Why Is My Empanada Dough Breaking? – Tips to Help You Avoid This Common Problem

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Empanadas are a popular Latin American dish that consists of a dough that is filled with a variety of savory or sweet ingredients. While they are a delicious and easy-to-make dish, many people often experience issues when it comes to preparing the empanada dough. One of the most common issues is when the dough breaks during preparation, leading to frustration and a less than perfect end result.

Understanding the Empanada Dough

Before we dive into the reasons for dough breakage and how to fix it, it is essential to understand what empanada dough is and how it works. Empanada dough is typically made with flour, fat, water, and salt. Fat is added to the dough to prevent it from becoming too tough or dry, while water is added to create a pliable dough that can be rolled out and molded.

It is important to note that the type of fat used in the dough can affect its texture and flavor. Some recipes call for butter, while others use lard or vegetable shortening. Each type of fat will produce a slightly different result, so it is worth experimenting to find the one that works best for your taste and desired texture. Additionally, the amount of water used can also vary depending on the recipe and the humidity in your kitchen. Too much water can make the dough sticky and difficult to work with, while too little can result in a dry and crumbly dough. Finding the right balance is key to creating the perfect empanada dough.

Common Reasons for Dough Breakage

There are several reasons why your empanada dough may be breaking, including:

  • Insufficient or excessive water
  • Overworking the dough
  • Incorrect ingredient ratios
  • Failure to rest the dough
  • Improper storage
  • Using old or expired ingredients

One additional reason for dough breakage is using the wrong type of flour. Different types of flour have varying levels of protein, which affects the dough’s elasticity and ability to hold together. Using a low-protein flour, such as cake flour, for a recipe that requires a high-protein flour, like bread flour, can result in a dough that is too delicate and prone to breaking.

Another factor that can contribute to dough breakage is the temperature of the ingredients. If the dough is made with cold ingredients, it may be more difficult to work with and more likely to break. On the other hand, if the dough is made with warm ingredients, it may become too soft and sticky, also leading to breakage. It’s important to follow the recipe’s instructions for ingredient temperature to ensure the dough has the right consistency.

How to Prepare the Dough Properly

To ensure that you have a smooth and pliable dough that is easy to work with, you must prepare the dough correctly. Start by measuring your ingredients precisely, including the flour, fat, water, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients first before adding the fat and water. When mixing, the dough should feel slightly tacky but not sticky.

Another important factor in preparing dough is the temperature of the ingredients. The fat should be cold, and the water should be ice-cold. This helps to prevent the fat from melting and the dough from becoming too sticky. Additionally, it is important to knead the dough properly to develop the gluten and create a smooth texture. Knead the dough for at least 10 minutes, or until it becomes elastic and springs back when pressed.

Finally, it is important to let the dough rest before using it. This allows the gluten to relax and makes the dough easier to roll out. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out or shaping it. By following these steps, you can ensure that your dough is perfect every time.

The Role of Ingredients in Empanada Dough

The proportion of flour to fat is one of the most crucial factors when making empanada dough. Too much fat will make the dough too greasy, while too little fat will make the dough dry and brittle. The amount of salt used is also a crucial factor, as it can affect the dough’s elasticity. When it comes to water, adding too much or too little can also cause dough breakage.

Another important ingredient in empanada dough is vinegar. Adding vinegar to the dough can help to tenderize it and make it more pliable. It also helps to prevent the dough from becoming too tough when it is cooked. However, it is important to use the right amount of vinegar, as too much can make the dough too sour and affect the overall flavor of the empanada. Additionally, some recipes call for the use of baking powder or baking soda to help the dough rise and become fluffier. These ingredients should be used sparingly, as too much can cause the dough to become too airy and affect the texture of the finished product.

Tips for Kneading the Dough Perfectly

Kneading the dough well is essential to remove any air pockets that may cause cracking. Do this by rolling the dough into a ball and pressing down with the palm of your hand. Fold the dough in half and repeat the process, rotating the dough as you go along. Make sure not to overwork the dough, as this can also lead to breakage.

Factors that Affect Dough Consistency

Several factors can affect the consistency of your empanada dough. These include the humidity of your kitchen, the type of flour you use, and the fat used. High humidity can cause the dough to become sticky, while low humidity can cause it to become brittle. Using high-gluten flour can also result in a stiff dough, while using low-fat ingredients can cause the dough to dry out quickly.

How to Store and Handle Empanada Dough

Proper storage and handling of empanada dough are vital to prevent dough breakage. Always wrap the dough tightly in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. Keep the dough covered with a damp towel when not in use to prevent it from drying out.

Common Mistakes to Avoid While Making Empanada Dough

A few common mistakes to avoid include adding too much flour while rolling out the dough, overstuffing the empanadas, and using cold ingredients. All of these can cause the dough to crack while cooking and may even result in a burnt end result.

Alternative Ingredients to Use for Making Empanada Dough

While traditional empanada dough is made with wheat flour, it is not the only option available. Some other ingredients that you can use to make empanada dough include cornmeal, masa harina, and even sweet potato. These alternative flours can create unique taste and texture profiles for your empanadas.

How to Fix Broken Empanada Dough

If your empanada dough has already broken, there are a few things you can do to fix it. Start by patting the dough down with your hands and try to rework it until it is smooth. If the dough is too dry, add a few drops of water, and if it is too sticky, add a sprinkling of flour.

Tips for Rolling Out the Perfect Empanada Dough

When rolling out your empanada dough, it is crucial to aim for a consistent thickness. To do this, start by rolling the dough in one direction, then rotate it 90 degrees and roll in the other direction until it is even. Always roll your dough out on a floured surface and ensure that the dough is at room temperature before beginning the rolling process.

How to Cut and Shape the Empanada Dough

Now that your dough is rolled out, it is time to cut it into the desired shapes for your empanadas. Use a round cutter or a glass to cut the dough into circles. Alternatively, you can use a sharp knife to cut squares or rectangles. Make sure not to overfill the dough when adding your filling, as this can cause it to break.

Different Methods of Filling and Folding Empanadas

There are several ways to fill and fold your empanadas, including the traditional half-moon shape, the triangular shape, and even squares. The folding technique you choose will depend on your aesthetic preference and the type of filling you are using.

Baking vs Frying: Which Method Is Best for Your Empanada Recipe?

When it comes to cooking your empanadas, you have two options: baking or frying. Baking is a healthier option and produces crispy, golden-brown empanadas. Frying, on the other hand, results in a crispy, crunchy exterior but is higher in fat and calories. Ultimately, the cooking method you choose will depend on your taste preferences and dietary needs.

Troubleshooting Common Issues with Empanadas

Even with the best preparation and execution, issues can still arise when making empanadas. Some common issues and solutions include filling leakage, undercooked empanadas, overfilled empanadas, and burnt edges. Always ensure that you fill and fold your empanadas correctly, and pay close attention to cooking times and temperatures to avoid any issues.


With these tips and tricks, you can easily avoid breaking empanada dough and create delicious, perfect empanadas every time. Remember to prepare your dough properly, store and handle it carefully, and pay close attention to the ingredients you use. With a bit of practice and patience, you will be making empanadas like a pro in no time.