Many different cultures have their own type of hand pies; Scottish birdies, Jamaican beef patties, samosas, calzones, and empanadas! Empanadas have a rich history that has evolved over centuries and expanded across a variety of different cultures. These deliciously stuffed pastries have a diverse origin and a rich backstory. Though the exact origins of empanadas are still unknown and debated, their history can be traced back to mediaeval Spain and has evolved overtime to become a worldly dish. Most variations of the dish’s roots can be traced back to Galicia, Spain.
The concept of enclosing food in dough can be traced back to ancient times, and similar dishes can be found in a variety of different cultures. They first appeared in Iberia during the Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula from the 8th to the 15th centuries. The Moors brought new ingredients and culinary techniques to Spain, including the concept of filled dough pastries. It is thought that they would have originally been developed as a modified version of a samosa. The Moors were known for spices and flavourful fillings and this influenced Spanish cuisine, especially in the development of empanadas. Spain's influence expanded across Europe in the coming centuries through trade and exploration, and with it the spread of empanadas. Different regions began adopting their own variations on the pastry, incorporating their own local ingredients and flavours.
Spanish conquistadors carried empanadas with them to the New World during the Age of Exploration and that’s how they found their way to Latin America. They began as a quick workday lunch as they were easy to consume, and substantial enough to fuel workers, now they have become an important part of Argentinian culture.
Every part of the world that makes empanadas have their own versions that have developed from local taste, ingredients and preferences. A typical Argentinian empanada typically consists of a flour-based dough with meat fillings. These are usually cubed or ground beef, ham, or chicken, but sometimes you can find hard-boiled eggs, olives, peppers, and onions in the fixture. Different regions also take different approaches to the cooking of the empanadas, some will fry and some will bake. Less commonly one can find fruit filled empanadas that stand as a delicious and indulgent dessert.
In the beginning of their origins the typical empanada fillings were chicken and surprisingly tuna, with some bell peppers and onions. Now they can be filled with just about anything, usually you’ll find things like potatoes, vegetables, cheese, chicken, pork, beef, and seafood. These little crescent moon pockets can be incredibly difficult to make by hand, but so worth it for the authentic taste. The Deli Society artisan empanadas are made by hand in Spain and you can truly taste the difference in these from factory made options.
As mentioned above, empanadas started out as larger pies that were cut up into single pieces. It’s unclear when this developed to smaller individual pastries, but this style began to be favoured. This style means that very little falls out of the pastry, where in a pie slice there would have been significant spillage.