Insanely practical, that’s what these empanadas are. Perfect to make ahead for gatherings, as you can eat them hot or not. And they are oh, so, comforting: think of a tuna casserole in the good old style, but revamped with great Mexican flair and then flipped and turned into individual size. They withstand hours of travel and will remain delicious until you are ready to take a bite.
With that in mind, I made a full batch last Saturday to bring to a friend’s house. So thrilled were the boys, and I, with the packets as they came out of the oven (crispy on top, soft layers of barely sweet dough as you get close to the middle and a rich tasting filling) that by the time we put our jackets on, and I went back to the kitchen to transfer the empanadas from the baking sheet to a platter, I gasped at the sight of the only two remaining…
1. Make a double batch.
2. If you don’t, refrain from telling your friends about the fabulous thing you prepared but couldn’t bring because you finished it before hopping in the car. They won’t like it.
A simple way to describe an empanada is a turnover-looking packet stuffed with one or another kind of filling. The story goes that they’ve existed since the Spanish Crusades as they were perfect travel food. It was the Spaniards who brought them to Mexico.
From the Spanish word “empanar,” which can translate as “the act of covering something with bread or bread dough,” aside from practical, they are also versatile. They can go from mini to giant, from savory to sweet, from a tasty appetizer or funky main meal to a sweet bite, depending on the fillings.
I can think of three things that distinguish empanadas from quesadillas. First, whereas quesadillas are made with flour or corn dough (or flour or corn tortillas) empanadas are made with flour dough. That doesn’t make empanada variations limited. Oh no. There are as many fillings and as many flour doughs as one can think of. One of the fluffiest ones are made with puff pastry, called hojaldre in Spanish.
Delightful, because as it bakes, the seemingly flat dough develops its multilayered structure: paper-thin layers of dough puff up with air, and delicious butter, in between them.
You can make your own puff pastry or simply buy it at the frozen section at the store. Just be sure to thaw before you roll out.
Then make rounds. You can make them as big or as little as you like. Here I am cutting 5” rounds. Brush with egg wash (just a beaten mix of egg and water) around the edges. Then add the filling.
A second difference between empanadas and quesadillas is that it is pretty hard to find a quesadilla that is sweet, for a good reason. Whereas not only are there plenty of sweet empanadas but even when they are savory, they have a sweet element to them, like the Tuna Minilla that is going in here….
Minilla is a very popular way of cooking fresh fish and also canned tuna along the Mexican Gulf Coast, especially in Veracruz.
It is so tasty and its flavor shows the impact that kitchens in Veracruz received from it being a port of entry to the Spaniards. It has a base of cooked onion, garlic, plenty of tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, along with the capers, olives, raisins and herbs the Spaniards brought. Pretty much like the Fish a la Veracruzana style. The sauce gets cooked until moist and the flavors have been completely absorbed and combined.
You can eat Minilla as a main dish on top of rice. You can use it to make sandwiches or tortas. But my favorite way to use it is inside of empanadas. And I like to add generous amounts…
Then seal the empanadas by folding the circle over the filling. Then use a fork to not only decorate the edges but to seal them even better. In Mexico, many cooks know a fancy technique of decorating and sealing the edges of the empanadas so they look like encaje or embroidery. I go with the good old fork….
The third thing that distinguishes empanadas from quesadillas, is that empanadas are mostly baked. Not fried or cooked over the stovetop on a comal or skillet.
Once in the oven, the puff pastry layers do what they must… puff and puff and puff, the top crisps, the middle gets moist, and the filling bonds with the packet.
Off you go!
Tuna Minilla Empanadas
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For the filling:
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup chopped white onion
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds chopped ripe tomatoes or about 6 roma tomatoes
- 2 7-ounce cans tuna drained and shredded
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped raisins
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped manzanilla olives stuffed with pimientos
- 1/4 cup seeded and roughly chopped pickled jalapeño chiles store bought or make your own, more to taste
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 3 tablespoons chopped Italian or flat-leaf parsley
To form the empanadas:
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1.2 pound package frozen puff pastry thawed, or homemade puff pastry
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, but not smoking, stir in the onion and cook until it is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until completely cooked, softened and mashed up and pasty looking, about 15 minutes.
- Toss in the tuna and with a spatula or fork, mix it well with the tomato mix, making sure there are no big chunks. Add the bay leaves, sugar, oregano, thyme, salt and mix well. Add the raisins, olives, pickled jalapenos, capers, fresh parsley and mix well. Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes, the mixture should be very moist but not too watery. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Remove the bay leaves and set aside.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350. In a small mixing bowl beat the egg along with the water.
- Gently flour your countertop and rolling pin and roll out one thawed sheet of pastry to about 1/8” thick. Cut out 5” to 6” rounds with a cookie cutter or anything that can act as a mold. With a pastry brush, brush the edges of the rounds with the egg wash. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of tuna in the center of each round, fold as a turnover or quesadilla to make a half moon, pushing the tuna inside of the empanada at the same time as you press the edges of the dough to seal it. Gently press the edge with the tip of a fork, this will act as decoration but also help seal the edges. Place the empanada on a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the rounds and the second sheet of puff pastry. When all empanadas are formed, brush their tops with the remaining egg wash.
- Place them in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until crisp, puffed up and golden brown.
62comments inTuna Minilla Empanadas
Your show has greatly enriched my life!! Gracias! I would like to make these Manilla Empanadas and am wondering, what type of canned tuna do you usually use? I plan on doubling the recipe, but want to get it just right. Thank you!
Hi! You can go ahead and use any kind of tuna as all the flavor to the minilla will come from the rest of the ingredients. I normally go with water canned tuna because you are going to be frying it and do not want to have too much oil in your filling. Good luck and enjoy the empanadas!
What temp do you bake it?
It is at 350F Emily, good luck!
This is as delicious as Pati says, and it’s one of the best dishes to make from pantry staples + toms and parsley (or cilantro, as I used). Next time I may try another commenter’s suggestion of crisping corn tortillas rather than baking for 30 mins in puff pastry. Of course, even purchased pastry was delectable, but it’s hot weather and tortillas would eliminate oven use and reduce prep time as well as lower fat content. Thank you, Pati.
Great ideas guys, enjoy and have fun 😉
Hola Pati! I am looking forward to making the tuna empanadas. Can these be frozen after baking? Love your shows!
Oh I recommend waiting to bake them until right before serving. You can assemble and freeze them in a tightly sealed container, or snugly wrapped in plastic wrap. Then you can thaw them before baking, and enjoy!
I have made these empanadas so many times because they are so good (I don’t even usually like canned tuna!) I have prepared and froze before baking and baked and then froze and reheated in oven. No problem either way. I usually double or triple the batch and always wish I made more…they’re that good!
I’ve made the empanadas a few times and they are always a big hit. Tonight I used corn tortillas that I heated/crisped a little and they wee a wonderful way to eat the tuna minilla! Thanks for the great recipe.
I’m so glad you enjoy the recipes, Donna!
I loved the recipe!
I left out some of the ingredients with I don’t like (olives, capers and jalapeños) and they still came out great!
I just enjoyed your show on Tuna Casserole. I know you say use one sheet of Filo but it looked like you used several sheets. Will one sheet really work and puff up on it’s own?
Hi Dyandra, Yes, one sheet should puff up on its own. Hope you try to casserole!
Not fillo, puff pastry.
Hi Pati- I made these this weekend and they were a hit! My husband and I loved them, and I used leftover filling to make calzones. I am Jewish from Argentina and I love the stories of your family’s Jewish roots and adopted Mexican customs. This coming Passover we are going to try Mexican dishes from your cookbook. Thanks!
Hi Natalia, So happy you and your husband enjoyed the empanadas! And THANK YOU for getting my cookbook — you will have to let me know what you end up making for Passover.
Hola Pati! Estas empanadas se ven súper sabrosisimas. Tengo ganas de hacerlas pero tengo una pregunta, se puede hacer una forma de pai con esta receta en lugar de empanadas? No tengo tiempo después del trabajo para hacer empanadas. Si es que sí se puede, me podrías decir como? Gracias. P.D. Me encanta verte en Créate TV!
Aquí está Claudia, provecho! http://patijinich.com/pati_2020/2014/01/tuna-minilla-casserole/
I have tried your tuna empenadas. It’s delicious and everybody likes it. I have watch your TV show today and I would love to have the recipe of beef barbacoa.
I have tried your tuna empenada. It’s delicious and everybody likes it.
I watch your Mesican cooking on Create and I love it. Could you please send me recipe for Carnitasd and the green salsa.
Hi Suzy, Thank you for watching. Here goes:
Salsa Verde Cruda
Quisiera saber si me pudiera mandar la reseta de su Mexican Asian cooking,muy agradecida.
Leah Eselgroth Gold
Thank you for sending me this link, obviously we are of one Mind. thank you so much, these look delicious and just what I envisioned.
Blessings to you and yours.
Pati,quisieramos que fuera tan hamable y nos diga,la direcion del restaurante de su papa,pues queremos ir y queremos aprobechar la oportunidad que vamos a la ciudad de Mexico,le agradesemos anticipadamente con su direccion,
I made these for a work potluck and everyone loved them! I don’t even like tuna and I ate one! Muy buena receta!
Todas tus recetas se ven deliciosas! Quiero hacer estas empanadas y tengo una pregunta, a mi me encantan echarle a todo salsa, que tipo de salsa va bien con las empadas?
Me parece que una salsa verde le fa fenomenal! Aunque ya tiene chiles jalapeños en escabeche adentro tambbién, le puedes poner un poco más…
Acabo de descubrir tu web y está fabulosa. EStoy organizando la fiesta de cumple de mi hija y por primera vez en la vida estoy tratando de que todo sea ¨home made¨ y hacerlo yo misma. Me preguntaba si las empanadas se conservan en el refrigerador y cuánto tiempo. Estaba planeando hacerlas un viernes por la noche para la fiesta del domingo por la tarde. Agradeceré cualquier consejo. Saludos, Miriam
Si las puedes conservar en el refrigerador de viernes a domingo sin problema, pero sin hornear. Hornéalas justo antes de servirlas para que estén más ricas…
Si las puedes conservar en el refrigerador de viernes a domingo sin problema, pero sin hornear. Hornéalas justo antes de servirlas para que estén más ricas…
Hi Patti, Is there an 800 number that I can call to order your cookbook. Are all the recipes from you T.V. show?? I’m very much a chicken lover, can’t wait to try your Chicken with tamarind. While reading your story of your Mother and Grandmother, it brought back memories of my mother hacking off the head of chicken on a tree stump and watching the headless chicken running around….Is that where the saying “Running around, like a chicken with his head off,” came from??
Thank you, Irene
Hola Patti,no hemos podido volver a ver su rograma aqui en San Diego,y pues nos gustaria volver a ver su programa lo podiamos ver en PBS,pues era muy agradable verla cocinar y tomar sus recetas tan sabrosas y faciles de seguir,esperamos volver a verla en
Patti, Can I assemble the Tuna Minilla Empanadas ahead of time and refrigerate them, also can they be frozen? I ask because I cook for two.
Can I also substitute kalamata olives with a few tablespoons of chopped red roasted peppers??
I have all the ingredients on hand, except the puff pastry, I have to restock my freezer. I will be making this recipe today.
I watch you show on Create T.V. Love it.
Hola Irene, I’m so happy you are trying this recipe! Yes, you may make them ahead and refrigerate or freeze – I recommend waiting to bake them until right before serving. Just assemble and store in the refrigerator or freezer in a tightly sealed container, or snugly wrapped in plastic wrap. Thaw before baking if frozen. And, of course, you can sub red roasted peppers for the olives. Thank you so much for writing to me. I hope you enjoy the empanadas!
LOOVE YOUR SHOW!!!! I LOVE YOUR RECIPIES!!! I’m a filipina but love Mexican food..your recipies are awesome!
love, love your show..I’m a filipina married to a mexican husband who knows how to cook very well. But, watching your show gives me inspiration to learn how to think & cook mexican dishes because your recipies are very easy to follow…KEEP UP THE EXECELENT TV SHOWS!!!!
Pati, Congratulations for your show.
It is so awesome to watch you cooking all those delicious recipes, they bring me good memories when I was a child. Originally I am from Veracruz (the city) I have been living in Austin (for a long time), I would love to see more recipes with seafood, like arroz a la tumbada, I loooooove seafood. CONGRATULATIONS for your book as well. 🙂
All your recipes are amazing!
Hola Isa, I’m so happy the show brings back memories for you! Thank you so much for writing to me!! I will try to post a recipe for arroz a la tumbada soon.
gracias por esta deliciosa reseta,como siempre facil de aser y ponerla en la mesa para saborear sus delicias. Mi esposo quiere saber el apellido de su abuelito de Bratislaba,sindo como le platique que mi esposo nacio alla y es sobrevibiente dela segunda guerra.Le mandamos las gracias anticipadamente.
Sarita y Ernesto
Great recipe but can you please include the Metric measuring system for us Australians? We haven’t dealt with pounds and ounces for the past 40 years (my whole life!).
Molly, found this for you http://www.metric-conversions.org/ ; )
Disculapa no me podrias poner la receta de las empanadas de atun en espanol? gracias
Hola Rocio: ahora solo tengo el sitio en inglés! Espero empezar a poner en español pronto, pero mientras, tal vez quieras copiar la receta y ponerla en Google Translate? Saludos!
Hola Pati!! soy Tammy Justus – desde Portland! 🙂 Apenas descubri tu website y se me anotojaron las emapanadas de atun, las hice ayer y quedaron deliciosas!! Mil felicidades por tan grandes logros and I look forward to trying many many more recipes! con carino, tammy.
Hi Pati! I learned about you on the CHEW today. You are the Latin Pioneer Woman!!!!!! I just purchased your cookbook. I can’t wait to begin preparing mexican food at home. I love love love mexican food and can’t wait to begin cooking. Thank you for making the food so easy to prepare. I look forward to seeing your show on PBS. God Bless you!
Jolene, Thank you so much for buying the cookbook!! I hope you enjoy the recipes. Please let me know if you have any questions at any time.
you are the best the Latin Paula Deen. Your teaching skills are very simple and easy to understand. Keep up the great work. Wishing you all the best.
Thank you so, so much!!
Interesting recipes, good photos, very tasty resemble the Mediterranean cuisine which we do in Spain. We invite you to visit my blog from Spain, with traditional recipes from the State of Valencia. In my blog you can find a translator to your language
This week “The Giraboix” in http://valenciagastronomic.blogspot.com.es
Going to lose?
Thank you, Chef Gonin! I will have to check out your blog.
Pati, I LOOOOOOOVE your show! My daughters ages 5, 7 also love to watch with me. I love how you describe your food and love reading your blog and recipes. So glad I found you on the Create channel! We love your accent and my daughters love to imitate it. 🙂 Keep up the great work.
Anna, gracias!!! I am so happy to hear your girls watch your show with you AND that they imitate my accent: it cracks me up when my boys do the same (qhich is quite often!)
me transportan a Veracruz! tengo que probarlas 🙂
Just made a batch this week… they fly away from the kitchen each single time. Wishing that will happen to yours too.
These empanadas look great. I would like to make them ahead and freeze them for a trip to the beach this spring. What are your recommendations, bake then freeze or assemble, freeze, and bake when I get to my destination. Many thanks for your wonderful show and website.
Glen Allen, VA