Pairing Empanadas with Wine and Beverages

Empanadas, with their rich and diverse fillings, are a culinary delight that perfectly encapsulate the essence of comfort food.

Often cradled in a flaky and buttery pastry, they can house an array of ingredients from savory meats and cheeses to spiced vegetables or sweet concoctions.

The secret to elevating your empanada experience lies in the art of pairing it with the right wine or beverage. This not only complements the flavors in your empanada but also enhances the overall dining pleasure.

Empanadas and wine are paired with various beverages on a rustic wooden table

Choosing the perfect wine to accompany your empanada can seem daunting, given the variety of fillings and the complexity of flavors at play. However, basic guidelines can steer you towards a harmonious match.

For instance, a bold red wine with berry notes can stand up well to the richness of meat-filled empanadas, while a crisp white or a sparkling option might better suit lighter veggie or seafood varieties.

The addition of a spicy or tangy sauce can also be a determining factor in your pairing decision, as it calls for a wine that can balance the heat and acidity.

Your empanada’s regional origin might also offer clues for a fitting beverage accompaniment.

Traditional Argentinian empanadas, for example, often find their match in local wines such as a robust Malbec or an aromatic Torrontés, providing an authentic pairing experience that nods to the dish’s heritage.

In the end, your personal preference is paramount, and experimenting with different combinations can lead to delightful discoveries.

The Basics of Empanada and Beverage Pairing

Crafting the perfect empanada and beverage pairing enhances your dining experience by complementing the flavors and textures of both the food and drink.

Recognize the taste profiles and ingredients of your empanada to select a wine or non-alcoholic option that aligns in harmony.

Understanding Empanada Flavors

Your empanada’s filling is a blend of savory, spicy, or sweet ingredients encased in a dough. Recognizing the dominant flavors is crucial:

  • Savory Fillings: Beef, chicken, or pork.
  • Spicy: Pepper, chili, or other hot spices.
  • Sweet: Corn or fruit-based fillings.

Non-alcoholic options are available as well, such as herbal teas or fruit infusions, which can either contrast or complement the flavors of your empanada based on their sweetness or acidity.

Introduction to Wine Pairing

When it comes to wine, your choice should match the body, acidity, and tannins to the empanada’s profile:

  • Light-bodied wines pair well with less intense flavors like chicken or corn fillings.
  • Acidic wines cut through the fat of meaty or cheesy empanadas, balancing the taste.
  • Tannin-rich wines can stand up to bold, spicy fillings without being overpowered.

Wine Varietals and Empanada Combinations

Selecting the perfect wine to complement your empanada can elevate the flavors to new heights. Thoughtful pairings bring out the rich, spicy, or savory notes of these Latin American delights.

Pairing With Red Wines

Malbec: Your beef empanadas, particularly those with bold spices, are best complemented by a classic Argentine Malbec from Mendoza. The wine’s robust dark fruit flavors accentuate the savory meat.

Cabernet Sauvignon: If you prefer a bolder red, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon with its cherry and blackberry notes is excellent with lamb or game meat empanadas.

Syrah: A French Syrah, known for its spicy undertones, pairs nicely with empanadas filled with spiced meats or those containing a bit of heat.

Rioja: Empanadas filled with pork or chorizo are delightful alongside a Spanish Rioja, whose subtle fruitiness cuts through the richness of the meat.

Pairing With White Wines

Sauvignon Blanc: A zesty Sauvignon Blanc with its citrus and pear notes pairs well with chicken or fish empanadas, complementing any herbal or lemony seasoning.

Chardonnay: Choose a lightly oaked Chardonnay from France for empanadas with a creamy or cheese filling. The buttery notes of the wine balance the richness of the pastry.

Pinot Gris: For corn empanadas, the slight sweetness and fruity character of a Pinot Gris, especially from Alsace, France, harmonize with the filling’s natural sweetness.

Torrontés: If your empanadas have a spicy kick or jolt of flavor, an Argentinian Torrontés can match this intensity while adding a refreshing contrast.

Matching Empanadas With Regional Wines

South America: In South America, particularly in Argentina and Chile, robust reds such as Malbec and Carmenere are stellar with the bold flavors of traditional meat empanadas.

Spain: In Spain, not only does a Rioja pair well with meaty empanadas, but a lighter Albariño is also a great match for seafood variants.

Portugal: For a more unusual pairing, try a Portuguese Vinho Verde with your lighter empanadas, like those with vegetable or seafood filling, for a fresh and zesty experience.

Non-Wine Beverages That Complement Empanadas

Empanadas surrounded by various non-alcoholic beverages like iced tea, lemonade, and fruit-infused water. A bottle of sparkling water and a pitcher of homemade sangria also sit on the table

When you’re enjoying empanadas, non-wine beverages can offer a harmonious balance to the rich and savory flavors of the filling and dough. Here’s a concise guide to matching empanadas with appropriate non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.


  • Crisp Beer: A light lager or pilsner can cleanse the palate and slice through the richness of meat-filled empanadas.
  • Ale: For spicy empanadas, an ale with a robust flavor can stand up to the heat without overshadowing the dish.

Soda & Sparkling Drinks

  • Cola: The carbonation and sweetness can offer a refreshing contrast, especially with spicy fillings.
  • Sparkling Water: Bubbly and neutral, it refreshes your palate between bites.

Latin American Refreshers

  • Aguas Frescas: Flavors like horchata or tamarind add a sweet and refreshing note.
  • Mint or Citrus Infused Waters: These infused waters bring a fresh twist, complementing empanadas without overwhelming them.

Teas & Coffee

  • Iced Tea: Unsweetened or slightly sweetened, the tannins can balance the dough’s butteriness.
  • Coffee: A bold coffee pairs well with dessert empanadas or those with a sweeter profile.

Perfecting the Craft of Making Empanadas

A table set with a variety of empanadas, wine glasses, and beverages, showcasing the art of pairing flavors

When making empanadas, the expertise lies in preparing the pastry, selecting the right fillings, and choosing your cooking method. Each element is crucial in achieving the perfect empanada.

Crafting the Pastry

The foundation of a good empanada is its pastry dough. For a traditional touch, mix flour and salt, then cut in butter or lard to create a flaky texture.

Add just enough cold water to bind the dough. Chill your dough before rolling it out, as this makes it easier to handle and prevents shrinkage during baking.

  • Basic Pastry Recipe: Ingredients Quantity All-purpose flour 2 cups Salt 1 tsp Unsalted butter, cold 3/4 cup, cubed Cold water 4-6 tbsp

Choosing the Right Fillings

The fillings are where you get to express creativity.

Start with a base of ground beef or chicken, add onions and garlic, and spice it up with cumin for a classic flavor.

For a vegetarian option, try a mixture of spinach, cheeses, and spices.

Don’t shy away from incorporating seafood, green olives, or other vegetables to diversify your empanadas.

  • Sample Meat Filling: Ingredients Quantity Ground beef 1 lb Onion, chopped 1 medium Garlic, minced 2 cloves Cumin 1 tsp Salt & Pepper To taste

Cooking Techniques: Baked Vs Fried

Your final empanada can either be baked or fried. Baking achieves a lighter and crisp finish and is generally considered healthier.

Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

If you prefer a richer taste, fry the empanadas in oil at a temperature of 360°F (180°C) until they’re crispy and brown. Remember, the pastry should be sealed well to prevent the filling from leaking out.

  • Baking Instructions: Method Temperature Time Baking 400°F (200°C) 20-25 minutes
  • Frying Instructions: Method Oil Temp Time Frying 360°F (180°C) 2-3 minutes per side

Complementary Condiments and Sides

Empanadas arranged with wine and beverages, surrounded by complementary condiments and sides

Enhance your empanada experience with the right selection of sauces and side dishes. The choice of condiment can transform the flavor profile of your empanadas, while an accompanying side dish can round out the meal.

Sauces and Dips for Empanadas

Chimichurri: A classic Argentinian sauce made with parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and chili flakes. It’s herby and vibrant—perfect for cutting through the richness of meat-filled empanadas.

  • Spicy Salsa: A fiery blend of chilies, tomatoes, and spices offers a sharp contrast that works well with cheese or chicken empanadas.

Salsa: Less spicy versions provide a tangy and refreshing complement to both meat and veggie empanadas.

  • Garlic Aioli: For a creamy dip with a punch, garlic aioli brings a silky texture and robust flavor that pairs nicely with seafood or vegetable empanadas.

Sauces: Consider these diverse options:

  • Spicy: Think hot sauce or a spicy sour cream blend for that extra kick.
  • Smoky: A smoky barbecue sauce or chipotle salsa can add depth to your empanada.

Side Dishes to Serve

Salads: A fresh, crisp salad balances the heaviness of empanadas. Consider greens with a tangy vinaigrette.

  • Rice or Quinoa: A plain or lightly seasoned base that won’t overshadow the flavors of your empanadas.

Vegetables: Steamed or grilled veggies offer a healthy and light side option.

Cultural Significance and Regional Variations

Empanadas and wine displayed with regional decor, representing cultural significance and regional variations

In exploring the diverse world of empanadas, you’ll discover a rich tapestry of cultures and tastes that stretch from the Spanish origin to the varied Latin American interpretations, each conveying a distinct gastronomic identity.

Empanadas in Latin American Cuisine

Empanadas hold a revered spot in Latin American cuisine. Originating from Spain, the concept of a pastry filled with meat, cheese, or other ingredients has been adopted and adapted across South America. In Argentina, for instance, the empanada is integral to social gatherings and is often enjoyed during the asado, a traditional barbecue. National Empanada Day, celebrated in places like the United States on April 8th, underscores their cultural importance.

Local Twists on the Classic Empanada

Each Latin American country brings its spin to empanadas, showcasing local ingredients and flavors. For example:

  • Argentina: Known for the empanadas mendocinas, which are typically filled with a savory mixture of beef, onions, spices, and sometimes boiled egg, olives, or raisins.
  • Chile: Their empanadas may include seafood, reflecting their extensive coastline.
  • Empanada Salteña: From the Salta region in Argentina has a spicier, juicier filling, often with potato and ground chilli.

Local variations extend to the cooking method, with some regions preferring to bake empanadas, while others fry them.

Traveling Through Empanada Flavors

As you travel through different Latin American countries, the empanada serves as a flavorful passport to understanding cultural intricacies. For instance, the humita empanada in Argentina and other South American countries, filled with a corn-based mixture, reflects the indigenous influence on cuisine. Traveling presents an opportunity to experience the subtle nuances and historical contexts of this beloved dish firsthand. Each country‘s unique take on the empanada speaks to its culinary heritage and innovation over time.

Advanced Pairing: Fine-Tuning Your Palate

A table set with various empanadas and a selection of wine and beverages for pairing

Embarking on the journey of pairing empanadas with wine invites you to a world where each flavor and texture can be magnified or mellowed. Your goal here is to achieve a harmonious interplay between the rich and varied profiles of empanadas and the complex nature of wines.

Balancing Flavors and Textures

When considering wine pairing, remember the rule of thumb: match the wine’s intensity with that of the empanada.

For savory beef empanadas with robust spices, choose a full-bodied red like Malbec, which holds up to hearty meats.

On the opposite spectrum, sweet fruit-filled empanadas pair delightfully with a crisp, sweet Moscato, which complements without overpowering.

  • Spicy empanadas? Opt for off-dry white wines like Riesling to temper the heat.
  • For cheese empanadas, consider a wine with high acidity to cut through the richness, such as a Sauvignon Blanc.

Textures also matter; a buttery, flaky crust dances well with a Chardonnay that has seen some oak, marrying the fats with the wine’s creamy viscosity.

The Role of Tannins and Acidity in Pairing

Tannins in wine add a layer of complexity. They interact especially well with protein-rich fillings, where firm tannins can cut through the texture and reset your palate.

  • Bold reds with higher tannins (think Cabernet Sauvignon) are excellent with red meat empanadas.

Acidity in wine serves as a palate cleanser. It slices through fat and balances out the palate, refreshing it for the next bite.

  • High-acid wines like Pinot Grigio can highlight the zesty and tangy flavors in vegetable empanadas.
  • For seafood empanadas, align them with a white wine that showcases vibrant acidity, such as Albariño.

Frequently Asked Questions

An array of empanadas displayed alongside various wine and beverage options, with a sign reading "Frequently Asked Questions" above

Selecting the perfect beverage to accompany your empanada can elevate your dining experience. Here are some specific pairings based on different fillings:

What types of wine complement beef-filled empanadas?

For beef empanadas, a full-bodied red wine like an Argentine Malbec is an excellent choice. The robust flavors of the beef are well-matched with the rich, dark fruit notes of Malbec.

Is there an ideal beverage pairing for chicken empanadas?

Chicken empanadas pair well with white wines that offer a balance of fruit and acidity. Consider a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc to complement the lighter poultry flavors.

Which wines pair best with spicy empanadas?

Spicy empanada fillings can be balanced with a wine that has a touch of sweetness. A Gewürztraminer or an off-dry Riesling helps to mitigate the heat and bring out the underlying flavors.

What non-alcoholic drinks can be served with empanadas?

For a non-alcoholic option, consider a sparkling water with a hint of citrus or a craft soda. These beverages refresh the palate without overpowering the flavors of the empanada.

What are the best beverage choices for vegetarian empanadas?

With vegetarian empanadas, opt for light-bodied wines like Pinot Noir or a dry Rosé to harmonize with the varied flavors of the vegetables without overwhelming them.

How does the filling of an empanada influence the choice of wine?

The filling’s main ingredients and seasonings dictate the wine pairing.

Rich, meaty fillings require a wine with structure and tannins. Meanwhile, lighter, cream-based or vegetable fillings pair better with wines that have higher acidity and freshness.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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