Lisa’s Empanadas with Guava and Queso Fresco

guava queso empanadas 1

These empanadas with guava and queso fresco are one of the childhood foods Lisa Kear most loves to bake today. She grew up living with her grandparents in Panama, and when she makes these fresh-baked guava and cheese treats, she feels happy. Like she’s right back on their family farm in Colón by the Caribbean coast. Her grandmother was a a great cook, says Lisa, and they grew almost everything they ate on their land.

”My grandmother taught me how to make the empanadas,” says Lisa. “Empanadas are usually served for breakfast, snack, afternoon snack, and for special occasions such as wedding showers or birthday and holiday parties.” She also remembers that savory and sweet baked treats were sold by Panamanian street vendors on her way to and from school.

”What I like about empanadas is that they are a combination of protein and starch. It offers the perfect balance to every Panamanian to have mornings and evenings,” she says.

For this recipe, Lisa says she uses either traditional queso fresco or American cream cheese for the filling, depending on what she finds at the grocery store. Either way, both are delicioso, she promises. Making empanadas reminds her of who she is and where she came from.

The empanada tradition continues, Lisa says. Her daughters love them and regularly ask her to bake these guava and cheese ones, just liked she used to beg her grandmother in Panama. ”When I make empanadas here in the Sates, it brings comfort and helps with the emotion of still missing my family, friends, the people, and the culture of Panama,” she says.

Interested in trying more of Lisa’s traditional Panamanian recipes? Check out her family-famous beef empanadas, Familia Kitchen Recipe Contest-winning flan, pollo guisado (stewed chicken) with spaghetti, and handmade Panamanian corn tortillas.

Ready to Bake Lisa’s Empanadas with Guava and Queso Fresco?

Lisa’s Empanadas with Guava and Queso Fresco

Recipe by Lisa Kear Cuisine: Panamanian

8 to 10

Prep time


Cooking time




  • Empanada Dough
  • 1 cup 1 cold butter

  • 2 1/2 cups 2 1/2 all-purpose flour

  • 2 2 egg yolks, beaten

  • 6 Tbsp 6 cold water

  • Guava Cheese Filling
  • 14 oz 14 guava paste

  • 8 oz 8 queso fresco or cream cheese


  • Preheat oven to 375.°
  • Using a food processor, pulse the flour and butter the mix becomes pea size.
  • Beat egg yolks with cold water (reserve egg whites to brush over empanadas before baking). Add the water–yolk mixture to the flour/butter and pulse for a couple seconds.
  • Divide dough in half, and wrap both sections with plastic wrap into two large discs. Refrigerate to chill the dough.
  • Alternatively, you can use frozen puff pastry from the store, which works just as well.
  • Once the dough is completely chilled, roll it out on a work surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut with a round cookie cutter or a bowl to trace a 4-inch or 6-inch disc, depending on your filling size preference.
  • On each dough disc, place a slice of guava paste and cheese generous enough to fill the center of the dough. Fold the dough in half to create a half moon. Press the edges of dough with a fork to seal the empanadas. With your fork, pierce each empanada twice on one side, to allow a little heat to escape during baking.
  • Using the egg whites reserved from the dough recipe, brush beaten egg whites over each empanada.
  • Place on a baking pan lined with parchment in a 375° oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.


  • Lisa usually uses queso fresco, but says this ingredient can easily be replaced with regular cream cheese and “it’s absolutely delicious.”
Lisa empanadas guava cheese
Beat 2 yolks in cold water and mix with butter and flour to make the empanada dough.
guava empanadas cheese
guava queso empanadas 1

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