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Empanadas are a favorite in Trinidad and Tobago, where we still have a very vibrant Spanish influence, especially in our cooking. Without a doubt we see it in it’s splendor during Christmas time but what about during the course of the year? In what way could we see this influence in our cooking? Easy, you just have to look at the picture below to see the influence…

The Delight of Eating Empanadas

Empanadas are truly a throw back into the past when it comes to our Spanish influenced dishes.   Although, not a very common occurrence in our day to day cooking, empanadas are always part of the menu when it comes to festivities. In my hometown it is always served together with other pastries for our church functions. And, it is the first thing I go for when I get my little “box of pastries”….Sponge cake step aside! That meat filling really hits the spot every time.

A bit of research had me perusing the many and varied types of Empanadas all through Latin America to Spain and as far as the Philippines. In all the different varieties I saw the different culinary signature of the country being utilized in the recipe but the ingredients were essentially the same: A meat filling wrapped in a dough. And it did not stop there…There were also vegan empanadas and its many related “cousins” like samosas and pastry pies.

Anyhow, As part of the exchange in our culinary melting pot here in Trinidad, the Empanada came here as a Spanish or Venezuelan ……. but it left as a Trini.

“Yuh just cyah get away from the trini flavour of green seasoning and chadon beni

Here’s Empanadas Trinistyle Recipe.



For filling
1 pound of minced beef
2 – 3 tbsp green seasoning
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
16 leaves chadon beni, chopped finely
2 pimento peppers, chopped
1 tsp. salt

For dough
1 1/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cup Promasa cornflour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp oil
3 cups warm water
2 tbsp. oil for rolling dough balls
oil for frying

Prepare the filling:

In a deep bowl, mix the minced beef with the onion, garlic, chadon beni, pimento peppers, and salt. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours. Then place the seasoned meat in a deep pot, add the green seasoning and allow to cook.
Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the meat is brown.
Set aside the cooked minced meat.
Note: You can substitute the meat with minced chicken as well. Minced chicken prepared like this tastes really great and also makes a great filling for empanadas.

Next, prepare the cornmeal dough:

Pour the cornmeal and cornflour in a mixing bowl.

Note: We chose two types because we like the texture of the dough with this combination, but you can prepare your dough with any type of cornmeal, preferably the Promasa or a refined corn flour like the Promasa brand. The Promasa brand is a fine textured cornmeal that makes dough very smooth and easy to mold.

Pour the oil in the center of the dough, add the warm water gradually…
…and mix to form a soft dough.
Note: You may have to add a bit more warm water if the mixture is not smooth enough.
Pinch off handful of the mixture and mold into balls (about 2 inches in diameter) with your hands.
Place 2 tbsp. oil in a saucer and roll the ball…
Cut two small pieces of wax paper or plastic about 6 ” across and place on both faces of the pastelle press. Spread some oil on the wax paper then add the oiled dough.
Note: The wax paper will have to be replaced when it gets too soaked, so you can cut a few pieces and have them ready.

Press the dough, using moderate pressure, to make a circle about 5″ in diameter.
Note: Unlike when you’re pressing the dough to make pastelles with all your might, you cannot press the dough for the empanadas very thin or else it will break when folding, or break when you are crimping the edges. Don’t have a pastelle press? You can alternatively roll out the dough using a well oiled rolling pin (bailna) to about 1/4 inch thick and use a suitable sized inverted bowl to cut out the circles.
Place a tablespoonful of minced meat on one half of the flattened dough, taking care to leave about 3/4″ free from the sides .
Fold the other side over.
Seal the edges using a fork.
Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve cool.

(Note: You can also bake your empanadas in a 250 degree F oven for about 25 minutes. However, first, line the tray with greased wax paper, place the empanadas in the tray carefully, and finally brush the empanadas with a little oil. You will also have to turn the empanadas within 10-15 minutes of placing in the oven. Bake until brown.)

And, for heavens sake don’t do like me, who couldn’t wait, and burn your tongue lol! :-)

Yield: 15 empanadas

That’s it for another Trini recipe. See you soon.

P.S. As you would have noticed by the ingredients used, this empanada recipe has no flour (gluten), so it will also do well for those with allergies to gluten (GFCF)

Ah gone!



  1. says

    This is not a Spanish dish, this is Latin American.
    There is a huge difference between Spanish dishes i.e from Spain and Latin American dishes i.e Native (Latin) American.

  2. says

    Hi Jackie, thank you for your comment. Now, what you have said is correct, technically. Along that terminology, the pastelle dish has its origin and influence from Latin
    America, but, I must say, we, Trinidadians, are not ignorant of this fact. However, we class this origin as “Spanish”. Thus, we class those persons from Latin America as “Spanish”. It is habitual in our speech to do this, and hence my own assertion. Our culture can be strange sometimes. Glad you bring the topic up.

  3. Gavino says

    Just a minor quibble on history and culture. Trinidad has a rich and vibrant Latin influence, since historically it was part of Venezuela. Each island has had entirely different and distinct historical influences. [Aside the use of ‘Jack Spaniah’ we opt for accuracy, Latin.]

    That is not to detract from your excellent offerings which I have been circulating.

    …And rum and ‘dongs’ (ponsigue)?…

    Feliz Navidad!

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