Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (2024)

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If there is one Colombian food that everyone I know likes, it would be empanadas without a doubt.

Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (1)

Empanadas are typical Colombian street food, deep fried corn dough filled with meat and potatoes.

They are versatile. They can be finger food or full blown meals. It all depends on the size and filling you use.

Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (2)

In this post I will show how to make the typical meat and potato Colombian empanada using a cornmeal crust. The original recipe calls for homemade dough.

You can get creative with your filling. If you are vegetarian you can make them with just potatoes as a filling and they are still delicious.

Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (3)

You can substitute beef for pork, chicken or any blend that you like.


There are many corn flours/meals in the market, but the one that works best for me is the Albers Yellow Corn Meal because it is not super finely ground which gives the dough a bit of texture and crunch.

  • Corn Meal: Albers is my favorite because it gives the dough texture, it almost feels like a made-from-scratch dough.
  • Beef: You can use ground beef but I prefer to use a flank steak or any other cut of meat and grill/pan sear first and then grind it. I like this texture better than ground beef. You can also use shredded beef.
  • Potatoes: Any kind of potatoes work. I usually work with red potatoes.

The Empanada Dough

Getting your dough right is the key to making delicious Colombian empanadas.

Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (4)

If the dough is too wet, it will be too sticky to work with and it will be hard to shape the empanada.

If the dough is too dry, your empanadas will crack open when frying them. It will make the filling super greasy and if the filling comes out your oil will start splattering.


Making empanadas can take a long time. I highly recommend making your filling in advance. That way it will be cooled down when you are ready to deep fry the empanadas and it will be easier.

Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (5)

You can make the filling up to a day in advance. All the ingredients are cooked once you form your empanadas so all the deep frying does is just heat it up and make the outside crunchy.

How to Shape them

Ideally you will use an empanada dough press that way you get clean edges but if you don't have one don't worry, you can use a plate to create the moon shape and seal them tightly by hand.

Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (6)

Colombian Aji Sauce

Empanadas are typically dressed with a vinegar based sauce with minced onions, cilantro and pepper. It is mild but you can up the heat using chillies.

Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (7)
Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (8)

If you are visiting Colombia, be sure to checkout my post on the top foods you must try when you go there!

Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (9)

Colombian Empanadas


4.85 from 76 votes

Print Recipe Pin Recipe

Course Appetizer

Cuisine Colombian

Servings 12 Empanadas



  • 2 cups yellow corn meal
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  • 1 lb Skirt Steak
  • 3 medium potatoes
  • cup cilantro
  • ¼ roasted bell pepper optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste



  • Boil the water, add salt, oil and paprika

  • Add the corn meal and stir until well incorporated. About 3-5 minutes

  • Let the dough cool down and knead it untill the dough is uniform.


  • Season meat with salt and pepper. I like to add paprika and onion salt too.

  • Grill it or pan sear it until it reaches a medium well temperature.

  • peel and cut the potatoes in cubes and boil them with salt until tender.

  • In a food processor, add the meat cut in strips, cilantro and red pepper if using. Grind them until the meat resembles ground beef.

    Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (10)

  • Mash the potatoes and mix with the ground beef. Let the filling cool down.

Build the Empanadas

  • Divide the dough in golf sized balls. Flatten them with a tortilla press or a round plate. Use a clean plastic bag or parchment paper to prevent the dough to sticking to your working surface

  • If using an empanada mold, fill the dough with the meat and potatoes in the center and press to create a half moon shape.

  • If you don't have an empanada mold, put the filling in one side of your dough and fold it in half. Press with a round bowl or cap to seal the filling in place.


Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Ebony

    Omg these were so good!!!!! And the recipe was so easy to follow. Do they freeze well? I wonder if I could make a bunch then fry them later because as you mentioned it is a little time consuming. Thank you!!!


  2. Jason Pelican

    Colombian Empanada Recipe made with cornmeal (11)
    One thing your recipe doesn't mention that is crucial is that the cornmeal needs to be precooked cornmeal. If someone can't find Albers cornmeal, they need to know that they can substitute as long as it's precooked. For example, I use PAN, but there is also Goya's Masarepa Yellow corn meal


    • Lynne Sani

      Aren’t you cooking the corn meal in the boiling water per the recipe?


      • Isabel

        No, you still need to fry them to get a crispy shell, otherwise they wouldn't hold up.


  3. Steph

    Hi, would these work OK if I brushed some oil on them and baked them in the oven you think?


    • Isabel

      I haven't tried it. You won't get the same crunch but it can definitely work.


  4. Timothy Hobbs

    Hi, what is the recipe for the sauce please?


    • Isabel

      Here is the recipe for aji sauce


  5. Dulce

    Ok made them. And some cracked so I expected those to be greasy. But so were the ones that didn’t crack. I don’t know if I’m sealing them correctly. Maybe the dough was a little too dry. Help


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Colombian Empanada Recipe  made with cornmeal (2024)


What are Colombian empanadas made of? ›

These typical Colombian-style empanadas are tasty turnovers made with savory yellow corn dough stuffed with seasoned pork and beef mixed with cooked potatoes. The meat filling is typically made with cooked and shredded beef and pork, but here, we use ground meat to cut down in cooking time with similar tasty results.

Are empanadas usually corn or flour? ›

In Colombia, empanadas are a beloved street food that can be found in almost every city and town. They're typically made with a cornmeal dough (not corn flour) and are filled with a mixture of ground beef, potatoes, onions, and spices.

What is the difference between empanada and Colombian empanada? ›

Like the Venezuelan and Argentine empanada, the Colombian one has a half-moon shape. Its thickness is thinner, which helps make its texture crispier. They are also made with corn and some of the most popular are: Pipián: potato, hogao, egg, toasted peanuts and annatto.

Why do my empanadas crack? ›

The main ingredients are water and corn flour. If you don't work quickly, the dough will dry out and start to crack. Cracked empanada dough means that your empanadas will also have cracks in them, which means oil seeping into your filling in the fryer and drying out your empanada.

Are empanadas made with corn or wheat? ›

In Costa Rica, an empanada is turnover usually made with nixtamalized (lime treated) masa (corn dough); nevertheless, it could be made with doughs of cassava (yucca), green or ripe plantain, in addition to wheat flour. The empanada can be pan fried, deep fried or baked.

What are traditional empanadas made of? ›

Empanadas have their origin in the Spanish action Empanar connoting “wrap in bread.” Traditional empanadas hence are simply beef stuffing wrapped in pastry dough. Beef empanadas are small palm-sized meat pockets. They resemble the Arabian Samosas and Italian calzones.

What can I substitute for empanada dough? ›

What Can You Substitute for Empanada Dough? If you're looking for a shortcut, store-bought pie dough can be used to make empanadas. You may need to roll the dough out slightly thinner—it will produce a flakier result than typical empanada dough and is better for baking than frying.

What's the difference between masa and corn flour? ›

Unlike corn flour and cornmeal, masa is made from corn that has been treated with slaked lime. The process is called nixtamalization and that is what contributes to the distinctive flavour. Maseca is a popular brand of masa harina although some recipes simply call for maseca.

What country makes the best empanadas? ›

Argentina has become world-famous for their empanadas which are widely available in Buenos Aires and across the country as fast-food options and restaurant staples. As with many recipes, that of empanadas was shared through generations and carried to many other nations.

What is the difference between Argentine and Colombian empanadas? ›

Argentine empanadas are usually deliciously moist, so sauce is really optional here. In sharp contrast to their wheat-based primos argentinos, Colombian empanadas use corn as a base for the dough. These tasty treats are usually fried, making them crispier.

What is the fancy name for empanadas? ›

These are a few of the known names: Meat Pies (American) Empanadas (Latin/Spanish) Pastelillos (Latin/Spanish)

What is the difference between Colombian and Venezuelan empanadas? ›

Empanadas in Colombia most commonly use a ground-beef picadillo-type filling with potatoes and onions. In Venezuela, fresh farmers' cheeses are often stuffed inside, which makes a great snack or appetizer, but hungrier people should look to the pabellón filling.

Why put vinegar in empanada dough? ›

Adding a little vinegar to your dough will result in a tender, pliable, and flaky crust because it slightly inhibits gluten development, leading to a crust that is flakier and easier to work with. The great thing about vinegar is that you really only need a little bit of it to help your pie/empanada dough.

Which is better baked or fried empanadas? ›

Both cooking methods produce delicious empanadas. If you want a healthier merienda, bake them in the oven. If you're working with less time, frying them is the way to go.

What is the difference between Argentina and Colombian empanadas? ›

Whereas the Argentine empanada pastry almost melts in your mouth, Colombian empanadas are made with a golden cornmeal masa dough and fried until crisp.

What are arepas and empanadas made of? ›

Arepas are gluten free corn buns filled with beef, chicken, black beans, plantains, avocado, or a combination of all. Arepas fit almost every dietary restriction. Peter's Panas also has a wide variety of empanadas with different fillings such as chicken, beef, and black bean.

What is the difference between Spanish empanadas and Mexican empanadas? ›

The Spanish recipe was made with bread dough, the Mexican recipe with corn masa dough. This is where Mexican empanada history takes over. Each region in Mexico has their own version of the empanada.

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