My Mom Lisa’s Amazing Beef Empanadas From Panama

Panama beef empanadas

These authentic Panama beef empanadas made by my mom, Lisa, hold a special place in my heart. When I smell them coming out of the oven, all hot and savory, it reminds me of coming home from school and having them as a snack in the kitchen with Mom. Or getting ready for a party at our house with our friends. My mom, sister and I would make dozens of them as we got ready for people to come over.

My mother was raised in Panama, where food and culture were a huge part in her life. She loved cooking in the kitchen with her abuela. Whenever I bite into an empanada, it brings back memories of stories my mom told me of her cooking with her abuela and growing up in Panama.

I hope you guys enjoy making these delicious Panamanian beef empanadas with your own family and share them with people you love the most. The flavor will bring you warm loving memories, I promise. Enjoy!

Lisa’s Beef Empanadas from Panama

Recipe by Mary-Elizabeth Kear Cuisine: Panama


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 14 oz. 14 empanada-dough leaves, frozen package

  • 1 1/2 lb. 1 1/2 ground beef

  • 1 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 1 red pepper, chopped

  • 1 1 habanero pepper, chopped (optional)

  • 1 cup 1 parsley, fresh, chopped

  • 1 cup 1 green onions or scallions, chopped

  • 6 oz. 6 tomato paste

  • 2 cloves 2 garlic, minced

  • 1 cup 1 water

  • 1 Tbsp. 1 olive oil

  • 1 Tbsp. 1 Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 Tbsp. 1 red wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp. 1 oregano, dried

  • 1 tsp. 1 thyme

  • 1/2 tsp. 1/2 paprika

  • 1/4 tsp. 1/4 annatto, ground

  • 1/4 tsp. 1/4 cumin, ground

  • 1 packet 1 sazón

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 green olives, chopped

  • 1 1 egg, lightly beaten

  • 1/2 tsp. 1/2 salt, or to taste

  • 1/8 tsp. 1/8 pepper, or to taste


  • The Beef Filling
  • Add olive oil in a large pan or caserola. Start browning the ground beef on medium high heat.
  • Once the ground beef is broken down and browned, add the chopped onion and peppers. When the onions are cooked, add garlic. Stir and saute for 1 or 2 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste and stir. Brown the beef into the tomato paste for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Make sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t stick.
  • Add the green onions and chopped olives. Stir together.
  • Add all of the spices: oregano, thyme, paprika, ground annatto, ground cumin and sazón. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Slowly add the water, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste, stirring gently.
  • Cook on low for about 5 minutes, until the water evaporates into the beef mixture.
  • Take the pan off the heat and let cool for about a hour.
  • The Empanadas
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Lay all the dough leaves on your work surface, two or three inches apart. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the ground beef filling in the middle of each leaf. Fold each in half and press the sides down with a fork, leaving the indentation marks. Then, with your fork, puncture one set of 4 little holes on the top so the empanadas can air out while baking.
  • Line up the stuffed empanadas on your baking sheet or baking pan. Brush each lightly with egg so they don’t dry up.
  • Place the empanadas in an oven preheated to 375° for 18 to 20 minutes. They will emerge golden-brown and steaming hot. Enjoy!


  • Mom uses Goya frozen empanada leaves, found in the frozen section of Latino grocery stores.
Lisa, center, with daughter Sarah and Mary-Elizabeth Kear
Panamanian mom and cook Lisa Kear, center, with daughters Mary-Elizabeth, right, and Sarah, left.
Ready to start chopping onions and peppers—spices ready to go.
Empanadas meat filling
Making the meat filling with ground beef, onions, red and habanero peppers, garlic, anatto, lots of spices and sazón.
Empanadas from Panama prep
Scoop a large spoonful of meat filling into the center of each empanada leaf.
Panama beef empanadas
Press the empanada edges shut with your fork.
Panama beef empanadas
Puncture the top of each empanada to allow the steam to escape.
Panama beef empanadas
Brushing the top of each empanada with lightly beaten egg helps them get golden brown without drying.
Panama beef empanadas
Her mom’s beef empanadas will make you feel warm and loved, says Mary-Elizabeth.

Got a question or suggestion?

Please rate this recipe and leave any tips, substitutions, or questions you have!

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Suggestions and questions from our readers

  1. Hi. I can’t wait to try your recipe. What type of sazon goya did you use? There are so many to choose from. Some have cilantro, some have tomato paste and some have onion.