Mexican Shrimp Empanadas for Easy & Delicioso Entertaining

Shrimp empanadas Emily Gonzalez

When shrimp empanadas are served, you know the González family is celebrating.

“Empanadas, particularly these ones filled with shrimp, are intimately linked to Mexican holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Lent. The preparation of shrimp empanadas becomes a joyous and collaborative process, uniting people and my family members as we all pitch in to make and eat them together,” says Emily González, 22, who lives in Chicago’s Albany Park, which she calls ”the most diverse neighborhood“ in the city.

These empanadas de camarón are a must-make at the González’s annual Thanksgiving feast, deliciosamente representing the Mexican half of their family heritage. The other half is Cuban, which usually gets the most food representation at their Thanksgiving table, when they make: ropa vieja, black beans, congrí, yuca with garlic and lime, and pastelitos de guayaba or guava pastries. Just wait until Christmas, though, says Emily, a college senior. That‘s when Mexico rules the holiday menu. She and her family make tamales, pozole and many more traditional recipes from her father’s side of the family tree.

These shrimp empanadas are served at The González family’s Thanksgiving dinner, which also includes ropa vieja, black beans, congrí, yuca with garlic and lime, and pastelitos de guayaba.

Emily’s maternal grandparents are both from Havana, Cuba, and her father’s people are from Guanajuato, Mexico. She and her two sisters love to get into their parents’ kitchen, and make family-famous dishes from both comida traditions for family dinners big and small.

Shrimp empanadas Emily Gonzalez
Emily’s favorite empanadas

Emily learned to prepare these shrimp empanadas from her father. ”They are one of his favorite dishes,” she says. At first they followed “a complex process that took us two days every holiday season. Over time, we discovered convenient alternatives, with premade empanada dough emerging as our favorite due to its texture.”

Now, Emily go straight to the frozen Latino section of the grocery stores to buy premade. “Honestly, the Goya empanada discs very closely resemble our traditional dough,” says Emily. “This store-bought shortcut allows us to redirect time and attention to other Mexican and Cuban holiday-friendly recipes.” That’s just the kind of abuela-cooking cocina hack we love here at Familia Kitchen.

This week, Emily is getting ready to shop and start cooking with her sisters and parents for Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season. They will be making these this shrimp recipe as the appetizer, of course. ”Gathering with my family for an empanada-making session remains a cherished tradition. We have explored various flavors in the past, but our shrimp empanada recipe stands out as the best!”

Ready to Make Emily’s Mexican Shrimp Empanadas?

Mexican Shrimp Empanadas for Easy & Delicioso Entertaining

Recipe by Emily Gonzalez
3.9 from 20 votes
Cuisine: Cuban


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1/4 cup white onion, medium, minced

  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced

  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 8 oz tomato sauce, “Spanish-style”

  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano

  • 1 tsp adobo seasoning

  • 2 packets sazon with achiote

  • 2 lbs shrimp, shelled and deveined

  • 2 packages frozen empanada dough, 20 discs total


  • Set the frozen empanada discs on a kitchen counter to thaw.
  • In a wide skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the minced onions and bell peppers. Sauté until they turn soft.
  • Stir in the garlic, tomato sauce, cayenne pepper, Mexican oregano, and the 2 seasonings: adobo and sazon. Sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp in batches, careful not to crowd them. Cook the shrimp, about 1 minute each side, stirring regularly.
  • Once the shrimp is all cooked, remove from the heat. Chop the shrimp mixture into small pieces and set aside.
  • On a lightly floured work surface, place 1 thawed empanada disc. Spoon about 1 Tbsp of the shrimp mixture into its center.
  • Fold the empanada in half to form a half-moon. Moisten the edges with a dab of water. Pinch the edges with your fingers to close, or seal with a fork.
  • Pour 2 to 3 cups of vegetable oil in a large, wide pan over medium-high heat. You want the oil to reach about 325°F.
  • When the oil is hot, fry the empanadas 1 or 2 at a time, until each side turns light golden brown. They can burn quickly, so keep an eye on them. Emily finds that 2 minutes per side is ideal for each empanada.
  • Place the fried empanadas on a rack in the oven, on a paper towel-lined sheet tray, while you finish the rest.
  • When all the empanadas are fried and golden-brown, they are ready. Serve hot.


  • Emily and her family save themselves days of work by buying premade empanada dough discs. They taste just as good, she promises.

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