This ham and cheese empanada recipe should be your new holiday tradition. They are perfect as a party appetizer, breakfast, or dinner. Made with store-bought empanada wrappers and a no-cook filling they are way easier than traditional empanadas but just as delicious.
If you are at a loss for a crowd-pleasing appetizer this holiday season, let me introduce you to my new favorite—this ham and cheese empanada recipe. I mean what’s not to love? Flaky pastry wrapped around a savory filling of ham and tangy cheese with bits of buttery, sweet apple to add an interesting twist. Served with a spicy-sweet habanero mango salsa you have the best of every taste sensation in one handheld pie.
Here’s the thing though, they don’t only make show stopping appetizers but also are a great addition to holiday dinner or even quick breakfasts. They are also a delicious way to use up leftover holiday ham!
The best thing about these ham and cheese empanadas is how easy they are! They use store-bought dough just like my easy chicken empanadas which is most of the work of making empanadas. If you want the full experience however, try my chicken empanadas with olives. The dough is incredible!
What Are Empanadas?
Empanadas are delicious savory hand pies that originate from Latin America, particularly Spain and Latin American countries like Argentina and Mexico. They consist of a flaky pastry dough that is filled with various ingredients such as meat (like ham in this recipe), cheese, vegetables, or even sweet fillings.
The dough is folded over the filling, creating a half-moon or crescent shape, and is then baked or fried until golden and crispy. Smaller empanadas are enjoyed as appetizers and snacks, while larger empanadas are served as a main course.
This recipe has you bake the empanadas but if you want to try frying them, check out my fried pea and potato empanadas with tamarind sauce.
- Thick-sliced ham or ham steak. This is a great place to use leftover ham.
- Mozzarella cheese for that melty cheese factor.
- Sharp cheddar cheese for that extra tang.
- Sweet apple. I like Gala apples for this recipe.
- Chili powder. Use mild chili powder or a spicy variety like arbol chile powder depending on your preference.
- Kosher salt. I always use Morton kosher salt unless otherwise specified.
- Black pepper. Freshly ground please.
- Onion powder
- Empanada wrappers. Look for the ones that are for baked empanadas in the freezer section.
- White sesame seeds. Optional for decorating
- Black sesame seeds. Not pictured, but again optional for decorating
- Fresh rosemary sprigs. Again, not pictured but optional for decorating.
- Cilantro Mango Habanero Salsa
How To Make This Recipe
Prepare to bake. Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack at the top of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix filling. Combine ham, mozzarella, cheddar, apple, chili powder, salt, black pepper, and onion powder in a large bowl.
*CHEF’S TIP: Filling can be made a day in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make egg wash. Combine egg and milk in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth and combined.
Prepare the wrapper. On a lightly floured surface roll a empanada disc a few times with a rolling pin so it is a bit larger.
*CHEF’S TIP: The empanada wrappers get difficult to work with once they are warm. Keep refrigerated until ready to use and pop in the fridge to chill if they are becoming too sticky.
Fill empanada. Place 3 tablespoons of the filling in the center of each dough circle. Using a pastry brush, cover the edge of the wrapper with egg wash.
Seal. Fold dough over the filling so the edges meet. Use a fork to crimp the edge together.
Decorate. Place empanadas on the baking sheet and brush the tops with egg wash. Press a rosemary sprig on top of each empanada. Mix the sesame seeds together then sprinkle the tops of the empanadas with the seeds.
Bake. Place empanadas on the top rack of the oven and bake until golden brown and flaky, about 20-30 minutes.
Enjoy! Let them cool for 5 minutes then serve empanadas warm with Cilantro Mango Habanero Salsa.
What If I Can’t Find Empanada Pastry?
Look for store-bought empanada dough in the freezer section of your local grocery store next to the frozen pie dough and puff pastry. They make different kinds for baked empanadas and fried empanadas, both of which are already rolled into 5-inch circles. I found mine at my local Latin market.
If you can’t find it you can use store-bought pie crust or puff pastry dough and use a round cookie cutter to form the circles. For a great homemade dough, try this empanada recipe.
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Want A Great Way To Impress This Holiday?
Give these empanadas a try! I hope you love them as much as we do. When you make them, snap a pic and tag me on Instagram @holajalapeno and #holajalapeno so I can see or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating) ! Also, make sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!
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