A Little Piece of Home: Pastelillos de Carne (Empanadas)

Pastelillos de Carne (Empanadas PR Style)

Pastelillos de Carne (Empanadas PR Style)

A traditional treat back home in Puerto Rico is the “pastelillo” which is similar to an empanada, except the dough is a little different.  The dough for a pastelillo is very thin and flaky, most empanadas are a little denser.  If you ever visit my home of Puerto Rico you can find these sold at almost every side of the road kiosk, best with a cold malta, but maltas are an aquired taste.   These yummy treats come with all kinds of fillings, meat, crab, chicken, shrimp, cheese and even pizza.

When we lived in Florida, and I was craving some “pastelillos”  I would cook up the meat and go to the local bodega and get pre-made frozen dough.  However here in Tulsa, OK I am not sure where to go or if I could even find this dough.  So today when I decided to make these treats for my husband’s softball team to eat between games, they had a double header today, I knew I would have to make the dough myself.  I have never made the dough from scratch before so I was a little nervous, but they turned out delicious.  My husband was very excited to have such a special treat, we grew up on these back home.

For me it was easiest to make the filling first and the then dough.

Pastelillos de Carne 20 servings


  • 1 lbs beef tips, diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup recaito
  • 1 envelope of Sazon sin achiote
  • 10 pimiento stuffed olives, cut in half
  • olive oil
  • Adobo (a staple in every Latin home, it’s magic seasoning)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup water

Heat skillet at med-high, drizzle with olive oil.  Saute onions, garlic and recaito until onions are translucent.

Drizzle beef with olive oil and season with Adobo.  (I never measure this but I am pretty generous with it) Add beef, potatoes, olives, bay leaves, Sazon and water  to skillet, stir and cover.  Simmer on a low heat for about 45 mins, or until meat is tender.


  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 3 1/2 Tbs of vegetable oil, cold
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • vegetable oil for frying

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.

Cut in vegetable oil into the flour mixture. ( cut in:  When a fat such as butter or oil is mixed with a dry ingredient like flour until they form into small particles.) I would use a food processor fitted with a metal blade and just pulse it. You can also use your trusty fingers to do the job.

Place mixture in large bowl, add the egg and mix using a fork.

Add the water a little at a time, mixing with a fork.  When done mixing the dough brittle, or in pieces.

Dust a workspace with flour, collect all of your dough.  Knead the dough using your palm, as if you were washing clothes on an old washboard.  Knead until the dough is soft and smooth.  Form into a ball, cover with a cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Roll dough out into a rope about 15 inches long.  (I roll, pull and squeeze)  Once rolled out cut off disks about 3/4 of an inch think.  Dust your rolling pin and workspace and roll out into a thin paper circle.

If you like you can cut and press them out, separate with wax paper and freeze for later use.


Make sure you get the oil is nice and hot, you need the oil to be a least 1 1/2 inch deep.   Take your disk of rolled out dough, and fill with 1 spoonful of filling.

Wet the edges of the dough with water or oil.  Fold over to make a half moon, Trim the edges if you need to make them even.  Pinch the dough together using your fingers, then go over it, pressing it with the teeth of a fork.  You now have a pastelillo.

Take your pastelillo and carfully drop into the oil.  You should almost immediatly begin to puff and float, cook on each side about 2 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Drain on a plate with paper towel, let cool and enjoy. YUMMY!

These are super delicious and not good for you….lol.  A treat we allow ourselves only once in awhile.  You can make virtually any filling you like.


  1. Ms. T says

    Wow! Amazing recipe! I used chicken instead of beef and I did not use Recaito as I could not find it. When I made the dough, I used regular cold butter and a little more water than suggested. Still good tho. I think beef would’ve tasted better. The olives were not a big thing for me.

  2. Millie says

    I made these from scratch following your recipe but the dough didn’t turn out to good. After frying them they were too flaky and wouldn’t get crispy. What am I doing wrong?

    • Simone Torres says

      Hi Millie, I never prepare the crust from scratch, so here is my little cheat. Publex sales the disc in the frozen food section. They come in white and yellow disc with 10 in the pack.

  3. Maria Whittaker says

    For those of you who are asking if you can bake this, the answer is NO! I mean, you can if you’d like, but they will no longer be “puerto rican pastelillos”. Sorry, I am from the island. No one in the island would dare bake these. That’s why they are deliciously unique! Try skipping the cream cheese from a cheesecake recipe and you no longer have cheesecake… No need to drench these in oil, just use enough to make them them wonderfully golden. :-)

  4. Isabel says

    Hiii. I was wondering for your recipe if you can just bake instead of frying them. If you do, what temperature do you suggest and time to bake. They look delicious! I once had a recipe for these kind of pastelitos but were baked in the oven. Thankyou so much!

    • Arlene says

      That’s what I usually do. I bake them after brushing with very little olive oil at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, turn them over & bake an additional 9 min.

  5. KC says

    Thank you for sharing this recipe with us! I made these tonight and everyone loved them. I even made a few with guava paste and cheese :)

  6. Connie says

    I grew up in Puerto Rico in the mid 60’s. I just recently went back for a visit and was sad to not find a pastelillo anywhere! Empanadas didn’t even come close. Is your recipe like the old time ones?

  7. Kailene says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! My husband is 1/2 PR and since we’ve been married nearly 7 years, I think it’s time I learn to make more than arroz con gandules (or habicheulas in our case, those are his favorite!). My sweet mother-in-law showed me how to make the pastellios awhile back, but I am the type of person who needs a “recipe” to follow.
    Got any recipes for “Rican Steak”? I tried that twice, but it tasted like an old shoe…..blech!
    I also need to learn how to make Regene de Papas (sp?). So much to learn…….so little time!

  8. Kailene says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! My husband is 1/2 PR and since we’ve been married nearly 7 years, I think it’s time I learn to make more than arroz con gandules (or habicheulas in our case, those are his favorite!). My sweet mother-in-law showed me how to make the pastellios awhile back, but I am the type of person who needs a “recipe” to follow.
    Got any recipes for “Rican Steak”? I tried that twice, but it tasted like an old shoe…..blech!
    I also need to learn how to make Regene de Papas (sp?). So much to learn…….so little time! Lol

  9. cooking with Alameda says

    If you want to bake the Pastelillos, instead of using vegetable oil, use lard (crisco) and follow the rest of the recipe. Brush them with an eggwash or melted butter. You should be good to go.


  10. Evi says

    Thanks for the recipe! Since I moved to Dallas I haven’t been able to find the traditional pastelillos discs I used to purchase in PR. So I’ve been making my own dough, and even though the taste is ok, it doesn’t seem authentic to me. I’ll be trying out this recipe soon!

  11. Arlene says

    I make these a few times a year (about 50 at a time) and me & hubby, son & his wife and grandkids devour them in no time. No need for me to freeze them. The last time I made them, instead of frying them, I brushed them with olive oil & baked them. They turned out great! I add a little tomato sauce and cheddar cheese to mine, too.

  12. Jessica says

    Me and my boyfriend just made these and they are SO good!!!! I don’t care if they arnt good for me I’d eat them every week lol.

  13. bob says

    Thank you so much for posting! My mother was from Barranquitas, PR, and she made Pastelillos all the time. The neighborhood kids would come running to our house (we lived in North Carolina), whenever she was making them! She has since passed on, and I never knew how to make them until I came across your recipe! Thank you so much!

  14. Linda says

    Meseidy, thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve been talking to my 94 year old :) Puerto Rican mother about empanadillas and pastelillos and we were trying to remember the dough recipes. This looks just perfect! Also, we were trying to remember what kind of “sweet” dough my grandmother used to make and fried up as a dessert. Any thoughts? This was a very light, slightly sweet dough that was fried and was absolutely delicious! How fun to find you. And, yes – I know that we all want to be healthy, but every now and then there just ain’t nuthin’ better than our mothers and grandmothers “unhealthy” recipes! Linda

    • Alba R says

      I’m sure the sweet-fried-dough you’re talking about is buñuelos.
      -@Jamie: Sorry but there is no dish in Puerto Rico, that I can recall, that sounds like panpilinas. The closest word I can think of is pamplinas (nonsense).

  15. Odette says

    I always bake mine! I will share that to bake them, I line the cookie sheet with parchment paper & do a quick cooking oil spray. Meanwhile, after my pastelillos are made, I beat an egg & brush it onto the “pastelillos” for a golden finish. Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes depending on your stove (at 350 degrees). Place on cooling rack & eat when good enough to bite. You can place the extra ones in zip lock bags & freeze. Makes an excellent side dish. They take about a minute in the microwave oven to warm up at your work break-room microwave oven. I use to make them to sell for fund-raisers & people love ’em!

  16. Spring Tamez says

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  17. m brillon says

    Made the filling mixture today and completing them tomorrow. I am a little confused about the dough. Is the vegetable oil the liquid or the solid? By the way the filling is amazingly fabulous. Cant wait to finish them.

  18. Snooki says

    hey, i tried the recipie with my family and we LOVE them! Since we’re Puerto Rican we knew how to make them, just not from scratch! Thank you! They were really really good!!!!! good recipie :)

  19. Crystal says

    Been looking for a recipe for pastelillos de carne con papas & came across this. I cheat and use Goya Discos to save time, but wanted a good (new) recipe for filling them.
    Thanks for sharing!

  20. yesiercaro says

    Great blog! I love making pastelillos (or empanadillas, how we used to call them back in the west side of PR) for entertaining. I used to get frozen “plantillas” (dough) whenever I went to PR, but figured I should try to make them from scratch. I tried a very similar dough recipe. I really like it, but I wish they will blister more when fried ( Am I weird for wanting them to blister? It just remind me to the ones back home.). I am not an expert cook, and I am afraid of anything involving dough-making. Do you have any suggestions??

  21. sheryl hamilton says

    I’ve been trying to figure out what cheese to use when making pastelillos de queso. i lived in Pr when i was a kid. I loved the cheese ones

  22. karen says

    I usually buy the shells fo the pastellillos but am having more trouble finding them so I am glad to have a recipe although it always goes faster when you have the shells

  23. Afro_Boricua Nena says

    I love Pastelillos…
    My fondest memory is of mi abuela, who would sit me on her counter (when I was a nina), so that I could flatten the sides with a fork (to make the ridges). The best thing she taught me was to make about 20 or 30 of them all types of fillings and freeze them (not cooked or fried). Now when ever I want some, all I have to do is pull some out of the freezer and plop them into my fryer… Yummmm
    *wouldn’t recommend keeping them for no longer than a month – depends of the filling.
    *make sure you have good freezer bags and use the disco sheets to seperate them, you don’t want them sticking!

  24. Juan says

    Small world after all, I am a Puerto Rican who also lives in Tulsa, OK. If you ever feel lazy, you can go buy these in the Goya brand at Kim’s Asian Market on 31’st and Highway 169. I make mine almost the same, but I add rasins to the meat. Good luck.

  25. Naomi G. says

    Classic Puertorican appetizer. You can eat this anytime, anywhere and for any occasion. I am from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico and I can personally say that I have eaten the delicious pastelillos for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and the deadly midnight snack. DELICIOSO! Oh. And by the way to the lady who asked if you can bake these, sorry no-can-do! Oil gives the pastelillos its flavor, your husband will not mind after tasting them, trust me on that. They are not greasy at all, the oil just gives it the crunchiness it needs. Try them, they are simply heaven!

    • says

      I have to admit I had them for breakfast a few times. Picked some up on my way into work. There was a “guaguita” that was park across the street outside my office. I would get pastelillos and uva old colony to drink. 😀 Breakfast of champions!

    • Edwin says

      More like “The oil is what gives you the heart attack.” I’m going to try and bake them just because I cant keep eating all the fried stuff.

  26. says

    hi, just wanted to let you know, i baked my version and they came out lovely. the dough was more bready than pie-y. as it, it wasn’t flaky but it was still very delicious. thank you for sharing the recipe.

  27. says

    hello. this looks fantastic. i juuuuuust got back from PR and i am a newly converted lover of rice and beans. can this be baked instead of frying?

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  29. says

    These look delicious. Out of curiosity, do you think you might be able to bake them? If my husband caught me frying them like this I probably couldn’t get him to try them, and i really want to try a bite…

    • Arlene says

      I usually fry them, but have baked them using the Goya discos. I brush them with a little olive oil & bake. They turned out great!

      • Arlene says

        That’s what I usually do. I bake them after brushing with very little olive oil at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, turn them over & bake an additional 9 min.

  30. says

    They look very similar to Polish pierogi that are cooked in water and Jamaican patties, that are baked. I was just going to try my pierogi filling in patty dough, but now I’m thinking that your way is better 😉

    Great blog, just discovered it though Tastespotting :)

  31. Meseidy says

    Thanks for checking them out. I think almost every contry has some variation, but of course I am bias to my own. 😀 Enjoy!

  32. Meseidy says

    Don’t worry I don’t plan on making it a commen occurance. I just happened that I wanted some but I didn’t want them sticking around the house for a long time, being that they are fried. LOL

  33. says

    I guess you can always give it a try, I mean it’s a dough so it should bake. I have thought of doing the same thing, just to make them a little healthier, I rarely fry. But this time I decided to fry them, which is why I took them to the game. I didn’t want fried goodies staying around my house. 😀


  1. […] filling is commonly used as a filling in roadside fried foods or frituras.   It is used to fill pastelillos, alcapurrias, and piononos. You can also serve it with a side of rice, if you […]

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