Picadillo Empanadas

I absolutely love making picadillo! It's easy, cheap, filling and quick to make. This was definitely one  my college survival meals. The literal word picadillo translates to "mince" in Spanish. A version of picadillo can usually be found in various Latin American countries. Typically served with rice and plantains, it can sometimes be used to stuff peppers or as a filling for empanadas. 

My recipe for empanada dough is for Colombian style empanada. The dough is made from corn flour which gives the empanada a nice nutty flavor and crunch when fried. If you're in a time pinch, feel free to also use store bought flour empanada dough. They can usually be found in the frozen section by the Latin products. 


Difficulty:  Intermediate   Yields:  6-8 servings    Prep Time: 15 mn Cook Time:  40 mn



  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • 1/2 cup white onion, finely diced

  • 1/4 cup carrots, diced

  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely diced

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 tbs tomato paste

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/2 tsp oregano

  • 3 tbs tomato sauce

  • 3 tbs water

  • 1/2 cup cooked potatoes, diced

  • salt and pepper to taste

For Empanadas

  • 1 tbs sazon with achiote

  • salt

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

  • 1 1/2 cup harina pan

  • Oil for frying

Tools You Will Need:

  • Large skillet

  • Ziplock bag with sides cut out

  • Large cutting board or flat surface


For Picadillo: Over medium high heat, add oil to a large skillet and brown the beef. 

Once browned, add onion and carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Once onions are fragrant, add red bell pepper and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add tomato paste, cumin and oregano. Stir to combine and cook tomato paste for 1 minute. Reduce to medium low heat, add tomato sauce and water. Once carrots are tender, add in cooked potatoes and roughly mash them using a fork. Remove picadillo and set aside.

For Dough: In a large mixing bowl, add sazon seasoning and salt to warm water. Stir until well combined. Mix in half of the harina pan at a time and whisk until fully absorbed. Allow dough to rest 2-3 minutes. If dough is still too runny to form into a solid ball, add in one tablespoon of harina pan  at a time. Slightly wet hands and form golf-ball size balls and set aside.

To Make Empanadas: Cut out the sides of a large zip lock bag so it's able to open entirely on the fold. Spray with non-stick spray. Place a dough ball in the middle of the bag, close bag so dough is covered. Using another cutting board or flat surface, apply even pressure to the dough to form empanadas. Add in 1-1/2 tbs of filling to dough on one half, fold opposite half over and seal edges tightly. Fry empanadas in 350 degree oil for 3-5 minutes on each side.