Salteña de Carne Recipe: Bolivian-Style Beef Empanadas

Salteña de carne

The Spruce Eats / Marian Blazes

Prep: 6 hrs
Cook: 90 mins
Total: 7 hrs 30 mins
Servings: 14 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
507 Calories
24g Fat
40g Carbs
33g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 14
Amount per serving
Calories 507
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 24g 30%
Saturated Fat 10g 48%
Cholesterol 115mg 38%
Sodium 382mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 14%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 33g
Vitamin C 18mg 90%
Calcium 36mg 3%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 519mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Salteñas are the iconic empanadas of Bolivia, although named after the Argentinian city of Salta. As the story goes, this street food treat was invented by Jauna Manuela Gorriti, a woman who became a well-known figure in 19th-century South American politics who was from Salta. The empanadas took on the name of her birthplace as she sold the salteñas to support her family.

This recipe is for salteñas de carne, a meat filling, but the empanadas can also be made with chicken or pork. But no matter the ingredients, when compared to a typical empanada, the filling is more liquidy. To make it easier to handle when shaping the salteñas and prevent them from getting soggy, gelatin is added to the filling while it is still hot. The mixture is then chilled until it thickens. As the salteñas bake, the gelatin melts and the broth becomes a liquid again. (While the filling is cooling, it is ideal to prepare the dough, as it does need to rest for a while.)

Salteñas can be eaten any time of day and are often served with the Bolivian salsa called llajua. They are especially popular as a midmorning snack and are easy to find from street vendors. Be sure to eat them carefully from the top to prevent the juices from spilling out.


For the Filling:

  • 2 medium potatoes

  • 4 cups chicken stock, or beef stock

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 pound beef chuck or round, cut into ½-inch cubes

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced

  • 2 tablespoons aji panca paste

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package unflavored gelatin

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 14 to 16 pitted green olives

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups (480 grams) all-purpose flour

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable shortening, or lard

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 1 tablespoon achiote

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup water

  • 1 large egg

Steps to Make It

Make the Filling

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Peel the potatoes and dice them into 1/2-inch cubes.

  3. In a saucepan, bring the chicken or beef stock to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes, reserving the cooking broth, and set both aside.

  4. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the vegetable oil; add the beef and sauté until browned on all sides. Remove the beef from the skillet and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat remaining in the skillet.

  5. Add the onion, bell pepper, and aji panca paste to the skillet and sauté until the onion has softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.

  6. Add the cumin, paprika, and oregano and then sauté for several minutes.

  7. Add the beef back to the skillet and cook while stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.

  8. Add the reserved broth (from cooking the potatoes) to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  9. Simmer the beef and vegetables over low heat until the beef is tender (about 30 to 40 minutes). Add a bit more broth if needed.

  10. Season again with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cooked potatoes and peas and cook until heated through.

  11. Dissolve the gelatin in the water. Add to the beef mixture and stir well.

  12. Remove from the heat and transfer the filling to a casserole dish. Refrigerate until cooled completely.

Prepare the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place the flour in a large bowl.

  3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, vegetable shortening, and achiote. Heat over medium heat until hot.

  4. Add the hot fat mixture to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Use your fingers to distribute the fat evenly through the flour until it is crumbly.  

  5. In the same small saucepan, stir the sugar and salt into the water and heat until the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is hot. Stir this into the flour mixture, along with the egg.

  6. Knead the mixture until it forms a smooth dough, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of water if the dough seems dry. Set the dough aside for 30 minutes to an hour.

Assemble and Bake the Salteñas

  1. Divide the dough into 2-ounce balls (about the size of a golf ball). Press each ball into a flat round and let rest for 5 minutes.  

  2. With a rolling pin, roll each round of dough into a larger oval shape that is about 5 to 6 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. 

  3. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

  4. Place 2 tablespoons of the chilled filling in the middle of each dough round and add an olive. Fold the dough in half over the filling and pinch and twist the edges together to seal the dough all the way around and create a braided look.

  5. Place the salteñas on a baking sheet, braid up, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

  6. Let rest until cool enough to handle. Serve and enjoy.

Recipe Variation

If you want a shinier crust, brush a mixture of 1 egg yolk and 2 tablespoons milk onto each salteña.

How are salteñas different from empanadas?

Salteñas have three main features that differentiate them from most empanadas. First is how the dough is sealed: a "braided" seam, or repulgue, is placed on top. Second, these empanadas are baked in an upright position, rather than on their side. And third, the filling of salteñas is much juicier with lots of stewing liquid accompanying the meat and vegetables.