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Empanadas vs Pastelitos: What’s the Difference?

In the great snack debate, empanadas and pastelitos are top contenders.

Both hail from the world of flaky, stuffed pastries. The key lies in their fillings and dough.

We’ve all been there, munching on one, wondering about the other. Our grandmas argue about which is superior. The truth? They’re both stars in their own right.

Pastelitos, with their sweet or savory goodness, win hearts. Meanwhile, empanadas are the hefty cousins, packed with meat, veggies, or cheese.

Ever bitten into an empanada, dreaming it was a pastelito? We sure have. It’s a common snack mix-up.

Now, we’re here to clear the air. No more snack identity crises on our watch.

What are Empanadas?

Empanadas are a type of pastry that is commonly found in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.

They consist of thin dough filled with savory or sweet ingredients such as meat, vegetables, cheese, or fruit.

The dough is folded over the filling and sealed by pressing the edges together, forming a half-moon or crescent shape.

Empanadas can be baked or fried and are often served as an appetizer or snack.

In contrast to pastelitos, which are smaller and usually have a flakier texture due to the use of puff pastry dough, empanadas have a thicker and more substantial crust.

Additionally, pastelitos often have sweeter fillings like guava paste while empanadas tend to be more savory.

It’s worth noting that there are many regional variations of empanadas with different shapes and fillings.

For example, Argentine empanadas are typically larger than those found in other countries and can sometimes include egg as a filling ingredient.

Chilean empanadas often contain ground beef or chicken mixed with onions and raisins.

Overall, regardless of their variations, empanadas remain a popular staple throughout Latin America and beyond due to their versatility and delicious taste.

What are Pastelitos?

Pastelitos are a type of Latin American pastry that are popular in many countries.

These small, handheld treats are typically filled with sweet or savory ingredients and have a flaky crust.

Pastelitos can be enjoyed as a snack, dessert, or part of a meal.

  • Pastelitos are similar to empanadas but smaller in size.
  • They are typically fried or baked.
  • Sweet pastelitos often contain guava paste while savory pastelitos can be filled with beef, chicken, cheese, or vegetables.

These delicious pastries are an important part of Latin American cuisine and can be found at bakeries and food stands across the region.

They are easy to eat on-the-go and provide a flavorful taste experience.

Overall, pastelitos are a tasty and convenient snack or meal option that offer something for everyone’s taste preferences.

Whether you prefer sweet or savory flavors, there is sure to be a pastelito filling that will satisfy your appetite.

Differences Between Empanadas and Pastelitos

Empanadas and pastelitos are two popular Latin-American snacks that share a lot of similarities.

However, there are a few differences between the two that set them apart.

Origin and Cultural Influences

Empanadas and Pastelitos are popular Latin American snacks that have cultural significance.

These tasty bites have been influenced by a combination of European, African and Indigenous cultures.

Both Empanadas and Pastelitos are believed to have originated in Spain during the middle ages, where they were known as Empanadillas and Pasties, respectively.

However, they were later introduced to Latin America through colonization.

Today, each country has its unique variation of these snacks due to inherent cultural differences.

Empanadas and Pastelitos may look similar, but there are slight differences in their preparation and filling.

Empanadas are made with a wheat flour pastry that is folded over the filling in a half-moon shape whereas Pastelitos use puff pastry that is folded like an envelope around the filling.

The fillings for both vary depending on preferences or regional traditions, but generally Empanadas have savory fillings while Pastelitos are sweet.

Interestingly enough, these snacks can also differ depending on language use in certain regions of Latin America.

For example, in Argentina, Empanadas usually refer to savory pastries only while in other Spanish speaking countries like Mexico or Chile the word ‘Empanada’ could also refer to sweet pastries.

Dough and Fillings

The dough and fillings are critical components in distinguishing between the popular Latin American snacks, empanadas and pastelitos.

Both may seem similar at first glance, yet their differences lie in the ingredients used to make their unique dough and fillings.

Empanada dough typically includes flour, water or milk, fat, salt and sometimes eggs or vinegar.

The fillings may include meat, vegetables or cheese seasoned with spices like cumin or paprika.

On the other hand, pastelitos consist of a pastry filled with sweet or savory flavors such as guava paste or beef picadillo and are made from buttery puff pastry dough that is layered with butter then rolled out thin before shaping.

While empanadas have their origins in Spain and are widespread throughout Latin America, pastelitos are primarily associated with Argentina.

This tradition originated from the Spanish who brought empanadas with them to Argentina during colonization but then transformed it into something new by using puff pastry dough instead of typical empanada dough.

Size and Shape

Empanadas and pastelitos differ in their size and shape.

Empanadas are typically larger and have a half-moon shape, while pastelitos are smaller and have a triangular shape.

Nevertheless, these differences may vary depending on the region or countries where they are found.

To illustrate further, empanadas can be about 10-15 centimeters in diameter and can have various shapes such as round, triangular, or square.

Additionally, empanadas can have different edges like crimped or twisted.

Meanwhile, pastelitos can be around 7-10 centimeters and also have variations of shapes from triangular to rectangular.

Interestingly, some countries use empanada and pastelito interchangeably, while others classify these two as entirely different.

For instance, in Venezuela, an empanada is smaller than its Argentine counterpart but bigger than a typical Colombian empanada.

In contrast, the baked Ecuadorian empanadas called ’empanadillas’ share more resemblance with Cuban pastelitos than with any other empanadas.

In summary, the size and shape of empanadas and pastelitos could vary depending on cultures worldwide.

These differences sometimes overlap in significant ways that blur the distinctions between these two delicious treats.

Cooking Method

The distinctive factor between Empanadas and Pastelitos is not only their ingredients but also their cooking approach.

While Empanadas are generally baked or fried, Pastelitos are specifically deep-fried.

The cooking method varies due to the difference in the amount of dough used in each dish.

Less dough is typically used in frying Pastelitos for a crispy outlook, while Empanadas require more dough and can be easily baked while maintaining the crispness on the outside.

Similarities Between Empanadas and Pastelitos

Both Empanadas and Pastelitos are delicious mouth-watering Latin American pastries.

They have a similar name, crispy exterior, and filling that is often savory.

These culinary delicacies are also portable, making them ideal for on-the-go consumption.

However, despite their similarities, there are some differences between the two pastries.

Primarily, the dough used in empanadas is made from wheat flour and sometimes cornmeal, while Pastelitos use puff pastry made from butter and flour.

Additionally, the fillings of empanadas vary more widely than pastelitos.

Empanadas often feature seasoned beef and vegetables or cheese filling whereas pastelitos commonly have sweet fillings like guava or cheese.

Finally, both these delicious treats come in different shapes and sizes all over Latin America.

Whether you decide to munch on a savory bite-sized pastry shaped like half-moon (Empanada) or a flaky turnover style pastry (Pastelito), your taste buds will thank you.

Regional Variations and Popular Fillings

Empanadas and pastelitos are beloved savory snacks with various regional variations and popular fillings.

While both dishes may look similar, they differ significantly in their pastry crusts, shapes, and fillings.

Empanadas, an essential part of Latin American cuisine, feature a thick crust folded into a half-moon shape and filled with meats like beef or chicken, vegetables such as potatoes or sweet corn, and cheese.

In contrast, Pastelitos are smaller and typically have a flaky crust that is twisted into crescent shapes.

Pastelitos are most commonly found in Spanish-speaking regions like Spain or Latin America and can be sweet or savory.

The filling options for pastelitos include guava paste or dulce de leche for the sweet ones, while the savory ones incorporate seasoned ground beef mixed with potatoes or cheese.

Both empanadas and pastelitos have unique variations based on their countries of origin.

For example, Argentinean empanadas often contain raisins and olives in their filling mixtures.

On the other hand, some Cuban variations of pastelitos come with minced meat turning them into meat pies instead of using fillings like cream cheese.

Serving and Enjoying Empanadas and Pastelitos

When it comes to indulging in Latin American treats, knowing the distinctions between Empanadas and Pastelitos is crucial.

Understanding the differences can enhance your culinary experience and help avoid ordering the wrong snack.

  • Empanadas often come as a single serving and are widely consumed in Latin America due to their portability.
  • Pastelitos are smaller than empanadas and usually come in a pack of two or more; they are popular in Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba.
  • Empanadas are stuffed with fillings such as meat, cheese, vegetables, or sweet fruits such as apples and cherries.
  • Pastelitos typically have sweeter fillings such as guava and cream cheese or dulce de leche.
  • To add an extra layer of flavor to both snacks, try accompanying them with chimichurri sauce for empanadas or powdered sugar for pastelitos.

A unique feature of these delicacies is how they are shaped – empanadas are usually crescent-shaped compared to pastelitos which are square-shaped.

Additionally, empanadas have a thicker crust that may require more bites to get through than pastelitos.

Knowing the differences between empanadas and pastelitos can make all the difference when selecting your next snack.

Enhance your dining experience by exploring new flavors and textures present in different types of these treats.


Empanadas and pastelitos are two popular Latin American dish variations that have significant differences despite their resemblance.

Empanadas originated in Spain, whereas pastelitos have Brazilian roots in Portuguese cuisine.

Both dishes use various fillings like vegetables, meat, cheese, and more.

However, empanadas are smaller and usually fried or baked, creating a crispy texture.

In contrast, pastelitos are flaky and crispier due to their thin crust made using puff pastry.

While both dishes have similar doughs, pastelitos do not contain cornmeal or baking powder as empanadas do.

As a result, empanadas have a denser texture than the puff-pastry based pastelitos.

Empanadas vs Pastelitos: What’s the Difference?

Andrew Gray
Yearning for a savory pastry but confused between empanadas and pastelitos? Uncover the distinctions between these delightful Latin American treats to satisfy your pastry cravings.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course This vs That


  • Empanadas
  • Pastelitos


  • Choose between empanadas and pastelitos based on your preference or regional culinary traditions.
  • Follow the specific recipe instructions for your chosen option, including the preparation of the dough and filling.
  • Prepare the dough according to the recipe, ensuring it is properly kneaded and rolled out to the recommended thickness.
  • Place the desired filling onto the dough, making sure to distribute it evenly.
  • Fold the dough over the filling and seal the edges by pressing or crimping them together.
  • Repeat the process until all empanadas or pastelitos are assembled.
  • Cook the empanadas or pastelitos using the recommended method, such as baking, frying, or baking and frying.
  • Monitor the cooking time to ensure the desired level of crispiness or doneness is achieved.
  • Once cooked, allow the empanadas or pastelitos to cool slightly before serving.
  • Enjoy these delightful savory pastries as a delicious snack, appetizer, or main course.
  • Experiment with different fillings and variations to discover your favorite flavors and combinations.
Keyword Empanadas vs Pastelitos
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