Empanaditas and Pastelitos add variety and Dominican flavor to your hors d'oeuvres platter. This recipe give you the choice to use a chicken, vegan, beef, pork, or cheese fillings.
Empanadas and pastelitos are not unique to the Dominican Republic, in fact, they can be found in pretty much every Spanish-speaking country in one shape or form, baked or fried, and in a variety of sizes. Each Spanish-speaking country has adapted this recipe to their own tastes and favorite ingredients.
In the DR, these are a basic component of the party platter, a quick late dinner after a night on the town, and popular street fare.
Empanaditas vs. pastelitos
What's the difference between Dominican Pastelitos and Empanaditas?
The difference between empanaditas and pastelitos is merely cosmetic, but --as with many other things-- Dominicans do not seem to agree on one answer, but this is mine:
Dominican Pastelitos are round, while Dominican Empanadas are half-moon-shaped.
Not everyone agrees, though. It could also be a regional issue as an informal survey among our readers seems to suggest, though most agreed with my naming convention.
And if we leave aside the question of shape, this recipe is very flexible, and we give you several options for fillings (chicken, pork, beef, cheese, or vegetables). Whichever you choose, it's sure to be a box office success.
Do you have vegan friends? Go with a vegan filling (like the one in the recipe). For the dough, you can use the one from yaniqueque that also works wonderfully for empanadas y pastelitos.
We have a recipe for a lovely, creamy chicken filling that works great with empanaditas y pastelitos, and it's inexpensive and easy to make. You can make it ahead of time and refrigerate until it's time to assemble and fry the empanadas.
Beef lovers? Then a beef filling should be your choice and we have just the recipe you need. You can make it ahead of time and refrigerate until it's time to assemble and fry the empanadas.
Lambí (conch) is a refined, more expensive choice to stuff pastelitos, but well worth it. Check the recipe for instruction on how to make it into a filling for empanadas.
Want something more "exotic"? How about a combination of pork and apple? Borrow it from this recipe.
You can even fill them with fruits or jams and serve them as desserts.
Cheese is another popular choice, gouda or emmental are great choices, but for a more Dominican touch you can make them with crumbled queso de freír (or halloumi if you don't find queso de freír).
While I believe that the dough is secondary to a great empanada, it doesn't mean that it isn't important. The dough is a matter of taste and much discussion. I am of the school of crispy, flaky dough, but some people prefer a more "bready", flexible dough.
The cooking method is also important to the end result.
This recipe is for the traditional Dominican empanadita and pastelito, which is deep-fried.
For an easy, quick, baked vegan version, try this one.
If you are looking for an egg-free alternative, vegan alternative, the dough for yaniqueques works well too.
We didn't forget you! Try cativías, a different type of empanadas made with yuca (cassava) dough.
About our recipe
You may have different ways to make the dough, but the deal-breaker is always the filling. This is why I've given you as many options as possible.
This dough recipe has the advantage of being simple, inexpensive, easy, requires no fancy equipment, and results in a crispy empanadita.
Empanaditas y Pastelitos Recipe (Dominican Savory Turnovers)
For the vegan filling
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 bell pepper , diced
- 1 large tomato , seeded and diced
- ½ cup of sweet corn , boiled (1 small can)
- ½ cup of green peas , boiled (1 small can)
- 1 small carrot , boiled, peeled and diced
- 1 small potato , boiled, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon of salt , or to taste
- 1 small red onion , diced
- 1 clove of garlic , crushed
- ¼ teaspoon of pepper , or to taste
- 1 tablespoon of hot sauce , or to taste
For the cheese filling
- ½ lb of Gouda cheese , grated coarsely
- Minced beef filling recipe with video in the link
- Creamy chicken filling recipe with video in the link
For the dough
- 2 egg whites divided
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour , plus extra for working the dough
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 2 cups of oilf or frying divided, plus two tablespoons for the dough
How to make the vegetable filling
- Sauteing: Heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook and stir until the onions become translucent. Stir in bell pepper, tomato, peas, carrot, potato and corn. Cover and simmer over low heat until the pepper is cooked (3-5 mins).
- Seasoning: Taste and salt and pepper as needed. Mix in the hot sauce.Cool to room temperature and set aside.
How to make the dough
- Mix egg white: Combine 1 egg white and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Set aside
- Mix dry ingredients: Combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Combine: Pour in the egg white + water mix into the flour.Add water by tablespoons until the mix is still a bit on the dry side.
- Work dough: Mix everything with your hands on a lightly floured surface until everything is well mixed, but just squeezing without folding (like playdoh). Add some flour to the dough if it is too sticky, or a bit of water if it is too dryOnce the dough has the consistency of playdoh (One to two minutes) cover and let the dough rest for ten minutes.
- Rolling out: Separate a small, golf-ball-sized piece of dough. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough forming a small circle.
How to make make pastelitos:
- Make pastelitos: Cut out circles of about 2.5" [6.5 cm] in diameter. Paint the inside with egg white, place a tablespoon of the chicken filling in the center of each circle, cover with another circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork.
How to make make empanadas:
- Make empanadas: Cut out circles 4" [10 cm] in diameter. Paint the inside with egg white, place a tablespoon of the chicken filling in the center of each circle, double over in a semi-circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork.
How to fry
- Frying: Heat oil over medium heat in a 1 qt [1lt] pot. Deep fry the pastelitos / empanaditas until they are golden brown on each side. Rest on a paper towel to drain excess oil before serving.