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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

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Caramelized Onion Empanadas (Chilean PEQUENES)

4.13 from 8 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