Empanadas de Atun ~ Tuna Empanadas

Our first empanadas de atun left a big impression. Who would have thought of combining tuna and canned peas in a Lenten empananda? But it was so good, we would look for tuna empanadas again and again in panaderías during Cuaresma (Lent). Repeating that empanada taste proved illusive, like a childhood memory of a favorite food or place that doesn’t measure up when experienced again years later. We thought we remembered a distinct tuna flavor that blended together in a moist, generous filling, encased in crispy dough. What we found, again and again, was a doughy pocket with such a small smear of tuna, it was not worth the few pesos it cost.

Walmart’s empanadas de atun were especially dismal. All dough, with an orange smear inside that was so miserly, there could not possibly be any flavor of tuna, no matter how hard my taste buds tried. Mega Comercial’s empanadas were better, with more filling, but still shy on the tuna. Look at all that flaky pastry and healthy veggies in their empanada (below). Beautiful empanadas, but little tuna. As this quest was getting us nowhere, I knew it was time to make them myself.

The first time we had empanadas de atun, they were made with only canned tuna, canned peas, and a bit of chile. I stayed true to the original recipe, more or less, but the addition of corn and carrots in Mega’s makes a colorful filling. More veggies means less tuna and there is only so much you can fit into a small pocket of dough. And I was after the tuna taste.

Super Mario, our great yard guy and general handyman, was here today replacing a toilet. (Can you write about toilets in a food blog ?) When we heard the first flush, we knew we were back in business. The least we could do was give him a cold Pacifico and a few warm empanadas. I must have done something right, because he took one home to his wife, saying he wanted her taste it.

Muy Bueno Cookbook inspired the empanada dough recipe, though I used whole wheat flour, and extra baking powder to lighten the dough, which was surprisingly light and easy to handle, given its whole wheat-ness.

Empanadas de Atun ~ Tuna Empanadas makes 14-15 empanadas


  • 3 cups (13.5 oz./383 g.) cold whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./115 g.) cold butter
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz/63 ml.) cold milk
  • 2 cold eggs plus 1 beaten egg to brush on empanadas
  1. Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a food processor, pulsing 3 or 4 times.
  2. Add butter and process for 10-15 seconds, or until butter is cut into very small pieces, but still visible.
  3. Add milk and 2 eggs and process just until a ball of dough forms. Do not over-mix.
  4. Handling as little as possible, roll into a ball and divide into two pieces. Refrigerate while mixing tuna filling.

Tuna Filling

  • 7 oz. ( 200 grams) drained canned tuna
  • 2/3 cup (129 g. can) drained canned peas
  • juice of 1/2 small lime
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml.) drained, home made cooked salsa

Lightly blend all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.) Oil large baking sheet.
  2. Roll out one ball of dough on a floured surface to 1/8″ (.32 cm.) thick.
  3. Use a 5″ (12.7 cm.) round shape as a cutter and cut out circles from rolled dough, then do the same with the second ball of dough. Roll out scraps and cut more rounds of dough.
  4. Spoon one heaped tablespoon of tuna filling on one half of dough circle.
  5. Overlap dough, forming a half circle.
  6. Moisten lower edge of dough with water.
  7. Press with a fork to seal edges. Place on baking sheet.
  8. Brush empanadas with beaten egg.
  9. Pierce crust with a fork to allow steam to vent.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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23 thoughts on “Empanadas de Atun ~ Tuna Empanadas

    1. Your request is the biggest compliment anyone could ever give me for my recipes, but I have to tell you that I don’t have a cookbook or magazine. The recipes only exist on this blog. Even I have to refer back to my blog when I want to make one of my recipes. :)
      If you really want some of them in a print form, highlight just the recipe, and print it out. Put your favorites in a notebook. You could even get creative and find a Mexican-themed photo from a magazine to put on the front of the folder. Voila, your own “Cooking in Mexico” cookbook!

  1. Pingback: Latino Inspired Tuna Fish Recipes - Tuna Fish Latin Recipes — ModernMami™.com

  2. Hi Kathleen,
    I really like how you use whole wheat flour for pastry because I do to, wholewheat in everything,
    I have a question about the empanada, the filling looks moist and you commented that you use a homemade sauce. Can you help me with the recipe of your homemade sauce?
    Ana Quadros ,
    from Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca,

  3. Vicki in GA

    Taking time out to catch up with my fav food sites. Terrific recipe.
    Did someone say ‘PACIFICO?’ Oh, me, too. I’d love a cold one – but they don’t taste as good in the states as they do in Mexico.


  4. I love the idea of savory empanadas. Sounds like the perfect filling for Lent! Growing up we ate our share of tuna sandwiches and tuna burritos around lent and this is a great alternative. Thank you for the Muy Bueno mention and the very cool twist on our original recipe — I will be sure to try your version. Now I’m craving a Pacifico – is it too early?

  5. Toilets, lol ..what a great idea, I love how you kicked up the pastry with whole wheat flour and the filling is perfect for lent!! thanks for sharing, I was going to email about linking to you, but you beat me and commented first!! I was more than happy to link, you always have great info!! thanks for stopping by New latina to support my feature, HUGS!


  6. I love empanadas, if you had to make your own to get that taste you remembered, I have to try this filling. I use a bowl to cut my empanada dough too. Mine didn’t turn out as flaky as the top pic. I did have to search for a recipe that didn’t have lard in the dough. I’ll have to try yours next.

    Now about the toilet…I don’t know…you might have to check the food blogger’s hand book for that one! ;D

    1. I couldn’t resist using that first empanada photo, but I hope everyone realizes that is not from my recipe — it is a pic of an empanada from the grocery store, with lots of fat in the dough, no doubt, to achieve that flakiness.
      Can you send me a copy of the food blogger’s handbook, please? ;)

      1. Lol! I think I lost my copy…can’t you tell? :D

        I did realize the first pic was not from your recipe, and it is a great shot! But think of all the calories we are saving. I would rather use butter and stay away from lard and give up some of the flakiness…and such.

  7. ohh this beauties!!!! I have forgotten all about it but now that you bring them back to my memories I have to make some!!!.. If I use regular all purpose flour how much baking powder do I need to use? Same amount?

  8. And these are just beautiful. I’m noting the differences in technique compared to my aunt’s recipe. I love that you used a little pot for the cut outs. I used a glass bowl for mine (no cookie cutters that size!). They also look much flakier than mine. Is that because of the butter?

    1. Gilda, the photo of the empanadas with corn and potatoes is not the one I made. It is of one I bought at a Mega grocery store. They must have used a lot of fat in the dough, it was so flaky. My dough was probably more like yours. I used butter, but not enough to make it flaky, though the pastries were very tender.

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