Pastelillos de Carne (Empanadas)

Pastelillos de Carne (Empanadas)

A traditional treat back home in Puerto Rico is the “pastelillo” which is similar to an empanada, except the dough is a little different.  The dough for a pastelillo is very thin and flaky, most empanadas are a little denser.  If you ever visit my home of Puerto Rico you can find these sold at almost every side of the road kiosk, best with a cold malta, but maltas are an aquired taste.   These yummy treats come with all kinds of fillings, meat, crab, chicken, shrimp, cheese and even pizza.

When we lived in Florida, and I was craving some “pastelillos”  I would cook up the meat and go to the local bodega and get pre-made frozen dough.  However here in Tulsa, OK I am not sure where to go or if I could even find this dough.  So today when I decided to make these treats for my husband’s softball team to eat between games, they had a double header today, I knew I would have to make the dough myself.  I have never made the dough from scratch before so I was a little nervous, but they turned out delicious.  My husband was very excited to have such a special treat, we grew up on these back home. 

For me it was easiest to make the filling first and the then dough.

Pastelillos de Carne 20 servings


  • 1 lbs beef tips, diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup recaito
  • 1 envelope of Sazon sin achiote
  • 10 pimiento stuffed olives, cut in half
  • olive oil
  • Adobo (a staple in every Latin home, it’s magic seasoning)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup water

Heat skillet at med-high, drizzle with olive oil.  Saute onions, garlic and recaito until onions are translucent. 

Drizzle beef with olive oil and season with Adobo.  (I never measure this but I am pretty generous with it) Add beef, potatoes, olives, bay leaves, Sazon and water  to skillet, stir and cover.  Simmer on a low heat for about 45 mins, or until meat is tender.


  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 3 1/2 Tbs of vegetable oil, cold
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • vegetable oil for frying

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. 

Cut in vegetable oil into the flour mixture. ( cut in:  When a fat such as butter or oil is mixed with a dry ingredient like flour until they form into small particles.) I would use a food processor fitted with a metal blade and just pulse it. You can also use your trusty fingers to do the job.

Place mixture in large bowl, add the egg and mix using a fork.

Add the water a little at a time, mixing with a fork.  When done mixing the dough brittle, or in pieces.

Dust a workspace with flour, collect all of your dough.  Knead the dough using your palm, as if you were washing clothes on an old washboard.  Knead until the dough is soft and smooth.  Form into a ball, cover with a cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Roll dough out into a rope about 15 inches long.  (I roll, pull and squeeze)  Once rolled out cut off disks about 3/4 of an inch think.  Dust your rolling pin and workspace and roll out into a thin paper circle.

If you like you can cut and press them out, separate with wax paper and freeze for later use.


Make sure you get the oil is nice and hot, you need the oil to be a least 1 1/2 inch deep.   Take your disk of rolled out dough, and fill with 1 spoonful of filling. 

Wet the edges of the dough with water or oil.  Fold over to make a half moon, Trim the edges if you need to make them even.  Pinch the dough together using your fingers, then go over it, pressing it with the teeth of a fork.  You now have a pastelillo.

Take your pastelillo and carfully drop into the oil.  You should almost immediatly begin to puff and float, cook on each side about 2 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Drain on a plate with paper towel, let cool and enjoy. YUMMY!

These are super delicious and not good for you….lol.  A treat we allow ourselves only once in awhile.  You can make virtually any filling you like.