A meal in your hand – Salteñas: Bolivian Empanandas

Week 15 – Bolivia 

Salteñas – Juicy Meat Filled Empanadas


From Bolivia we say Buen Provecho! These little beauties are the Bolivian equivalent of a Cornish Pasty and like any good pasty are the perfect picnic/snack/street food. Now I’ve eaten a lot of street food from a lot of different places and I love ye olde traditional Cornish Pasty, (recently had the best one ever at the Sunday Market at Redcliffe, Brisbane. Made and baked on the spot by a true Cornishman)! so I was very keen to tyr this superior version out. The special ingredient that lifts these gems out of the ordinary is the inclusion of jellied meat broth that melts when cooked, providing meat, veggies and gravy all in one handy packet – fantastic!

Fact File: Bolivia

The correct  name is The Plurinational State of Bolivia, which acknowledges the multi-ethnic nature of the country’s population. Called Upper Peru by the Spanish, it has been home to wonderful civilisations located at two archaeological sites, Tiwanaku and Tiahuanaco and the world famous Lake Titicaca. Up in the mountains parts it was part of the Incan Empire.The new country gained independence in 1825 and was named after the political activist Simón Bolivar. Sadly surrounding countries took over attractive areas and today Bolivia is less than half the size it was then, losing even it’s coastline.




But it still has South America’s most uniquely varied environments, and huge biodiversity. World famous for it’s spectacular scenery ranging from the vast other-worldly salt flats of Salar de Uyuni, the rain drenched lowland tropical rainforest, to the bone dry Altiplano, the colourful Lagune Verde (Green Lake) and dramatic soaring peaks laced with glaciers.










The many indigenous ethnic cultures are rich in arts, music, literature and cuisine, and their colourful costumes make visiting this  country a photographers delight. It’s a wild country, very rewarding for the adventurous traveller.

The Food

Credited with being the origin of such useful plants as peppers, chillies, peanuts and the common bean, and over 4,000 different types of potato, Bolivian cuisine is as varied as it’s terrain. Could be called the original ‘meat and potatoes’ diet, the holy trinity of foods in Bolivia is beans, corn and potato.

Traditionally grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes or plantains make up the basis of the cuisine, with a variety of indigenous meats, such as guinea-pig (cuy) rabbit (conejo) and llama added to introduced chicken and beef. Along with a massive array of beautiful home-grown vegetables of all colours, shapes and sizes.

Frying and stewing are the most popular cooking methods, and in the cold mountainous west, hearty, spicy stews and soups are served daily. In the hot tropical north and east, more baked goods (horneadors) and fried foods (empanadas frites) are eaten with lots of salads and grains like quinoa.  

Although Bolivians aren’t really snackers as such, preferring to take a civilised Merienda with tea or coffee in the mid morning and Tecito in the afternoon (rather like our English morning and afternoon tea)  many of the accompanying foods are savoury treats like Salteñas and Humintas (corn tamales) we’d call snacks. Nor do Bolivians have a sweet tooth, although such sweet treats as Buñuelos con Miel (fried donuts with honey) are found in markets.


Some very fine wines are made from the highest vineyards in the world and there are local beers. A traditional drink is a sourish brew made from fermented corn called Chicha, otherwise juices and shakes are popular and the ever present tea and coffee, thick and black or sweet and white with (condensed) milk called cafe con leche.

Salteñas                                                 Makes 8



  • ¼ cup oil
  • 62gm butter/¼ cup, melted
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  •  2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • ½ tsp beef stock powder +½ cup beef stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 large potato, cut into small dice
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • ¼ cup frozen peas
  • 350 gm beef steak, diced
  • 2 tsp gelatine dissolved in ¾ cup boiling water
  • 12 black olives, cut in half
  • handful raisins
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced


  1. Make filling the day before you want to bake Salteñas. Heat oil and butter in a small frypan, add onion, garlic, chilli, oregano and parsley and saute on low 10 minutes until soft.
  2. Add the cumin, salt, pepper and sugar and stir. Add meat and saute on medium heat 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the diced vegetables in boiling water until just cooked, then drain.
  4. Add vinegar and stock to the meat and simmer 15 minutes.
  5. Mix in the cooked vegetables and gelatine, and put into fridge to chill(and set) overnight.


  • 3 cups plain flour
  • ¼ cup butter melted+1 tb extra to glaze
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1 tb sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp paprika



  1. Put flour into food processor or mixer. melt butter and when sizzling add to flour and quickly whizz together. Let it cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat oven to very hot, about 220-240º
  3. Add rest of ingredients and mix. Knead to form a stiff dough. Cover and rest 10 minutes.
  4. Divide dough into 8 balls. Roll each one into thin, ½cm x. 6″/15cm circles.
  5. Place sliced egg, raisins and olives in the middle, place a large spoon of chilled meat filling on top, leaving a space around the edges.
  6. Wet the edge of the dough, fold and bring together on top.. Pinch and roll the edges to seal well.
  7. Place on a greased baking tray with the seam facing up, brush with extra melted butter to glaze and bake 10-15 minutes till golden brown. Serve warm and watch out for the hot meaty juices!



We all enjoyed these Bolivian street food snacks as a meal, we ate them with a salsa and a salad. We gave this dish a 6/10 – was nice but we are very fond of spicy, and so for us they lacked the Wow factor. I understand there are spicier versions and these would be more to our liking.



Recipe was adapted from a number of sources including http://allrecipes.com/recipe/bolivian-saltenas  and www.boliviabella.com/recipes.html and  Lonely Planet “The World’s Best Street Food”
Do check out  http://dulceandsalado.com/2013/01/03/saltenas/ for all the most wonderful South American recipes and more. Buen Provecho!