National Empanada Day: The Evolution of the Empanada

Today is National Empanada day!  What pizza is to America, the empanada is too many other countries.  Originating in Galicia, Spain, this stuffed bread was baked and prepared as a large pie cut into pieces for ease of portability.  The traditional empanada was filled with seafood and dates back to as early as 1520.  Due to its convenience, the early explorers brought this delicious hearty meal to new worlds, spreading the empanada to all corners of the earth.  The empanada is now a meal time staple in Latin Europe, Latin America, Southwestern United States, and even Southeast Asia.  

The tiny treat has been around so long and travelled so far, it must have quite the history!  Here are a few favorite fun facts:

  • The original empanada was stuffed with cod, sardines, or beef, creating a hearty meal for the working class.
  • The very first empanada in the US was served in a Taco Bell.
  • Today, Americans have come much farther in embracing the potential of the Spanish treat.  The empanada is typically served in America as a tapas portion in the shape of a half moon.
  • In Jamaica, they are called Jamaican patties and are often served with seasoned ground beef.
  • Argentines love their sweetly filled desert style empanadas.
  • You can even lighten up your empanada with whole wheat crust, ground turkey, or make it gluten free!

Yes, on national empanada day you can eat an empanada for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert!  The empanada has evolved from a working class staple to a delicacy that reaches across cultures and class-lines.  Not only is it prepared with bread dough just like the original, pastry dough is often used for the sweeter versions creating empanada desserts.  Find an empanada made with egg and bacon to start off your morning.  Move on to a traditionally prepared empanada stuffed with beef or chicken.  Go foodie-style for dinner and opt for a fancier version stuffed with venison, fresh vegetables, or an Asian inspired stir-fry.  Finish off national empanada day with a sweet dessert.  Empanadas have been stuffed with apples and cinnamon, pumpkin, or strawberries and cream!  Check your town for local specials on national empanada day!  A quick search online has turned up empanadas for as little as $1.  Enjoy!

LeeAnn Kindness is a graduate student at Drexel University majoring in human nutrition. She plans to become a registered dietitian.

Photo Cred: Reina Nicole Hayashi


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