Smoky Turkey Empanadas

Smoky Turkey Empanadas on a plate.

If you love flaky crusts surrounding a meat filled pocket of savory filling, then this smoky turkey empanadas recipe is for you. Making the filling is super easy and the flaky empanada crust is the perfect receptacle for the turkey mixture. If you don’t have time to make your own pastry, buy some in the freezer section.

butter and flour in food processor.

One of my new blogging buddies, Michelle, from Cupcakes Cocktails and Kids has a saying on her blog, “I’ve never met an empanada I didn’t like”. Hmmm I’d never met an empanada, period.

egg in a bowl

Heresy, you say?  Maybe so.  I’ve lived in South Florida for a very long time, and if this isn’t a petri dish for cultural and food diversity, I don’t know what is.  I felt like I was missing out.

empanada dough
dough in cellophane

I mean, I knew what empanadas were —  a savory meat filling surrounded by a flaky pastry. That alone should have put them in regular rotation on our dinner calendar.  What was I thinking???

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onions and peppers
browned turkey with spices in a pan

Just about every South American Nation has its own “authentic” version of empanadas.  It can be made with beef, pork or poultry, sausage or chorizo.  Some are stuffed with peppers and potatoes, others have dried fruit blended into the mix.  

adding golden raisins to empanadas
cutting out dough

So I played around with ingredients and various spices and came up with this blend.  Actually, the filling was the easy part.  The dough.  Well, you know how I feel about making pastry.  But for you, I did it.  Then I found out that they actually sell empanada wrappers in the frozen foods section. Are you f$%&#g kidding me???

filling empanadas
Smoky Turkey Empanadas on parchment.

I had already rolled, sliced, stuffed, crimped and baked my empanadas.  Too late?  Not really.  I made a lot of filling.  Enough for another batch of these tasty pockets.  

brushing Smoky Turkey Empanadas with egg wash.
baked Smoky Turkey Empanadas

So I went to the market and bought the frozen dough.  I think you’ll be able to tell the difference between the flaky buttery homemade version and the prepackaged stuff.

roasting garlic tomatoes and jalapeno
salsa in food processor.

The homemade was so much better.  But the frozen pastry disks were so much easier.  It’s a toss up.

roasted tomato salsa
Smoky Turkey Empanadas with salsa

I also made this smoky tomato-ey chutney to ladle onto each bite of the pastry — and it’s good, but not mandatory.

Smoky Turkey Empanadas on a plate
Splitting the turkey empanadas in half to show the filling.
Baked turkey empanadas.

More empanadas and hand held treats:

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4.43 from 7 votes

Smoky Turkey Empanadas

Savory stuffed pockets of dough, these empanadas are great for a casual lunch or dinner and are portable enough for tailgating!
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword empanadas
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 15


For the Empanada Dough – either

  • purchase 2 packages of ready-made empanada pastries OR —

or DIY

  • cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter cold
  • 2 large eggs
  • cup water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

for the filling

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey not extra lean
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Ancho or other chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled queso fresco
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

for chunky dipping sauce

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
  • ½ yellow onion sliced
  • ½ jalapeño seeded
  • 3 cloves garlic in skins
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup cilantro


for the homemade pastry

  • Pulse the butter and flour in the work bowl of a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Note: if you don’t have a food processor, work the butter and flour between your fingers until you have the same consistency.
  • Beat together the eggs, water and vinegar in a small bowl and add to the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gather the dough together. Knead gently once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together. Shape into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap for at least 1 hour.
  • Adjust oven racks to the top 1/3 and bottom 1/3 of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

for the filling

  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté 4-5 minutes until vegetables soften. Add the ground turkey and brown the meat while breaking it apart with the back of a fork or wooden spoon. Add the fresh tomato, raisins cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until mixture is well blended – adjust seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat, stir in queso fresco and place the lid on the pan. Set aside.

Assemble the empanadas

  • Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one piece of dough to 1/8″ thick. Cut the dough into 5″ rounds and transfer to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Repeat until all the dough has been rolled and cut.
  • (If you’re using the store-bought pastry, this is where they come into play.) Mound 2 tablespoons of turkey filling onto the pastry and carefully fold over, pressing along the edge to seal the dough. Use the tines of a fork to press the edge together and make a decorative border.
  • Add the egg and water to a small bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Use a pastry brush to paint the empanadas with the egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes, alternating the baking sheets halfway through cooking. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes and serve.

for the chunky dipping sauce

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the olive oil, tomatoes, onions, jalapeños and garlic cloves on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the vegetables with cumin, paprika and salt. Toss to coat. Roast vegetables for 20-25 minutes until tomatoes have just begun to burst.
  • Pick out the garlic, remove the skins and discard them. Add the garlic and the rest of the vegetables to a mini prep food processor and pulse 1-2 times. Add the lime zest, vinegar and cilantro and pulse to combine. Season to taste. Serve with empanadas.


These can be made ahead and frozen until ready to use. To reheat, thaw to room temperature and heat in a 325 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.


Calories: 326kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 399mg | Potassium: 273mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 895IU | Vitamin C: 12.6mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 1.8mg

“Pin It” For Later!

This Smoky Turkey Empanadas recipe is a great hand-held snack, perfect for tailgating. Make your own pastry or buy prepared empanada crusts in the freezer section. #empanada #handpie #meatpie #turkey #superbowlsnacks #tailgatingfood #tailgatingsnacks #groundturkey #pastry #empanadasrecipe #empanadarecipe #

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  1. Oh these must have been such a treat after never having an empanada. I’m with your friend — I’ve never met an empanada I didn’t like, either — whether made myself in my kitchen or from the little Argentinian cafe down the street. I think I might have to stop and pick some up for dinner tonight… I have such a craving now!

    1. There’s a place in Coral Gables, FL that makes the best empanadas in so many varieties. Whenever I’m there, I buy at least a dozen.

  2. 5 stars
    These look soooo much better than the frozen stuff! And that dipping sauce, I need that!

  3. 5 stars
    Great recipe. I like that you made everything from the dough to the dipping sauce from scatch – little pockets of delicious!

  4. 5 stars
    I don’t think I have ever had an empanada as well! Hmmm I am so intimidated by making dough but you make this so easy and doable, I love it! Thanks for giving me the courage (and guide) to tackle this on my own! 😀

    1. The empanadas are simple to put together — but if you don’t want to make the pastry — they sell it in the frozen foods section – ready to go!

  5. 5 stars
    Thanks for the recipe! I just made these for a potluck and they won the award for best side. everyone loved them!

    1. That’s awesome! Maybe I should change the name to Award-Winning Smoky Turkey Empanadas!

  6. Prairie Gal Cookin says:

    Love your photos! This looks so yummy!!

  7. Natalie @ Obsessive Cooking Disorder says:

    5 stars
    I LOOOOOOVE empanadas. Brings back family home cooking memories. These look amazing – I know they’re hard to make without falling apart!

  8. DomesticatedMomster says:

    These look absolutely delicious! I could eat just the filling by itself!