Empanadas of the “Immaculate Conception”


Empanadas of the “Immaculate Conception”

With a soft, crumbly and almost sweet dough that embraces a moist, tasty and meaty filling, it is hard not to eat one after the other. These Empanadas do have a curious name though. Especially when you consider their addicting nature.

I didn’t choose their name. No.The nuns from the Mexican Convent of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception are to blame.It all began with Beatriz da Silva, the Portuguese woman who founded the order in Toledo, Spain.

Known to be shockingly beautiful, although destined to be the companion to Queen Isabel from Spain, she was locked up because of the Queen’s jealousy and alleged admiration from the King. Legend goes, that when Beatriz managed to flee, she was more beautiful and had a new found strength she used to establish a new Conceptionist order.The three Conceptionist nuns who arrived in Mexico City around the 1540’s, were also known to be strong. If not as pretty.

Aside from trying to evangelize the population, they combined Spanish and Mexican ingredients in their kitchens, as most Spanish nuns, with an intense passion and a ton of imagination. As most Spanish nuns, as well, their cooking instincts were led by an insatiable sweet tooth. That may explain the sweet elements both in the dough and the filling of these Empanadas, that were served time and again to entertain guests in this convent.And now you know, where the name comes from…

The dough can be used both for sweet or savory Empanadas. As its sweetness is so mild, it enhances the flavors in savory fillings, such as the Meat Picadillo in this one, and it dances along sweet dessert ones.

It can be made in a snap by mixing cream cheese, butter, all purpose flour and a pinch of salt in the mixer. Or by hand.

It was originally made with Nata instead of Cream Cheese. Nata, which is a thin layer formed after boiling fresh raw milk, and found throughout Mexico in Haciendas and Ranchos, is sweet, extremely white and thick.

And oh so irresistible.

If you have access to Nata, use it instead of Cream Cheese, as those pioneer Conceptionist nuns did. But truth is, many nuns use Cream Cheese these days too…

The dough is malleable and soft. Juju made one batch with his hands. Proud monster.

It is easy to roll out as it is elastic, soft and not so sticky. But do sprinkle some flour as you roll…

To cut the rounds, you can use a pastry cutter. I found the size I wanted, a 4 inch round, in a Tupperware. Which was also easy for Juju to use.

As you separate the rounds…

…brush the edges with a lightly beaten egg.

Spoon the filling right down the center.

The Meat Picadillo is included in the recipe below. Picadillo, has many variations, but it typically has as a base of ground meat seasoned with garlic, onion, tomato puree, spices and sometimes nuts, olives and sweet ingredients like raisins or dried fruits. A complex version of Picadillo is used in the legendary Chiles en Nogada.

This is a simpler version, that can be made a couple days ahead of time. Just take it out of the refrigerator when you are ready to fill those Empanadas (If you have leftover Picadillo, you can make tacos, stuff chiles, tamales… or eat it with a side of rice or tortillas!)

Close up the bundle in the shape of a turnover.

Seal the edges pressing your fingers.

To really seal the deal, go around with a fork, gently, so as not to make many holes in the dough…

Give the Empanada a final egg wash.

Here we go, one after the other…

Sprinkle with sesame seeds. It makes them look beautiful. I think Beatriz da Silva would approve.

The sesame seeds also give the Empanadas a light nutty and toasty accent.

And in the oven they go. You can also make them ahead of time and place them in the refrigerator (for a couple of days) or freezer (for weeks!) before baking them.

Take them out as you need them and eat them freshly baked. As they should.

Pati Jinich picadillo empanadas
I think that you do taste all of the flavor, all of it, behind the history of these Empanadas, in each single bite.

Picadillo Empanadas of the Immaculate Conception

Empanadas de Picadillo de la Inmaculada Concepción
15 medium empanadas
Pati Jinich
Course: Antojos, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: almonds, cinnamon, cloves, cream cheese, cumin, Empanadas, nata, olives, onion, pati’s mexican table, Picadillo, pork, raisins
Author:Pati Jinich
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Picadillo Empanadas of the Immaculate Conception recipe from Pati's Mexican Table Season 1, Episode 5 “Convent Food”


For the dough:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 oz, about 185 g cream cheese or fresh nata, at room temperature
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds

For the picadillo (makes about 4 cups):

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 lb pork shoulder or butt, or combination of pork, beef and veal, ground
  • 3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1 lb ripe tomatoes, pureed, or about 2 cups tomato puree
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • Pinch of cumin
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup Manzilla olives, chopped

To Prepare

To make the dough:
  • Beat the cream cheese with the butter in a mixer at medium speed, until it is creamy. Gently add the flour and salt and continue mixing for a minute more. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate from 15 minutes up to 24 hours.
  • After refrigerating, sprinkle flour over the countertop and roll out half the dough until its about 1/4 inch thick. For medium sized empanadas, cut out rounds of 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Continue until all of the dough is used.
  • Grease a baking sheet with butter. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the picadillo filling into the center of each round. Brush the edges of the round with the beaten egg. Fold a side of the circle over the filling across the other side. Press with your fingers as you close. Without breaking the dough, press with a fork over the edges to seal and make a design.
  • Place the empanadas on the baking sheet. When you fill the baking sheet, lightly brush their tops with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Bake the empanadas anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops have a golden tan and dough is cooked through. Serve hot.
To make the picadillo:
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for a couple of minutes, until it becomes translucent and soft. Incorporate chopped garlic and saute for about a minute until it becomes fragrant. Incorporate the meat and the salt and let it cook for about 8 minutes, until cooked and lightly browned.
  • Pour in tomato puree and let it season, stirring often, for 5 to 6 minutes, until it has deepened its color, thickened in consistency and lost the raw flavor. Pour in the chicken broth or water, cumin, cloves and cinnamon. Stir well and let it cook 15 minutes more.
  • Add the raisins, almond and olives, mix well and taste for seasoning. Cook for 5 more minutes. If needed, add more salt. The filling should be nice and moist.
  • Just remember, once it cools, it will dry a little more as it will absorb the juices. Turn off the heat. You can make the filling up to two days ahead of time, let it cool, cover and refrigerate.

50 comments on “Empanadas of the “Immaculate Conception”

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  1. Your sweetness combine with your knowledge of food and love of family so beautifully! That’s the best recipe EVER. LOVE every minute of each of your offerings. Just copied this recipe I hope to share with my grandchildren.

    Sharon ♥️

  2. Hola, Pati. Question is will you be coming to Austin, TX in the near future?? Quite a number of people would love to have you here in our beautiful city of Austin.

    Love all your recipes and your TV shows.

  3. I have someone in my house who won’t eat cream cheese and can’t have cheese any suggestions on good substitute? I also follow you on Instagram.

  4. I’d like to see an empanada de calabaza…pumpkin empanadas…here in Los Angeles, California we tend to eat sweet empanadas moreso than meat filled…also, on line I found a dough recipe that used a van of beer and no other leavening agent. The empanadas came out nice, light and did not have a beer taste. Have you seen a recipe like that before?

  5. Pati, Thank you for the empanada recipe. I would like to make these for the upcoming holiday season and desire to freeze them. Please tell me, if they are frozen, must I thaw before baking or simply place frozen on the cookie sheet and bake.
    I enjoy your show and the recipes you share with us.
    Thank you, Judy

  6. I am a huge fan of your work and I’ve made these for the last two years but then my daughter needed to go gluten free and every single empanada dough recipe I tried was awful.

    So, I came back to this recipe and tried it with “Better Batter” gluten free flour and it worked!

    Great to have these back in our rotation. Just thought I’d post in case others are out there searching.

  7. I enjoy this recipe. I did find that the pastry was a little too rich for me, so I tweaked it a little:

    8 oz nata or cream cheese
    2 1/3 C flour
    *1/2 C (1 stick) of butter*
    *1/4 teaspoon of baking powder*
    1/2 teaspoon of salt
    *Ice cold water as needed*

    Thanks Patti!

  8. SIM-PLI-CITY!!! Oh, Pati, I LOVE your recipe’s and show. So simple, so easy. Keep it up. Deliciously simple Mexican!!!

  9. Pati,
    Que rico!! Acabo de hacer unas empanadas usando esta masa, pero las llene algunas con frijoles refritos, cebolla, chiles, y queso asadero y las otras con carne, aji de color, cebolla, jalapeno. Salieron perfectos, dulces, suaves, sabrosas.

    Gracias por la receta!!

  10. Hola Pati!

    Thank you for your recipes. I would like to know if this empanadas can be fried? Mi esposo es mexicano y quisiera saber la receta de salsa de queso, si sabes de una por favor mandamela. Usualmente ordenamos salsa de queso cuando vamos para un restaurante mexicano and we dip the chips in it y sabe deliciosa! Muchisimas gracias!

    1. Hola Elizabeth,
      Estas empanadas no se fríen, van al horno. Y claro, con mucho gusto voy a tratar de poner una receta para salsa de queso pronto.

      1. Hola Pati!

        Gracias por responder. Hice las empanadas con picadillo (a lo puertorriqueño) pero las empandadas sabian mucho a cream cheese, algo que a mi esposo mexicano no le gusta, jeje. Trate la misma masa de empandadas al otro dia, pero las rellene con calabaza, y que delicia. Le agregue un poco de pumpkin spice, vainilla y un poco de azucar a la masa y quedo fantastica! A mis hijos les encantaron y mi esposo quiso mas! Aunque no nos gusto mucho con la carne, si nos gusto a nuestro paladar en lo dulce. La verdad es que me gusta la masa por que verdaderamente uno puede jugar con la receta y da muy buenos resultados. Voy a tratar de hacer la misma masa pero en vez de cream cheese la voy hacer con mascarpone chesse como otra persona lo hiso. Muchisimas gracias!!

  11. can you Please, give me the measure ments to this recepie mom had. A friend brought it back from Venezuela..
    lbs. hamburger meat
    tsp italian seasoning
    tsp garlic
    sm onion.. chopped fine
    medium bell pepper, chopped fine
    drops hot pepper sauce
    tsp salt
    can tomatoe paste

    She use to make them all the time for holidays, etc.
    we loved them. but in her cook book I did not see how much of this or that.
    thank you:Brenda

  12. Empanadas.. Fried meat pies from Venezuela:
    not sure of the ingrediants measurements are:
    hamburger meat…. tsp. italian seasoning…..tsp garlic…. small onion. chippied fine….. medium bell pepper, chopped fine…. drops hot pepper sauce… tsp. salt… can tomatoe paste.
    i don’t recall having how much this or that, but I had put it in the church cook book and they must have.. can you tell me for sure..
    … lbs. hamberger meat
    … tsp. italian seasoning
    … tsp. garlic
    … small onion
    .. tsp salt
    … can tomatoe paste
    drops hot pepper suace

    I would like to make them like mom did. She it from a friend who lived in Venezuela for a time, she came back and showed mom…
    Thank you VERY much..
    Brenda Blankenship

  13. I want to do this empanadas but I wish I could fill them with some cajeta what do U think is it possible I love your tv show by the way 😉

    1. Absolutely leslie! You can fill them with whatever filling you want and Cajeta will be exquisite. Post a photo on my FB page!

  14. Pati, I have a request for a recipe called Turcos, my mother told me that the recipe was from Monterrey, Mexico. They are like enpanadas and it is pork loin meat which is cooked (maybe boiled) then chopped and cooked again in a little lard with chopped raisins, pecans, almonds, sugar (maybe it is piloncillo, or brown sugar) powder cinnamon, cloves and red chili powder. I do not know if these are the correct ingredients or the amounts. Maybe you or one of your viewers knows what I am talking about and could give me the recipe. I also, need the recipe for the dough.
    Thank you, in advance for any consideration you give to my request.
    Rosa Maria Herrera Magallanes

    1. Rosa, These sound delicious! I don’t have a recipe off-hand, but I will try to get something up soon. Thank you very much for taking a moment to write me with your request. All the best.

  15. HI Pati, Do you have any suggestions for side dishes or salsa to serve with these? I have made the filling, which is yummy, and will serve the empanadas tomorrow. Thank you for your wonderful recipes.

  16. Hola Pati!
    Prepare esta masa para empanadas, pero en vez de queso crema y la imposiblidad de encontrar nata aqui, se me ocurrio usar queso Mascarpone que es mas dulce que el queso crema y me quedo maravillosa, sedoza y delicada. Hice la mitad rellenas de dulce y la mitad saladas. De lujo!

    1. Hi Evelyne, Unfortunately I don’t have this recipe in Spanish. If that changes, I will be sure to post it for you.

    2. Google and type “translate”. A window comes up to enter text and language you want. This may not be perfect as I can’t read Spanish so I can’t tell, but hopefully close enough…

      1 libra de hombro de cerdo o culo, o combinación de carne de cerdo, ternera y ternera, cortada en trozos de 3 a 4 pulgadas
      2 dientes de ajo
      1/4 cebolla blanca
      1 zanahoria pelada, cortada en dos
      2 hojas de laurel
      1/4 cucharadita de tomillo seco o un par de ramitas frescas
      5 granos de pimienta negra
      1 cucharadita de kosher o sal de mar de curso
      3 cucharadas de aceite de oliva
      1 diente de ajo finamente picado
      1/4 taza de cebolla blanca picada
      1 libra de tomates maduros puré, o alrededor de 2 tazas de puré de tomate
      Toda la carne cocida finamente picada
      1 1/2 tazas de la carne de caldo de cocina o caldo de pollo
      3/4 cucharadita de sal kosher o grosera de mar
      Pizca de comino
      Pizca de clavo molido
      1 ceilán o palillo de cinamón verdadero
      1/4 taza de pasas
      1/4 taza de almendras asadas ligeramente tostadas
      1/4 taza de aceitunas manzanilla
      Coloque los trozos de carne en una olla con 2 dientes de ajo, 1/4 de cebolla blanca, zanahoria, hojas de laurel, tomillo, pimienta y una cucharadita de sal. Cubrir con agua y colocar a fuego medio-alto. Cocine a fuego lento durante 20 a 25 minutos, hasta que la carne esté cocida. Apague el fuego y deje que la carne y el caldo se enfríen. Retire la carne con una cuchara ranurada. Cortar finamente con un cuchillo afilado y reserva. Colar el caldo en un recipiente y reservar.
      Calentar el aceite de oliva en una sartén grande a fuego medio-alto. Añadir la cebolla y saltear durante un par de minutos, hasta que se convierte en translúcido y suave. Incorporar el ajo picado y saltear por un minuto hasta que se vuelve fragante.
      Verter el puré de tomate y dejar que sazone, revolviendo a menudo, durante 5 a 7 minutos, hasta que se ha profundizado en el color, espesado en la consistencia y perdió el sabor crudo.
      Incorporar la carne picada, el caldo de cocción y la sal. Mezclar todo y dejar cocer durante 3 a 4 minutos.
      Espolvorear en el comino, los clavos y el palo de canela. Cubra la olla, baje el fuego a medio y cocine durante 8 a 10 minutos más.
      Descubra la olla, agregue las pasas, las almendras y las aceitunas, mezcle bien y pruebe el condimento. Si es necesario añadir más sal y un poco más de la carne de caldo de cocina por lo que el relleno es agradable y húmedo.
      Sólo recuerde, una vez que se enfría, se seque un poco más, ya que absorbe los jugos. Giro del calor. Puede hacer el llenado hasta dos días antes de tiempo. Dejar enfriar, cubrir y refrigerar.

  17. Thank you so much Pati for the recipe of the pumpkin empanadas.
    The pastry I tasted from Corpus Christi had like anise or some kind of spice that made it sweet in the empanadas. I hope you can help me. I loved their empanadas with pumpkin and my family did too. I hope you can help. Thank you so much Pati.

  18. Mmmmm… I really enjoy your site Pati. Each recipe not only is made with good ingredients but come with a sense of tradition and a nice personal story. This recipe makes me sad though – I found a similar dough recipe from Cuba long ago. Falling in love with empanadas after many trips to Chile, I substituted the Cuban dough recipe I found because it was more moist and tastier than the traditional Chilean one. The cream cheese was the reason. And oy, my secret is out. I have to find Nata and give it a try. In San Francisco that shouldn’t be too hard. Anyway, all of your things are wonderful. Mil gracias!

    1. Matt, thank YOU for your comments! I agree, the cream cheese in the dough makes it so soft and flaky. In Mexico it is very hard to find nata in grocery stores, not so much in the US, but if you find it, give it a try! It gives it a Rancho flavor: fabulous.

    1. Thank you Shayma! Tell me, how do you eat malaa-ee? I used to eat nata, scooped right out from the pot, spread on crusty fresh bread…. With hot chocolate on the side.