Pastelitos de Carne Salvadoreños (Salvadoran Empanadas), photo by Alicia MaherPhoto by Alicia Maher

Pastelitos de Carne Salvadoreños (Salvadoran Empanadas)

Cuisine: Salvadoran
Servings: 4-6 servings (2-3 pastelitos per person)

These crispy and delectable pastelitos de carne, or Salvadoran empanadas, are filled with minced meat and vegetables. In El Salvador they are served as an afternoon snack, but they also make great appetizers for parties. To save time, cook the fillings and assemble the empanadas the day before. You can refrigerate them overnight in a covered container before frying them.

For more authentic Salvadoran recipes, try making these pupusas, and enjoy leche poleada for dessert!

Ingredients

  • For the Dough
  • 1 cup instant corn masa flour
  • 7 ounces water divided
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (powder)
  • 1 teaspoon annatto seeds ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup curtido (see below)
  • 1 cup House tomato sauce (see below)
  • For the Minced Pork and Vegetables Filling
  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder fat trimmed, cut into 2- to 3-inch chunks
  • 6 cupe water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion minced
  • 2 cloved garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup tomato minced, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup potatoes finely diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots finely diced
  • 1/2 cup chayote peeled, pitted and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup green beans thinly sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For the Curtido (Pickled Cabbage, Onions and Carrots)
  • 2 cups green cabbage shredded
  • 1/2 cup carrots shredded
  • 1/2 cup onion thinly sliced
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes or 1 serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)
  • For the House Tomato Sauce
  • 2 cups Roma tomatoes chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic whole
  • 1/2 cup onion chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (powder)
  • 1 teaspoon achiotes (ground annatto seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

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Directions

For the Empanada Dough:
  1. Place the corn masa flour in a shallow bowl. Mix in the water, chicken bouillon, ground annatto, and salt. Knead by hand for about 5 minutes until the dough is moist and fluffy. If needed, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. Divide the dough into 12 equal small balls. The dough can be prepared the day before, if covered and refrigerated
  2. With wet hands, press and pat each ball between your palms and flatten into thin dough rounds that are about 3 inches in diameter. Place the flattened rounds on top of plastic wrap, waxed paper, or a damp kitchen towel to prevent them from sticking to any solid surface.
  3. In the center of each dough round, place about ½ to 1 tablespoon of the Minced Pork and Vegetable filling, then fold the dough over the fillings into a crescent. Seal the edges with your fingertips or the tines of a fork.
  4. In a medium saucepan heat the oil over a medium to high flame until very hot or 360ºF if using a frying thermometer. Fry the empanadas until golden brown. Serve with a side of Pickled Cabbage and Carrots and House Tomato Sauce.
For the Filling:
  1. Rinse the pork in cold water
  2. In a deep pot, combine the pork, water, bay leaf, and salt over high heat. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Skim the foam from the top; repeat as necessary. Cover the pot and cook for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Uncover and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove the meat from the pot and let it rest on a chopping board for 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf, and reserve 1 cup of broth. Finely dice the pork and set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and tomato, and sauté for 1 minute; then add the potatoes, carrots, chayote squash, green beans, and broth. Combine and bring to a quick boil, reduce the flame to low, cover, and cook all the vegetables for about 10 minutes or until tender. Add the meat and pepper and stir together. Correct the salt.
  4. Remove from heat and let it cool before using as a filling for the empanadas, or serve hot as a side dish.
For the Curtido (Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots):
  1. Using a large ceramic bowl or glass jar with a lid, combine and stir all the ingredients. Cover tightly with lid or plastic cling wrap; marinate overnight before serving. The Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots can last up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
  2. This is a very tasty and versatile dish. The finely diced meat and vegetables provide a wonderful texture and are very pleasing to the palate. This is the recipe for the filling used in Salvadoran Empanadas. The pork can be substituted with boneless chicken thighs. This recipe can also be served as a side dish.
For the House Tomato Sauce:
  1. In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the water, tomatoes, chicken bouillon, garlic cloves, onion, cilantro, annatto, salt and pepper. Bring all the ingredients to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove from the stove and let cool. Pour the cooled tomato mixture into a blender of food processor and blend on high for 2 minutes or until smooth.
  2. Return the blended tomato sauce to the stove over medium to high heat, continue stirring, and bring to a boil. Reduce flame to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Correct the salt and let cool. Sprinkle the dried oregano on top before serving. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  3. The Minced Pork and Vegetables (Picadillo de Cerdo con Verduras). This is a very tasty and versatile dish. The finely diced meat and vegetables provide a wonderful texture and are very pleasing to the palate. This is the recipe for the filling used in Salvadoran Empanadas. The pork can be substituted with boneless chicken thighs. This recipe can also be served as a side dish.The Minced Pork and Vegetables (Picadillo de Cerdo con Verduras). This is a very tasty and versatile dish. The finely diced meat and vegetables provide a wonderful texture and are very pleasing to the palate. This is the recipe for the filling used in Salvadoran Empanadas. The pork can be substituted with boneless chicken thighs. This recipe can also be served as a side dish.
  4. Curtido (Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots) is a must when serving Pupusas, Crispy Fried Yuca and Pork, or Empanadas. The sour-pickled flavor of the cabbage, onions, and carrots is a perfect complement to savory foods.Curtido (Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots) is a must when serving Pupusas, Crispy Fried Yuca and Pork, or Empanadas. The sour-pickled flavor of the cabbage, onions, and carrots is a perfect complement to savory foods.
  5. Editor’s note: Alicia is the author of Delicious El Salvador: 75 Authentic Recipes for Traditional Salvadoran Cooking. This wonderfully illustrated book is available at https://deliciouselsalvador.com/
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