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A Brief History Of Empanadas

a piece of bread on a plate

America is a melting pot of cultures. Immigrants from all over the globe have come to America all throughout history. With them, these people bring in culture, music, religion, and food! The empanada is a popular dish from Latin America and other similar cultures that has found its way into the hearts of Americans. When did this delicious dish come to be and how has it gotten to what it is? Let's take a look!

a close up of a sandwich on a plate

What Are Empanadas?

Empanadas are fried or baked pastries typically shaped like a crescent moon. There are numerous styles of empanadas to choose from these days, and even more fillings! What some people don't realize is that empanadas can be sweet or savory. Traditionally, empanadas are filled with protein such as beef, chicken, pork, tuna, seafood, etc. or other fillings like potatoes, vegetables, cheese, and more. You can occasionally find sweet empanadas that contain fruit or a dessert-like filling. Empanadas are delicious but can be challenging to make by hand. Frozen options exist in grocery stores, but we can assure you that any empanada made in a factory is not going to be authentic or delicious. It's best to get them from family, friends, or local eateries who specialize in them. Making empanadas is a true art form that requires finesse and a lot of practice to perfect. 

Where Do They Come From?

Empanadas are first cited to be from Portugal and Galacia, Spain. "Empanada" comes from "empanar" which means "to wrap or coat in bread" in Spanish. The earliest mention of empanadas by name is in a 1520's cookbook in Catalan! The original empanadas resembled pies that were sliced into single pieces, but the basic concept has been the same ever since. As history progressed, Spanish colonists brought the dish with them to Latin America and the Philippines. Argentina has become world-famous for their empanadas which are widely available in Buenos Aires and across the country as fast-food options and restaurant staples. As with many recipes, that of empanadas was shared through generations and carried to many other nations. To better fit the tastes and resources of each country, adaptations were made that have led to a variety of styles. 

How Have They Evolved?

It's unclear exactly when empanadas transitioned into tiny, individual pastries as opposed to the larger pie. It became obvious that this personal style was favored. Each individual pasty can be stuffed to the brim with the stuffing of your choice, and very little will fall out onto your plate. Flavor profiles have also changed, and certain types of empanadas have grown in popularity. In Argentinian history, the empanada was once known as the working man’s meal because it contained a full meal that was easy to carry to work. Empanadas have become an Argentinian staple when family parties are looking for a quick and filling meal. Restaurants throughout the country like to create unique and extravagant recipes featuring fillings you can't find elsewhere. Largely however, empanadas have stayed pretty true to their roots. So long as you get a crispy and flaky pastry stuffed with hearty fillings, you have yourself a great example of this Latin American favorite.

 a close up of food on a table

El Sur Empanadas is proud to bring the flavors of Argentina to California and Nevada. With multiple food trucks, a catering service, and more, we are bringing this classic to America. Order hot or frozen, choose delivery or pick-up, or stop by our trucks for a quick and delicious meal. Learn more about El Sur Empanadas at We look forward to serving you soon!