Why Is My Empanada Dough Sticky? An Expert’s Guide

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Empanadas are a beloved staple of Latin American cuisine, and for a good reason. These deliciously stuffed pastry pockets come in a variety of flavors and are perfect for any meal of the day. However, if you’ve ever attempted to make empanada dough on your own, you might have run into the issue of sticky dough. This can be frustrating and can even ruin the whole recipe. Luckily, with a little bit of knowledge and some expert guidance, you can learn how to troubleshoot and solve this problem. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why empanada dough can turn sticky and what steps you can take to prevent this from happening.

Understanding the Ingredients in Empanada Dough

Before diving into the reasons why empanada dough can become sticky, it’s essential to understand the ingredients that go into the dough. Empanada dough typically consists of flour, cold butter, salt, and water. Flour is the primary ingredient in any dough and provides the structure and gluten necessary to hold everything together. Butter gives the dough its rich flavor and acts as a tenderizer. Finally, water is used to moisten the dough and bring all the ingredients together. It’s essential to use the right proportions of each ingredient and handle them correctly to achieve perfect empanada dough.

Additionally, some recipes may call for the addition of other ingredients such as eggs, sugar, or baking powder. Eggs can add richness and help bind the dough together, while sugar can provide a touch of sweetness. Baking powder can be used to make the dough rise slightly, resulting in a lighter texture. However, it’s important to note that these additional ingredients can alter the texture and flavor of the dough, so it’s crucial to follow the recipe carefully and make adjustments accordingly.

Common Mistakes That Cause Sticky Empanada Dough

One of the most common causes of sticky empanada dough is over-hydrating it with water. When making dough, it’s crucial to add water gradually, as it’s easy to add too much, causing the dough to become sticky. Another common mistake is using warm water, which can cause the butter to melt, resulting in sticky dough. Finally, if you add too much butter or knead the dough for too long, you can also end up with sticky empanada dough.

It’s important to note that the type of flour used can also affect the stickiness of the dough. All-purpose flour is the most commonly used flour for empanada dough, but it has a higher gluten content than pastry flour. This means that if you use all-purpose flour, you’ll need to be careful not to over-knead the dough, as this can cause it to become tough and sticky. Alternatively, you can use pastry flour, which has a lower gluten content and is more forgiving when it comes to kneading. By using the right type of flour and avoiding common mistakes, you can ensure that your empanada dough turns out perfectly every time.

The Role of Temperature in Empanada Dough Stickiness

Temperature plays a crucial role in empanada dough stickiness. If the dough gets too warm, the butter can melt, and the dough will become sticky. If your kitchen is warm or humid, you might need to adjust your recipe and use colder ingredients. Chill your flour, butter, and water in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes before using them. If the butter is soft or starting to melt, put it back in the fridge before continuing to make sure the dough doesn’t become sticky.

It’s also important to note that the temperature of your hands can affect the stickiness of the dough. If your hands are warm, the dough can become sticky as you work with it. To prevent this, you can run your hands under cold water or hold a cold object, like an ice pack, before handling the dough. Additionally, if you find that your dough is still too sticky, you can add a little bit of flour at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

Tips for Properly Measuring Ingredients for Empanada Dough

Measuring your ingredients accurately is essential when it comes to empanada dough. Even small variations can affect the consistency of the dough. When measuring flour, use a scale for accurate results, or scoop it into a measuring cup and level it off with a knife. When measuring butter, try using a kitchen scale or use the markings on the packaging to ensure you’re using the right amount. Finally, when measuring water, add it gradually, stirring in between until you reach the right consistency.

How to Adjust Humidity Levels in Your Kitchen to Prevent Sticky Dough

If you regularly struggle with sticky empanada dough due to the humidity in your kitchen, there are a few things you can do to adjust the humidity levels. One option is to use a dehumidifier in your kitchen. This will remove excess moisture from the air, making it easier to work with the dough. Alternatively, you could try using a fan to circulate the air and reduce humidity levels. Finally, you could try using a mixture of flour and cornstarch to dust your work surface, which can help absorb any excess moisture.

Different Types of Flour and Their Effects on Empanada Dough Consistency

The type of flour you use can also affect your empanada dough’s consistency and stickiness. All-purpose flour, which has a protein content of around 10-12%, is the most commonly used type of flour for empanada dough. However, you can use other types of flour, such as pastry flour or cake flour, which have less protein and produce a lighter, more delicate texture. Experiment with different types of flour to find the one that works best for you.

How to Knead Empanada Dough for Optimal Texture

Kneading empanada dough is essential to develop gluten and get the right texture. However, it’s important not to over-knead the dough, as this can result in sticky dough. Knead your dough gently, using the heel of your hand, until a smooth, slightly tacky ball forms. Avoid overworking the dough, as this can lead to tough or sticky dough.

Using a Food Processor vs Hand-Kneading for Empanada Dough

When making empanada dough, you can either use a food processor or hand-knead the dough. Using a food processor can be more convenient, as it saves time and effort. It’s also an excellent option for those who are new to making dough. If you choose to use a food processor, be careful not to overwork the dough. If you prefer to hand-knead the dough, follow the same steps, ensuring that you don’t knead it for too long, or you risk developing gluten and making the dough sticky.

The Best Rolling Techniques for Non-Stick Empanada Dough

Once you’ve made your empanada dough, it’s time to roll it out. Rolling empanada dough can be tricky, as it can become sticky and stick to your rolling surface or rolling pin. One way to prevent this is to use a mixture of flour and cornstarch to dust your work surface. You can also roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper or use a non-stick rolling mat. Avoid pressing down too hard on the dough, which can make it sticky, and try to roll it out in one smooth, continuous motion.

Troubleshooting Tips for Overworked or Underworked Empanada Dough

If you’ve overworked your empanada dough by kneading it for too long, it can become sticky. In this case, you can add a little bit of flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough becomes less sticky. If the dough seems too dry, you can add a little bit of water, one teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. If your empanada dough is underworked, it will lack structure and might break apart when being filled. In this case, knead the dough for a little longer until it becomes smooth and elastic.

How to Store and Freeze Empanada Dough to Prevent Stickiness

If you’re not going to use your empanada dough immediately, you can store it in the fridge or freezer. To store it in the fridge, wrap it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to three days. To store it in the freezer, wrap it well in plastic wrap and freeze for up to three months. When you’re ready to use it, thaw in the fridge overnight and bring to room temperature before rolling it out. Properly storing your empanada dough can help prevent stickiness and ensure that it stays fresh and delicious.


Empanadas are a delicious and versatile food, but making the perfect dough can be challenging. If you’ve ever struggled with sticky empanada dough, you’re not alone. By following the tips and tricks outlined in this article, you can troubleshoot and overcome this common issue. Whether it’s adjusting the humidity levels in your kitchen, using the right flour, or kneading the dough gently, there are many ways to ensure that your empanada dough doesn’t become sticky. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be making delicious empanadas that are perfect every time.