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Empanadas in all their varieties grow in popularity

From flaky Argentine to crunchy Colombian to global mashups, these hand pies are a portable treat

Empanadas have recently exploded in popularity across the US, ranking as the 8th most-ordered food item on GrubHub’s “State of the Plate” report in the first half of 2021. There’s a great case to be made for the filled pastry pockets: They offer the universal convenience of a handheld food contained in its own wrapper, making it aka perfect for delivery, takeout, and reheating; they are satisfying enough for a meal, but can also be enjoyed as a snack; and they come in myriad variations. While there are certain commonalities across all types, there are many unique regional distinctions including fillings (savory or sweet, meat or vegetarian), cooking method (baked or friend), and wrapper (pastry, bread, cornmeal/masa, or even yucca/cassava; the latter two of which are gluten free).

Derived from the verb “empanar,” meaning to wrap or coat in bread, empanadas are believed to have originated in Spain or Portugal, dating back to the mid-16th century. Recently we’ve seen a wave of new restaurants specializing in empanadas popping up around the country, displaying a diverse array of traditional styles reflective of various Latin and South American countries, as well as unique versions reflecting a melding of different flavors, influences, and cuisines. Additionally, non-Latin restaurants are increasingly adding these savory pockets to their menus in both traditional forms and novel varieties. Between the array of doughs, cooking methods, and fillings, empanadas are perhaps the perfect vehicle for chefs to experiment, and many are capitalizing on their growing popularity. 

Carbonate is a brand communications and creative services agency specializing in food, beverage, hospitality and food tech. Services include: brand strategy, market positioning, concept development, naming, visual and verbal identity development, social media, and strategic public relations. Prior to launching as an independent company, Carbonate was a division of San Francisco-based af&co. Together af&co. and Carbonate produce an annual industry trends report, with insights consistently cited by outlets including The New York Times, Forbes, and a variety of trade media. Follow along @carbonategroup.

Correction: March 24, 2022
This gallery has been updated to reflect that the Bolivian salténa pictured is from Saya Salteña. More details have also been provided regarding Portuguese empanadas.
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