These Jamaican Beef Patties are similar to baked empanadas, but are classically Jamaican in flavor. The hearty beef filling isn't overly spicy, making this a family-friendly treat. Curry powder-laced dough yields a lovely color and flavor, as well as a beautifully flaky texture.
Jamaican patties are half moon shaped flaky pastries with bright yellow-hued dough and a spiced savory filling. They are considerably easy to make, are baked and not fried, and are excellent as a snack, light lunch, or party food (particularly for an Olympic party!).
Historically the concept of Jamaican patties was inspired by Cornish pasties which were brought to the island by immigrants. Curry and chiles were introduced by Indian laborers and African slaves. The combination has become a true Jamaican revelation.
These delicious Caribbean snacks can feature various fillings including chicken or curry vegetables. Perhaps the most popular are the Jamaican beef patties which feature a combination of ground beef, spices, and a bit of breadcrumbs to bind.
- Curry Powder: Curry powder is actually a blend of spices. The exact recipe for each blend varies depending on many factors. For example, Jamaican curry powder is usually a bit more mild than its Indian counterpart, and often contains more turmeric. Ideally, use a Caribbean or Jamaican curry powder for this recipe if you have one.
- Scotch Bonnet or Habanero Chile: Scotch Bonnet chiles are most authentic to Jamaican cuisine, however Habaneros are a good substitution and are easier to find in most supermarkets. Make sure you wear gloves when stemming, seeding, and chopping these peppers. They are extremely spicy. With that said, once you seed and finely chop the pepper, they impart flavor to these Jamaican beef patties but not too much spice. These patties are actually quite mild in flavor.
- Ground Allspice: Allspice is another super Jamaican ingredient (it’s actually also known as Jamaica pepper). Contrary to popular belief, allspice is NOT a spice blend. It derives from the dried unripe berry of the Pimenta dioica tree. Purchase it as whole dried allspice berries and grind it yourself in a spice grinder, or buy ground allspice for maximum convenience.
How to make Jamaican beef patties
The filling for these beef patties is very tasty, but not too spicy. It uses a single seeded Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chile. If you want a spicier filling, you can leave the seeds in, or use more chiles.
Start by sauteing chopped onion, garlic, the Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chile, garlic powder, salt, thyme, and allspice until softened.
Add the ground beef, breaking it up into pieces, and cook until cooked through. Next, add breadcrumbs to help bind the filling. Then add broth or water to absorb into the crumbs. Cool the filling until ready to use.
Making the dough is similar to making pie crust, but includes curry powder. This gives the flaky dough a golden hue. Mix flour with curry powder and salt, and then cut in cold pieces of butter until you have pea-sized crumbs. Then add cold water until the mixture forms a mass.
Divide the dough into 16 pieces and roll each ball into a circle. Evenly distribute the filling onto the circle, pressing down to compact it a bit. Fold over the dough and press closed. Use the tines of a fork to crimp and seal the edges.
Chill the patties for 10 minutes to allow the dough to firm back up, then brush with egg wash and bake until crisp and flaky. Serve the Jamaican beef patties hot or warm.
Expert tips and FAQs
To make ahead, freeze patties in a single layer and then transfer to a freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes, or until crispy and heated through.
A lot of Jamaican beef patty recipes have you roll out the dough and cut out circles. This is wasting much of the dough. Instead, divide up the dough into balls, and roll each ball out into circles. No, the circles aren't as perfectly round as they would be if you cut them out with a round cutter.
Many cultures make empanadas using this same method, rolling out balls of dough instead of cutting out circles. The results are delicious and only slightly more rustic than the alternative.
Traditionally Jamaican beef patties are served plain without condiments or dipping sauces.
Other recipes you may like
- Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken
- Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings
- Jerk Chicken Pasta
- Trinidad Macaroni Pie
- Ham and Cheese Empanadas
- Mojo Pork with Black Beans, Cilantro Rice and Pickled Red Onions
- Curried Citrus Rice
- Guava Bars
- Hand-Cut Beef, Egg, and Green Onion Empanadas (Empanadas Tucumanas)
- Saucijzenbroodjes (Dutch Sausage Rolls)
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Jamaican Beef Patties
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chile stemmed, seeded, and minced (wear gloves!)
- 2 tablespoons curry powder (preferably Jamaican)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (preferably Diamond Crystal brand; if using another brand, start with half this amount and add more to taste)
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- ¾ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef
- ¾ cup dried breadcrumbs
- ¾ cup beef broth or water
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Jamaican)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons cold water or as needed
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, preferably nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, chile, curry powder, salt, thyme, and allspice, and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the ground beef and use the edge of a wooden spoon to break it into pieces. Continue to cook until all the beef is cooked through, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn or stick. Add the breadcrumbs, stir to combine, then add the broth or water and mix until absorbed. Remove the filling from the heat and let it cool.
- To make the dough, stir together the flour, curry powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture. Using your fingers, or a pastry blender if you have one, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend). If using your fingers, just rub the mixture together, but don’t overwork the mixture or the butter will get too warm and soften too much.
- Sprinkle in about ½ cup of the cold water and gently mix it into the flour with your fingers or a plastic bowl scraper or spatula. Do not overwork the dough. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water, or more as needed until the dough just comes together into a ball.
- Divide the dough into 16 pieces, each weighing approximately 1 ½ ounces. Roll each ball between your palms to smooth it out. At this point you can chill the balls of dough for a few minutes if they feel too soft.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
- One at a time, place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface, press your palm into a ball of dough to begin to flatten it, then use a rolling pin to roll it out evenly into circle about 5-inches in diameter. They may not be perfect circles, but that’s ok.
- Evenly distribute the beef filling between the dough circles. Don’t be too stingy, it will seem like a lot of filling, but you can press and compact the filling a bit to make sure you fill them generously. One-by-one fold over the dough and pinch the edges to enclose the filling. Use the tines of a fork to press along the edges to seal.
- Place the sealed beef patties onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, then chill the sheets in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to help set the dough (it will bake up flakier if you don’t skip this step).
- Evenly brush the tops of the patties with egg wash, and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.
- Freeze patties in a single layer and then transfer to a freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes, or until crispy and heated through.
- Traditionally Jamaican beef patties are served plain without condiments or dipping sauces.
- This recipe uses kosher salt (aka cooking salt, kitchen salt, coarse salt outside of the US), preferably Diamond Crystal brand. 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.
*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.*