Empanadas – you’ll see them in bakeries, restaurants, kiosks, supermarkets and gas stations. So what’s all the fuss about? Well, the empanada is quite possibly the king of snacks. Think along the lines of a bite-size Cornish pasty stuffed with savory goodness, which you can easily eat four or five (quite possibly more) of in a single sitting. In fact, not only are they a great snack, they fit all purposes and occasions: for lunch; for a birthday party; to accompany a Quilmes and a fútbol match; as a post-party feast or morning-after hangover cure; and for holiday delivery when your fridge is empty.
Argentines will happily tell you that they invented the empanada. However, the true origins are from Galicia and Portugal. Like many local customs, empanadas arrived during the later Spanish-colonial years. The classic Argentine empanada is a flour- and lard-based dough stuffed with savory ingredients, then either baked (al horno) or fried (frito). The baked version is the most common but, when the chance arises, be sure to try the unhealthier fried version.
Typical fillings include carne (ground beef); carne picante (spicy beef); pollo (chicken); jamón y queso (ham and cheese); queso y cebolla (cheese and onion); atún (tuna); humita (creamed corn); and espinaca (spinach). Beef empanadas often also incorporate additional ingredients, including boiled egg, olives and raisins. If you have a more discerning palate, opt for variations such as frutos del mar (seafood), conejo (rabbit) and jamón y Roquefort (ham and blue cheese), or sweet options such as dulce de leche (caramel/toffee), membrillo (quince) and batata (sweet potato).
Empanadas also come in regional variations, the most popular being from Argentina’s Tucumán and Salta provinces. Tucumán empanadas have three classic flavors: beef, mondongo (tripe) and chicken. These are mixed with spring onion, pepper and vinegar, and occasionally potatoes and peas. In Salta, the empanada salteña is smaller than the customary snack and is often beef mixed with eggs, bell peppers and onions.
With so many options, you might wonder how it’s possible to recognize the individual flavors. When they arrive on your plate or in the delivery box, each one is distinguished by either a repulge (a braided dough-sealing style) or a burn mark. Regardless, it’s great fun to pick at random and enjoy the flavors.
Although it wouldn’t be impossible to visit Buenos Aires without eating an empanada, it would be imprudent. Read on to discover our recommendations of the tastiest of these hand-held snacks. (As is the case almost everywhere in Buenos Aires, the vast majority of restaurants will deliver. Check their respective websites, give them a call or drop by for information.)
Where to Eat Empanadas in Buenos Aires
Punto y Banca (Honduras 4002, Palermo Viejo). This unassuming hole-in-the-wall on a quiet corner of Palermo Viejo is worth stopping by for its fried empanadas, which are fresh and filled with traditional ingredients. It gets busy around midday, when taxi drivers, waiters and chefs show up for a cheap and tasty lunch.
Güerrín (pizzeriaguerrin.com, Corrientes 1368, Centro). Famed nationwide for its pizzas, this Italian-founded and family-run restaurant also makes delicious empanadas. The empanadas are classic – beef, chicken, and ham and cheese – and tasty. And, the image of locals lining up at the bar with their pizza and empanada is worthy of a postcard. Try the ham-and-cheese fried empanada for a glorious experience.
El Sanjuanino (elsanjuanino.co, Sánchez de Bustamente 1788 – Palermo; Posadas 1515 – Recoleta). More than 50 years of delivering the flavors of the San Juan Province can’t be bad. Offering baked and fried empanadas, ranging from spicy beef and sweet corn to vegetable and Caprese, the restaurant also serves game and stews. As is typical of the northern provinces, the décor is simple and homey.
La Tucumanita (facebook.com/latucumanitaclasica, Arenales 2882 – Barrio Norte, Olleros 1763 – Belgrano and Rivadavia 776 – Microcentro). The restaurants are small, as they’re more commonly known for the delivery of Tucumán-style empanadas and cuisine. La Tucumanita is also a good option for meal deals that include empanadas and a drink. The locro (thick Andean stew) is also worth trying.
La Fachada (lafachada.com.ar, Aráoz 1283 – Palermo Viejo and Freire 1100 – Colegiales). This is a great spot for both traditional and contemporary empanada flavors. Choose from oven-based classics or open-faced empanadas, including carbonara, bacon and plum, eggplant and anchovy. The restaurants are often very busy, and the rustic settings make for a welcoming ambience.
Cumaná/La Cholita (Rodríguez Peña 1165, Barrio Norte). Cumaná and adjacent La Cholita are long-running Recoleta favorites, famed for their salteña cuisine, steak and, of course, empanadas. Big portions, good prices and a rustic environment draw the crowds. Expect to have to line up for a table any day of the week. As the restaurants are side by side, you can take your pick upon arrival.
La Cupertina (Cabrera 5300, Palermo Soho). This is another Tucumán-style offering, a simple family-run restaurant on a quiet Soho corner. Empanadas come in a wicker basket or served on a wooden board, inviting you to attack them with your fingers. It’s also good for locro and tamales.
La Querencia (laquerenciaonline.com, Junín 1314 – Barrio Norte and Águilar 2365 – Belgrano). Unusual empanada flavors and northern Argentine cuisine reign at La Querencia’s two restaurants. Make sure to try the Del Tambo, seven cheeses with a touch of Roquefort and chives. Other styles include especial de berenjenas (eggplant with a mint-and-garlic sauce) and especial agridulce (bacon, mozzarella and plum). The restaurant offers a catering service, which is great if you’re hosting a party.
Ña Serapia (Las Heras 3357, Palermo Chico). It’s easy to miss this hole-in-the-wall restaurant opposite Parque las Heras, but doing so is a mistake. Inside you’ll find great Salta-style empanadas served with a mouthwatering spicy dip. The owner-chef-waiter is also happy to serve and recommend his other dishes. Check out the curious wall-art, including a sketch of the owner being stabbed through the heart.
1810 Cocina Regional (Mendoza 2312 – Belgrano, Marcelo T. De Alvear 868 – Microcentro and Julián Alvarez 1998 – Palermo Viejo). Another purveyor of northern Argentine cuisine, with three different city locations. Expect all the classic empanadas plus a few wild cards, which include acelga (chard) and humita (ground corn wrapped in husks and then steamed).
El Origen del Sabor (Marcelo T. Alvear 1589, Recoleta). With 32 flavors to choose from, El Origen del Sabor offers the widest variety of empanadas in Buenos Aires. Step away from the classics and order a Cereza Glaseada (mozzarella, ham, brown sugar and cherries). Other delights include the Afrodisiaca (mozzarella, Roquefort, celery and walnut) and Del Bosque (mozzarella, glazed carrot, brown sugar, mushrooms, bacon and port).
Gourmet (empanadasgourmet.com.ar, Citywide). The best of many delivery empanada chains. You’ll find all of your favorites, either baked or fried. True to its name, there are also some gourmet options. Mediterranean (sun-dried tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella and black olives) and Marina (seafood) are exceedingly tasty. Keep an eye out for combos and promotions.