Comforting and tasty, these Colombian empanadas are so delicious!
Empanadas are a stuffed bread or dough in the shape of a half-moon, baked or fried depending on the country in Latin America. Some are made with yellow corn meal, others with white corn meal. The filling also changes and varies from savory fillings like beef, chicken, or fish. Some empanadas are even stuffed with potato! And don't forget their sweet counterparts. Empanadas are truly very versatile.
The most famous empanadas in Colombia are the “church empanadas” or empanadas de Iglesia. Although Colombians eat empanadas year round, this dish is mostly celebrated in December. Each parish has a group of volunteers who prepare, cook and sell empanadas outside each church to raise funds for charity.
My grandmother proudly volunteered at one of these groups and she would always be seen happily selling her empanadas to donate her two cents.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes. Put them in a pot and cover them with water. Add salt. Cook for about 20-25 minutes on medium heat or until soft.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and roughly mash them.
To make the dough, add hot water to a large bowl, add the chicken bouillon, your favorite sazón, salt and butter. Stir well to mix all of the ingredients.
Slowly add the cornmeal to the water and stir with a big spoon. When all of the corn meal has been added, work the dough with your hands until it becomes soft. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Add oil to a large pan on medium heat. Add the garlic, red bell pepper, tomatoes, onion powder, salt, cilantro, and cumin. Cook this guiso (sauce) for about 5 minutes.
Add the beef to the guiso and cook it thoroughly.
Add the mashed potatoes and mix well to make the filling.
To make the empanadas, put a small ball of dough in the center of a tortilla press covered with plastic. Press to flatten it. You can also put the small ball of dough between two pieces of plastic and flatten it with a small saucepan.
Add a tablespoon of the filling. Fold the circle of dough in half to form a half moon.
Cut off the edge of the half moon with a cup or drinking glass. This will shape your empanada and seal it at the same time. Another way to make them is pressing the edge with your fingers and folding the extra dough inwards. This will prevent the filling from coming out during frying.
Once you have all of your empanadas ready, you can fry them in a deep frier with enough oil at 350ºF. You can also fry them on the stove at medium high temperature.
Fry the empanadas for 6-7 minutes or until golden brown. Then put them on a paper towel to drain them.
Serve them hot with Colombian hot sauce and lime wedges.