Empanada de Pavo

empanada de pavo

The week before Christmas, I cooked a seasonal lunch for 30 people, with my friend Petra. Relative to high turkey prices (due to bird flu) we cooked four 9lb bronze, free range turkeys, in four ovens, with home made stuffing, gravy and all the trimmings. The original idea had been to cook a single 32lb turkey, but the price became prohibitive. On the 25th, my goose was cooked and my appetite for big birds was sated!  Now, one month later, I finally fancied dealing with the leftover turkey in the freezer (…or some of it – more on that later). My initial idea was to make a pie, which morphed into a much better idea – Empanada de Pavo!

Empanadas are pies that come from Galicia in the North West of Spain. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, which means to wrap in bread. These pies can be quite large, cooked in a rectangular tray, round on a flat sheet or small and half moon shaped, sometimes baked and sometimes fried. Empanadas have become so popular that they can be found throughout the Spanish speaking world and Portugal (which is just below Galicia). Large baked fish empanadas are very popular in Galicia, but there are many variations, such as; cheese, clams, spicy beef or chicken with chilli, chorizo, eel, ham, lamprey, octopus, sardines, tuna and many types with fruit or other sweet fillings for dessert.


Galician Empanada Pastry recipe:

2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder (fresh yeast is also common)
125ml olive oil
125ml crisp dry white wine or dry cider (I used Albariño, Galician white wine)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
375g plain flour

In a large bowl, beat 1 egg and the baking powder with a fork. When this is mixed together add the olive oil, wine and salt, before slowly working in the flour to make a dough. Knead the dough with both hands in/over the bowl. Sprinkle on a little more flour if it is too wet (it should be slightly tacky from the olive oil). Let the dough rest at room temperature in the bowl (covered) for one hour. This pastry is easy to make and stays elastic. Save the second egg for brushing the pastry when baking.

Empanada de Pavo filling:

200g leftover turkey (or a fresh leg/breast as preferred)
4 slices smoked streaky bacon (cut in half)
2 pimientos rojos (blackened and skinned red peppers)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
4 tomatoes (grated)
10 Kalamata olives (sliced)
2 hard boiled eggs (chopped)
a shot glass of dry white wine (I used Albariño, Galician white wine)
2 splashes sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera dulce
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera picante
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
a dessertspoon chopped parsley
2 squirts anchovy paste (or to taste)
cracked black pepper (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil

First of all, blacken 2 small (or 1 large) sweet red peppers (capsicum) on top of a gas ring, on a barbecue, or under the grill (broiler). When the skin is suitably burnt, place the peppers in covered bowl, a paper bag or a tuppaware, so that the inside can steam in the residual heat. Leave for an hour or so.


Chop the onion and sofeír (poach) in plenty of olive oil, over a low heat. Stir often, the onions should become soft and sticky without any brown bits. Do not cover as you will end up with cooked onion in onion juice.


After half an hour or so, the onion will have released it liquid and become soft. Stir in the chopped garlic and grate on 4 tomatoes – cut them in half and grate the wet side then dispose of the skins.


Mix in the pimentón, thyme, anchovy paste, black pepper, sherry vinegar and a splash of dry white wine. Allow the sofrito to reduce on a low heat for 30 minutes or so.


When the sauce has thickened, add the olives,


two chopped, hard boiled eggs


and a dessertspoon of chopped parsely. Give everything a good stir and remove from the heat. Allow to cool before building the empanada. Hot food melts uncooked pastry.


Divide the pastry in half and roll out a circle about 30cm across – use an upturned large mixing bowl to cut out the pastry. With pastry made from olive oil you don’t need to flour the the work surface. In Galicia, some of the abuelas (grandmothers) don’t use a rolling pin, instead they push out the pastry with their knuckles. When making large empanadas they use several pieces of pastry. This type of olive oil pasta (dough) is quite stretchy and will stick easily to another piece. Place it on a baking sheet and prick it all over with a fork. Brush with the beaten white of the second raw egg, saving the yolk for the top. Bake the base blind for about 10 minutes at 180ºC (until it looks biscuity in colour) – this ensures that it’s crispy when the whole empanada is cooked. I recommend keeping an eye on it and pushing down any bubbles that pop up with the back of a fork, while baking.


Make a layer of sofrito on the pastry base, leaving a 1cm gap all the way round, for the top to stick to.


Put a layer of roast turkey on top – the above was mostly leg meat, which has more flavour.


Cover the turkey with 4 slices of streaky bacon (cut in half).

pimientos rojos

Remove the blackened skin from the pimientos, along with the seeds and stalks. Cut into slices and put these on top of the bacon.

sofrito dos

Finally, add another layer of sofrito to the pie.


Roll out the second piece of pastry, slightly larger than the base (about 32cm across). Beat the egg yolk with a little cold water, Brush the lower, outer pastry lip with beaten egg before covering the empanada with the pastry tapa (lid). Push the pastry firmly together round the edges to seal the pie. Make a hole and chimney in the middle for heat to escape. Decorate with strips of leftover pastry. Brush the pie with beaten egg yolk – this will give it a golden colour when cooked. Bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC (or 180ºC if using a fan oven) for about 40 minutes, or until golden. I was highly amused and delighted to see steam and bubbles coming out of the chimney while the pie cooked.


Serve hot or cold with a salad and a glass or two of Albariño.

Journey to the center of the Galician empanada (in Spanish).

About Mad Dog

This entry was posted in Fish, Food, Meat, Recipes, Spanish and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Empanada de Pavo

  1. Ron says:

    Nicely done MD, I love empanadas although I’ve never enjoyed one of this size. A great way to incorporate the leftover turkey.
    I’m still trying to visualize a 32-pound turkey. Fresh turkey is not very common here and is expensive, so we usually buy a couple of breasts and sous vide them.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Ron – large empanadas are fairly easy to make and you can layer the filling up with all sorts of things. The olive oil pastry sticks together well and it’s unusual for them to leak. I’m quite sure you could bake one and take it whole on a picnic without issue. Similarly, these can be baked in a normal pie dish.
      32lb turkeys are not uncommon at Christmas, though one does have to order them. On normal years, without bird flu, turkey is usually quite cheap. My 9lb goose cost less than turkey this year!

  2. Wow – your empanadas are so different from the small hand pies we get here in México. I love the look and the ability to share one with friends. I also like that you give lots of variations for fillings, and the pastry seems pretty easy to make.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks David! They do make small pasty like empanadas in Spain too, but an empanada is a pie, so you will find the Spanish ones in all shapes and sizes. The pastry is very easy to make, most of the work is done in a bowl with a fork and it only needs a couple of minutes kneeding over the bowl by hand. It’s much easier than shortcrust!

  3. What a fabulous recipe! The idea of wine in pastry is a totally new one for me. I’ve heard of and tried vodka, but that’s basically flavorless and supposed to help keep the pastry tender.

    I’m hoping I’ll have an afternoon sometimes to make this!


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