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 How To Make Easy Panamanian Baked Beef Empanadas 

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Flaky Panamanian baked beef empanadas stuffed with ground beef, peppers, onion, and savory spices are a delicious, easy to make appetizer, snack, or main dish!


These savory pastries are perfect for sharing with your family and friends.

With a combination of homemade meat filling and pre-made empanada discs, they are ready to eat in less that 45 minutes and guaranteed to be a hit!

The exact origin of empanadas is unknown although, they are believed to have originated in northwest Spain. Empanar is Spanish for “to bake in pastry“. 


Today, there are many kinds of empanadas with a variety of ingredients. Typically they are filled with savory minced meat and vegetables but can also be filled with fruit.

Empanadas can range in size, from large enough to feed a family to tiny bite size pastries, and are more commonly baked but are also fried.

Ingredients For Easy Beef Empanadas

There is a white bowl with uncooked ground beef in it. There is a white plate with a stack of round dough disks. There is a white onion, red bell pepper, 3 garlic cloves, a very small red habanero pepper and sprigs of green cilantro. There is a small wood vessel with three holes. Each hole has a different colored spice in it. There are two small clear bowls, one has light yellow olive oil in it, the other has red tomato paste in it, there are two small glass ramekins, one has dark liquid in it, the other has light red liquid in it. There is a clear bag with a red spice powder in it. All the items are one a light red and white terrazzo surface.

For Filling

  • Ground beef
  • Onion 
  • Red bell pepper
  • Garlic cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Habanero pepper (optional)
  • Tomato paste
  • Achiote powder (see FAQ’s)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Thyme – dried
  • Paprika 
  • Cumin
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

For Pastry Dough

  • Pre made empanada dough – store bought 5″ discs for baking. (Find them freezer section)
  • Egg and 1 tablespoon water (for pastry egg wash)

Equipment Needed and Helpful Tools

  • Large skillet with a fitted lid
  • Chopping board
  • Large kitchen knife
  • Wooden spoon
  • Large bowl
  • Small bowl
  • Pancake flipper
  • Pastry brush
  • Fork
  • Measuring spoons
There is a white rectangular plate with baked beef empanadas on it. One of the empanadas is broken in half with beef mixture showing. The plate is on a light red and white terrazzo surface.

How To Make Easy Baked Beef Empanadas

There is a mound of chopped red bell pepper and a mound of chopped white onion on a black surface.

Make the Beef Filling

  • Chop red bell pepper 
  • Chop onion
There is a mound of red chopped habanero pepper, a mound of chopped green cilantro, and a small mound of minced garlic on a black surface.
  • ​Dice habanero peper
  • Chop cilantro
  • Mince garlic
There is a large gray skillet with chopped red peppers, onion and garlic. Skillet is on a light red and white terrazzo surface.
  • Heat oil in large skillet over moderate heat.
  • Saute onion, red bell pepper, and habanero pepper (if using) for about 1 minute. Add mince garlic and cook for an additional minute.
There is a large gray skillet with raw ground beef, chopped red peppers, onion, garlic, and seasonings. There is a wooden spoon resting in the skillet. Skillet is on a light red and white terrazzo surface.
  • Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
There is a large gray skillet with cooked ground beef, chopped red peppers, onion, garlic, and seasonings. Skillet is on a light red and white terrazzo surface.
  • Add the rest of ingredients, mix throughly and cover.
  • Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Assemble and Bake The Savory Pastries

There are 6 round dough disks on a baking sheet. There is a scoop of ground beef mixture in the center of each dough disk.
  • Lay out dough discs on a baking sheet. 
  • Add a few heaping teaspoons of empanada filling to the center of each dough disc and fold in half.
There are 6 uncooked folded in half round dough disks and pressed closed on a baking sheet.
  • Press and seal the edges tightly closed with the tines of a fork.
  • Brush the empanadas with egg wash.
  • Bake until they are golden brown.
There is a white round plate with 2 baked empanadas and a small clear ramekin with red salsa in it. There is a light brown cloth napkin laying nest to the plate. Items are on a light red and white terrazzo surface.

Substitutions And Variations 

White onion – Red or yellow onion can be used.

Red bell pepper – Yellow or orange is the best. Green pepper can be substituted, just keep in mind that red bell peppers are the sweetest of the bell pepper varieties while green peppers will taste more bitter.

Olive oil –  Vegetable oil can be substituted.

Tomato paste – Tomato sauce or chicken stock is often used. In saying that, using sauce or stock can make the beef mixture running. If that does occur, add a little bit of flour to the mixture and blend throughly.

Achiote powder  – Annatto seeds or achiote seeds can be used. (see FAQ’s)

Paprika – Chili powder can be substituted.

Egg – I usually only have extra large or large eggs in the fridge but any size egg will work for the egg wash.

Optional ingredients –  Often chopped green olives and raisins are added to Panamanian empanadas. I did not include either in this recipe.

Store bought pre-made empanada dough discs –  store bought pie crust, puff pastry, or homemade dough. (see FAQ’s)

If You Love Panamanian Cuisine, here are some other traditional food recipes to try!

  • Arroz con pollo
  • Tamal de olla
  • Sweet plantains
There is a white rectangular plate with baked beef empanadas on it. One of the empanadas is broken in half with beef mixture showing. The plate is on a light red and white terrazzo surface. The back of the photo is partially out of focus.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Types Of Meat Can I Use In Empanadas?

You can use ground pork, ground chicken or turkey to make the empanadas.

Seafood, fruit, and vegetables are very common types of empanadas.

What is Achiote powder?

Achiote powder also known as Annotto powder, is a red spice made from the seeds of the achiote tree. The seeds are ground into a powder and then used to flavor food. It is commonly used in Latin American cuisine. Ground achiote powder has a slightly earthly smoky flavor with hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Can You Deep Fry Empanadas?

Yes you can deep fry empanadas! If you are using store bought empanada dough discs, there are different discs made specifically for baking or frying.

Check out other recipes from Join Me In The Kitchen that will tantalize your taste buds!

Yield: 12

How To Make Easy Panamanian Baked Beef Empanadas

There is a white rectangular plate with 8 baked beef empanadas on it. The plate is on a light red and white terrazzo surface.

Flaky Panamanian beef empanadas stuffed with ground beef, peppers, onions, and savory spices are a delicious, easy to make appetizer, snack, or main dish!

With a combination of homemade meat filling and pre-made empanada discs, they are ready to eat in less that 45 minutes and guaranteed to be a hit!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1 small white onion - approximately 1/2 cup chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper - approximately 1/2 cup chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves - minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 habanero pepper (optional) - minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon achiote powder
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro - finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • For Pastry Dough
  • Pre made empanada dough (store bought 5" discs for baking)
  • Egg and 1 tablespoon water (for pastry egg wash)

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Saute onion, red bell pepper, and habanero pepper (if using) for about 1 minute. Add mince garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  3. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon.
  4. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until no longer pink.
  5. Turn down the flame to low heat. 
  6. Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste at a time and mix throughly.
  7. Add the rest of ingredients, mix throughly, cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  8. Transfer the meat mixture to a large bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature.
  9. Heat oven following the store bought Empanada disc instructions. It usually is 375 degrees.
  10. In a small bowl whisk an egg and 1 tablespoon of water to make the egg wash. 
  11. Lay out room temperature dough discs on a baking sheet. 
  12. Add a heaping tablespoon or two of the filling to the center of each dough disc and fold in half.
  13. Press and seal the edges tightly closed with the tines of a fork.
  14. Brush the empanadas with egg wash.
  15. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes or until they are golden brown.
  16. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces, sour cream, or salsa.

Notes

Equipment Needed and Helpful Tools

  • Large skillet with a fitted lid
  • Chopping board
  • Large kitchen knife
  • Wooden spoon
  • Large bowl
  • Small bowl
  • Pastry brush
  • Fork
  • Pancake flipper
  • Measuring spoons

Substitutions And Variations 

White onion - Red or yellow onion can be used.

Red bell pepper - Yellow or orange is the best. Green pepper can be substituted, just keep in mind that red bell peppers are the sweetest of the bell pepper varieties while green peppers will taste more bitter.

Olive oil -  Vegetable oil can be substituted.

Tomato paste - Tomato sauce or chicken stock is often used. In saying that, using sauce or stock can make the beef mixture running. If that does occur, add a little bit of flour to the mixture and blend throughly.

Achiote powder - Annatto seeds or achiote seeds can be used. (see FAQ's)

Paprika - Chili powder can be substituted.

Egg - I usually only have extra large or large eggs in the fridge but any size egg will work for the egg wash.

Optional ingredients -  Often chopped green olives and raisins are added to Panamanian empanadas. I did not include either in this recipe.

Store bought pre-made empanada dough discs -  store bought pie crust, puff pastry, or homemade dough. (see FAQ's)

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