These mini pork empanadas are amazing! They are not only easy to make, but they carry a real punch of flavor. And with the holiday season approaching, and all the parties that go with this time of year, these little guys are a “go to” choice when it comes to the age-old question: what should I serve/take?
If you follow this blog you know that I worked in the corporate headquarters of Whole Foods Market (WFM) in Austin, TX for 10 years. For a while there, they had a concept called the Culinary Academy (CA) going, where chefs would demonstrate recipes and serve them as meals for paying patrons. As team members, we could buy sessions with a discount, so some of us occasionally opted to do a culinary academy experience for lunch. I adapted this particular recipe from one of the ones shared by the WFM CA.
I love these mini pork empanadas because:
- As the title indicates, they are SO easy to make.
- You can make them with so few ingredients, yet they taste amazing!
- You can assemble them in advance and bake them up later.
- The leftovers are delicious cold, or you can easily warm them up in a low-heat oven and enjoy them all over again.
Given all hype, I think we should just get right to them!
making easy mini pork empanadas
I know that there is a thing known as empanada dough. And it is not puff pastry. But these are so little that puff pastry is easier to work with than regular empanada dough. Plus, empanada dough is better suited to deep fried goodies, while these mini pork empanadas are baked.
As for the pork, the WFM CA recipe called for fresh pork sausage, which I agree is a good choice. Not Italian pork sausage or traditional breakfast pork sausage. Just plain pork sausage. If you cannot find fresh pork sausage in your area, use plain ground pork. However, if using ground pork, you will need to double the Jamaican jerk seasoning. Pork sausage is pre-seasoned, so adding too much Jamaican jerk seasoning will make your mini empanadas too salty. Plain ground pork will need the extra jolt of flavor.
Heat a pan and cook the pork sausage in the oil with the jerk seasoning, thyme, and garlic. Then set it aside to cool.
Use a rolling pin to slightly stretch out the puff pastry. I like to do that because otherwise it puffs up too big. But by slightly, I mean slightly. I stretch it out so that it is maybe only 1/4-inch longer all around.
Then use a 3-inch cutter to cut a round of dough. Next, brush the edges with an egg wash, and then put a level tablespoon of cooked sausage in the middle. Fold the dough over, and press with a fork to seal. Continue until all the puff pastry has been used.
NOTE: depending on how thin you make the dough with the rolling pin, you can get 9 to 11 empanada rounds from each puff pastry sheet.
The dough left from the cuttings can be discarded or reshaped for other uses. Please keep in mind that reshaped dough is much more difficult to work with, so you may not want to reshape it for more mini empanadas.
Place the sealed empanadas on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet, brush with egg wash, and bake for about 18 minutes or until golden brown.
You will be amazed at how those few ingredients, and that little bit of effort, can produce a gorgeous, crispy and flaky outer shell that holds an explosion of juicy, seasoned, porky goodness inside. It’s a happy mouth moment in time. So much so that you will convince yourself to have just one more, then just another one more… until you just give up and grab another one anyway.
Serve these at a party and you will definitely be a host/hostess with the mostest. But you know what, why wait for a party? Go ahead and make a batch just because… which is just because they are gosh darn amazing!
Give them a try. I know you’ll love them!
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 pound fresh pork sausage or ground pork
- 1-2 tablespoons Jamaican jerk seasoning (actual amount depends on whether using sausage or ground pork)
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
- 4 medium to large garlic cloves, minced
- 4 sheets puff pastry dough
- 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
- Preheat a large skillet over medium heat.
- When the pan is hot, pour in the oil then add the pork, breaking the meat into small crumbles.
- Then add the jerk seasoning, thyme and garlic. If using sausage, add 1 tablespoon of jerk seasoning. If using fresh ground pork, add two tablespoons of jerk seasoning.
- Stir and cook until pork is fully cooked. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Lightly beat an egg in a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, use a rolling pin to slightly stretch a single puff pastry sheet, leaving it about ¼-inch larger all around.
- Using a 3-inch cutter, cut rounds out of the dough. Place the cutter as close as possible to the previous cut edges to maximize use of the dough. You should be able to cut 9 to 11 rounds from each sheet.
- Then brush a bit of egg wash around the edges of the cut dough, place one level teaspoon of cooked pork in the center, fold the dough over and seal it with a fork. Transfer to a parchment-covered baking sheet and cover with a dish towel to keep moist. Repeat until all the cut round have been used.
- Repeat the process with the remaining puff pastry sheets.
- Bake for 18 minutes or until empanadas are puffed and golden brown.
- Serve warm, either plain or with your choice of salsa or sour cream.