Empanadas: Argentina's highly underrated snack
A short history and 10 of the best empanada spots in Buenos Aires
Welcome Avatar! Instead of a more dense history around geopolitical events in Argentina and the Southern Cone, today we will be touching base on one of my personal favorite post-lift protein snacks: the empanada. This short origin overview is complemented with some recommendations for the best empanada joints in Buenos Aires, for those of you who happen to be in town.
For some, the best empanada is the one that seems most homemade; for others, the best empanadas are the ones with innovative new fillings. Empanadas come in a range of styles, riojanas, catamarqueñas, salteñas, tucumanas, santiagueñas and jujeñas. As you can see, most of these styles are from the northeastern part of the country.
But let’s go over the history of the empanada first.
Empanadas date back to ancient Mesopotamia and they’re almost as ancient as bread. The Moors used to carry them in their saddlebags as a snack and introduced them to Spain. At the time empanadas were a practical way of carrying food that could last for several days.
Historians have discovered a Catalan cookbook that has (perhaps) the oldest empanada recipe. A man named Ruperto de Nola published it in 1520.
The first Spanish immigrants brought the recipe to Argentina during the 16th century. The diet of medieval Spain included bread, legumes and different types of meat. All of these ingredients go into the recipe for traditional empanadas.
The basic ingredients of empanadas have changed over the years. Historically, an empanada was a simple bread dough filled with beef, pork, or beef. Today, the filling of the empanada will depend on what is seasonal and fresh.
Popular fillings include ground or ground meats, chicken, chorizo, or even a ham and cheese combo. They can also be found stuffed with vegetables or fruits. If you go to an empanada restaurant, you can find endless varieties.
This snack can be found everywhere when visiting South America, but Argentina really made it famous.
Empanadas in Argentina
In Argentine history, the empanada was once known as the worker's food, because it contained a complete meal that was easy to take with you to work.
Many families will cook empanadas as an easy meal for dinner or a party. Fresh empanadas are offered on street corners and as takeaway street food. Popular restaurants will focus on unique and dope empanada recipes, some of which I will list below.
If you want to try them at home, this classic Facebook page compiles all the original recipes from each province and the list of places where to buy the best in every corner of Argentina. The Argentine empanada is an integral part of any visit to the country, so let’s see some of the best places to try some in Buenos Aires.
Recommendations for empanadas in Buenos Aires
There are few things more comforting than eating a good juicy empanada with a bit of yasgua – a classic fresh and spicy tomato sauce from the north. They can be baked, fried or even glazed. You can find them anywhere, but finding the best ones in Buenos Aires is not such a simple task. Here are some of the best and most classic:
1. La Cocina
Empanadas catamarqueñas of thick and yellowish dough made with butter and spices; generous fillings, juicy and well done. In addition to the empanadas de carne, I recommend trying the pikachu –with cheese and spicy onion.
Address: Florida 142 (other franchise at Av. Pueyrredón 1508)
2. La Morada
Empanadas tucumanas. Very good dough, good fillings and tasty empanadas. Already a classic in the Center at noon and in Barrio Norte at night. The empanadas de carne picante are very good here.
Address: Av. Hipólito Yrigoyen 778
3. La Mezetta
The Villa Ortúzar classic has been operating since 1939 and was also chosen as the best pizzeria in the city 2018 by BA Capital Gastronómica. In addition, it was a protagonist of one of the episodes of Street Food, the Netflix documentary series that seeks the best street dishes in Latin America.
Address: Av. Álvarez Thomas 1321
Maiky Parrilla & Ahumados defines itself as the place for the "true Argentine barbecue". They stand out for the premium quality of their meats and an excellent offer of craft beers, outstanding wines and classic appetizers.
Address: Gorriti 5806, Palermo
5. La Paceña
A Belgrano classic. Empanadas made with the traditional Bolivian dough: thick, sweet and yellowish. If you like spicy empanadas, this is your place: meat, chicken and cheese and onion with a good level of spiciness that is exceptional with the counteracting dough.
Address: Echeverría 2570
6. Empanadas Salteñas
Small unpretentious place in Belgrano R with few tables on the little square and very tasty empanadas from Salta. Good dough, rich fillings.
Address: Superí 1450 (local 4)
7. El Gauchito
Empanadas riojanas, especially fried, very juicy with their green sauce with oil and spices – similar to the traditional locro sauce. A hidden gem in San Telmo. Very good good empanadas.
Address: Av.Independencia 414
8. El Sanjuanino
Baked or fried, the meat empanadas at El Sanjuanino are still as good as when they opened on the first day. Classic cuisine with good service. The Humita and veggie empanadas are also very good.
Address: Posadas 1515, Bustamante 1788 and Baez 227
9. Peña La Morena
Classic empanadas salteñas, a bit smaller but very juicy. This peña is located in Barrio Norte and also hosts chacarera shows.
Address: Austria 2031
10. El Hornero
El Hornero is located inside the San Telmo Market, an inevitable empanada in Buenos Aires. They prepare the empanadas on sight, the fried empanada with potatoes is awesome, the empanada de mondongo is also a must.
Address: Bolivar y Carlos Calvo (Mercado de San Telmo)
See you in the Jungle, frens!
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