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Picture of Empanada


© 2006 Hector Rodriguez
Definition: Empanadas are fried or baked pastries stuffed with sweet or savory fillings. These pastries are known throughout Portugal, the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Philippines. Empanada comes from the Spanish verb empanar, which means to wrap in bread. An empanada is made by folding a disc of thinly rolled dough over a filling into a semicircle and then sealing the edge.

The empanadas we enjoy today in the western hemisphere, probably originated in Galicia, Spain. In Galicia, empanadas are similar to a cut up pies filled with cod fish or chicken. However, the idea of wrapping a hardy filling in pastry dough may well have stemmed from the Moors who occupied Spain for hundreds of years.

Cubans fill their empanadas with seasoned ground beef or chicken and then fry them. Pastelitos are similar, but are made with lighter pastry dough and can be either baked or fried. It is acceptable to eat empanadas at any meal, but they are usually eaten during lunch or as a snack. In The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, empanadas are prepared and eaten the same way as Cuban empanadas. Catibías are made with cassava flour dough. Some of the common fillings are ground beef, chicken, guava and cheese.

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Audio file copyright 2006 Melissa Rodriguez. Used with permission.

Pronunciation: [em-pah-NAH-dah]

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Also Known As: pastelito, empanadilla, and pastelillo.
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