Ilocos Empanada Recipe

The Ilocos Empanada is a deep-fried turnover, a cherished part of Filipino cuisine, particularly in the Ilocos Region of Luzon. It boasts a vibrant orange crust, thanks to the annatto seeds, and explodes with savory flavors from its unique filling. This comprehensive guide delves into the history, preparation, and the essence of this delightful dish.

A Bite-Sized History

The Ilocos Empanada traces its roots back to Spanish influences during the colonial era. The Spanish introduced empanadas, filled pastries, to the Philippines. The Filipinos then adapted the recipe using locally available ingredients, like longganisa (sausage) and green papaya, creating the distinct Ilocos empanada we know today.

Unveiling the Layers of Flavor

The magic of the Ilocos Empanada lies in its contrasting textures and harmonious flavors. The dough, made with rice flour and annatto oil, boasts a delightful crispiness that yields to a soft, slightly chewy interior. The filling, a symphony of savory ingredients, typically includes:

  • Longganisa: This Filipino sausage, usually made with pork, adds a burst of salty and garlicky goodness.
  • Green papaya: Grated unripe papaya provides a refreshing tanginess and a subtle sweetness.
  • Vegetables: Chopped onions, garlic, and sometimes carrots add depth and texture to the filling.
  • Eggs: A whole egg, cracked and nestled in the filling, adds richness and creaminess.

The Art of Crafting the Perfect Empanada

Creating Ilocos empanadas requires a touch of skill and a whole lot of love. Here’s a glimpse into the process:

  1. Prepare the dough: Combine rice flour, water, salt, and annatto oil to form a smooth, elastic dough.
  2. Make the filling: Sauté longganisa, onions, and garlic. Mix with grated papaya, vegetables, and seasonings.
  3. Assemble the empanadas: Roll out the dough into thin circles. Place a spoonful of filling in the center, crack an egg, and fold the dough into a half-moon shape. Seal the edges tightly.
  4. Fry to perfection: Deep fry the empanadas in hot oil until golden brown and crispy.

The Perfect Pairing: Savoring the Experience

Ilocos empanadas are traditionally enjoyed hot, with a side of spiced vinegar dipping sauce like Sukang Iloco. The tangy vinegar cuts through the richness of the empanada, creating a delightful balance of flavors.

So, the next time you crave a taste of the Philippines, try making your own Ilocos empanadas. It’s a culinary journey waiting to be explored, bite by delicious bite.

Ilocos Empanada Recipe

This recipe yields approximately 15-20 empanadas.

Ingredients For the Dough:

  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup annatto oil (or vegetable oil with a few drops of orange food coloring)

Ingredients For the Filling:

  • 1/2 cup chopped Vigan longganisa (or any Filipino sausage)
  • 1 cup grated green papaya
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 10 whole eggs
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  1. Prepare the dough: In a bowl, combine rice flour, water, salt, and annatto oil. Knead until you form a smooth, elastic dough. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Make the filling: In a pan, heat oil and cook the longganisa until browned and cooked through. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine grated papaya, onions, garlic, carrots (if using), soy sauce, and pepper. Mix well.
  4. Divide the dough into small balls and roll them out into thin circles.
  5. Place a spoonful of the filling in the center of each dough circle. Crack an egg and place it on top of the filling.
  6. Fold the dough into a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges to seal tightly using a fork or your fingers.
  7. Heat oil in a pan or deep fryer to 350°F (175°C).
  8. Carefully fry the empanadas in batches, for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy.
  9. Drain excess oil on paper towels.
  10. Serve hot with your preferred dipping sauce, like Sukang Iloco, soy sauce with chilies, or tomato salsa.

Pro Tips:

  • Ensure the oil is hot enough before frying to achieve a crispy crust.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan while frying to prevent soggy empanadas.
  • Leftover empanadas can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and reheated in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for a few minutes until crispy.

Enjoy your delicious homemade Ilocos Empanadas!

Beyond the Basics: Exploring Variations and Tips

The Ilocos Empanada, while delicious in its classic form, offers room for exploration. Here are some exciting variations and helpful tips to elevate your empanada experience:


  • Vegetarian: Swap the longganisa for crumbled tofu or tempeh, and add mushrooms for a meaty texture.
  • Spicy: Add a pinch of chili flakes or chopped chilies to the filling for a kick.
  • Seafood: Replace the longganisa with cooked and flaked fish or shrimp for a different taste.
  • Cheese: Add a slice of cheese like cheddar or queso de bola to the filling for an extra layer of richness.


  • For a vibrant orange color: Use brightly colored annatto seeds or achiote oil.
  • Achieve the perfect crisp: Ensure the oil is hot enough before frying, around 350°F (175°C).
  • Prevent soggy empanadas: Don’t overcrowd the pan while frying. Fry in batches for even cooking.
  • Experiment with dipping sauces: While Sukang Iloco is traditional, explore other options like soy sauce with chopped chilies or a spicy tomato salsa.

Additional Notes:

  • You can find pre-made rice flour and annatto oil in most Asian grocery stores.
  • If using raw longganisa, cook it thoroughly before adding it to the filling.
  • Leftover empanadas can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and reheated in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for a few minutes until crispy.

With a little creativity and these helpful tips, you can master the art of making Ilocos empanadas and impress your family and friends with this delicious Filipino treat.


Similar Posts