Have you tried these amazing tuna empanadas? Made with masa harina for the dough, these gluten-free empanadas stuffed with tuna, tomatoes, and spices will make your taste buds dance. They make the perfect lunch or snack!
You might have seen different variations of empanadas like ones filled with beef, chicken, or ham and cheese... but have you ever tried them made with tuna?
These tuna empanadas remind me of those hot summer days on the beach in my hometown of Tampico. Along come memories of the roaming food vendors selling all sorts of tasty seafood fare, and the visitors that spent hours under the “palapas” (palm roofs), enjoying the ocean breeze.
I haven’t been to a beach in 3 or 4 years, but that doesn’t stop me from treating myself to some delicious seafood dishes, like these tuna empanadas ("empanadas de atún”)!
🌎 History Behind Empanadas
Empanadas have a long and varied history, with different countries laying claim to their creation. One theory is that they were brought over to Spain and Portugal by the Moors in the 1500s.
All the while, Argentina has staked its claim and considers empanadas one of their national dishes. There are even disputes between countries as to which type of empanada is the original – whether it’s a beef, chicken, tuna, or cheese-filled one.
You can find them all over the world now, in different shapes and sizes, with various different fillings. Many countries have their own version of an empanada recipe.
But no matter where they came from or who makes them best, one thing is for sure: Empanadas are delicious!
🙋♀️ My Version Of Empanadas De Atún
I like this empanada recipe because you can prepare the tuna filling a couple of days in advance and keep it in the fridge for when you’re ready to form the empanadas.
They are great to serve as an appetizer or as a main dish for a dinner with friends!
You can also make these empanadas out of fish by simply substituting the canned tuna for any steamed fish of your choice.
In this version, I added some chile ancho salsa to the dough in order to give the empanadas some color, but you can skip this step if you want- they will still come out delicious!
In Mexico, we have many types of empanadas: some are sweet and others are savory, and some are made with corn masa (like in this recipe) while others are made with wheat flour.
It really just depends!
Before I share my recipe, here are a few questions I've been asked about traditional tuna empanadas.
What is the difference between an empanada and a burrito?
Empanadas are usually smaller in size than burritos, and they are also folded in half instead of being wrapped like a burrito. Empanadas are also usually baked or fried.
I'm not a fan of tuna. What else can I use for the filling?
Besides other proteins, if I am all out of canned tuna, sometimes I will use a white fish like cod or halibut to make the empanada filling. I even have a recipe for crab empanadas that my husband loves. It's his favorite!
Do I have to add the ancho chile?
No, you don't. I like to add it for color and some extra flavor but you can easily leave it out!
Here is a list of ingredients you'll need to make this delicious empanada recipe...
For tuna filling:
- Canned tuna
- White onion
- Garlic cloves
- Diced tomato
- Chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Vegetable oil
For empanada dough:
- Masa harina
- Warm water
- Chile ancho pepper
Please note: For exact measurements of the ingredients listed above, scroll down to the recipe card located at the bottom of this post!
To make things easier for you, I am going to break down the directions to make this tuna empanada recipe...
Make empanada filling
- Heat the oil in a medium-size pan over medium heat and add the onion. Fry until the onions are transparent.
- Add the garlic and continue to cook.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes and cook thoroughly until the juices in the pan have been reduced. Remove from the heat.
- Open the tuna cans, drain, and add them to a large bowl.
- Stir in tomato and onion mixture with the drained tuna and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Make empanada dough
- To make the dough, mix the masa, salt, and water together in a large bowl. Knead dough until smooth and manageable.
Note: If using the ancho pepper salsa, add 2½ tablespoons of the salsa to the dough before kneading.
- Divide the dough into 12 small balls and cover them with some wet paper towels.
- Using a tortilla maker, form a “tortilla” by pressing down on each dough ball, using two sheets of plastic between the dough and the tortilla maker.
Tip: If you don't have time to make your own dough, you can always buy some premade ones at the grocery store! They are already shaped for you too.
Form tuna empanadas and cook
- Remove the top plastic sheet and then place about 1 tablespoon of the tuna filling on top of the tortilla.
- Next, slowly fold the tortilla in half and close the edges together, starting from the middle.
Tip: Make sure the edges are sealed together because if the filling leaks out when frying the empanada, it will cause the oil to splatter.
- Place the formed empanadas on a tray and cover them with a wet paper towel.
- Once they are all formed, cook them in the hot oil for 2 minutes per side (cooking time may vary depending on the temperature of the oil).
- Once you finish cooking the empanadas, let them rest for a couple of minutes in order to let them cool a little.
Serve and enjoy!
🍽 Side Dishes
Whenever I eat a tuna empanada, serve with a spicy salsa (like some leftover ancho pepper salsa), sliced radishes, and thinly sliced cabbage.
📚 More Authentic Mexican Recipes
If you enjoyed this recipe for tuna empanadas, take a look at some of these other authentic Mexican recipes:
- Mexican Chipotle Tuna Tostadas
- Green Mexican Ceviche
- Crab Salpicon
- Seafood Cocktail
- Crispy Cod Fish Tacos
I hope you make these Mexican empanadas de atún! If this recipe was of any help to you, come back to let me know your experience. Please leave us a comment done below and tell us all about it!
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ⅔ cups white onion finely diced
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1½ cup diced tomato
- 2 small cans of tuna
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
MASA DOUGH (masa):
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1½ cups warm water*
- 1 chile ancho pepper soaked in hot water for 25 minutes
- 1 teaspoon salt
FOR THE CANNED TUNA STUFFING:
- Heat the oil in a medium size pan at medium heat, then add the onion and fry until transparent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for one minute.
- Stir in the tomato and cook thoroughly until its juices have been reduced. This will take about 8-10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the drained tuna and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
TO FORM THE EMPANADAS:
- To make the dough, mix the masa, salt, and water together in a large bowl. If using the ancho pepper salsa, add 2½ tablespoons of the salsa to the dough before kneading. Knead dough until smooth and manageable.
- Divide the dough into 12 small balls and cover them with some wet paper towels. Using a tortilla maker, form a “tortilla” by pressing down on each dough ball, using two sheets of plastic between the dough and the tortilla maker.
- Remove the top plastic sheet. and then place about 1 tablespoon of the tuna filling on top of the tortilla. Next, slowly fold the tortilla in half and close the edges together, starting from the middle. Make sure the edges are sealed together because if the filling leaks out when frying the empanada, it will cause the oil to splatter.
- Place the formed empanadas on a tray and cover them with a wet paper towel. Once they are all formed, cook them in the hot oil for 2 minutes per side (cooking time may vary depending on the temperature of the oil). Once you finish cooking the empanadas, let them rest for a couple of minutes in order to let them cool a little.