Oven baked Empanada de Pino


The most popular Colombian empanadas are small and fried, made with a corn flour pastry and stuffed with shredded beef or pork and mashed potato. Great for snacking.

You will even find a monument dedicated to the Empanada in Manizales the capital of the coffee region.



Empanadas are common throughout Paraguay either fried or baked and are a popular snack.

Fillings are various and can be beef, chicken, ham and cheese, corn, tuna and palm hearts.



The Peruvian empanada dates back to the times of the viceroy when he would judge the empanadas produced by the various convents, monasteries and bakeries and would reward those he found to be the best.

These evolved into the empanada limeña that is oven baked and sprinkled with icing sugar. The main ingredients are chopped beef or chicken, onion, red pepper, tomato, raisins, olives, garlic, cumin, breadcrumbs and egg-white. Some people like to add lemon juice whilst eating them.



These empanadas are made from a thin pastry and have sweet or savoury fillings and can be both oven baked or fried. The most common fillings are beef (sweet and sour or spicy), ham and cheese, cheese and onion, fish and for the sweet ones, quince, caramel and ricotta with raisins.





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