Every Saturday morning since I can remember, my dad wakes up before everyone in the house and starts his day off by running errands. I don't know what it is, but my dad thoroughly enjoys making lists and crossing things out from them (which I 100% inherited from him). Buying empanadas is at the top of his Saturday to-do lists. Some of our favorites include chicken, beef, and swiss chard empanadas.

What is an empanada? Essentially, empanadas are stuffed dough pockets. They almost look like a mini calzone. Instead of being a folded over pizza, they're filled with anything from sweet potatoes and Brie to carne mechada, depending on the region. They can also be baked or fried, sweet or savory, and can be eaten as a snack or a meal.  

The History of Empanadas

The word empanada comes from the verb "empanar," which means "to wrap" in Spanish. Empanadas are thought to have originated in Galicia, Spain. The first mention of this dish was in a Catalan cookbook, published in 1520, which talks about empanadas filled with seafood. Empanadas are very popular all over Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain, and Portugal.  

Argentinian empanadas are the most popular in the Western hemisphere of the world. They are usually filled with a ground beef mixture and are baked or fried. Hard-boiled eggs, raisins, and olives incorporated into the beef mixture are also staples of South American empanadas. 

Empanadas can be enjoyed as a small snack, as a meal, or even dessert if filled with a sweet jam (guava or pineapple empanadas are the best, I swear). You can even enjoy seasonal pumpkin empanadas for a creative savory take on pumpkin pie. 

How to Make Empanadas

A lot of time and effort goes into making empanadas. When you first see them, you can't tell that a lot of hand-crafting went into them. But really all you can see is the dough on the outside. There is even more that goes into the filling preparation that the outer shell won't tell you. 

The interpretation of empanadas will change from region to region. Each combination of dough, filling, and even cooking method is highly dependent on the agriculture of the area where they're being made. In Venezuela and Colombia, empanadas are made with corn flour instead of wheat flour. In Venezuela, they also fry their empanadas and usually fill them with cheese. However, in the Caribbean, yuca (cassava) or plantain is used to make the dough. In Argentina, the filling is mostly beef, which fits with of the elevated levels of meat consumption in the area. 

These amazing creations have been taking the US by storm, and we can't keep up. Empanadas are one of the most versatile dishes out there, and they're the perfect way to impress your friends and family at your next gathering. Whip up some empanadas for your next get-together, and they'll be the star of the show. Also, mark your calendars; National Empanada Day is on April 8th, in case you were wondering!