Lazy Kitchen Ep. 11: Easy Homemade Tuna Empanada

A pastry dish? In this lazy kitchen? It’s more likely than you think! 

Sometimes I surprise myself. I would have never imagined myself making tuna empanada from scratch. My lazy kitchen is upgrading to an amateur kitchen…?

Also, this post is a little bit longer than usual.

Introduction: Tuna Empanadas

Google tells me that an empanada is a baked or fried turnover dish. Coming from the Spanish verb empanel, which means “enbreaded”, it is a pastry with savoury filling. The filling can be a stuffing of meat, cheese, vegetables, and everything in between. 

These dough pockets appeared first in Europe. Then the colonisers brought this pocket-sized flavor explosion, among other nefarious things, to the Philippines.

For this recipe, I’m using canned tuna. I love being creative with canned meat and fish because they’re accessible and affordable. There are so many ways you can cook them aside from a simple sauté.

Canned tuna also comes with omega-3 oil, which has been advertised to be healthy. Or something like that. 

Ingredients for Homemade Tuna Empanada

You have to think of both the dough and the filling. This is really a big leap from my one-pot stews and microwave snacks.

This recipe makes 12 pieces.

Ingredients for Tuna Empanada Dough

Or you can buy pre-made dough.

  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup salted butter 
  • 1/3 cup milk 

I think I’ve seen recipes online where they add sugar or shortening. I don’t really want to make my life more complicated. My test subjects customers family was satisfied with this dough anyway.

Ingredients for Tuna Empanada Filling 

  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter  
  • 2 tbsp onions, chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrot, diced
  • 1/4 cup potato, diced 
  • 1 can (~150g net) tuna flakes in oil
    • Sponsor me Century Tuna
  • 1/3 cup milk 
  • Mixed herbs to taste – I used basil, thyme and rosemary
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp red bell peppers, chopped
  • Grated cheddar cheese

When combined, these ingredients make a seriously yummy dish. I think if I’m too lazy to make empanada, I’d serve this over rice (or toast) and call it a day!

Tuna Empanada Recipe

Because this is such an easy recipe, I can still count it as lazy —like it’s a no-sweat way to impress your guests with a healthy homemade snack or breakfast. It’s a bit exotic to the palate and it tastes great (if I say so myself). 

It does take a bit too long to make though. 

*For a healthier recipe, bake the empanada! 

This recipe is largely inspired by this video on Youtube by Filipino Recipe Ideas, with some changes thanks to my quarantine pantry and also my taste preferences. 

I made 12 pieces but by the time I got to take a photo… most have been consumed. Haha!

Prep time: 15 minutes 

Cook time: 1 hour 

Servings: 12 pieces

This honestly took a really long time. Ate Risa says it’s because I’m not a professional… Well, that’s only the truth.

Tuna Empanada Dough Recipe

My awkward, non-photogenic plastic-wrapped dough baby. And the cans of tuna in the back.
  1. Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl. 
  2. Add and mix in the salted butter. To make mixing easier, make sure the salted butter is around room temperature. Use your hands and a spatula! 
  3. Add warm milk slowly to mixture and mix well.
  4. Carefully knead the dough. It’s okay if it’s not a perfect dough baby! Accept the random cracks and marbly colour.
  5. Cover dough with cling wrap. 
  6. Leave dough for at least 20 minutes. While you cook your filling! 

Tuna Empanada Filling Recipe

In summary: just sauté everything together. Then reduce to make sure it won’t get everywhere when you assemble. This took less than 20 minutes or something.

I know it looks like baby food but trust me it tastes bomb.
  1. Melt butter in a heated pan. 
  2. Sauté onion and garlic in pan. Set aside onion and garlic. 
  3. In the same pan, cook carrot and potatoes for a few minutes. You can also add more butter if necessary. It wasn’t necessary. LOL.  
  4. Add 1/2 cup water. Stir slightly, then cover pan and let simmer. Cook for a few minutes until potatoes are softer. Trust in the fork test, or trust in your gut. I may have done the latter.
  5. Add back garlic and onions.  
  6. Add tuna with some of the tuna oil. Stir and cook for a few minutes. 
  7. Add milk, herbs, salt and pepper to taste. I did a couple of shakes for each herb to be sure.
  8. Add bell peppers. 
  9. Stir and cook for a few minutes until milk is reduced. The tuna filling should have an almost paste-like consistency. This makes it easy to put in the dough later.
  10. Assemble! 

How to Assemble a Tuna Empanada

This part took the literal longest! I think if you were a better person or cook than me, you’d do this in half the time. HAHA.

Then again, I did stop a couple of times just to take photos…

It may be a mess but it’s MY mess.
  1. Pat the dough gently what and divide it into 12 pieces. 
  2. Roll a piece of dough into a flat, oval shape. 
  3. Add around 1 tbsp of the tuna filling into the center. 
  4. Add some cheddar cheese on top to taste. 
  5. Fold the dough around the filling to form a half-moon. Twist the edges to seal the pastry dough (so that one layer overlaps and folds over the other). Using fork tines, you can press over the edges to seal completely. 
  6. Deep fry the empanadas until the pastry is golden brown. It took us only 2-3 minutes until both sides are golden brown, but I’ve seen recipes where it takes 5-7 minutes. 

To bake the empanada, brush the pieces with egg wash (1 egg: 1 tbsp water) and bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. 

And final step: enjoy!

Honestly this was very tiring, but I was so proud that I think I’ll do it again.

Until next time!

❤️ Your resident kitchen gremlin 

Check out other lazy kitchen episodes here. 

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