Empanada Dough

4.50 from 6 votes

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Empanada dough is the key to making tender, flaky empanadas. Use this recipe to make empanada discs at home and you’ll never want to buy them frozen again!

empanada ready for baking in palm of man's hand

Mexican recipes are a specialty here on Kevin is Cooking. Moving down into Central and South America, the food is just as amazing. So naturally, we have plenty of empanada recipes.

The first step in making savory or sweet empanadas is making empanada dough. Now, some people may argue that the filling is the important part, but I believe that perfect dough is the key.  

If you normally buy frozen empanada discs, you’re not alone. After all, they’re convenient and not too expensive, but the quality and flavor of homemade dough is so much better!

Making perfect empanada dough is easy, too. There are just a few important guidelines to follow. Don’t worry; I’ll walk you through the process with step by step photos and a video tutorial, too.

Empanada Dough Ingredient Notes

The ingredients you’ll need for this recipe are very similar to what is in a simple dough for pies or biscuits. I do add one extra ingredient for flavor, but it’s completely optional.

  • Lard– Ask any true southerner and they are likely to say that lard is the secret ingredient in creating delicious baked goods. Yes, it’s very high in saturated fat, but it makes a big difference in the tenderness of empanada dough. Not to mention, it’s responsible for the tenderness and flakiness of any crust!
  • Achiote oil– This is the optional ingredient I mentioned above. Achiote oil is a combination of annatto seeds and olive oil. It has a peppery aroma, but the flavor is sweet and slightly nutty. It’s a staple ingredient in Mexican, Latin, and Spanish cuisines, especially for dishes that need a pop of yellow color.
  • All purpose flour– This is pretty much the standard in any type of pastry dough. The recipe can also be made with white whole wheat flour. Some cooks like to use a blend of the two, which also works.


This recipe creates savory empanada dough for baking.

If you want to make dough for fried empanadas, add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the flour called for in this recipe.
For sweet empanadas, omit the achiote oil and add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the flour.

Step by Step Photos

These photos are here to help you visualize the process of making and rolling the dough for empanadas. The recipe card at the bottom of the post explains exactly how to make the recipe.

Recipe Video

To see the process of making empanada dough from start to finish, watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

If you have a food processor, you can (if you’d like to) use that instead of a pastry cutter to combine the ingredients

Tips for Creating Empanada Discs

  1. Chill the dough before rolling and cutting the discs.

    The empanada dough will be very soft at first. To keep it from tearing as you roll it out, it’s important to chill it for about 30 minutes before you start working with it.
  1. Keep the dough covered.

    When empanada dough sits out for too long, it can become dry and may crack. To prevent this from happening, place a kitchen towel over any dough that you aren’t working with.
  1. Consider using an empanada press.

    A useful, inexpensive kitchen tool for cutting and sealing wrappers and dough for empanadas, perogies, ravioli, calzones, and dumplings is an empanada press (aff. link). It makes cutting, filling, folding, and crimping the edges closed SO easy!
overhead: cutting empanada discs from dough


Can homemade empanada dough be frozen?

Yes, either before or after cutting dough into individual empanada discs, it may be frozen for up to 3 months. To prevent discs from sticking together, place a piece of wax paper or parchment between each one. Store them laying flat inside of a freezer-safe container or storage bag.

Baking Empanada Dough

For instructions on how to fill and bake the dough, check out my post for beef empanadas. Or, for a sweet dessert, see my posts for baking rhubarb OR apple empanadas!

empanada ready for baking in palm of man's hand

Empanada Dough

4.50 from 6 votes
Empanada dough is the key to making tender, flaky empanadas. Use this recipe to make empanada discs at home and you'll never want to buy them frozen again!
Servings: 24 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Chill Dough: 30 minutes
Total: 45 minutes


  • 375 g all-purpose flour (3 cups) sifted, plus more for dusting work area
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup lard 6 ounces, or use unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp achiote oil (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup milk warm


  • Add the flour and salt to a large bowl. Using your fingers, a pastry blender or food processor, cut in the lard, blending well. Add the achiote oil and blend again to mix it in thoroughly (See Notes 1 and 2).
  • Add the egg yolk, then the milk in small amounts, blending until small dough clumps start to form. Continue until all milk has been used and dough comes together. Press dough into a ball, scraping up bits in bottom of bowl.
  • Cut empanada dough into 2 or 4 pieces, press to flatten slightly, then cover each with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (See Note 3). At this point, dough can also be frozen for later use.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a thin sheet (1/8th of an inch thick). Use 4 or 6-inch round biscuit cutter or cutting side of an empanada press to cut out empanada discs. Gather and re-roll dough pieces as needed to make remaining empanada discs.



  1. This recipe is for baking the dough. If you want to fry the empanadas, add 1 teaspoon of baking powder to the flour in Step 1.
  2. If using this for a dessert empanada, omit the achiote oil and add 1 tablespoon of sugar in Step 1.
  3. I typically freeze one disc for later use, as each makes 12 empanada discs (depending on the size cutter you use).


Calories: 79kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 100mg | Potassium: 28mg | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 0.7mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image for Pinterest (and shown): Empanada Dough with Achiote Oil - Kevin is Cooking


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. 4 stars
    Good job on an empanada dough that works well in the oven!

    Retired baker and pastry chef here with a couple of (hopefully helpful) tips:

    — Using butter instead of lard: much as I deeply *adore* butter, I’ve gotta give a pretty hard nope on this one. Butter has a much higher moisture content than lard, which is going to affect both the workability and flakiness of the dough. It’ll be *okay,* but neither as flaky nor as tender as your lovely original recipe. A better vegetarian option would be vegetable shortening. Unfortunately, there’s zero flavor in it, but there is a “butter-flavored” option still on the market that hits on both the flavor and the flaky. Just don’t look too deeply into the health side of this stuff. It’s darkside science. There’s also a coconut-based vegetable shortening that looks promising, less nutritionally terrifying, and possibly a good flavor partner for sweet empanadas or savory tropical ones (jerk chicken empanadas, anyone?). Haven’t tried it myself, though, so can’t say for sure.

    — Dry, crumby dough issues: the same perfectly-weighed recipe is going to act differently with microchanges in the natural environment, the kitchen environment, the *ingredients themselves* (for sure), and in your own hands. As with so many things, you just have to do it a few times until your hands know how the dough is supposed to feel. If you already know it’s too dry, you’re ahead of the game! Add a little more moisture, bit by bit, being careful not to overmix or rough-handle it (kinda fluff it with fingertips instead) until it seems right, and then finish mixing. Don’t worry: it’s science, and it is *also* love and attention. You totally got this!