Understanding The History of Empanadas

Understanding The History of Empanadas

An empanada is a type of hand pie that is usually made up of a combination of meats, vegetables, and cheese contained in a flaky dough. Though empanadas are common in Latin America and Spain, most other countries have their own version of hand pies. Samosas, turnovers, and Jamaican patties are just a few examples.

Many Minnesotans are familiar with pasties, which Iron Range miners often ate during their lunches due to the convenience of having meat and vegetables wrapped up into a neat package. While there may be variations in the fillings, empanadas have a similar history of being created as a convenient meal for working people. 

Empanadas’ Birthplace: The Iberian Peninsula

Empanadas originated in Spain (formerly Galicia) and Portugal hundreds of years ago. There is written evidence of empanadas as far back as the 16th century! Since empanadas appeared around the time of the Moorish invasion of the area, it is believed that they came about as a modified version of samosas – Arabic meat-filled pies that are still made and eaten today. 

The name “empanada” comes from the Galician verb empanar – to wrap or coat in bread. This action describes how empanadas are made, by folding a dough around a cooked filling. The original empanada fillings were generally fish or seafood and were often made as a large pie before being cut into slices and served to hungry workers. 

Empanadas in Latin American Culture

Empanadas were introduced to Latin America by Spanish colonists several hundred years ago;  they remain very popular to this day. While their European counterparts often feature fish, Argentinian empanada fillings usually include beef, chicken, or vegetables (like greens) and cheese. 

While they began as a workday lunch, empanadas quickly became an important part of Argentinian culture. Families often come together to prepare this versatile food, and they are eaten at many parties and family get-togethers. Since empanadas have a variety of fillings, every family member or partygoer is bound to find a flavor they enjoy. Empanadas are also a great street food for both locals and tourists since they can be eaten while walking to work or sightseeing. 

The History of Quebracho Empanadas

Our Founder Belén Rodríguez fondly remembers her childhood experience of a family Sunday in Argentina – conversation, laughter and food all blend in this weekly gathering that revolves around the table. Belén first started cooking empanadas for friends and family in the U.S. as a way to reconnect with her roots and to cope with homesickness, but the hobby quickly turned into a desire to start her own company!

When Belén made the difficult decision to step away from her first culinary concept (a pop-up and catering company) during COVID-19, she decided to find a way to continue sharing her family's recipes. Thus, Quebracho Empanadas was born! We are now a wholesale manufacturer of frozen empanadas that people can pick up at their local grocery store or co-op to create an authentic, homemade family meal.