Talk Of The Town


Cuban-Style Picadillo Empanadas from The Salty Cubana

Posted at 1:20 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 14:20:37-04

Rita Martinez from The Salty Cubana made Cuban Empanadas. (see recipe below) Tennessee Performing Arts Center is partnering once again with the Tennessee Latin Chamber of Commerce for the 6th Annual Empanada Tasting event on Wednesday, June 1 from 5:30pm-8pm at the War Memorial Auditorium. The Tasting highlights and celebrates Latino owned businesses, and features a tasting of four empanadas, a dessert, and a drink. For tickets, go to Proceeds will benefit the Tennessee Latin Chamber of Commerce.

The Salty Cubana Havana-Style Picadillo Empanadas

What You'll Need:

Kitchen Scale
Measuring cups & spoons
Bowls for mixing and water
Stand mixer with the dough paddle if you have one
Plastic wrap, large Ziploc bag or airtight bowl
Rolling pin & bench scraper
Large 5-6" cookie cutter
Deep cast iron skillet
Frying thermometer
Paper towels for draining.


For the Dough:

890g all-purpose flour
25g baking powder
20g salt
35g cane sugar
110g (roughly 8 Tbsps. or 1 stick) unsalted butter
380g water
2 cups vegetable oil for frying in skillet (preferably canola)

For Picadillo Filling: 

40ml extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
20g salt
3.5 g black pepper
16 oz. ground beef
2 bay leaves
56g tomato paste
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 large tomatoes, coarsely diced
50g capers with ¼ cup of juice
½ cup pimento, diced
75g dried raisins

A few notes:

· Always make your filling before the dough, preferably the day before. Chilled fillings are easier to handle. Once the filling chills, it will congeal, which will make it neater to use as well.

· It's best to start with less filling so that your empanadas won't explode. You will get better at stuffing them with time and practice.


For Filling:

1. Put the olive oil in a large, heavy pan set over a medium-high flame, and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Sauté until onion begins to sweat and is translucent.

2. Raise heat to medium-high and add the ground beef, and allow it to brown, crumbling the meat with as it does. Add tomato puree, vinegar, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Stir in diced tomatoes, capers, pimentos and raisins. Lower the heat, and let the stew simmer, covered, for approximately 15 minutes.

3. Uncover the pan and add the raisins and the capers. Allow the stew to cook for another 15 minutes

4. Adjust seasonings to taste and let cool to room temperature. Make the filling up to 2 days ahead and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

For the Dough:

A note on grams: We use grams because it’s a much more accurate measurement when sizing recipes up. Go ahead by a digital kitchen scale if you do not have one yet. You’ll thank me later. So many more activities (recipes) ;)

1. Melt the butter and set aside. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl and whisk to mix well.

2. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the butter in and incorporate it with the flour until it resembles coarse oatmeal. Now, slowly pour the water and begin to form the dough.

1. IF USING A STAND MIXER: Mix the dry ingredients straight in the mixer bowl with a whisk. Secure the bowl and using the dough hook, slowly add the melted butter, then add the water.

[Pro Tip: Remember not all all-purpose flour is equal. Flour can vary from brand to brand and may absorb water differently. The amount of humidity in the air that day can also play a role. Too much water in your dough is no bueno.]

3. Place the dough on a floured work surface. Knead the dough until it is soft and smooth.

4. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. Let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes. This resting time will release the gluten that will help you roll out the dough easily.


1. After resting, cut the dough ball in half. Place one half back in the bowl and cover it while you roll the other half out. Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/8" thick.

[Pro Tip: I LOVE a good marble rolling pin for two reasons: It is heavy and will help keep the butter in the dough from melting. If you can this splurge is worth it.]

2. Place a large round cookie cutter (preferably 5-6 inches in diameter) over the already-rolled dough, then gently press it down to cut the dough into a circle.

3. Once you've formed the disk, place 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of picadillo in the center and use your finger or a small kitchen brush to very lightly moisten half of the edge with water. I personally like using a small spray bottle to mist the disk before sealing them instead.

4. Fold the dough and make sure the edge of the top part will be about a centimeter behind the base edge.

5. Now, pinch and fold the edges into half-inch sections towards the center, using your thumb and your middle and index fingers, overlapping each fold until you finish at the other end of the empanada.

[Pro Tip: Use your finger as a guide for the dough. Don't press on the groove; pinch next to the groove. “Pinch and park it next door”]

6. Place the empanada over on a flat surface and cover with a lightly moistened paper towel, then proceed to form the rest of the empanadas. We cover them to prevent the dough from drying out.

7. Using your thermometer, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until it is 350 °F. Fry the empanadas, turning occasionally, 2-3 minutes per side until they are deep golden. [***Do not overcrowd your frying pan; for a 12-inch pan, fry 3 or 4 at a time, giving them enough room to turn them when ready. Remember, the oil is very hot, so be careful.***]

8. Once ready, place them over a paper towel lined plate to drain or over a baking rack. Serve hot.