These air fryer empanadas are perfect for using up leftovers or when you’re craving comfort food

Homemade air fryer empanadas
(Image credit: Future)

As someone who writes recipes for a living and who cites eating as one of her favorite hobbies, I only recently ate my first empanada. 

While looking for ways to use up leftovers during one of my best air fryer reviews, I discovered this air fryer empanadas recipe that immediately piqued my interest. 

It combines crispy pastry with a soft salty filling, and I’ve made them as part of my main meals, but also miniature versions for snacks and my children’s lunchboxes. I’ve also since experimented with a range of fillings.  

Below, I've laid out the instructions for how to make air fryer empanadas, whether you’ve got leftovers to use up, you’re craving comfort food or you’re just looking for new pastry recipes.  

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Air fryer empanadas recipe 

The air fryer empanadas recipe I followed and the corresponding picadillo recipe, is from Gina Homolka via her @skinnytaste TikTok channel, and it's been watched 603k times and counting.


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Air fryer empanadas ingredients 

For the picadillo filling:

  • 1-1/2 lb lean ground beef 
  • 1/2 large chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Tomato sauce/passata 
  •  2 tbsp pitted green olives 
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 For the empanadas:

  •  Empanada discs – you can also use pie pastry/shortcrust pastry 
  •  Egg wash 

Ingredients for air fryer empanadas

(Image credit: Future)

Air fryer empanadas method 

To make air fryer empanadas you will need the following:

Step 1: Begin by making the picadillo. Finely chop the onion, mince the garlic, and add both to a pan of oil on low-medium heat. Cook until the onion starts to soften. You can also add cumin or other spices at this stage. 

Step 2: Add the ground beef and cook until it starts to turn brown. 

Ground beef, onions, and garlic in a frying pan

(Image credit: Future)

Step 3: Once the ground beef is almost cooked, add the tomato sauce and olives. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced. 

Step 4: If you’re making your own empanada discs, roll out the pastry. Place a circular bowl upside down on the pastry sheet and cut around it with a knife.  

Circular pastry cut outs

(Image credit: Future)

Step 5: Once the picadillo mixture has finished cooking, leave it to cool. It's possible to add the mixture to the discs and pastry when warm but this can make them softer and cause them to fall apart. 

Step 6: Add a spoonful of picadillo mixture to the center of your pastry circles. 

Picadillo mixture on pastry circle

(Image credit: Future)

Step 7: Fold the circle in half to create a semi-circle and encase the picadillo inside. Use your fingers, or a fork to pinch the edges together to form a seal. 

Step 8: Brush the empanadas with egg wash and place in the air fryer at 380°F (195°C) for eight to 10 minutes, or until golden. 

Step 9: Serve! 

End result: homemade air fryer empanadas

(Image credit: Future)

Air fryer empanadas verdict

I hadn’t ever tried an empanada before making this recipe so I wasn’t sure what to expect but they’re delicious. 

The crispy crust works so well with the soft meat, sweet tomato, and olives. All the juice soaks into the pastry, to give it a lovely salty, garlicky taste and they’re such a great way to use up leftover meat if you don’t want to make picadillo from scratch.

Since trying this recipe for the first time I’ve made both small and large empanadas. The mini versions are great for my children’s lunchboxes or after-school snacks. 

If you're still sitting on the fence and wondering whether to buy an air fryer, you may want to read our article to decide whether air fryers are worth it?

Vicky Woollaston
Freelance Contributor

Victoria Woollaston-Webber is a freelance journalist, editor, and founder of science-led health, beauty, and grooming sites, mamabella and MBman. She has more than a decade of experience in both online and print journalism, having written about tech and gadgets since day one for national papers, magazines, and global brands. Victoria specializes in beauty gadgets, as well as small appliances including vacuum cleaners, air fryers, blenders, and mixers, plus all things baby and toddler. When she’s not testing the latest must-have beauty product, she loves Lego Architecture, murder mysteries, and chasing after her four-year-old.