Luna and Janeth’s Beef Empanadas from Colombia

Janeth and Luna empanadas

Colombian ground-beef empanadas are one of the family-famous recipes Janeth Palacio Barrera and her daughter Luna love to make together on weekends. When she was about Luna’s age and growing up in Medellín, Janeth learned to make these ground corn-flour empanadas from her mother Francy. Now that Janeth is a mom herself, she keeps the tradition going with both Luna and her son Samuel.

Luna especially loves to join her in their Chicago kitchen. At age 7, Luna is on her way to becoming a buena cocinera one day under her mom’s guidance. She even has her own apron. As they cook and bake together, Janeth explains every step in English and Spanish. Luna already knows some parts of the family recipe by heart, and her favorite part is mashing the potatoes to mix with the beef relleno.

Janeth and Luna make their Colombian family recipe for beef empanadas in their Chicago kitchen.

Serve These Empanadas with Colombian Hogao Sauce

To make these beef empanadas even more authentic, serve them with hogao, says Janeth. Hogao is a traditional Colombian garlic and tomato sauce. It is simple to make and elevates any dish with a traditional flavor Colombians will instantly recognize. (It’s also delicious on these patacones!) Janeth and Luna’s hogao is made with chopped and tomatoes, sauéed onion, scallions, red pepper and cilantro. The salsa is then into the cooked beef and mashed potatoeso. For más sabor, spoon leftover hogao over the empanadas when serving.

Janeth makes sure that Luna learns to cook safely. Luna stands on a step stool while stirring the pot under Janeth’s supervision. And when Luna plops the first potato into the pot of water, Janeth guides her hand to ensure her fingers are at a safe distance away from the boiling water. Once Luna gets the hang of it, mom and daughter alternate who adds the potatoes. 

If you’re craving traditional más Colombian dishes, check out Janeth and Luna’s family recipes on Familia Kitchen. They include fried whole mojarra, flan de leche, and patacones with hogao sauce. For more cooking inspiration, explore Familia Kitchen to see the range of family-famous, abuela-approved traditional recipes from all the Spanish-speaking places we come from (or share your own!).

Ready to Make These Colombian Beef Empanadas?

Luna and Janeth’s Beef Empanadas from Colombia

Recipe by Janeth Barrera
4.7 from 6 votes
Cuisine: Colombia


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 cups precooked ground corn flour, yellow

  • ½ tsp salt, for the dough

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef or pork (or a mix of both)

  • ½ tsp salt, for the beef filling

  • 6 white potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 1 bouillon chicken or vegetable

  • vegetable oil, for frying

  • 1 lime, sliced, for garnishing the finished empanadas

  • For the Hogao Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped

  • ¼ cup white onion, chopped

  • ¼ cup scallions, (about 4 scallions), chopped

  • 2 tsp cilantro, fresh, chopped

  • 1 red pepper, small, chopped

  • 1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped

  • ½ tsp salt, for the hogao sauce

  • ¼ tsp black pepper


  • Make the Dough
  • In a large bowl, place the precooked ground corn flour.
  • Add ½ tsp salt and mix it into the corn flour.
  • Add the water and mix together to make the empanada dough.
  • Form the dough into a ball and knead it for about 2 minutes until it is smooth.
  • Place the kneaded dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 20 minutes.
  • Make the Beef and Potato Filling
  • Place the ground beef or pork in a hot pan. Add ½ tsp salt. Cook the meat, stirring it to break it up as it browns. When cooked through, set aside.
  • In a saucepan, place the potatoes and water to cover. Stir in the chicken bouillon. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes for 20 to 25 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
  • Remove the potatoes and slightly mash them in a bowl. Set them aside.
  • Make the Hogao Sauce
  • In a large saucepan, warm 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, onion, scallions, red pepper, cilantro, salt and pepper. Sauté for 15 minutes. Remove a small portion (about ½ cup) of the sauce to serve with the fried empanadas when done.
  • Combine the remaining sauce with the cooked beef and mashed potatoes. Mix well.
  • Roll the Dough and Stuff the Empanadas
  • When the dough is ready, break small portions—about 1 ½ Tbsps each. Shape each into a ball, rolling it between your palms.
  • Place the corn-flour dough balls between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Press with your fingertips, so that they flatten into round discs, about 5 inches wide each. You can also use a rolling pin.
  • Remove the top piece of plastic wrap. With a spoon, place about 1 Tbsp of meat filling in the center of each dough disc.
  • Using the plastic below each disc, fold the dough in half so that each half circle encloses the beef filling.
  • Firmly seal the border of each half moon with the tines of a fork or your fingers.
  • Fry and Serve the Empanadas
  • Fill a large pot with vegetable oil so that it is at least 2 inches high. Turn the heat to medium high, about 350°.
  • When the oil is hot enough, carefully place batches of about 3 to 4 empanadas. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side, until each empanada is light golden brown.
  • With a slotted spoon, transfer the empanadas to a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Garnish with fresh lime and leftover hogao sauce. Serve hot.


  • For the precooked and ground corn flour, Janeth buys Masarepa at her local Latino grocery store.
Janeth Luna empanadas Colombia
Janeth and Luna make the dough with precooked ground corn flour and get ready to roll it out.
Janeth Luna empanadas Colombia
Janeth shows Luna how to carefully place each filled empanada into the super-caliente, frying-hot oil.
empanadas Colombia
Janeth teaches Luna how to spoon the hogao sauce on each empanada.
empanadas Colombia
After frying the beef-filled empanadas, Janeth and Luna deem their family recipe delicioso.

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