Food for the road

An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries in Latin Europe, Latin America, the Southwestern United States, and parts of Southeast Asia ~ Wikipedia

I grew up with them as they’re a very popular fast-food in the cultures I grew up around: Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilian…

We have a road trip tradition in our family: if we’re piling into the family vehicle for a vacation, we pack empanadas for our lunch along the way. Empanadas are the perfect on-the-go meal for our family. Everyone likes them (a rare thing in our pack of four!), they’re quick to make and easy to eat plus they don’t need to be refrigerated if consumed the same day. And did I mention they’re yummy? When my firstborn son was a fussy toddler, empanadas were the one thing my Mom always made sure to have for him when we visited. For him, she made them simple and straightforward with just some seasoned ground beef. When I was growing up, she included chopped olives or giardiniera  (pickled veggies) in with the beef. But doting grandma altered her beef mixture to suit the little grandbaby. She often used taco seasoning and that was good for him. He always ate them right up. When I began making empanadas I stuck with her simple version. For years it was just ground beef browned with chopped onion and taco seasoning mix. Son #1 liked it, son #2 liked it, hubby liked it. I stuck with the likes. It became the food of choice for our camping trips. We’d pull in wherever we could fit our heavy-duty Ford diesel van pulling our 32 foot travel trailer, hop out of the van and climb into the trailer for our yummy empanadas. Drinks were right in the camper’s fridge and the bathroom was off the kitchen in the back of the trailer. Who needs a rest area? Not us!

After the travel trailer was sold and we became fans of renting homes for our getaways, we held on to the empanada tradition. Luckily, the boys grew and matured to where I could jazz up the simple filling a bit more. So now I have a new and improved version, which is a modified Puerto Rican recipe with the key being the “sofrito”.


  • 1 package of Goya discs for empanadas, defrosted
  • 2 Tbsp. sofrito (see below)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • seasonings to taste such as salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder or Adobo powder
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • oil for frying

Basic sofrito recipe: Combine one yellow onion, one red pepper, one green pepper, bunch cilantro and few cloves garlic in food processor until it’s very fine and saucy. This makes a lot, but I freeze mine in ice cube trays and then place into Ziploc in freezer to have on hand. One cube is about a tablespoon.


  1. In skillet, brown the beef with onion. Add seasonings halfway through the browning time. Drain excess fat.
  2. Stir in 2-3 tbsp. sofrito and the tomato sauce. Simmer for 10 mins. Remove from heat.
  3. Set up work area with dough discs, a fork and spoon and the cooled meat.
  4. Scoop about 2 tbsp. of meat mixture onto a disc. Fold over in half and press the edges with the tines of the fork to seal.
  5. Heat oil for frying in a deep pan or skillet.
  6. Fry the empanadas until golden on the bottom and turn over to fry other side. Drain on a paper towel.

Empanadas can also be frozen after sealing to be fried at a later time. Just be sure to not let them touch one another or they will stick together as they freeze. I like reusing the plastic separators that the dough discs have between them to prevent them sticking. On travel day, I pull out my frozen empanadas and fry up a huge batch for our trip!

Van Trailer
Our beloved Jayco Jay Flight was home away from home when we opened the sliders, cranked out the awning and set up our chairs and patio lights…good times!





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