Whether fried or baked, every family household has a version of their own Filipino empanada recipe. The primary and most typical filling for Filipino empanadas is giniling. But for this special empanada, I developed a pork adobo filling that is saucy enough but won't leak through your pastry. Jump to the recipe with step-by-step instructions here.
Filipino Empanada Fillings
Giniling is a mix of pork and diced vegetables added to many dishes such as tortang talong. But it's also good to eat on its own next to steamed rice. From my experience, I grew up eating Filipino empanadas, where every recipe had giniling as a filling. I have nothing against giniling. In fact, I love it! And it's easy enough to make.
But I was always fascinated with the various fillings offered by other countries' empanadas. For example, in Argentina alone, there are many options to choose from, including minced beef, spinach, corn and cheese, and ham and onion. I'd like to consider the empanada recipe at the bottom of this post as my personal contribution to adding some variety to the Filipino version of empanada.
What is Adobo?
Filipino adobo is usually made with pork or chicken. Before cooking, you would marinate the meat with soy sauce and some sugar. In a pot, you would simmer it for a long time with bay leaves and black peppercorn, and finally, add some vinegar a few minutes before finishing to eat with rice.
The adobo empanada filling honors this classic Filipino dish with slight tweaks to the recipe. Instead of peppercorns, I used crushed pepper because I didn't want to spend time picking out peppercorns that otherwise would end up in the empanadas. I added more sugar than I usually would to bridge the flavors of the sweet buttery pastry and the filling.
Baked vs. Frying Filipino Empanadas
For the longest time, I found baking empanadas more convenient because you can cook a lot at once. The pastries for these empanadas are used for baking because the recipe is already pretty involved. I wanted to make cooking these empanadas more convenient.
How to Make Filipino Adobo Empanada
This Filipino adobo empanada recipe is for someone whose love language feeds those they care about. It's not a quick, easy recipe, and there are many steps to it. But I would like to believe that whoever gets to eat your rendition of this recipe will surely know that you love them!
Marinate the Pork
Start off by cubing the pork pieces and placing them in a container. Add garlic, sugar, and soy sauce to a bowl, then mix vigorously. Pour the marinade mix over the meat. Cover the container and put it in the fridge to marinate for an hour.
Tip You have a few options for what type of pork to use. When I finalized the recipe, I found that a 50/50 mix of shoulder and pork belly worked best. It depends on how fatty or lean you want your adobo filling to be, but I liked the balance of having both types in the filling.
Make the Pastry
While the pork is marinating, add the dough flour, sugar, and salt to a food processor, then pulse for a few seconds. Then add the sliced butter and pulse until the flour is sandy. It will not clump together, but you need to ensure the texture is sandy so that the butter doesn't make holes in the empanadas when baking. In a large bowl, pour in the mixture from the food processor, then add the eggs along with the water-vinegar mixture. Mix until it gets clumpy, and you can make a ball with it.
Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge to solidify for at least an hour.
Cook the Adobo Empanada Filling
Heat a medium to a large stockpot and add the pork while reserving the liquid for later use. Add the crushed black peppers and brown the pork pieces thoroughly. Add the water to the container with the soy sauce marinade, mix it around, and then pour it into the pot. The water should just barely cover the pork pieces. Add more water if you need to.
Add the bay leaves, then mix them to incorporate everything. Bring the pot to a low simmer and leave it alone for an hour to an hour and a half. You know the pork is ready when it is tender and easy to shred with a fork.
When they are tender, add the vinegar and remaining sugar, then continue to simmer for another ten minutes. Afterward, turn the heat off and remove the bay leaves. After making sure all the bay leaves have been removed, remove the cooked pork cubes and place them on a cutting board.
Make the Sauce
Meanwhile, add the cornstarch to the adobo liquid in the pot and use a whisk to dissolve the cornstarch. Turn the heat back on to a low setting and let it simmer. This mixture will slowly thicken and become the sauce for your adobo empanada filling.
While simmering, shred the pork pieces and add them back into the pot while stirring. Continue to thicken the sauce and then take it off the heat. Pour the filling into a bowl to cool completely before adding it to the pastry.
Tip If you have the time, place the cooled filling in the fridge to cool overnight. This will help you handle the dough and filling better in the next stage, where you assemble Filipino empanadas.
Assembling Filipino Empanadas
Take out the pastry and cut it into four equal parts. Your goal is to make four circles from each piece that should result in sixteen empanadas. If you manage to be resourceful, you can make about twenty empanadas.
Cut out circles and place a spoonful of empanadas on each circle. Fold one side over to the other, then pinch the edges closed.
Tip For a leak-proof seal, press down on the edges with a fork lightly dusted with flour. Then, pull the fork away from the empanada horizontally while pressing down with the fork. Do not lift up the fork because that will pull the edge up, opening the seal.
Place the empanadas covered with cling film in the fridge for at least twenty minutes before baking.
Baking the Empanadas
Preheat the oven to 180℃ degrees (350°F). Place the empanadas on a lined baking sheet and bake for twenty minutes. While the empanadas are baking, whisk an egg with about one tablespoon of water. After twenty minutes in the oven, pull the empanadas out and brush them with the egg wash. Then place them back in the oven to bake for five minutes. Then repeat the egg wash brush and bake for five more minutes.
I love eating these empanadas warm. Wait about ten to fifteen minutes before enjoying them, so you don't burn your mouth!
Have You Tried This Recipe?
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Filipino Adobo Empanada
Filipino Adobo Filling
- 1 kg pork belly or shoulder or neck, cut into cubes
- 1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
- 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 tablespoon soy sauce
- 6 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 cup water or more as needed
- 6 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar add 1 tablespoon during cooking to lessen salt if preferred
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 400 grams all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 140 grams unsalted butter, cubed
- 120 grams water
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 55 grams granulated sugar
Make Empanada Dough
- Mix the water and apple cider vinegar in a separate bowl. Set aside.
- In a food processor, add flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse for a few seconds. Add the butter cubes and pulse until the texture is sandy or the large chunks of butter have disappeared. Pour into a large bowl.
- Add eggs to the bowl of flour/butter mixture then slowly add the water mixture a little at a time until the dough becomes shaggy. Form a rough ball and wrap the dough in cling wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Make the Filling
- In a container, add pork, soy sauce, minced garlic and sugar and mix together. Marinate for at least 1 hour.
- Remove the pork from the marinade container. Set the marinade aside. Brown in a pot with black pepper.
- Add the water, bay leaves and saved marinade, then simmer for at least 1 hour.
- Remove the pork from the pot and shred with a fork. Set aside.
- Remove the bay leaves from the pot. Add cornstarch and whisk it in to remove clumps. Add the pork back to the pot and simmer until the sauce is thick.
- Place in a bowl to cool completely or allow it to cool in a refrigerator overnight.
Set Up Empanada Dough
- Cut the refrigerated dough in four equal sections. Work with one piece at a time. Take one piece and put it on a floured surface. Roll it out until it's about 1 cm thick.
- Using a round cookie cutter, cut out circles.
- Place the pieces on a floured plate and cover then refrigerate again.
- Repeat steps the first three steps for the other 3 dough sections.
- Place a spoonful of cooled adobo filling on the center of a cut out dough.
- Fold one half over to the other side to make a half moon shape.
- Using a fork, pinch down on the edges to seal the empanada
- Refrigerate the empanadas on a lined baking sheet before baking
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
- In a small bowl make an egg wash by beating one egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside.
- Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes then pull them out of the oven
- Brush the empanadas with the egg wash and bake for 5 minutes
- Brush another layer of egg wash and bake for another 5 minutes
- Allow to cool at least 10-15 minutes before eating