This Cuban beef empanada recipe comes together in no time, with the help of store-bought empanada dough. The savory picadillo is made with seasoned ground beef, potatoes, green olives, onions and peppers.
I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.
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Cuban beef empanada recipe
Cuban style empanadas with ground beef are an easy treat to make anytime. You can make the mixture ahead of time, making it even easier to assemble when you’re ready. I often do this the day before so the filling is cold when assembling.
If you have kids who like to get involved in the kitchen, stuffing and sealing empanadas is a great job for them, but please leave the frying to the adults.
We live in an area known for Cuban food, but sadly, I’ve had a few not so great empanadas. To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. I was gutted. You know when you have a craving for something and the anticipation you feel that it’s going to amazing, but then it falls short? Yeah, that.
I’ve also had a few pretty tasty ones, thankfully. This Cuban beef empanada recipe is similar to what I’ve had at a restaurant here that I really liked, and I hope you’ll like them too.
Picadillo empanada filling
Cuban picadillo empanadas are absolutely packed with flavor and the mixture is super simple to make.
Before we get into the rest of the ingredients, let’s talk about the potatoes. Yukon golds work best in this recipe. They have a great “potato flavor”, they don’t dry out and they hold their shape when cooked. This is important because we want little bites of potato, not mashed potato mixed in with the beef.
First, we’ll cook the ground beef and drain off the liquid. This step is important because you don’t want a runny or greasy filling. Once the beef has been drained, it goes back into the pan with the seasonings, peppers, onion and garlic.
Then add the remaining ingredients and let it simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Everything cooks in one pan. We’re building layer upon layer of flavor.
When the picadillo is done, set it aside to cool slightly so it isn’t hot when we’re ready to move on to the next step.
Fill and seal Cuban beef empanadas
The picadillo mixture goes inside these tasty Cuban empanadas. Once it has cooled slightly, place 2 tablespoons in the middle of the empanada dough and fold the top over to close it.
Use a slightly cupped hand to gently push out any air trapped inside before pressing the edges with a fork to get a good seal. You’ll want to make sure they are sealed well before placing them in the oil so the picadillo doesn’t leak out anywhere, and the oil doesn’t get inside.
Fry until they are deep golden brown, about 4 – 6 minutes total, flipping once while cooking.
Remove the empanadas from the oil and place on a paper-towel lined baking sheet. This allows the excess oil to drain off so they aren’t too greasy.
These Cuban empanadas are big. They aren’t the smaller empanaditas that you would see as an appetizer. They make a great portable lunch or snack on the go.
Beef empanadas from scratch
Making Cuban beef empanadas from scratch is not a difficult task. The picadillo comes together fairly quickly, and it is quite easy to make.
I’ve used store-bought empanada disks in the recipe for ease and convenience. And let’s be honest, sometimes we don’t want to make dough.
However, if you prefer to make the dough from scratch and bake these beef empanadas instead of frying them, use this recipe for savory pumpkin empanadas. It has a delicious dough that is very easy to work with.
This Cuban beef empanada recipe is perfect for gatherings, parties or just a tasty afternoon snack.
Do you love empanadas too? Try the recipes below for more delicious treats.
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Sign up for the empanada class online and cook along with me. You can watch anytime! Permanent access to the class. Rewind, pause or fast-forward – learn at your own pace. Learn to make two types of empanada dough, a sweet filling and a savory filling – all from scratch!
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ cup yellow onion, small dice (1/4”)
- 1/3 cup bell pepper, small dice (1/4”)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ pound Yukon Gold potatoes, small dice (1/4”)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 2 tablespoons sliced green olives
- 2 teaspoons capers
- ¼ cup chicken stock or water
- 1 package (10 pcs.) store-bought frozen empanada disks, thawed
- Water to seal dough disks
- Oil for frying
- Heat a large skillet over medium/medium high heat, then add ground beef. Cook beef until only a little pink remains, 5 – 6 minutes, breaking up with a spatula as it cooks. Drain and return to the pan.
- Add diced onions, diced bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and cumin. Cook 6 – 8 minutes, until onions and peppers are softened.
- Add diced Yukon Gold potatoes, tomato paste, raisins, sliced green olives, capers, and stock or water. Lower heat and cook, covered, until potatoes are soft, 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Set mixture aside to cool slightly.
- Place 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle of the empanada dough. Wet the edges with a little water, then fold over and press to seal, pushing out any air trapped inside.
- Lightly press with a fork to seal closed. Repeat until all 10 empanada disks are filled. Cover with a clean kitchen towel as you go, so the dough doesn’t dry out.
- In a deep pan, add enough oil to come 2 inches up the side of the pan, leaving at least 2 inches at the top. Heat oil over medium high heat until shimmering.
- Carefully lower empanada into hot oil and fry for 4 – 6 minutes, until deep golden brown and crispy. Fry 2 or 3 at a time, make sure the level of the oil is at least 1 inch from the top while frying.
- Remove from oil and place on a layer of paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve immediately.
Safety precaution - When placing empanadas into hot oil, carefully lower them into the oil moving away from you, not toward you. If the oil splashes, it will go away from your body, not toward you, thus avoiding a burn.
Do not fry more than 2 or 3 at a time. This will lower the temperature of the oil and make them soggy.
Serving Size:1 empanada
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 293Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 348mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 11g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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