Empanada (from the word “Empanar”)is a Spanish word generally meaning baked in pastry, pie or turnover. However, the empanada is by no means exclusively Spanish. Featured in the cuisine of every New World country as snacks, hor d’oeuvres, appetizers or street food, empanadas are crescent-shaped turnovers made from different kinds of dough, and stuffed with well-seasoned combinations of meat, chicken, seafood and vegetables, or fruit mixtures and dessert elements. Through the ages almost every nationality developed its own empanada culinary concept making the food’s appeal truly international. The English call them pasties. In the Caribbean they are called Pastelitos. The Italians have the Calzone.
In South America they are called empanadas. The empanada goes far back in history and may have originated in the Middle East, but they were carried throughout the world by travelers and traders and now journeymen cooks and chefs. The first references seem to be centered around Persia many centuries before Christ. From there it was probable that it migrated into Arabia with the traditional “fatay” or “esfiha”, made with meat and corn very similar to our “empanada”. Later, the occupation of Spain by the Muslims for centuries provided a path to the Spanish culture. It is then safe to assume the conquerors, traders and colonizers brought them to the Americas. Though they are commonly found in the entire continent, there are many types of “empanadas” in the different countries of Latin-America.