Colombian Empanadas

One of the easiest recipes that you will find to make delicious empanadas with lots of Colombian flavor.

To close this Christmas season I have decided to post my recipe for Colombian empanadas. This is another great treat that is very popular in Colombia, just like buñuelos and natilla. And even though Colombians tend to enjoy empanadas more during the month of December, especially us Colombians who live abroad, we also enjoy them throughout the year.


The most popular empanadas that you will find in Colombia are the “church empanadas”, which unlike regular empanadas, these are only made with potatoes or very little meat. Each parish has a group of volunteers who prepare, cook and sell empanadas outside each church to raise funds. My grandmother proudly volunteered at one of these church groups and we would always see her selling her empanadas with a big smile to donate her two cents.


  • Potatoes: I always use russet or baking potatoes because they are a lot easier to mash.
  • Guiso (Seasoned sauce): It’s really easy to make and you only need onions, garlic, red bell pepper and tomatoes. The red bell pepper can be optional but I love the flavor it gives this guiso.
  • Meat: I always use ground beef because it makes everything so much easier. However, you can also use carne en polvo, which cooked ground or shredded beef, cooked chicken or pork. Another option would be to skip the meat and only make them with potatoes.
  • Precooked cornmeal: It is not only good for making arepas, but it is also great for making empanadas. You can use any brand for this recipe.
  • Oil: The best oil for this recipe is a neutral oil with a high smoke point.

And just like each family has their own recipe for making buñuelos and natilla, the same thing happens with empanadas. Some make them with yellow corn meal, others with white corn meal, some make them with beef, others with chicken, with guiso, without guiso, with potatoes, without potatoes. But, they’re all equally delicious. The trick is to season the whole empanada, from the dough all the way to the guiso that we use for the filling. That way each bite is filled with that phenomenal Colombian flavor. What I do recommend is that you always use the same precooked corn meal that is used for making arepas.


  1. Cook the potatoes in water and mash them with a fork or potato masher.
  2. Cook the ingredients for the guiso in a little bit of oil and then add the beef until it is well cooked. If you are using cooked beef o chicken, all you have to do is mix it well with the guiso.
  3. Now you can add the mashed potatoes and season well with salt and pepper.
  4. To make the dough, mix the precooked cornmeal really well with hot water (this helps dissolve the corn meal better). If you want to give it more flavor, you can add butter, oil and food coloring.
  5. To make the empanadas you will need to divide the dough in small balls. Flatten each ball with a tortilla press or the bottom of a pot to form small circles. Fill each circle with about a tablespoon of the filling, fold it in half and cut the border with a glass or small bowl.
  6. Deep fry the empanadas in hot oil until they’re golden brown.

¡Buen provecho!

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Colombian Empanadas

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  • Prep Time: 0 hours
  • Cook Time: 0 hours
  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: 20 to 22 empanadas 1x


  • 2 large russet or baking potatoes
  • Water (Enough to cook the potatoes)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Oil for frying (Vegetable, canola, corn, sunflower)


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup (90g) red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (100g) Roma tomatoes, finelly chopped (You can remove the skin and seeds if you want)
  • 1 tsp onion powder (You can also use ½ cup of green onion, finely chopped)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup (25g) cilantro, finely chopped (Optional)
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin


  • 1 lb ground beef (You can also use cooked shredded beef, chicken or pork)


  • 3 cups (720 ml) hot water
  • 1 chicken bouillon (Optional)
  • ½ tbsp food coloring or all purpose seasoning with color (Any brand)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened (You can also use oil)
  • 3 cups (450 g) precooked corn meal (To make arepas, any brand)


  1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Cook them in enough water and with the salt over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. When ready, drain them and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Set aside.
  3. Guiso: Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, red bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, salt, cilantro (if using) and cumin. Cook the guiso for about 5 minutes or until it thickens.
  4. Filling: Add the beef to the guiso and cook until browned.
  5. Now add the mashed potatoes and mix until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Masa: Place the hot water in a large bowl, add the chicken bouillon, food coloring, salt and butter. Stir well.
  7. Add the precooked corn meal and stir. Once the corn meal has dissolved, start kneading the dough until it is smooth. If the dough is too soft, you can let it rest for about 20 minutes.
  8. Form the empanadas: Form a small ball with the dough, flatten it with a tortilla press of the bottom of a small pot to make a circle. Make sure to cover the ball of dough with plastic to keep it from sticking to the press or pot.
  9. Add about 1 tbsp of the filling into the circle. Fold it in half to create a half moon. Cut the edges with a glass or small bowl to form the empanada.
  10. Deep fry the empanadas in hot oil that has been preheated to 350ºF (180ºC) until they are golden brown. About 7-10 minutes.
  11. Drain the empanadas on paper towels before serving.

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    1. Thanks! Well, to be honest, they are incredibly easy to make, you'd be surprised. A little time consuming but anyone can make them. =)

    1. ¡Muchas gracias por tus lindas palabras Olguis! Y también te quiero agradecer por darle un vistazo al blog. =)

    1. You can definitely try to put them in the oven but they won't have a crispy shell like when you fry them. I've never heard of oven baked empanadas made with this dough because it's supposed to be fried. Now, like I said, they're only fried to get the crispy outer part but the dough is pre-cooked and the filling as well, so you will have a good tasting, cooked, yet soggy empanada. Hope that answered your question.And thanks for your kind workds, they really mean a lot! =)

    2. I tried baking them. I placed the empanadas on parchment paper, set the oven at 375 degrees, and left them in for 15-20 minutes. They came out really crispy and a bit dry. I would suggest to lower the temperature to 350 degrees and brush a bit of oil on the empanadas. Keep a close eye on them.

    3. That's awesome! Thank you so much for sharing, it's good to know that they still came out crispy and with good flavor. =)

  1. Me uno a sus seguidores. Hoy descubrì su blog, el cual, realmente està muy bien diseñado y sus recetas muy claras. Dan deseos de salir a cocinar rapidito. Really very very good.

    1. ¡Muchas gracias Yolanda y bienvenida! Me alegra mucho que te unas al blog a hacernos compañía. =)

  2. Looks delicious! Can't wait to make these!Are you able to share the Colombian hot sauce recipe pictured?Great blog and thanks!

  3. Hello, what brand of cornmeal are you using in the video? I am not having the best luck getting the dough to come together. Thanks!

    1. Hi there! I usually use the brand PAN because I find that it is easier to work with. I also only use white corn meal because I think the yellow one is drier and has a synthetic flavor. My sister and my mom think I'm nuts because they think it tastes the same, but nah, I can tell the difference. Now, if your dough is too dry, start adding more water little by little until it's nice and smooth. If it's too wet, then add more corn meal instead, again, little by little until it's manageable.

    1. No, I never use Maseca since it has a completely different texture, plus, that's not what they use in Colombia to make them. We always use the pre-cooked cornmeal or cooked and ground hominy. However, this week I read an entry in another Colombian blog where the author made some "Colombian" empanadas with Maseca. The reason I put "Colombian" in quotes is because that's not how they are made in Colombia but her empanadas look delicous! Here's the link:

  4. Thanks for sharing your recipe!! It looks super nice! I wanted to know for how long can you keep the dough…I am planning to invite friends at home, so to don't be rushingh, I'd love to prepare as much as I can the day before!Congrats for the blog!!

    1. Thank you very much! If you want you can keep the dough in the fridge for a couple of days and make sure you cover it well. Also, when you knead it again before you assemble the empanadas, make sure you add a little bit of water because it will be dry and then your empanadas will have cracks in them.

    1. There are many versions of empanadas in Latin America, but to make these you need precooked cornmeal. I have heard a few people say that they use "Maseca" which is the corn flour used to make Mexican tortillas, but I haven't made them with it so I can't guarantee getting good results with it.

  5. Hola! I wanted to tell you that I absolutely LOVE your website. Thank you for sharing your delicious recipes!! My husband is Colombian. I made the empanadas last week and my mother-in-law swore that I store bought them and was passing them as my own. Which only meant that they were great! She made delicious empanadas and refuses to share the recipe with me. Gracias por compartir con nosotros!

    1. LOL! See, now you have your own recipe! I'm really glad that you made them and that they turned out so well. And if your mother in law liked them, then you just scored a whole bunch of brownie points with her. I hope you make more recipes from the site and let me know if you have any questions.And thank you for sharing your comment!!! ♥ =)

  6. Hey, I really really want to make this, but there are no masarepa (or pre-cooked corn meal) to be found in my place, only corn meal. Would you be so kindly to tell us how to make masarepa from corn meal? I search on the internet but it just vague without specific recipe, I mean like how cook is pre-cooked and etc, thanks.

    1. Hi Nina, the only way to make this dough from scratch is by using hominy, not actual cornmeal. If you can get canned hominy at your local grocery store you can then grind it into a dough. Hominy is used in pozole which is a very popular Mexican soup so a lot of grocery stores sell it. Another way to make it is by buying the dry hominy corn, cooking it and then grinding it. I may do a video on how to make this kind of masa from scratch because a few people have told me that they can't get the pre-cooked corn meal.

    2. Yup! It's hominy or pozole! The white, large corn they sell either dry or canned. That's the same type of corn they use to make the precooked cornmeal and the same corn my family used to make the masa from scratch. Here's a recipe I found on how to make arepas with it, but don't worry about adding salt or butter, you only need to cook it and/or grind it because you'll season it later with the ingredients I have here for the empanadas.

  7. Hola que buenas recetas. estas empanaditas las quiero hacer y congelarlas crudas o hay que hacer algun procedimiento antes para cuando las quiera fritar no se dañen?GraciasOlaf

    1. Hola Olaf, las empanadas las puedes armar y luego guardarlas en el congelador. Asegúrate de cubrirlas bien y guardarlas en una bolsa bien sellada para que no se seque la masa que es lo que casi siempre pasa cuando se congelan. Al sacarlas del congelador descongélalas totalmente antes de freirlas.

  8. Hola Diana, Aqui otra Colombiana en el exterior que extrana el sabor de su tierra, Gracias Mil por tus videos y tu pagina, la verdad que tu lo haces ver todo tan facil, que hoy mismo se me antojaron las empanadas con el aji verde, Que delicia, Sigue adelante con tu labor, y lo mejor es que se ve que la disfrutas al maximo en la forma como cocinas, Una pregunta, tienes la receta de las Almohabanas, yo me muero por ellas, pero lo he intentado y nunca me salen bien. Te lo agradeceria mucho. Que Dios te bendiga. Lucia W.

    1. ¡Gracias a tí LU por este mensaje tan divino! Y por ahora no he publicado la receta de las almojábanas, pero sí es una de las que tengo pendientes. Ojalá tenga tiempo este año para hacerla. =)

  9. Tienes una manera exelente de dar las recetas en video te felicito las empanadas y la salsa me quedaron riquisimas …Son mis favoritas ahora.Gracias ………..Fonz

    1. ¡Qué bueno escuchar eso, Fonz!!! Me alegras mucho con tu comentario. Mil gracias por compartirlo y por hacer la receta. =)

  10. Thank you so much for this! I found your blog yesterday and I've already made the aliños, aji, arepas, and these empanadas. Everything has come out delicious and I am so happy I found your blog. My boyfriend, who is Colombian, was very impressed with the outcome. I am Costa Rican and Ecuadorian and I grew up in the US so the food I grew up with is slightly different. Thank you for putting up such great recipes and YouTube videos. I can't wait to try even more recipes! Do you have a recipe for flan and/or chicharon? 🙂

    1. Hi sugarrush, Thank you so much for making the recipes! I will be posting the recipe for the chicharrones soon (I hope), I just haven't had time to go to the store to buy it since it's about an hour away from my house. But stay tuned because I will be posting it eventually.

  11. I live in Central New York and my best friend adopted 4 of the most amazing children from California a few years ago. This past Spring, her oldest daughter celebrated her Quinceneara and one of her sons mentioned that he wished they could've had empanadas to mark the celebration. Empanadas are not commonly found(or known)in this area and my best friend's palette does not expand much beyond her Irish roots. Every year her family and my family join together before Christmas to celebrate over a meal. It is usually something wonderful her husband, who is Indian, magically creates. But this year, I couldn't forget what her son had said and so, we decided to celebrate her children's Mexican heritage by cooking foods they have missed greatly. I did a search on the internet for an empanada recipe and found your site. My husband and I have just finished making the empanadas, including the Colombian hot sauce and all I can say is tonight is going to be so special for these children! Thank you so much for teaching and sharing your recipe….it is an amazing act of kindness. Keep up the good work and Feliz Navidad!Regards,Jennifer G.

    1. What a beautiful message, Jennifer!!! I'm so happy to hear that you decided to make the empanadas and that they turned out great. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for making the recipe!!! ♥

    2. I know this is not where I should be commenting but I can not seem to find the new comment button. These where great… I made them up today for lunch with the bits and pieces of stuff I had on hand and they still turned out great and put a big smile on hubbys face. Its got to be the easiest dough I have worked with for this type of item. And your vido showing how to fold them with the plastic on the press was a life saver. I have 2 questions:Can these be frozen and at what stage… and how can I post without doing it on a replay? I did manage to give it a 5 star rating on the Hispanic Kitchen site…

    3. Hi Rebecca, thank you so much for making the recipe!! You can freeze the empanadas after you assemble them but before you fry them. Just make sure you wrap them with plastic wrap and then store them in a resealable bag so air doesn't get it, which is what causes them to dry up and crack.As for the reply button, it could be your browser, maybe you can close it completely and then open it again to see if it's there because I checked Chrome, Firefox, Explorer and even my smartphone and I can see the reply button in all of them.

  12. 3 cups water and 3 cups cornmeal doesn't work for me, looks like soup. I've added more cornmeal as I go but the consistency I'm looking for isn't there. I'm using Aunt Jemima white cornmeal enriched de germinated . What could be my problem? I mean it is 3 cups water and 3 cups cornmeal correct?

    1. Hi matthew a, the problem is the cornmeal you're using. Even though it has the same name, it needs to be "precooked cornmeal" which is completely different to the Aunt Jemima cornmeal you're using. You can find the correct cornmeal at many Latin grocery stores. They come in different brands like Goya, La Venezolana, Doñarepa, Areparina and Harina P.A.N. being the most popular. You can also buy it online in places like no matter where you get it, make sure it says "precooked" or "precocida" on the label so you know you're getting the correct product.

    2. Thank you so much, I was completely frustrated and was giving up. I'll look for the correct corn meal and try again.

  13. Whats the serving size? I've had colombian style empanadas made with eggs as well, are you familiar with that recipe?

    1. This recipe yields about 20-22 medium sized empanadas. There is no specific recipe for Colombian empanadas that are only made with eggs but some people like to add boiled eggs and even cooked rice as part of their ingredients and it's just a matter of preference.

  14. hola diana como estas. te felicito y te doy las gracias por compartirnos tus recetas.en mi tiempo libre megusta cocinar y hacer resetas nuevas, quisiera saber como se preparan los pasteles de yuca. si me puedes ayudar se lo agradezco mucho

  15. Great Recipe and they turned out great! I added a couple slices of jalapeno on top of the filling before frying to make a few spicy. I really like your technique for folding the mesa with the ziplock over the filling and using the cup/bowl for the seal. This was my 2nd time using a tortilla press and I was able to make one in under a min after about the 10th one. I had some left over filling, but just enough to give to our cats (they loved it also). Thanks for the video, hard work and recipe! I'll be making the tamales tomorrow!

  16. I'm going to prepare these then freeze them before frying. Any thoughts on putting frozen empanadas into the fryer?

    1. I do it all the time because a whole batch of empanadas is too much for us here at home. I wrap each one individually with plastic wrap and then store them in the freezer inside a resealable bag. Then I take them out of the freezer and fry them directly in the deep fryer. They take a bit longer to be done, about 10 minutes each but they come out super nice and crispy. Don't thaw them out before frying them because they dough will get dry and then crack.

    1. You can. What I do is place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and freeze them for about 20-30 minutes. Then I put them in a Zip Loc bag and freeze them for up to 3 months. Deep fry them frozen directly in the hot oil for about 10 minutes.

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