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Beef and Cheese Empanadillas (Puerto Rican Turnovers)

An authentic recipe for Beef and Cheese Empanadillas. These Puerto Rican beef and cheese turnovers are easy to make and full of flavor!

I’m a self-proclaimed empanadilla queen. Not only do I enjoy making different varieties of this tasty delicacy, I also eat them pretty regularly. It’s been a staple in our home, and our Latin culture, for many years.

Now before I get an email correcting me, yes, depending what part of the island you grew up on these are also known as pastelillos. My Puerto Rican side of the family still calls them empanadillas so I’m leaving it at that. Regardless of what you call them, we can all agree that they taste amazing. 😉

What can I serve with empanadillas?

You can eat them on their own as an appetizer, or you can serve them with rice and beans for dinner. Empanadillas are full of flavor so they’ll be the star of the meal no matter what you serve them with.

Can I prep and freeze for later?

Absolutely! What I love about empanadillas is that you can do all the prep and store them in the freezer to fry later. In fact, you can easily make several batches and save them for later use. Since this is not a “dish”, you can just thaw out what you need for your meal.

Can I make empanadillas in an Air Fryer?

Yes, but the results won’t be the same. We love using our Air Fryer, but making empanadillas in one just isn’t for us. The dough turns out dryer and the final result just isn’t the same. So if you try it, keep that in mind.

Additional tips to save time in the kitchen!

  • Use parchment paper to keep them from sticking to the surface, or to each other when freezing.
  • Chop your veggies the day before to save some time in the kitchen.
  • Fry at medium to medium-low heat to cook evenly so the dough doesn’t end up undercooked.
  • Once they’re fried, lay them out on a paper towel so it can absorb the excess oil and cool down the empanadillas (they will be hot!).
Beef and Cheese Empanadillas (Puerto Rican Turnovers)

Beef and Cheese Empanadillas (Puerto Rican Turnovers)

Yield: 20 empanadillas
An authentic recipe for Beef and Cheese Empanadillas. These Puerto Rican beef and cheese turnovers are easy to make and full of flavor!


  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • Adobo (or salt & pepper) 
  • 1/4 cup of Sofrito 
  • 1 small envelope of Sazon
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/2 of an onion diced
  • 1/2 green pepper diced
  • 1/2 red pepper diced
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese 
  • 20 empanada discs (cold, but not frozen)


    1. Season ground beef with Adobo, or salt and pepper. Add chopped garlic cloves and brown the meat in a skillet.
    2. Once meat is cooked add Sofrito, Sazon, tomato sauce, onions, green peppers and red peppers. Simmer until vegetables are tender.
    3. Place a spoonful of beef filling on the dough, sprinkle with a teaspoon of shredded cheddar cheese, and fold it shut.
    4. Press on the edge with a fork on both sides to seal.
    5. Fry each side of the empanadilla in hot oil. Remove when the empanadilla has a light golden brown color.

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