Tuna empanada is a small pocket pie filled with tuna and vegetables. The most distinct feature of empanada is its crescent moon-like shape holding the fillings inside. The concept of empanadas originate from Portugal and the flavors or fillings were later on modified on the preference of the Filipinos. The empanada fillings has a wide range of variety. It is commonly eaten as a merienda or a snack. Most empanadas are enjoyed on their own but some special empanadas like the Ilocos empanada is enjoyed with vinegar.
Tuna empanada and other empanada flavors are very easy to acquire. They can be bought literally anywhere. My auntie always bring home empanadas as pasalubong. What made me want to make my own empanada is that those empanadas brought by my auntie either has too thick pie crust, too small amount of fillings or not crisp due to too much oil. After then I knew I want freshly-cooked empanadas.
So much for my empanada story. I made my very first empanada when I was in high school. I brought them as a snack for our mini field trip. I actually made three flavors and one of them is tuna. I chose to bring empanada since it is a very handy snack and you could also eat it fast. I fell in love with empanada the second I took a bite on the very famous Ilocos empanada. I learned how to make the pie crust and experimented on different fillings.
I did not perfect my empanada the first time I did it. The fillings were easy but I struggled with the flakiness of the pie crust. I have read different versions of the recipes and realized that I was doing the pie crush wrong even before kneading it. I was not cutting a cold butter into the flour. It was a heavenly experience for me after I achieved the right kind of flakiness I want for an empanada. And since I can control what’s inside it, I experimented different flavors using my favorite food items.
HOW TO MAKE TUNA EMPANADA
Tuna Empanada Wrapper
The texture of the wrapper is important to compliment the softness of the fillings inside the empanada. To prepare for the wrapper, mix the all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix the dry ingredients first before proceeding. Add the cold butter cubes in the powder mixture and cut. Cutting butter in flour (and with the other dry ingredients) means coating the butter to the flour. When the butter coats the flour, the raw butter creates little lumps which prohibits the gluten formation during the kneading process. This is important in producing a flaky texture in the resulting pie crust.
To cut butter into flour, make sure that the butter or margarine you are using is cold and solid. When you use melted of softened butter, it would create lesser lumps within the flour and would result to a less flaky pie crust. So grab your cold butter cubes, and mash it in the powder mixture using a fork. To manage blending the flour and butter more, use your hands. You’ll know you are done when there are no lumps, the butter is fully incorporated with the powder mixture and the mixture is slightly yellow in color. To make it into a dough, add ice water into the powder mixture gradually, 2 tablespoons at a time. The reason why ice water is used is to retain the temperature of the butter and for it not to melt. Again, to achieve a flaky texture of the pie crust. Knead until the dough is smooth. Form it into a ball and wrap it in plastic. Allow it to chill in the fridge for an hour.
Tuna Empanada Filling
While chilling the wrapper dough, prepare the tuna fillings. If you are using a canned tuna, drain the tuna. If you are using fresh tuna, cut the fish meat into small pieces. Prepare the other vegetables by chopping the potatoes and carrots. Heat some oil in a pan and saute the chopped onions and garlic. Add the carrots and potatoes and continue sautéing. The potatoes and carrots are “hard’ vegetables and would take time to cook. Cover the pan and let it simmer for about 5 minutes to let the vegetables cook fully. When cooked, add the green peas if you prefer. Add the tuna and saute with the rest of the vegetables. Season the filling with salt and pepper. When done, set aside and let it cool.
Small steps left for the wrapper and the tuna empanada will be cooked. Grab the chilled wrapper dough. In a clean, flat space, dust some flour and lay the dough. The flour dusting will help to prevent the dough from sticking into the flat space. Start flattening the dough using a rolling pin. Try to flatten the dough as thin as possible. No one wants a thick crust for their empanada. When done, cut some circle-shaped dough. Use a bowl or something circle to use as a dough cutter. Remove the excess dough.
Start adding a gorgeous amount of filling into the empanada wrapper. You may add grated cheese and a slice of hard-boiled egg. Fold the wrapper horizontally or vertically to create a crescent moon-like shape. Fold the edges of the pie slightly inward to close the empanada. Seal the edges of the empanada using a fork to make it look like the classic ones. Do these steps until the wrappers and fillings are fully consumed.
Some versions of empanadas are baked. But in this recipe, it’s frying time. Heat some cooking oil in a pan for deep-frying. Make sure that the oil is hot before placing the empanadas. Fry the empanadas in batches and make sure that they are not overcrowded. Make sure to flip the other side of the empanadas to cook both sides. Once they are golden brown, then the empanadas are done. Put the cooked tuna empanadas in a strainer or tissue paper to drain the excess oil. Serve the empanadas hot and enjoy.
- For the Tuna Empanada Wrapper:
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup butter or margarine cubes (cold)
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ cup ice water
- For the Tuna Empanada Filling:
2 cans of tuna
1 potato, cubed
1 ½ cup carrot, cubed
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
½ cup green peas (optional)
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
grated cheese (optional)
hardboiled egg, sliced (optional)
- For the tuna empanada wrapper
- In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoon sugar, baking powder, salt. Mix well.
- Add the butter cubes. Cut and blend into the powder mixture using a fork. You can also use hands to blend. The powder mixture will change into slightly yellow color due to butter.
- Add ice water 2 tablespoons at a time. Start kneading until smooth.
- Once smooth, turn into a ball. Wrap with plastic or put in a sealed container.
- Chill the wrapper dough for 1 hour.
- For the tuna empanada filling
- Drain the tuna (if you’re using canned tuna). Heat some oil in a pan. Sauté the onion and garlic. Add the cubed potatoes, carrot, and oyster sauce. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes under low to medium heat). [Optional] Add green peas. Add the tuna. Sauté with the rest of the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and let it cool.
- ASSEMBLY & COOKING
- Grab the chilled wrapper dough. Dust some the surface with flour. Flatten the dough as thin as possible using a rolling pin. Use a bowl to cut circles from the dough.
- Add some fillings in the dough. Add grated cheese and/or hardboiled egg slices. Fold and wrap to close the empanada. You must make a half circle pie. Fold the sides slightly inward and seal the edges using a fork. Repeat this process until the dough wrappers and filling are fully consumed.
- Heat oil under medium low heat for deep-frying. Fry the tuna empanada pieces in batches until golden brown. Make sure that both sides are cooked. Remove from the oil and place in a strainer or in a tissue paper to drain the excess oil. Serve hot and enjoy!