Empanada gallega de bonito (tuna empanada)

I mostly take my lunch to work, but on days that I don’t, I wish I could walk out of the office and find a bakery that sells the large, fresh empanadas we ate all over Galicia. I always thought empanadas were like Cornish pastries, but I found a whole new kind in Galicia. Gallegan empanadas are large square or circular pastries stuffed full of fish or meat fillings – these are cut into slices,  weighed and mostly taken home for consumption.  Sometimes, we arrived just in time to get them fresh from the oven…and the next moment we would be scraping the last fallen bits of pastry from the paper bag. My favourites were bonito (tuna) and bacalao (salted cod), mixed with tomato, soft thinly sliced peppers, olives and even plump raisins.

This is a really easy dish and good for cold winter nights. The following recipe makes easily enough for 4 people with leftovers for lunch.

Empananda gallega de bonito (based on a recipe on cooking up a storm)


  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3.5 cups plain flour
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch salt

Place yeast in 2/3 cups of warm water and sit covered for 10 minutes. Pour yeast and water into a large bowl, add in egg, oil, butter and salt and whisk together.

Once combined, add in flour, one cup at a time and fold into a solid dough, collecting all the flour around the edges. Form into a ball.

Flour a clean surface, place the ball on dough on it and knead for around 5 minutes. Add extra flour if the dough is too sticky or is sticking to the kneading surface.

After 5 minutes, you should have  shiny, quite un-sticky dough. Break it into 2 balls, place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave for 20 minutes or longer (it won’t rise much by the way) . I left mine for the whole time I was making the filling.


  • Olive oil for frying
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 3-4 peppers, finely sliced (is nice to use a mix of colours, for both appearance and flavour – I used 3 small red and 1 small green)
  • 2 small tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • pinch of saffron,pulverised and soaked in 2 tablespoons of very hot water (optional)
  • 400g tuna
  • small bunch of parsley
  • olives, deseeded and chopped (I used kalamata but any good olives could work)
  • 1 beaten egg and dash of milk for brushing on final empanada

Pour oil into  a fry pan over medium heat and add in  garlic. Cook it for 1-2 minutes, browning it but not burning. Then add in onion, and salt, pepper to taste and cook until soft and translucent.

Add pepper slices and a little more oil if needed and cook for around 8-9 minutes. Then reduce heat to low, cover and cook till very soft, around 10-15 minutes. Add in paprika, saffron, and tomato, recover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes more, stirring occasionally.Take off the heat and let cool.

Once cool, add in tuna and parsley.Pre-heat the over to 190C.

To prepare the empanada, oil a large baking tray with olive oil. Roll out the first ball of dough on a lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin (or in my case, a floured wine bottle). Roll the dough into a thin rectangle that will overhang the baking tray on all sides. It should be quite thin.

Place the rolled out dough into the tray, place the filling on top and then sprinkle olives over the tuna mixture. Roll out the second ball into a smaller rectangle, place on top, folding the overhanging bits of the first sheet over to form a solid join at the edges. Brush on egg and milk mixture and place in oven. I’m quite hopeless at following recipes precisely and forgot to put slits in the top of mine to let steam escape. It still worked, but I might try slits next time.

Bake for 30 minutes, turning down the oven a bit if it looks like its getting burnt on top. Once golden, remove from the oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes before eating.

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