These traditional Argentinian Beef Empanadas Tucumanas feature a crispy dough encasing tender, flavorful filling. The hand-held turnovers are baked, yielding a less messy and lighter alternative to fried variations. The additions of hard-boiled eggs and scallions take this beef filling up a notch.
(This recipe was originally published in June 2017, but was updated with new photos and content in 2020).
When flavorful fillings are wrapped in dough, my heart bursts with joy! This describes so many of my favorites foods, including but not limited to dumplings, ravioli, manti, borek, and of course empanadas.
Today we'll be taking a look at some traditional Argentinian empanadas from Tucuman province. A crispy bread dough encases tender hand-cut beef (called carne a cuchillo) sauteed with onions and spices, and combined with chopped hard-boiled eggs and scallions. Cooks in this region of Argentina consider it sacrilegious to use ground beef.
All in all, these Argentinian beef empanadas tucumanas are absolutely glorious! The filling is so tasty with just a hint of spice. The dough is exquisite, and not only easy and fun to work with, but creates a wonderful texture after baking. I'm so in love with it, that I would happily create my own unique fillings in the future to go with this dough.
How to make the filling
Start your filling but cooking the flank steak. Like I said earlier, you can do this pretty far in advance and even freeze it once it's cooked. Place your flank steak in a large pot with onion, carrot, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, parsley stems (if using), salt, and pepper (PHOTO 1). Add water to cover by about 1 ½ inches (PHOTO 2).
Bring to a boil, then cover and lower the heat. Simmer the meat for about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours, or until the beef is easily shredded with a fork (PHOTO 3). Remove the pot from the heat, and remove the beef from the pot. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the beef cooking liquid for later. Cut the beef crosswise into 3 pieces, and the finely chop it into small pieces (PHOTO 4). At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the cooked beef, if needed.
To make the filling, heat oil in a large skillet. Add chopped onion (PHOTO 5) and cook until softened (PHOTO 6). Add paprika, ground cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper (PHOTO 7).
Next, add the chopped beef and reserved beef cooking liquid or broth (PHOTO 8). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated (PHOTO 9). Remove from the heat and stir in red wine vinegar (PHOTO 10). Chill this mixture at least 3 hours or overnight.
When you're ready to proceed and assemble your beef empanadas, stir chopped hard-boiled eggs and scallions into the beef filling.
In order to ensure I divide up the filling evenly, I also like to divide it up in advance on trays to make it easy to assemble my Argentinian empanadas tucumanas. This isn't necessary, but a nice tip if you want to achieve perfectly even distribution.
How to make the dough
In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt. Make a well in the center, and add melted lard or shortening and hot water (PHOTO 11). Stir together to form a shaggy mass of dough (PHOTO 12).
Add a bit more hot water, and continue to mix, then knead the dough until it forms a smooth mass. If it's sticky, and a sprinkle more of flour (PHOTO 13). Cover and rest the dough for 10 minutes, then divide it up into equal sized balls, each weighing about 2 ounces or 55 grams (PHOTO 14).
I highly recommend using a digital scale to achieve evenly portioned balls of dough. I weigh each of mine at 55-56 grams, and simply discard the extra dough (in this case a mere 17 or so grams). The balls are even, and therefore my empanadas are all uniform in size.
How to assemble and bake the empanadas
The dough for these Argentinian beef empanadas is soft, very pliable, and stretchy, making it a dream to work with. If you have a tortilla press, this next step will be much faster than if you need to roll out the dough by hand.
Line a tortilla press with a zip-top freezer or sandwich bag that has been cut open on three sides so that it opens like a book. Place a ball of dough in the middle of the tortilla press (PHOTO 15), fold over the plastic to cover it, lightly press it by hand into a flat disc (PHOTO 16), then use the press to flatten it into a 5-inch round, ⅛-inch thick (or roll it out with a rolling pin) (PHOTOS 17-18). Stack the discs with parchment paper in between to avoid sticking.
Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center of each empanada disc (PHOTO 19). Fold the the dough over the filling to form a half-moon, and press the edges together well (PHOTO 20).
Make ½-inch edges by pressing the rims between your fingers to create a rope along the edges (PHOTOS 21-22).
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the Argentinian beef empanadas on the prepared pans and brush them with the egg wash, if using.
Bake them for 28 to 30 minutes, until their bottoms are golden (rotate the pans to ensure that all of the empanadas bake evenly). Transfer the beef empanadas to a cooling rack, and let them cool for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
Expert tips and make ahead suggestions
Although this recipe requires a bit of a head start to cook the beef and prepare the filling, I actually think it makes the process easier to divide up the work over several days. I guess I'm a glass half full kind of person.
If you plan to make these Argentinian empanadas over the weekend (or a span of 2 less busy days) I suggest cooking the beef in the morning on day 1. Then use that beef to make the filling later that same day, and chill it overnight. On day 2, make the dough, finish the filling, assemble the beef empanadas, and bake.
You can also cook the beef further in advance, and even freeze it! If you only have one day to do the majority of the work, you can still cook the beef in the morning, make the filling, chill it at least 3 hours instead of overnight, and then continue with the dough and assembly.
This recipe makes 22 baked Argentinian beef empanadas. They freeze really well, so I definitely suggest freezing whatever you don't plan to eat right away. You can easily refresh the thawed frozen empanadas in the oven to make them like new.
To freeze them, cool them to room temperature, then set them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them until solid. When solid, transfer them to zip-top bags or freezer boxes and freeze them for up to 4 months. Reheat them in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes.
Other recipes you may like
- Jamaican Beef Patties
- Cuban Sandwich Empanadas
- Ham and Cheese Empanadas
- Golden Chicken, Potato, and Green Pea Pies (Salteñas de Pollo)
- Venezuelan Black Bean and Cheese "Domino" Empanadas
- Sweet Potato Black Bean Empanadas
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Argentinian Beef Empanadas Tucumanas (Hand-Cut Beef, Egg, and Green Onion Empanadas)
- Parchment paper cut into 22 (5-by-5-inch) squares
- Tortilla press (optional)
- 1 to 1 ¼ pounds (455 to 570 grams) flank steak
- 1 small white onion, quartered
- 1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large or 2 small bay leaves
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 large or 3 small garlic cloves
- 10 parsley stems, broken in half (optional)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ cups finely chopped white onions
- 2 tablespoons sweet Spanish paprika
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 ½ cups beef broth (or cooking liquid from the flank)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and finely chopped
- ¾ cup thinly sliced green onions
- 5 ¾ cups (756 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup melted shortening or lard
- 1 ¾ cups hot water (140°F)
- Egg wash, made with 1 beaten egg and 2 teaspoons water (optional)
- Place the flank steak in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, parsley stems (if using), salt, and pepper. Pour in enough water to cover the steak by about 1 ½ inches. Bring the pot to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours, or until the beef is easily shredded with a fork.
- Remove the steak from the pot, reserving 1 ½ cups of the cooking liquid. Set the broth aside. When the beef is cool enough to handle, remove any fat or sinew and slice it crosswise into thirds. Chop it into a fine dice, then chill, covered until ready to use. If refrigerated, the steak will last, covered for up to 2 days. To freeze it, cover shredded or chopped beef with the cooking liquid just until submerged. Freeze it in containers for up to 3 months.
- Make the filling: Heat the oil in a large skillet with high sides over medium-high heat. Add the white onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, salt, cumin, red pepper flakes, and black pepper, stirring well to combine.
- Add the beef and broth, stirring to combine. Bring them to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and continue cooking, uncovered, until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes (the beef mixture should still be moist). Remove the filling from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Cover and chill the filling completely, at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
- Make the bread dough: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the melted shortening and 1 ¼ cups of the water. Stir well with a spatula, until the dough starts coming together. Switch to your hands and add the remaining ½ cup water, kneading until the dough comes together (it will be soft and sticky).
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for 1 to 2 minutes (adding more flour as needed), until the dough holds together in a ball and no longer sticks to your fingers. Return the dough to the bowl; cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 22 equal pieces (about 2 ounces/55 grams each). Roll each piece into a ball, folding the bottom of the dough onto itself so that the ends are at the bottom and the tops are smooth (the way you’d shape rolls). Place them on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover them with a clean towel. Let them rest for 10 minutes.
- Line a tortilla press with a zip-top freezer or sandwich bag that has been cut open on three sides so that it opens like a book. Place a ball of dough in the middle of the tortilla press, fold over the plastic to cover it, lightly press it by hand into a flat disc, then use the press to flatten it into a 5-inch round, ⅛-inch thick (or roll it out with a rolling pin). Stack the discs with parchment paper in between to avoid sticking.
- Assemble the empanadas: Stir the cooked eggs and green onions into the filling. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of the filling in the center of each empanada disc. Fold the the dough over the filling to form a half-moon, and press the edges together well. Make ½-inch edges by pressing the rims between your fingers to create a rope along the edges. The empanadas can sit uncovered at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking or can be refrigerated for up to 1 hour before baking.
- Bake the empanadas and serve: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the empanadas on the prepared pans and brush them with the egg wash, if using. Bake them for 28 to 30 minutes, until their bottoms are golden (rotate the pans in the oven halfway through baking, back to front and top to bottom, to ensure that all of the empanadas bake evenly). Transfer the empanadas to a cooling rack; let them cool for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
- To freeze these empanadas, cool them to room temperature; set them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them until solid. When solid, transfer them to zip-top bags or freezer boxes and freeze them for up to 4 months. Reheat them in a 350°F oven until warmed through, 10 to 15 minutes.
- I use a cast-iron tortilla press to quickly and easily flatten my dough into circles. It is VERY IMPORTANT to line it with plastic before you use it, otherwise the dough will stick and create a mess.
- It's ok if your pot isn't as wide as your flank steak, because the beef will shrink significantly as it starts to cook.
- This recipe uses kosher salt (aka cooking salt, kitchen salt, coarse salt outside of the US). If you are using table salt, definitely scale down the salt as that is a saltier type of salt! The type of salt will make a big difference in how salty your food tastes, so keep that in mind.
- Adapted from Empanadas: The Hand-Held Pies of Latin America
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*