Are Empanada and Meat Pie the Same Thing?

are empanada and meat pie the same thing
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Have you ever wondered if empanadas and meat pies are the same? This question has long intrigued me as someone who loves to cook and sample different cuisines worldwide. While these delicious pastries share some similarities, several key differences between empanada and meat pie are worth exploring. 

Empanadas can be filled with beef, chicken, cheese, spinach, or even fruits, while meat pies typically contain minced meat, gravy, and veggies. Empanadas are usually baked or fried, giving them a crispier crust, but meat pies tend to have a softer, bread-like crust from being baked. Empanadas are also smaller, whereas meat pies can be quite large.

In the following article, I’ll dive into the ingredients, preparation methods, appearance, variations, and other names of empanadas and meat pies to unravel the mystery once and for all. By the end, you’ll be an expert in distinguishing between these handheld delicacies and ready to sample them yourself. 

What Is Empanada?

Empanadas are one of my favorite handheld snacks. An empanada is a fried or baked pastry turnover usually filled with a sweet or savory filling. The word “empanada” comes from Spain, but empanadas originate from Latin America, specifically Argentina, Chile, and other South American countries.

Empanadas are made from dough that is wrapped around a filling and then baked or fried. The fillings can vary but often contain meat, cheese, or fruit. Beef, chicken, and cheese are popular fillings, as well as dulce de leche, a caramel filling.

preparation of empanada

Empanadas tend to be smaller, around 5 to 6 inches, and the dough is usually made from flour, butter or lard, and salt. They have a flaky, crispy crust from being fried. Whether it’s an empanada or meat pie, I can’t resist a hot, homemade pastry pocket filled with meat and spices.


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What Is Meat Pie?

So, what exactly is a meat pie? As the name suggests, it’s a pie filled with meat and gravy. I like to think of meat pies as the savory cousin of fruit pies. 

Meat pies originate from England and are generally larger, around 9 inches. Meat pies are famous in England, Australia, and New Zealand, though many cultures have their own version. They have a thicker, sturdier crust made from puff pastry or shortcrust pastry dough. 

preparation of meat pie

Fillings are usually minced meat, gravy, and vegetables like peas, carrots, and onions. Meat pies tend to be baked, not fried, so the crust is softer. Meat pies are often eaten with utensils because of their size and juicy fillings.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are numerous different types of meat pies. They vary based on the filling, type of pastry used, seasonings, and decoration methods.


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Empanada vs. Meat Pie: Differences

Empanadas and meat pies are delicious comfort foods with distinct shapes, crusts, fillings, and origins. No matter what you call them – empanadas, meat pies, patties, or pasties – these little pockets of flavor are always a treat.

As someone who loves savory pies and handheld snacks, I used to think empanadas and meat pies were the same. I’ve learned a lot in researching these tasty treats, and I have a newfound appreciation for the diversity of handheld foods worldwide. 

The next time I crave something savory wrapped in pastry, I’ll have to think twice about whether I want a buttery empanada or a hearty meat pie. Either way, I can’t go wrong – and now I’ll be able to tell the difference!


Empanadas have Spanish roots but were developed in Latin America, whereas meat pies have distinctly European origins. However, some still believe that Empanadas originated in Spain and Portugal, not South America. Spanish colonists brought them to Latin America, where they were adapted by using local ingredients like maize dough and chili peppers. 

On the other hand, meat pies have a longer history and originate from the UK, France, and other European countries.

Knowing the origins and influences behind these delicious pastries helps us appreciate them even more. Whether you prefer the spicy and savory empanada or the hearty, gravy-topped meat pie, understanding their histories allows us to respect the cultural traditions that shaped them.

Ingredients and Preparation

Empanadas typically have a pastry crust made of dough that encases a sweet or savory filling and are usually baked or fried. On the other hand, meat pies have a crust made of dough or mashed potatoes, contain a savory meat filling, and are usually baked. Empanadas can contain fruit fillings in addition to meat, while meat pies are all about the savory fillings.


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Empanadas usually have a flour-based dough wrapping filled with meats and vegetables, often containing beef, chicken, cheese, corn, and spices. 

On the other hand, meat pies typically have a pastry crust and are filled with minced meat, gravy, and vegetables like carrots, peas, and potatoes. As for me, I prefer the wider range of fillings found in empanadas.

I make empanadas by mixing flour, salt, and shortening to form a dough, then rolling it out and cutting circles to wrap around the filling. 

Meat pies start with a pastry crust, then the filling is mixed, poured into the crust, and topped with another crust before baking. To make meat pies, you need to cook the fillings, then encase them in pastry crusts and bake. The crusts can be basic shortcrust, buttery puff pastry or sturdy hot water crust. 

The fillings are usually made from leftover roasted or braised meats mixed with gravy and vegetables. Everything is assembled, sealed, and baked until the filling is hot and the crust is golden brown.

Empanadas are most often fried, while meat pies are baked.

Appearance and Size

Regarding empanadas and meat pies, appearance and size are two of the most obvious ways to tell them apart.

Empanadas are usually small, semicircular pastries, about 3 to 5 inches in diameter. Their small size makes them perfect for snacking on the go. Meat pies, on the other hand, are heartier, often 6 inches or more in diameter. They’re meant to be a full meal, sliced into wedges and eaten with utensils.

empanada is small, while meat pie is usually bigger

Empanadas also tend to have a more rustic, handmade look with crimped or folded edges, while meat pies typically have a smoother shape and appearance. Some meat pies have decorative pastry latticework or leaves placed on top, though empanadas are usually plainer.

So, if you’re looking for a quick, casual snack, go for an empanada. But if you want a hearty, sit-down meal, a meat pie is probably your best bet. Either way, you really can’t go wrong – they’re both delicious!

Empanadas are often shaped into half moons and are usually individually sized, while meat pies are typically round and meant to be shared. 

Regional Variations

Empanadas and meat pies are delicious pastry pockets found all over the world, but each region puts its own unique spin on these handheld snacks.

Empanadas are popular in many Latin American countries, with fillings ranging from cheese, potato, and plantains to seafood like shrimp or crab. They tend to be smaller, around 3 to 5 inches, and the dough is thinner and crispier than a typical meat pie.

On the other hand, classic British and Australian meat pies use a thicker, flakier pastry and contain minced meat, gravy, and vegetables. Popular varieties include steak and kidney pie or shepherd’s pie. Other popular meat pies are börek (Turkey and Balkans), chicken pot pie (the US), pierogi (Central Europe) and samosa (India).

various types of meat pie

Meat pies are usually larger, around 5 to 8 inches, and are meant as a complete meal, not a snack. The fillings tend to be heartier, and the pastry tops are often left open or only partially covered.

Trying versions from around the world is a great way to explore different food cultures and flavors. 

Alternative Names for Empanadas and Meat Pies

Empanadas and meat pies go by many other names around the world. For example, Puerto Ricans call empanadas as empanadillas, while Argentines are used to call them empanaditas. You can also recognize them by the names of pastelitos or empadas

Meat pies can also be called pasties, patties, or tourtières. A meat pie by any other name would taste as sweet or, should I say, savory! Regardless of what you call them, these handheld pastries are deliciously comforting.

Though different in origin and popularity, both empanadas and meat pies share a common ancestor in Cornish pasties. No matter which you prefer, these portable pies satisfy the universal desire for a warm, savory snack. Viva la empanada, and long live the meat pie!


When it comes to popularity, empanadas definitely have the upper hand. As a South American dish, empanadas are more well-known in Central and South America, as well as in Latin American communities around the world. 

On the other hand, meat pies originate from England and are prevalent in English-speaking countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and, of course, Britain.

Empanadas are also popular street food in many Latin American countries, sold by vendors and in shops.

In contrast, meat pies seem to be more of a home-cooked dish or pub fare in Anglo countries. They tend to be heartier, with a thicker pastry and chunkier fillings of beef, lamb, or game meats like venison. While empanadas can be eaten out of hand, meat pies are usually served on a plate and eaten with utensils.

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