Empanadas are stuffed pastries that are very popular in South America. Empanadas probably came to South America with the Spaniards, but they quickly took on their own distinctive style and flavor in the New World. South American empanadas often have a sweet dough (sometimes they are even sprinkled with powdered sugar) that is a perfect contrast to the savory filling.
To the novice eye empanadas might look the same from country to country in South America, but there are distinct differences in each region. Most countries have a basic beef version and chicken version. Ham and cheese, potatoes, chile peppers, vegetables, seafood, hearts of palm, tropical fruits...whatever is available and popular in a particular region is usually featured in the local empanadas.
Empanadas have a tender dough that tends to soak up the flavor of the filling, making them even more delicious the day after they are baked. The dough is less flaky than pie crust, and it's very simple to make. Empanadas reheat well in the microwave without losing their texture.
Empanadas can be baked or fried. They are typically large enough to be a meal, but can also be made into a small, appetizer-size version.