The Best Empanadas in Toronto
The best empanadas in Toronto aren't only about hallmark examples of a classic street food. Scan the list, walk into a few shops, ask a few questions, and a theme unfolds. You'll hear "It's our grandmother's recipe," or "my mother bakes them," or "the recipe is three generations old." It becomes clear that what sets these empanadas apart is a soulful desire to properly represent the earthy flavours of a culture as well as a family tradition. After a few such stories, the empanadas themselves--rustic, golden, scented, warm--somehow taste even better.
It's also worth noting that the theme runs as broadly as it does deep. The shops here cover a spectrum of Toronto's Latin American fabric: from the beefy mélange of Chile's quintessential baked empanada to the smoky crunch of Colombia's fried corn flour pastry.
Here are the best empanadas in Toronto.
Writing by Leilah Ambrose. Top photo by Morris Lum.
At the back of Jumbo Empanada, Irene is stirring beef that has been slow-simmering all day. The recipe comes from her grandmother, and it tastes accordingly. This Kensington Market favourite offers up larger-scale beef and chicken variations of the classic Chilean empanadas al horno ($4.50), which are baked, doughy pastry envelopes containing a mixture of fine-cut spiced meats, onions, chopped egg, olives and plump, sweet raisins. Their piquant homemade salsa acts as a delightfully bright foil. More »
This Argentinian enclave on West Queen West serves up Mendoza-style empanadas with flavour just as colourful as the Fileteado Porteño-style sign that hangs out front ($2.25 for 1 or $6.50 for 3). Airy, flaky baked pastry is filled with pitch-perfect combinations like onions, chile peppers, egg and minced beef or dulcet spinach and cream cheese (available on special order). After, partake in a Mate, a heady blend the Argentinians swear by as a dietary aid, which is a useful tool when on empanada safari. More »
The owners of the Empanada Company work from a recipe that is half a century in the making. You'll find both classic preparations and more contemporary fillings, including Cajun pulled pork, and a sweet-savoury combination of leek and prosciutto. The crust is traditionally baked, unless requested otherwise, and with a price point that ranges between $2.25 to $2.75 per empanada, there's no reason not to try them all because, yes folks, they deliver. More »
On a stretch of Christie St., just north of Fiesta Farms, a Chilean husband and wife keep the traditions of their national dish alive. Osvaldo and Leonor Barreda's storefront may not scream its credentials from the street, but inside, the couple work to turn out 200 empanadas a day. Though also available in chicken, cheese or spinach ($2.50), the beef (consistently recommended) has a nuanced flavour that'll haunt you for the rest of the week. More »
The Chilean empanadas at the cheerfully appointed Mama Mia Place come from a closely guarded recipe which is three generations old. Deep fried or toasty from the oven, Mama Mia's offerings ($2.50) err on the meatier side. There are, however, vegetarian options, including a cross-cultural nod to spanikopita, containing spinach and a bite of warm, salty feta cheese. It may be tough, but save room for their churros with a meltingly doughy interior of dulce de leche or Nutella. More »
When they started out, Alfonso Segovia and his brother Leonardo (both butchers) offered Chilean empanadas based on their grandmother's recipe. As Alfonso began to develop a more modern take on fillings, the two decided to divide and conquer. El Gordo now offers over 50 empanada flavours, ranging from the expected (beef, chorizo, cheese), to the arcane (chicken and kimchi). The chorizo empanadas ($3) are particularly crave-worthy, with its silky smooth pimenton-spiked filling. So many tempting options, so little time. More »
Contrary to popular belief, Segovia Meats and El Gordo do not share the same empanadas. Leonardo Segovia (Alfonso's younger brother) saw opportunity in the request of purists, who came knocking for their grandmother's tried and true recipes. While his brother built out contemporary flavour profiles, Leonardo demurred. The result is aromatic, authentic empanadas ($3.33) flecked with chunky meat, egg, olive and spices. Between the two storefronts, the brothers Segovia offer a unique chance to respectfully nod to the past, or playfully explore its evolution. More »
Beyond the buoyant signage is a Colombian bakery that dishes up a departure from the Argentinian, Mexican or Chilean empanada style (which are baked with wheat flour pastry). Columbus' Colombian empanadas are smaller, made with yellow corn flour and deep-fried. The satisfying crunch of the corn pastry gives way to a piping hot and richly flavourful beef and potato filling. At the criminally low price of $1, you can afford to anticipate your cravings and buy several, and visit their second location at Jane St. More »
Owner Marcello smiles and explains that yes, his mother is the one who bakes the perfect half moons on display at this lovely café/shop on Adelaide. Fleeing her native Italy in WWII, she settled in Argentina. The empanadas ($2.75) are reflective of the Argentinian style and are small, light-as-air pastries containing a herbaceous filling of spinach and ricotta, or subtly aromatic beef or chicken. Best of all, the empanadas come with homemade chimichurri, which is traditionally enjoyed with meat dishes, but wonderfully punchy as a dipping sauce. More »