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There are many variations of empanadas across Latin America; in Brazil they’re called pastéis (pastel in the singular), and in Puerto Rico they’re called pasteles.

By Lisa Featherby
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 45 mins cooking (plus resting)
  • Serves 24
  • Print
There are many variations of empanadas across Latin America; in Brazil they're called pastéis (pastel in the singular), and in Puerto Rico they're called pasteles. The dough is made with lard or suet, filled and baked or deep-fried. The version here is made with minced beef, green olives and parsley, and served with a spicy herb sauce that's common in Brazil. The Brazilian and Cuban versions are sealed with a forked edge instead of the pleated rope edge (called repulgue) you find particularly with Argentinian-style empanadas.


  • 2 tbsp melted lard or suet
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp coarsely ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground chilli
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • 400 gm coarsely minced beef
  • 8 pitted large green olives, diced
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Pastel dough
  • 300 gm plain flour (2 cups)
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 50 gm melted lard (1/4 cup)
  • 150 ml dry white wine
Salsa verde
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cup (firmly packed) chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup (firmly packed) chopped coriander
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 60 ml olive oil (¼ cup)
  • 2 small green chillies (or to taste), seeds removed, finely chopped


  • 1
    For pastel dough, mix flour, sugar and 1 tsp salt in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to just combine, then add lard and mix to combine. Add wine and knead until a smooth dough forms. Turn out onto a bench and knead lightly until smooth, then wrap in plastic wrap and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  • 2
    Meanwhile, heat half the lard or suet in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add onion and fry, stirring occasionally, until just starting to caramelise (5-7 minutes). Add garlic, spices and oregano and stir until fragrant (1½-2½ minutes), then set mixture aside. Add remaining lard to pan over high heat, add beef and fry, breaking it up with a spoon, until starting to colour (8-10 minutes). Add olives and parsley and return onion mixture to pan, stir to combine and season to taste. Cool mixture, then refrigerate to chill.
  • 3
    For salsa verde, dry-roast cumin seeds until fragrant (30-40 seconds; see cook’s notes p185). Transfer to a mortar and pestle and crush, then combine in a bowl with remaining ingredients. Season to taste and set aside.
  • 4
    Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough to 10cm-diameter rounds. Top with a heaped teaspoonful of beef filling, fold dough over to form a half-moon and press edges firmly to seal and flatten, then, using a fork dipped in flour, crimp edges firmly. Place on a tray lined with baking paper and set aside, or refrigerate covered with plastic wrap until ready to cook. pastéis can be made 2-3 hours ahead of cooking.
  • 5
    Heat oil to 180C. Deep-fry pastéis in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown (about 5 minutes; be careful, hot oil will spit). Drain on paper towels, season with salt and serve with salsa verde.


Drink Suggestion: Hoppy India pale ale. Drink suggestion by Max Allen