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Venezuelan Empanadas vs. Argentinian Empanadas with a Nod to Pastelitos

Embark on an epicurean adventure that transcends borders as we unravel the enticing tale of empanadas. These hand-held parcels of joy have woven themselves into the culinary tapestry of South America, each region crafting its unique symphony of flavors. In this exploration, we’ll take you on a gastronomic odyssey, comparing and contrasting the nuances of Venezuelan and Argentinian empanadas while paying homage to their charming cousin, the pastelito.

The Intricate Dance of Dough and Fillings:

Venezuelan Empanadas:

First in our spotlight are the Venezuelan empanadas, a culinary masterpiece hailing from the heart of South America. Picture a golden, slightly crispy exterior, giving way to a revelation of vibrant and diverse fillings. Our Venezuelan Empanada Trio embodies this tradition, capturing the essence of Venezuela’s rich gastronomic heritage.

A Venezuelan empanada is a culinary delight, a hand-held pocket of joy that encapsulates the rich and diverse flavors of Venezuelan cuisine. Crafted from a hearty dough, these golden parcels boast a slightly crispy exterior that gives way to a burst of vibrant fillings within. The fillings vary but often include shredded beef, black beans, and gooey cheese, creating a symphony of tastes that mirrors the lively streets of Caracas. Whether enjoyed as a snack or a meal, the Venezuelan empanada is a testament to the country's gastronomic heritage, inviting food enthusiasts on a delicious journey through its cultural richness.

Argentinian Empanadas:

Now, let’s traverse to the vast Pampas of Argentina, where empanadas take on a character of their own. The Argentinian rendition boasts a delicate dance of dough, skillfully folded and baked to perfection. Encasing a medley of savory delights, Argentinian empanadas present a symphony of flavors that has enchanted palates across the globe.

An Argentinian empanada is a culinary masterpiece that reflects the artistry of Argentine gastronomy. Characterized by a delicate dance of dough, these hand-held delights are skillfully folded and baked to perfection. The dough achieves a balance of flakiness and tenderness, creating a canvas for an array of savory fillings. Argentine empanadas often feature a variety of meats, from succulent beef to flavorful lamb or chicken. Each bite is a symphony of flavors, showcasing the country's expertise in blending diverse ingredients. Paired with the vibrant chimichurri sauce, Argentine empanadas offer a culinary experience that celebrates the rich culinary traditions of the Pampas and beyond.

Unveiling the Secrets of Dough:

As any culinary artist will tell you, the dough is the canvas upon which the empanada story unfolds. In Argentina, the dough is a work of art, achieving a delicate balance of flakiness and tenderness. Contrastingly, Venezuelan empanadas sport a heartier texture, a testament to the robust flavors within.

The dough of Venezuelan empanadas can exhibit some regional variations, contributing to the diverse culinary landscape across the country. While there might be subtle differences, the fundamental characteristics of the dough remain consistent throughout Venezuela.

1. Coastal Regions:

- In coastal areas, where the influence of Caribbean flavors is prominent, the empanada dough tends to be slightly thinner and may incorporate a touch of sweetness. This reflects the tropical culinary influences that define this region.

2. Andean Regions:

- In the Andean regions, the dough might lean towards heartier textures, with a thickness that provides a robust bite. This aligns with the mountainous terrain and the hearty, comforting nature of the Andean culinary tradition.

3. Plains and Central Regions:

- In the plains and central areas, there's often a balance between thickness and flakiness. The dough serves as a substantial vessel for the flavorful fillings, offering a satisfying crunch on the outside while maintaining a soft interior.

4. Amazon Basin:

- In the Amazon Basin, where indigenous influences play a role, the empanada dough might incorporate local grains or flours, introducing unique textures and flavors that resonate with the Amazonian culinary heritage.

While these distinctions exist, it's essential to note that the versatility of Venezuelan empanadas lies in their ability to adapt to local ingredients and preferences. The core essence of a crispy yet tender dough filled with a medley of flavors remains a shared delight across the diverse regions of Venezuela.

Argentinian empanadas also showcase some regional nuances in their dough preparation, adding to the culinary diversity across the country. Although the core characteristics of the dough are consistent, specific variations can be noted in different regions of Argentina.

1. Northwest (Salta and Tucumán):

- In the Northwest, particularly in provinces like Salta and Tucumán, empanada dough tends to be thinner and can incorporate a touch of sweetness. The result is a delicate, slightly sweet pastry that complements the savory fillings.

2. Córdoba and Central Regions:

- In regions like Córdoba and the central part of the country, empanada dough often strikes a balance between thickness and flakiness. The dough provides a substantial casing for various fillings while maintaining a pleasant, slightly crispy texture.

3. Buenos Aires and Pampas:

- In Buenos Aires and the Pampas region, where culinary influences are diverse, empanada dough is typically flaky and buttery. The emphasis is on creating a light and golden crust that enhances the overall dining experience.

4. Patagonia:

- In the southernmost region of Patagonia, the empanada dough might be heartier, reflecting the colder climate. The dough can be thicker, offering a substantial bite that complements the rugged landscapes and robust local ingredients.

While regional differences exist, the essence of Argentine empanadas lies in the artful balance of a well-prepared dough that serves as the perfect vehicle for an array of delectable fillings, embodying the culinary richness of Argentina.

Reveling in the Diversity of Fillings:

The true magic of empanadas lies in their fillings, each bite a revelation of cultural influences. Argentina showcases its prowess with various meats, from the succulent embrace of beef to the savory notes of lamb or chicken. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan version unveils a celebration of local flavors – shredded beef, black beans, and gooey cheese – a symphony of tastes that transports you straight to the lively streets of Caracas.

Dipping into Sauces and Traditions:

Dipping an empanada is an art form, and both cultures have their unique sauces. Argentina introduces the vibrant chimichurri, a herb-infused condiment that perfectly complements the richness of its empanadas. On the other hand, Venezuela brings forth a salsa symphony, marrying fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and a hint of spice to enhance the bold flavors within.

Venezuelan empanadas are often accompanied by a variety of delicious sauces that enhance their flavors. These sauces add a zesty and tangy dimension to the already delightful experience of biting into a crispy empanada. Here are some popular sauces that pair exceptionally well with Venezuelan empanadas:

1. Guasacaca:

This green, herby sauce is a Venezuelan favorite, made with avocados, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice. Its creamy texture and fresh, citrusy taste provide a delightful contrast to the savory fillings of the empanadas.

2. Aji Dulce Sauce:

Aji dulce, or sweet chili pepper sauce, is known for its mildly spicy and sweet profile. Made with aji dulce peppers, onions, and garlic, it adds a kick of flavor without overpowering the taste of the empanadas.

3. Garlic Sauce (Salsa de Ajo):

A classic garlic sauce, often made with mayonnaise, garlic, and a hint of lime, complements the empanadas with a rich and garlicky kick. It’s a simple yet flavorful choice that enhances the overall experience.

4. Parsley Garlic Sauce:

Combining parsley, garlic, and olive oil, this sauce provides a vibrant and herby element. Its freshness pairs well with the savory notes of the empanadas, creating a well-rounded flavor profile.

5. Chipotle Mayo:

For those who enjoy a smoky and spicy kick, chipotle mayo is an excellent choice. The smokiness of chipotle peppers combined with the creaminess of mayonnaise adds a unique and bold flavor to the empanadas.

Argentinian empanadas also have a variety of sauces that complement their flavors, adding an extra layer of enjoyment to the dining experience. Here are some traditional sauces that pair exceptionally well with Argentinian empanadas:

1. Chimichurri:

Chimichurri is an iconic Argentinian sauce made with parsley, garlic, vinegar, oil, and red pepper flakes. Its vibrant and herby profile enhances the savory notes of the empanadas, providing a burst of freshness.

2. Salsa Criolla:

• Salsa criolla is a simple yet flavorful sauce made with onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, vinegar, and oil. Its refreshing taste and crunchy texture make it an excellent accompaniment to Argentinian empanadas.

3. Spicy Tomato Sauce:

A tangy and spicy tomato sauce can add a kick to the empanadas. Made with tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and garlic, this sauce complements the richness of the empanada fillings.

4. Ají Picante:

Ají picante, or hot pepper sauce, is perfect for those who enjoy a spicy kick. Made with hot peppers, vinegar, and spices, it adds heat and depth of flavor to the empanadas.

5. Garlic Aioli:

Garlic aioli, a creamy sauce made with garlic and mayonnaise, offers a rich and garlicky flavor. Its velvety texture enhances the overall experience of biting into a flaky empanada.

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