Empanadillas – the Spanish answer to the mini-Cornish pasty!

It’s World Tapas Day today, so here we have a classic Spanish tapa which can be endlessly adapted with different fillings. You can freeze them, and you can reheat them, and they’re easy to make.

The pastry dough freezes, so although this seems like a lot, if you want to you could halve and freeze half. You can stuff the empanadillas with anything – and it’s a good idea to provide a choice – but one of the most popular fillings is spinach and ricotta so the recipe for that filling is included here.

If you’re interested in other tapas, go to my post defining what a tapa exactly is, and giving a list of classic as well as lesser known tapas.

Recipe for empanadillas

Dough for 60 empanadillas


  • 250g/8 oz/a brick of butter, cut into small dice
  • 225g/1¾ cups plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 60ml/¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp smoked salt
  • 600g/1 lb 5 oz filling


The filling can be anything – minced meat, chilli con carne, chicken in cream…. and spinach and ricotta (see below). It’s a good idea to give a choice. For this amount of pastry you’ll need about 500g/18 oz of filling altogether.

To make the dough:

  1. Preheat the oven to 210°C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix all the ingredients. You could also do this in a magimix.
  3. If it doesn’t form a lump because it’s still too dry and breadcrumby, add a little extra water cautiously – it mustn’t get too wet.
  4. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for half an hour.
  5. On a cool, floured surface roll the dough out as thinly as you can.
  6. Cut out circles – either with a glass or with a biscuit cutter, about 3”/7 cm diameter, make sure they move freely from the surface.
  7. Put a generous teaspoon of cooled filling in the middle of them all.
  8. Moisten half the circumference of one, pull up the non-moistened circumference over the filling to encase it and to form a half circle, lightly press out the air, then press the two edges together using the tines of the fork to achieve a nice pattern. It’ll look like a mini-cornish pasty. Repeat for all the circles.
  9. You will have some beaten egg left over from the spinach and ricotta filling (if you are going for another filling just beat another egg, or use a little milk). Paint over the empanadillas to glaze.
  10. Put on a silicon-lined baking tray and bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden.

If you go for a spinach and ricotta filling, this will make enough to fill about 40

  • Couple of walnuts of butter
  • 200g/7 oz fresh spinach
  • olive oil to fry
  • 1 banana shallot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 250g/1 cup ricotta – it’s normally sold in 250g tubs. If you buy fresh, or you are making it, drain it first
  • 10 grinds of nutmeg
  • 10 grinds Indonesian long pepper

Method for cooking a spinach filling

  1. In a wok cook the spinach with the butter until it has wilted down.
  2. Remove and drain.
  3. In the same wok, fry the shallot and garlic, take off the heat.
  4. Add the spinach back into the wok and mix with the shallot and garlic.
  5. Add the ricotta and Parmesan, about half the beaten egg (use the remainder to glaze the pastry), and the seasonings – leave to cool.

Music to cook to and scene to watch as you nibble

I admit the connection is a bit tenuous but I read somewhere that Brad Pitt was eating empanadillas with his cold beer as he reads before meeting co-star Angelina Jolie in the film Mr and Mrs Smith. They fell in love on the set and married…then, unfortunately….

Below you can see the scene, pretty steamy stuff !

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