Delicioso Buenos Aires

In Argentina, and other Latin American neighboring countries, a classic aperitif/easy meal is the beloved empanada.

The empanada is best summarized as a mini-calzone. Empanadas come in different sizes but generally have the shape and size of a sweet potato (though neither taste nor appear like one), and are filled with a variety of stuffing options.

Goofing Off in Empanada Cooking Class
Goofing Off in Empanada Cooking Class
There are two ways to cook the empanada’s dough-surrounding-stuffing contents –
1) baking
2) frying

I recommend baked empanadas hands down and will go so far as to whole heartedly encourage the reader to avoid fast-food McDonald-like fried empanadas if at all possible.

My favorite empanada is the (baked) verdura y queso with spinach and cheese stuffing and my least favored are any ones that are fried or bear the name humita – corn in an unfavorable white sauce.

My Argentine webmaster would like to note that my vegetarian taste is hardly Argentine, and to advise readers of that since meat is to Argentines, as snow is to Eskimos, a “meat” (“carne”) empanada requires classification: carne suave, carne picante, or carne salteña…

(Meat-eaters will have to conduct their own gastronomic research for further details…)

The ubiquitous food item sold at fast-food chains along Buenos Aires’ downtown streets allows for ample opportunity for prolific empanada-sampling.

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We’re getting better!
Culinarily speaking, empanadas are often present gathering of Argentine friends who order empanadas, as we North Americans would do at an informal pizza party. The host will take out a piece of paper and mark down the different requests as we would topping choices: Jamón con queso (ham and cheese), Carne (meat), Verdura (vegetarian), Queso y Cebolla (cheese and onion), etc…

Note that the empanada, if served well, is piping hot, and contents have a tendency to ooze. Thus, the recommended form for handling an empanada is with a mix of reverence and discipline. (It will spill down your chin and splotch clothing given the opportunity).

The name empanada, in the author’s guestimation, is an expansion of the word pan (bread), and means, “embreaded” (i.e. its contents are surrounded by dough).

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Someday we could be as good as him
The key to identifying the empanadas’ contents (which are surrounded by the calzone shell and cannot be seen) is possible thanks to an index which is included on a slip of paper slipped conveniently into the empanada delivery box (exactly like a pizza box). The repulgue, or the trim where the empanada dough has been ‘closed off’ around the dough prior to baking, is pinched, twisted, or otherwise demarcated in a special way according to the empanada’s contents.

While the largest empanada delivery chain in Argentina can be visited online, the best empanadas must be visited and tried in person at the non-presumptuous, “La Continental.” There are approximately five locations, one being at Talcahuano 1034 near the lovely Recoleta neighborhood. An empanada at La Continental goes for about US$0.60 each.

Not bad for palate-paradise.


Deb Miller can be reached via her websites traveljewish.com. and lingosite.com.