Shrimp Empanaditas


2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil

½ white onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

Ib (750 g) ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped

2 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Ib (500 g) shrimp (prawns), peeled and chopped into ¼-inch (6-mm) pieces

4 pickled jalapeno or serrano chiles, finely chopped, with 1 tablespoon pickling liquid [these come in small cans and are in the Mexican section of the store]

8 pimiento-stuffed green olives, chopped

12 capers, finely chopped

FOR THE DOUGH (see my comments):

1 cup (8 oz/250 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 oz (85 g) low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

2 cups (10 oz/315 g)

unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour

Sea salt

1 large egg


To make the filling, in a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and sea salt and pepper to taste, reduce the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is dry, 10-15 minutes. Add the shrimp, chiles and pickling liquid, olives, and capers and stir until the shrimp are opaque and the mixture is dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, remove and discard the bay leaves, and set aside to cool for at least 30 minutes or, preferably, let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper. The filling should be full flavored and highly seasoned.

To make the dough, in a bowl, using a large wooden spoon, beat together the butter and cream cheese until well blended. Stir in the flour and ½ teaspoon sea salt and mix well. Knead the dough just until it holds together and can be formed into a ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in half. Roll out one half until it is 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Using a 3-inch (7.5-cm) biscuit or cookie cutter [I use a drinking glass], cut out rounds. Place a heaping teaspoon of the filling in the center of each round, fold the round in half, and seal securely by pressing with your fingers. Use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with ½ teaspoon water. Brush the tops of the half-moons with the egg mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the empanaditas until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Daniel’s comments:

These are Shiri’s favorites, both for eating and making.  She’s much better at making them than I am!  I make the ingredients, and let her assemble them.  We usually run out of dough way before we run out of filling, so I would double the dough recipe.  Since it’s a lot of tomatoes, I cut them by giving them a quick spin in the food processor, instead of chopping them all by hand.  For parties, we make these ahead of time, put them in the freezer on a baking tray, then after they freeze, put them in a ziplock bag.  When it’s time to bake them, we put them back on a baking sheet, brush with egg, and put them in the oven.


Half-moon-shaped empandas and empanaditas, their miniature look-alikes, are similar to the pielike pastries and turnovers of Spain and were baked in Mexico and Latin America as soon as the Spanish settlers began to grow wheat. The tender flour crusts may hold savory or sweet fillings. Empanaditas are ideal party fare because they can be made in advance and refrigerated overnight, or frozen for up to 2 months before baking. Bake frozen empanaditas in a preheated 350°F (180°C) oven until lightly browned, 20-30 minutes.