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Caramelized Onion Empanadas (Chilean pequenes)

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Chilean empanadas, also known as pequenes, are stuffed with caramelized onions and seasoned with Latin spices. They make the perfect holiday appetizer.

Caramelized Onion Empanadas
Caramelized Onion Empanadas

You guys know how much I love empanadas, well these vegetarian caramelized onion empanadas make a great meatless version. The sweet caramelized onions are seasoned with Latin spices, like cumin, paprika, and oregano, the filling is very simple yet packs so much flavor. The empanada dough is made from scratch and baked in the oven – an excellent appetizer for the holidays. For some more empanada recipes, try my Taco Empanadas, Leftover Turkey Pot Pie Empanadas, and Air Fryer Empanadas.

Chilean KitchenI’m so excited to share this recipe, originally from The Chilean Kitchen (affil link) cookbook by Pilar Hernandez and Eileen Smith. This cookbook has 75 authentic Chilean recipes, everything from stews to cocktails to desserts broken up into four sections, each one highlighting recipes for a different season. I met Pilar a few years ago on a cruise and really respect her work. I also love that she is Chilean, a cuisine I am not very familiar with. Her book has so many recipes I can’t wait to try, but this Caramelized Onion Empanada recipe really stood out, and I’m so glad I tried it.

Every Latin American country has a version of empanadas. This Chilean vegetarian version is referred to as a pequén and is stuffed with caramelized onions. The lemon juice in the pequén dough makes the crust more tender than
traditional meat empanada dough.

How do you keep empanadas from leaking?

There are a few things to do to keep empanadas from leaking:

1. Don’t overstuff your empanadas. Only put two tablespoons of the onion filling inside.
2. Seal the empanadas shut by pressing the edges of the dough gently with a fork.
3. Poke a tiny hole with a toothpick in the top of the dough to vent. If steam builds up inside the empanadas, they could open.


Freeze the empanadas unbaked for up to three months. To bake them frozen, just add a little more time.

Caramelized Onion EmpanadasPEQUENESChilean empanadas with hot sauceChilean empanadasChilean empanadas with hot sauce

More Holiday Appetizer Recipes You’ll Love:

Caramelized Onion Empanadas (Chilean PEQUENES)

4.58 from 7 votes
These Chilean empanadas, also known as pequenes, are stuffed with caramelized onions and seasoned with Latin spices – the perfect holiday appetizer.
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Chilean
Chilean empanadas with hot sauce
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
Serving Size: 2 empanadas


For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 large or 5 medium yellow onions, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika or merkén
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce

For the dough:

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lard, shortening, or butter, cut in small cubes
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup 0% fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 beaten egg, to seal and brush


Make the filling:

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the onions, sugar, and salt.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the onion is cooked, but only lightly caramelized.
  • Remove from heat and add paprika, pepper, cumin, oregano, and hot sauce.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Make the dough:

  • In a food processor, mix the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse a couple of times. Add the lard or butter and pulse a few times until it is uniform.
  • In a measuring cup, mix the water, milk, and lemon juice.
  • With the food processor running, add the liquid. Stop when you see the dough come together.
  • Knead the dough 10 minutes on a silicone baking mat or on a floured surface.
  • Cover and let it rest 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven 350ºF. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Working one at a time, roll the dough into a ball, flatten it, and roll it with a rolling pin until you have a 5-inch circle.
  • Fill with 2 tablespoons of cooked onions.
  • Wet the rim with the egg and seal shut, press the edge gently with a fork, or fold it over. Place on the baking sheet leaving an inch between pequenes.
  • Brush each empanada with egg and pierce the top with a toothpick to allow them to vent steam.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a rack 10 minutes before serving.

Last Step:

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Serving: 2 empanadas, Calories: 218 kcal, Carbohydrates: 29 g, Protein: 5 g, Fat: 9.5 g, Saturated Fat: 3 g, Cholesterol: 41.5 mg, Sodium: 497 mg, Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 6 g


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33 comments on “Caramelized Onion Empanadas (Chilean pequenes)”

  1. I know my husband will taste the hint of vinegar in the dough. Have you ever used buttermilk instead?

  2. Avatar photo
    Jennifer Edwards

    I have lived in Chile for 13 years and have never heard of these or seen onion empanadas. Vegetarian empanadas are most often cheese and corn. I know the original recipe author is Chilean, but they really don’t seem like an authentic Chilean food..

  3. Made these last night and they turned out perfect. My only problem was it was kinda salty and my dough was really floury (but that’s my own fault seeing as I used too much flour on the surface the I was rolling the dough out on). I froze them last night and reheated 2 a couple of minutes ago for 1.5 minutes and they were perfect. Will make more on Friday 🙂

  4. These were delicious and satisfying for the point value! Needed another veggie or a bit of meat with but the seasoning and texture made you feel like you were indulging!
    Wondering if I could make extra dough and use to make fruit hand pies too!

  5. I’m not a very experienced dough maker, but when I made these it seemed like it needed more filling and less dough? The filling was delicious but overall they came out a bit dry and doughy. They did however look great 😉 I’m going to try them again with one of the other filling suggestions. (Again, not an experienced baker so these took me quite a while to put together – but definitely learned along the way 😉 Thanks Gina, without your guidance, probably wouldn’t even be trying baking these days!

  6. Made this for a few friends and it was a huge hit!!! Definitely will make again. Anybody have a good sauce they think would go well with these?

  7. This recipe did not work at all. The dough was way too limp and fragile to work with. Seemed like all the measurement were off. Overall very much not impressed.

  8. Made this this weekend with my cousin for a movie day and they were delicious! I am expecting a snow day this week and plan to buy all the things to make them again! They are definitely being added to my rotation.

  9. I just tried this recipe. Onions were amazing.  My dough fell apart.  Any tricks to getting the dough to stay formed ?

  10. These look doable for me, I think!  Question: If you want to make ahead by several hours, and not cook until later that day, store in fridge, assembled but not cooked?

  11. These sound amazing! Any suggestions for a dip or accompaniment? I’m a dipper and would love something to go with these. Would something like sour cream work? Just trying to think what makes sense with the flavors. 

  12. Thanks for the empanada dough recipe! I don’t patronize Goya and have passed up all your empanada recipes…..until now!

      1. They didn’t give a reason (not do they need to give one), you’re making assumptions.

      2. Imaging being the only person to mention politics only to make sure everyone knows political commentary is unnecessary.

        Couldn’t be me.

      3. whatever your assumption, she simply stated a fact. and we all should, respectfully, use our power of spending to support the businesses that we feel are doing good things aligned with out karmic and ecological intentions. i applaud you, tina, for your conscientious choice. i do the same, however, i just use another brand so that i can still make these yummy dishes! 😎 i absolutely love gina’s recipes, and she has helped me lose 20 pounds on weight watchers thanks to her dedication to putting the points on the recipes! thanks again, gina!

    1. Try her taco empanadas! The empanadas are made from scratch using her pizza dough recipe. Different texture from traditional empanadas but still very tasty!