Spanish Tuna Empanadas

This is an incredibly flavorful recipe, and well worth the effort of forming the empanadas. The dough is a cinch to put together, and since it is olive oil based instead of butter, is very forgiving. You don’t need to worry too much about overworking the dough and loosing its flakiness. I like to make a bunch of bite sized empanadas and put them in the freezer to have easy appetizers on hand around the holidays, but larger ones make an excellent dinner alongside a light salad or gazpacho.


The dough is easy to work with and shouldn’t stick to your board while rolling out.

Cooking tuna

Cook the tuna in the sauce, then remove and shred it into smaller pieces before returning it to the sauce.

Cutting dough

Roll the dough thinly, then cut out circles to fill with the tuna mixture.


The filling should not be too wet. Cook it down more if there is too much liquid.


Make Ahead Dinner Party

Spanish Tuna Empanadas

Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Servings: 8


For the Dough:

  • 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup white wine

For the Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 14- ounce can diced tomatoes or 1 pound fresh tomatoes if in season, seeded and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup pitted green olives quartered
  • 10-12 ounces fresh tuna steak
  • 3 dates diced
  • fresh ground black pepper


  • Make the dough by combining the flours and salt. Pour in the wine and olive oil and mix until the dough comes together. Knead in the bowl until the flour is fully moistened, then wrap in plastic wrap and set aside while you prepare the filling.
  • In a saucepan, saute the onion and garlic and a pinch of salt in the olive oil for 8-10 minutes until softened. The salt helps the onions “sweat” and release their juices. Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and cook for 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes start to get thickened. Stir in the paprika, olives and dates, then add the whole piece or pieces of tuna. Cover and let cook, turning the tuna once, about 12 minutes until the tuna is mostly cooked through.
  • Remove the tuna from the pan, but keep the heat on. When cool enough to handle, or using two forks, shred the tuna, leaving some small bite sized pieces, and return it to the pot. Stir and continue to cook just until the mixture is quite thick. It should not be watery at all, or the empanadas will be soggy. Taste and add more salt if needed, and a few turns of fresh cracked black pepper. Set aside to let cool slightly.
  • To assemble the empanadas, cut the dough in thirds and roll one piece out at a time on your work surface. It is quite oily, and should not need flour to keep it from sticking. Roll it quite thinly, about 1/8” if possible, then use a round 3” biscuit cutter to cut circles out. Take about a tablespoon of filling and place in the center of a round, then pinch the edges to seal. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat until you have used all the filling.
  • Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Tips & Tricks

You can make these any size you like, and if you don’t have a large round cutter, its okay to use a knife to cut rounds shapes and be a little more rustic in the presentation. Larger sizes would be more appropriate for dinner sized servings, while the 3” cutter will produce smaller ones that would be great for hors d’oeuvres. These can be assembled and placed on the parchment lined baking sheet, then frozen. After they are totally frozen, store in a freezer gallon sized bag. Simply add 10 minutes onto the cooking time if cooking them directly from the freezer.

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