Brisket Empanadas for Cinco de Mayo

If you asked me what I would be cooking 2 years ago, I would have proclaimed, “Well, the classics, of course,” and never in a million years would have thought I would be combining cultures and cuisines. However, over the last few years, I have come to the realization that food, culture and experiences are fluid. They mesh together, are shared and passed on with friends and generations and who am I to keep them away from each other?

Growing up as a Brooklyn Jewish girl, moving to Hawaii, and now living in Southern Cali, you can imagine the culture shock I experienced more than once. No more bagel shops or bialys (the horror!) and what is this odd seeded fruit called “lilikoi” (passion fruit in Hawaiian)? And finally as I settle down in Southern California, I am surrounded by Latin cuisine, full of chiles and freshly made tortillas at my doorstep. And you know what, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I adore all these flavors.

Brisket Empanadas 2

Now as I embrace my wiser, older years (hey, I can say I’m officially out of my 20s) I welcome the fusion of flavors and embrace all the diverse culinary influences of my past and present. Isn’t that what experience is all about? To express my new found love for fusion and to get into the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I welcome these baked brisket empanadas served with a gorgeously bright passion fruit chimichurri sauce! This is a dish that truly blends together traditional Latin, Jewish and even Pacific flavors.

Brisket Empanadas 3

The best part about this recipe is that I used leftover slow-cooker brisket and brightened it up a bit by adding a touch of Latin spice, chopped potatoes and cilantro. Though my favorite part of this recipe is the passion fruit chimichurri sauce that goes along with it! And because passion fruit is not easily found on the mainland, many Latin and ethnic markets carry “passion fruit puree” which is what I used and works perfectly! You can certainly make your own as well or substitute with your favorite bright fruit.

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For the dough:

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

½ cup organic vegetable shortening

½ cup cold water

1 tsp light vinegar

2 eggs, lightly whisked together


For the brisket filling:

2 cups cooked, leftover brisket, chopped roughly into smaller pieces

½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped finely

3 small potatoes, chopped into small cubes

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp sazon spice (found in Latin markets)

Small bunch of cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Olive oil, for drizzling


For the passion fruit chimichurri:

1 cup passion fruit puree (found in Latin markets)

1 bunch of fresh cilantro

1 bunch of fresh parsley

3 garlic cloves,

1/2 jalapeño,

1 lime juiced and zest

¼ cup water (more or less depending on desired consistency)

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste


Egg wash (for brushing on empanadas)

1 egg + 1 Tbsp water, whisked together


To make the dough: In a food processor, add the flour and salt and pulse together a few times to mix. Then add the shortening, in small dollops and pulse a few more times until the flour looks like wet sand. Then add the wet ingredients; the water, vinegar and eggs and pulse until a ball of dough forms. Remove dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it is smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the rest of the dish.


To make the filling: Heat a skillet on medium heat and add drizzle of olive oil, chopped potatoes and jalapeno and sauté until potatoes are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes (cover the pan with a lid to help speed up the cooking). Then add cumin, sazon, salt and pepper and toss to combine for another minute. Then add cooked brisket and fresh cilantro and mix everything together. Turn off heat and taste for seasoning. Set aside and allow mixture to cool.


To make the chimichurri: Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend together until smooth. Add more or less water for your desired consistency, but enough to be pourable. Taste for seasoning.


To assemble the empanadas: Remove dough from refrigerator and cut in half, keeping the other half covered so it doesn’t dry out. Roll dough until it is very thin, about ¼ inch and use a 4 inch round cookie cutter (or cup works too) and cut out circles. Hold the round dough in the palm of your hand and place a tablespoon of brisket filling in the center. Wet the edges of the dough with your finger and seal the empanada on all sides and gently pushing out any air bubbles. Then use your index finger to gently crimp the edges (or you can use a fork). Place empanadas on lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Then bake at 375 for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.


Allow to cool slightly and serve with chimichurri sauce.

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