Bolivian salteñas are baked empanadas with a sweet and buttery crust and a juicy chicken filling or jigote with potatoes, chili peppers, raisins, and olives.
If you've visited Bolivia or have a Bolivian friend, you have heard about salteñas.
These baked empanadas can be found in many Bolivian streets during the morning. They are eaten for breakfast or as a mid-morning snack.
The country is full of salteñerías. These stalls or small restaurants open early in the mornings offering beef, chicken, spicy and non-spicy salteñas.
A cup of steaming coffee or fresh made fruit juice is served with piping hot salteñas.
Salteñas are generally bought, it is not a recipe people make at home.
When we moved to Paraguay, my mom had a long list of Bolivian recipes that she would make. Some recipes she grew up making with her mom, but others were foods that were bought in the streets and there was no need to learn how to make them, unless you lived outside the country.
There began her fight or adventure to find a recipe for Bolivian salteñas.
In terms of flavors, very quickly she found how to replicate it, but the dough. That blessed dough! If the dough doesn't have the right consistency, the salteñas don't seal properly and they open in the oven and all the juice comes out, leaving you with dry salteñas.
We would go back to Bolivia for Christmas, and my parents would try to find someone to share their secret to a perfect salteña. But since it's not something that people make at home, their search came to nothing, year after year.
The oven also has a lot to do with making salteñas come out well. The oven has to be able to heat to very high temperatures, my parents thinking that their oven was not heating enough or properly, bought an industrial oven in Bolivia, and brought it back to Paraguay. Yes, that's how much Bolivians love their salteñas.
I really don't remember if that helped. But we did eat lots of delicious salteñas over the years as they kept trying to get it right.
Once my parents returned to live in Bolivia and I stayed in Paraguay, my adventure of finding the right dough for salteñas began.
This recipe is the work of many years. Yes, there are many videos on YouTube and many recipes on the internet. So why was I still searching for one?
Recipes generally don't tell you exactly how much water is needed. Or if they tell you, the flour absorbs liquids differently depending on the brand, or the country where you live. If you've never made the dough, it's hard to know what it means when a recipe says "add enough water."
I think that due to the fact that I have been able to bake in 3 different countries, I can tell you and help you with that little problem.
But I want you to know that I am not a professional. I'm going to tell you everything I learned in the process, and what I do it to be able to make salteñas at home. Maybe they are not the most common methods, but it is what worked for me.
Bolivia has very diverse gastronomy. Throughout the country, you find traditional dishes that represent the culture and the different ecological floors.
But we have some dishes that are prepared and enjoyed by all Bolivians, such as peanut soup, llajua, and these salteñas.
There are some stories about how these empanadas came to Bolivia. Due to the particular name (Salteña is a woman from the city of Salta, Argentina), it is believed that Juana Manuela Gorriti, born in the province of Salta, Argentina, was the one who created the recipe.
The recipe book from 1776 is the oldest existing in the country written by Josepha de Escurrechea and with it, it is shown that the broth empanada or juicy empanada was already known in Potosí and what Doña Josepha did, in addition to cooking it, was to include her recipe which, that way, it is preserved to this day.
In this recipe book, she mentions the use of beef and the repulgue (the name for how to seal the empanada). Due to these specifically established uses, it is clear that this origin was in this city (Potosí) where the preparation of the famous salteñas began and was consolidated, with the essential addition of potatoes and chili peppers.
The traditional salteña is about 12 centimeters long and 7 centimeters wide. They are large and fit nicely in the hand.
Our recipe makes 20 small salteñas. If you want them larger, you can divide the dough into 15 portions. The cooking time does not vary.
Filling or jigote
- Chicken: I use boneless, skinless breast, but you can cook a whole chicken, and shred it to use in the filling. You can also use beef cut into small pieces.
- Onion: in Bolivia purple or red onion is the most common, but you can use what you have on hand.
- Green bell pepper
- Habaneros: I used habaneros to spice it up, but you can use your favorite chili pepper, fresh, or ground.
- Peas: you can use fresh or canned. My kids don't like it, and most of the time I skip them.
- Potato: this is a primary ingredient. But when you make it at home you can omit it, or you can add more. I usually calculate the amount of the potatoes to be half the chicken.
- Black pepper
- Bay leaf
- Unflavored gelatin
- Boiled eggs
- Green Olives: Many people do not like olives and prefer to omit them.
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- To make salteñas cheaper, many people add more potatoes.
- The filling or jigote has gelatine and needs to cool completely before using it.
- You can make it and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- In this recipe, I added chopped eggs together with the jigote. Generally, a slice is placed before closing or sealing the empanada.
- You can use chicken breast with bone and skin, the bone will give more flavor to the broth.
- Remember not to throw away the broth, because it is used for the filling.
- Flour: I used all-purpose flour (11.7% protein)
- Urucú: also called achiote. This comes in seeds or powder form. If you use the seeds, heat 1 tablespoon of lard with the seeds; let it rest for about 5 minutes, remove the seeds, and use the lard for the salteñas. This is an ingredient that cannot be replaced. If you can't get it, you can make the salteñas without the color.
- Egg yolk: save the white to paint the salteñas before baking.
- Fat: this should be at room temperature. I've made it with butter and lard, both work fine. I do not recommend using oil. Many recipes use hot fat, they never came out right when I did that step. You can try it, but it works well with room temperature fat.
- Use a large mixing bowl.
- Lard and water should be at room temperature.
- Each brand of flour absorbs water differently. I'm in the USA and I used King Arthur Flour brand (unbleached).
- If you are in Bolivia, this dough is going to be a little soft, and you'll need to add about 2 to 4 more tablespoons of flour.
- If you are in Paraguay, this dough is going to be a little soft, but not much. You may need to add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of flour.
- Once you mix all the ingredients, you need to knead for about 10 minutes by hand, or 5 minutes if you use a kitchen aid.
- In my experience, if after kneading the dough the top looks completely smooth, the dough is too soft, and the seal or repulgue is going to open in the oven.
- If the dough, after kneading, breaks easily, it's because it's too dry and you will not be able to roll it out and make the discs. Add 2 tablespoons of water, knead again.
- The perfect dough I found to be like the one seen in the picture. You can see a smooth part and some that is not very smooth.
- Since the dough is a bit firm, it needs to rest. The rest makes gluten do its job and the dough easier to handle.
- If you roll out the dough, and it shrinks or gets smaller, it's because it needs to rest a bit more.
- When the dough rests, cover it with a damp cloth. Wet a clean kitchen towel, squeeze out all the water, and cover the dough.
- When the empanada discs are ready, you should store them in the refrigerator. They are firmer and easier to handle.
- Empanada discs can be made up to 2 days before use.
- You can use pieces of parchment paper to separate each disc, and thus freeze. The night before using them, remove from the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator.
How to fill and seal salteñas
Start by removing only 5 empanada discs and a little of the filling. It is important to keep the ingredients cold.
I hope the video helps you!
How to store and bake salteñas
Once the salteñas are assembled, you can bake them immediately or you can freeze them.
If you are going to bake them immediately, you should preheat the oven to 245C (470F) degrees. Many gas ovens don't reach this temperature, unfortunately.
The time for preheating depends a lot on how big your oven is and if it seals and keeps the heat well.
In Paraguay, I have a large gas oven, and that one takes about 30 minutes to reach the correct temperature.
For many years I had a large oven that did not hold heat very well, and in that one, it took 40 to 45 minutes.
Now I am using an electric oven that keeps the heat well and usually heats up in about 10 minutes.
Salteñas should be baked on a greased baking tray, and leave a space of about 5 centimeters (2 inches) between each empanada.
If you are going to freeze salteñas: at this point, you can freeze salteñas. You can place them on a plate or tray that fits into your freezer. Leave them in for one to two hours, until they are firm. Take them out and place them in an airtight bag and store them back in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Baking frozen salteñas: preheat the oven as the explanation above. You don't need to defrost the salteñas. You can brush them with a mixture of egg whites and water. But they need to cook for 35 to 40 minutes.
No, I don't recommend you use store-bought rotisserie chicken as the spices are different and will change the flavor of the salteñas.
You can add more broth to make them juicier, but remember that you will need to use more gelatin as well.
Since it has gelatin, I don't recommend freezing it. But you can freeze the entire salteña before baking.
There are two common reasons. The dough was too soft and didn't seal properly. The other one is that the oven was not very hot and it took longer to bake.
Recipes you might like:
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Salteñas (Bolivian Baked Empanadas)
- 1/2 chicken breast, skinless and boneless (333g, about 11 ounces)
- 2 quarts water
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
- 2 habaneros, minced (you can omit this chili pepper, use ground chili pepper, or use whatever you have on hand)
- 1/4 cup green peas, peeled and cooked
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 potato, peeled and diced (250g, about 9 ounces)
- 1-1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
- 3 tablespoons of water
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
- 20 green olives
- 500 grams flour (4 cups)
- 170 grams sugar (3/4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons urucú, achiote cannot be substituted
- 1 egg yolk
- 113 grams lard or butter (1/2 cup)
- 161 grams of water (3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)
- Filling: In a pot, add chicken breast and 2 quarts of water. Boil until chicken is cooked. Remove it and cool on a plate, then shred it. Strain the broth, and reserve 3 cups for later use.
- Clean the pot and saute the onion, green peppers, garlic, parsley, and chili if using for about 3 to 4 minutes. Add shredded chicken, chicken broth (3 cups), peas, raisins, potatoes, sugar, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and bay leaf. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- While that is simmering, in a small bowl add the gelatin with 3 tablespoons of water at room temperature, mix and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
- After 5 minutes of simmering, taste and see if you need more salt or more chili; remove the bay leaf and add the gelatin. Mix well and cook for 1 more minute and turn off the heat.
- Let it cool a bit in the pot and then move to an airtight container. Add the eggs, mix and chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Dough: In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt, urucú (if using), egg yolk, and lard. Add the water at room temperature, mix until everything comes together.
- On a flat, floured surface, knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth. (If you have a kitchen aid, you can use it to knead).
- Let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Cover it with a damp cloth.
- After resting, divide the dough into 20 equal portions (I weighed each ball at 50 grams - about 1.7 ounces).
- Working with one portion of dough at a time, form an even ball with circle movements between the palm of the hand and a flat surface.
- Place the dough on a plate, or on parchment paper (the color can dye the container), and cover with a damp cloth for 20 minutes.
- Working with one portion at a time, roll each ball out onto a flat, floured surface. They should be about 12 centimeters in diameter (4.7 inches), and ¼ centimeter thick (about 1/8 inches).
- Place the empanada discs in an airtight bag or container (remember that the color will dye the container, but you can cover it with parchment paper so that this does not happen) and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.
- How to fill: Take out only 5 empanada discs at a time, and a little filling. Try to keep the rest in the fridge.
- If the empanada disc has a lot of flour on the edges, wet your fingertips and run a little water around it.
- Place an empanada disc in one hand or a plate, add 1 tablespoon and a half of the filling, and an olive. Bring the edges of the middle together and press with your fingers. Keep pressing the edges, but leave a 1-centimeter (1/4 inch) gap at one end.
- With both hands, press the salteña (like hugging it) so that the air comes out. Press tip that was still open, to close.
- With your index finger and thumb, press the entire edge again.
- To seal, press with your thumb and index finger, fold the corner over the edge into a triangle, and press again. Continue until the entire salteña is sealed. Bring the tip and fold it underneath the salteña.
- Place salteñas on a greased baking tray with the seal or repulgue facing upwards. Leave a space of 5 centimeters (2 inches) between each salteña.
- Brush each salteña with a mixture of 1 egg white + 2 tablespoons of water.
- Heat the oven to 245C (470F) degrees. In a gas oven, it sometimes takes 20 to 40 minutes.
- Bake the salteñas for 20 minutes and serve hot with a strawberry, banana, or peach batido (milk, fruit, and sugar).
After assembling the salteñas, they can be frozen for up to 3 months. For baking, it is not necessary to defrost. Bake frozen salteñas at 245C (470F) degrees for 35 minutes.
The filling can be made with beef.
The empanada discs can be frozen. Cut pieces of parchment paper, place a piece between each disc. Store the discs in an airtight bag. The night before using, remove from the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator.
My wife owned a bakery in Bolivia and her recipe is essentially the same. My question has to do with sealing the dough. As we get older and arthritis begins to be an issue, have you any advice to make the seal? Empanadas and salteñas are becoming harder to make in large quantities just because our hands hurt.
Hi Edward. You can do a couple of things. Get an empanada press like this one, and use the biggest one (28.5cm) https://amzn.to/45JboGH
This recipe is not super juicy, so I think it might work. You won't be able to stand it or shape it like a salteña. But it will taste like it.
Make 2 or 3 and bake them to make sure this would work.
The other one is to seal them with a fork. But this might break or make little holes in the dough and the little juice you have might leak.
I hope that helps.
Absolute garbage. Would not recamend what so ever. Trassh.
After all that work, it's very frustrating when it doesn't turn out right. Do you mind sharing what step in the process didn't turn out well for you? and from what country are you making this recipe?
I love your salteñas! Thank you for perfecting such a delicious street food!
I'm so glad you liked it!
Can highly recommend this recipe, lot's of work, but so worth it!
I made this in Germany, so if you are here, too:
- The gelatine is 6 sheets of gelatine (which you should only add to the rest when it has cooled down a bit)
- Start only with 120 grams of water for the dough, I think I only need 140 grams total. German flour (I used Type 550) does not absorb as much water.
- I only used 100 grams of sugar and still found it perfect.
- I had prepared a batch to eat right away and another for the following day, fully prepared, chilled in the fridge. Somehow the 24 hours did wonders to the flavor, we loved them so much on the day after! Just be sure to place them on parchment paper so that you don't need to peel them off a plate or box when you want to bake them.
Yum, 5 stars from me!
Thank you! I'm so glad you shared how to make it work in Germany!
I tried this and it was very very good. My girlfriend is Bolivian and her mother (also Bolivian- born and raised there) tried it and loved it. The only recommendation from the mother (true Bolivian lol) was to use black olive with the pit in it. The olives (green or black) that have no pit almost have no flavor at all and i did notice this in the final product. 9/10 saltenas i have eaten in the past from various locations use black olive with pit. Also, she said using cilantro instead of parsley would be beneficial. Regardless, the recipe was very good and it was actually my first time attempting to make them. My family has a long (loving) history of salteñas. We oder 20-30 for birthday parties, special occasions, or just for a quick meal. Not to mention very affordable! I grew up in northern VA where there is plenty competition for the salteñas business with its increased popularity over the years. Unfortunately, when i moved to Tampa FL, coming across any Salteñas is very rare. Which is why i used this recipe to make it my self!
Very happy to hear you like the recipe!
When I buy in my coffee shop from the warming box they do not run and I can eat woth my hand. But same ones heated at my house (Coffee shop shared their bakery source) are runny. Tasty, but runny baked in conv oven 20 mkns 400 degrees. Tried letting rest after but no luck. Tips?
Hello. Hmm. Because you are baking the same ones you're getting from the coffee shop.
The only way to not have too much juice, is to add less when making them. But that's not your case.
When you buy them, is the inside warm as well?
Does it happen every time you buy them?
Sorry I can't help.
I'm just guessing they added more juice to some salteñas.
They’re supposed to have broth when they’re done. That’s why it’s cooked but runny.
For many years I have trued to make saltenas. The dough was the problem when cooking it would open and the juice will spilled. I’m in Nee Mexico visiting my daughter and she asked me to make it for her. So I will try today
I hope it goes well! and if the first time doesn't work, take notes: is the dough too soft? did I let it rest enough? and the next time make adjustments.
I lived in Potosí for a bit and have missed saltañas every day since (almost 10 years ago!). This is the first recipe I’ve seen that is more than just a basic empanada. So excited! Thanks again!
I'm so glad you found our recipe!
I hope you like it.
Is that really enough chicken for all those salteñas? Doesn't seem like much.
Hi. Yes, it's enough.
Can the dough rest overnight while chicken mixture is resting?
Yes, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days.
Wow... just wow! I dont come from a south american background and always wanted to know how to make these... this is the closest to the ones I have had before or maybe better. The only thing the dough was a bit more on the too sweet side so I might use a bit less sugar. Other then that absolutely tasty!
Been searching for a saltena recipe forever, it’s hard to come by. I’m glad I decided to try this one - it is amazing!
I'm so glad you liked it, Cerise!
Those Bolivian empanadas are soooo tasty, I really love salters, are the perfect picnic appetizer
I'm glad you liked them, Laura!
Hi there! I LOVE salteñas, my family is Bolivian and sadly no one knows how to make them and the only Bolivian restaurant near us closed (*cries*). I’ve been looking for a sateña recipe for years, and yours seems so clear I want to attempt it! I was wondering though what is the difference between urucú and achiote, since you differentiate between the two and mention the latter shouldn’t be used? And secondly, can you share a link for where to get that ingredient, or at least to educate on what to look for? Thank you, can’t wait to try this!!!
Hi Vanesa. Achiote or urucú is the same thing. In other countries is called annatto seeds.
You can get it on Amazon, just click on the link above where I talk about the ingredients for the dough.
I've seen it in Mexican stores too. Just make sure that the only ingredient is achiote. I know some brands come with cumin, oregano, and other spices. You don't want all that in your dough.
Let me know if you need more help.
Thank you for clarifying! I ordered the achiote via the Amazon link you provided, super helpful thank you! Just FYI this was the part in the Recipe section that had confused me "2 tablespoons urucú, achiote cannot be substituted", I took it to mean that achiote cannot substitute urucú, though I see upon second glance above you explain "Urucú: also called achiote".
This recipe is amazing, absolutely five stars -- closest salteñas I've had outside of Bolivia! Thank you so much for sharing, can't wait to make more.
Thank you Vanessa. I'll correct the post and I'll try to clarify that point.
I'm so glad you liked the recipe 🙂
I read about 50 recipes online before choosing this one. It's very explanatory for a first time saltena maker so I'm truly grateful. The flavor was superb. My only complaint is the sugar in the dough. 3/4 cup seemed a lot so I used 1/2 cup and it was still too sweet. Most recipes use about 1/4 cup sugar so I'll try that next time.
I'm so glad you found the recipe easy to follow. I know it has a lot of steps!
Yes, the pastry tends to be sweet. I make them less sweet than the ones you can find in Bolivia.
Just keep taking and adding until you get it how you like it.
Great recipe, just like ones at home. Easy to make great and detail explanation
after all was not that hard.
Thank you for bringing a littlest of home to me !!
So happy to hear it! ❤️
For the flour can you use bread flour or self rising flour instead of all purpose? because the all purpose flour they have here in the grocer is pretty bad quality.....
I would use bread flour instead of self-rising flour for this recipe.
I hope it works great for you!
Clearly, this recipe is a true labor of love - what a treasure! How wonderful that your mother tried so hard, year after year, to finally figure out how to recreate these, including the tricky, tricky dough! So special to be able to enjoy an authentic taste of Bolivia, no matter where you are in the world! Thank you so much or sharing this recipe, and the epic story behind its creation! 🙂
We love beef empanada in the Philippines so this made me crave for it! Looks absolutely perfect!
I haven't had Bolivian salteñas in years! One of my good work friends used to bring them in and they are so good! I was thrilled when I found your recipe on Pinterest. It's a for sure keeper!
Great recipe! I loved that they were baked, great flavors too!
I am Indonesian, and we have a snack that looks almost like your empanadas, and we call it panada. I'm so excited to give this recipe a try and have a comparison to our version. 🙂
So delicious!!! Made them last night! Thank you thank you! I’d say it needs a tiny bit more juice to like the ones in Bolivia but other than that, 👌🏽 PERFECT
This makes me very happy. I'm glad you liked them. Yes, they're not as juicy as the ones in Bolivia. I'm always afraid they'll explode and have juice everywhere in the oven. But next time, add more broth and let us know how they turned out.
I hate frying so I love that these are baked. The filling was fantastic.
I'm so glad you liked them!!
I had never had these until my husband introduced them to me last year. He was so excited when I showed him your recipe to make them!
I love this empanadas recipe! The tutorial is so perfect, easy to follow!
Loving the flavor combo in these empanadas! Such a great snack that the family loves, but also great for dinner too.
I can just imagine how amazing these must taste... just my type of snack!
Love Salteñas! I first came across them while in New York City and they are so good. Yours look absolutely incredible! Such a beautiful crust.
He vivido en Bolivia en dos ocasiones, 1976 y 1983 por 1 año cada vez. En el 76 tenía 12 años, y como paraguaya no sabía saborear el picante. En el 83 ya fue diferente. ¡Me encantan las salteñas! Quiero volver a Bolivia, y mi lista de comidas incluyen salteñas, anticuchos, y un plato que se cocina bajo tierra. Felicitaciones, Lizet, por compartir las delicias de tu tierra.
Gracias doña Rosy! son comidas muy ricas. Espero que se anima a hacerlas, para recordar los momentos en Bolivia.