Dulce de Leche Empanada Recipe – Costa Rica

These baked dulce de leche empanadas are made with a flour dough and filled with sweet caramel sauce before baked in the oven. A traditional Costa Rican dessert recipe and the perfect food to pair with coffee.

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About This Recipe

Empanadas are a traditional Costa Rican food served at breakfast or coffee hour- which can take place any time of the day but is generally between 1-4 pm. 

Empanadas are a sweet snack made from a homemade pastry dough that is similar to a pie crust recipe. The dough is rolled into small balls and then pressed into a circle. You place the filling of your choice in the middle of the circle, close the circle into a half-moon and bake.

Dessert empanadas are popular throughout Latin America, and Argentina and Chile are most well known for their sweet empanadas, but Costa Rican empanadas have a special place in my heart because I make them every year with my best friends in Costa Rica at Easter time. 

These Costa Rican dulce de leche empanadas are sweet, flaky dessert empanadas that pair perfectly with hot coffee, hot chocolate, or a freshly made Costa Rican juice.

This recipe is the traditional Costa Rican 3-2-1 empanada recipe.

Dulce de Leche Empanada Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 box heavy whipping cream (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 sticks margarine
  • 3 cups of unbleached white flour
  • 1 jar of dulce de leche (storebought is fine)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour for dusting

Kitchen tools

  • medium-sized mixing bowl
  • empanada or tortilla press
  • two pieces of plastic cut into the same size circle as the empanada press
  • baking sheet
  • small brush for egg wash (optional)
  • small spoon
  • fork

Instructions

(Dough recipe)- Combine the flour and margarine in a large bowl, mixing well with a mixer or with your hands. Add most all of the cream and begin to mix until the empanadas dough is sticky but not watery. 

On a floured surface, take chunks of the dough and roll them into balls that are about 1 1/2″ wide. 

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Place the plastic sheets or bags into your empanada or tortilla press. This is so the dough won’t stick to the metal surface.

Place a ball in the middle of the press and press until a circle is formed. Move aside, and keep doing until all of the dough has been made into circles.

At this point, you can go ahead and preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Place about one tablespoon of dulce de leche in the center of the circle. You want to be careful not to add too much dulce de leche or it will melt and run out of the empanadas as it bakes. It makes a huge burned mess. 

On a light floured surface, close the empanada by pressing the seal shut and then making marks around the edge with your fork. 

Lightly brush the empanadas with the egg wash and place them on a lightly floured baking sheet (or covered with parchment paper). Bake in your heated oven for at least 20 minutes and up to 30 minutes or until just golden brown. 

Some people sprinkle the empanadas de dulce de leche with granulated sugar before serving, but that’s more a Mexican thing than Costa Rican.

Additional Costa Rican Dessert Recipes:

Substitutions

Costa Ricans always use margarine for this recipe, but I also like to use butter. The butter will give the empanadas a lighter yellow color, which some people don’t like, but the crust is flakier and I think they bake up a bit nicer with butter. 

You could also use vegetable shortening or lard to achieve the same consistency of dough- but again the color would be a bit different.

I have often used just 2 cups of white flour and one cup of wheat flour and they taste great. Finally, you can substitute almond flour for a gluten-free version.

Variations

There are so many variations! Starting with the fillings- which there are a ton. You can make these sweet empanadas with chiverre, coconut, guava, pineapple and even baked apple empanadas (which remind me of the old McDonald’s turnover pies you used to be able to get for $1.)

I did, however, try to put cheese in these once and it really didn’t work.

Also, you can make these much larger, or even bite-size. Playing with the size of the empanadas does not change the baking tie, just the rapidity with which you can shove them in your mouth. 

More Costa Rican Empanada Recipes

Serving Suggestions

These dulce de leche empanadas are best served right out of the oven. I just cool them for about 10 minutes because the inside gets so hot it can burn your mouth.

We eat these at breakfast with eggs, or with a traditional Costa Rican gallo pinto breakfast. 

Costa Ricans also eat these as a morning or afternoon snack,  generally with hot coffee, agua dulce, hot chocolate or freshly made juice.

These are also really good with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream- preferably homemade!

FAQ

Can I make the empanada dough ahead of time? Yes- you can. You just want to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Bring the dough back down to room temperature before making the empanadas.

How do I store the dulce de leche empanadas? – I keep them in an airtight container on the counter. They don’t last long! You can also freeze them and defrost before baking. Or you can bake them and then freeze them.

Printable Recipe

Yield: 30 empanadas

Dulce de Leche Empanada Recipe - Costa Rica

Dulce de Leche Empanada Recipe - Costa Rica

These baked dulce de leche empanadas are made with a flour dough and filled with sweet caramel sauce before baked in the oven. A traditional Costa Rican dessert recipe and the perfect food to pair with coffee.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 box heavy whipping cream (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 sticks margarine
  • 3 cups of unbleached white flour
  • 1 jar of dulce de leche
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour for dusting
  • Kitchen tools
  • medium-sized mixing bowl
  • empanada or tortilla press
  • two pieces of plastic cut into the same size circle as the empanada press
  • baking sheet
  • small brush for egg wash (optional)
  • small spoon
  • fork

Instructions

  1. (Dough recipe)- Combine the flour and margarine in a large bowl, mixing well with a mixer or with your hands. Add most all of the cream and begin to mix until the empanadas dough is sticky but not watery. 
  2. On a floured surface, take chunks of the dough and roll them into balls that are about 1 1/2" wide. 
  3. Place the plastic sheets or bags into your empanada or tortilla press. This is so the dough won't stick to the metal surface.
  4. Place a ball in the middle of the press and press until a circle is formed. Move aside, and keep doing until all of the dough has been made into circles.
  5. At this point, you can go ahead and preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  6. Place about 2 teaspoons of dulce de leche in the center of the circle. You want to be careful not to add too much dulce de leche or it will melt and run out of the empanadas as it bakes. It makes a huge burned mess. 
  7. Close the empanada by pressing the seal shut and then making marks around the edge with your fork. 
  8. Lightly brush the empanadas with the egg wash and place them on a lightly floured baking sheet. Bake in your heated oven for at least 20 minutes and up to 25 minutes or until just golden brown. 
  9. Some people sprinkle the empanadas de dulce de leche with granulated sugar before serving, but that's more a Mexican thing than Costa Rican.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

30

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 152Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 59mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 3g
Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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