Oh, the empanada, that lovely pan-Latin hot pocket of goodness. Some argue the only true empanada is a fried empanada, while others argue that the best empanadas are baked. Both are delicious, any of us will agree, but in the spirit of health, happiness and freedom from free radicals, here is a list of the hottest non-fried pastries in Los Angeles.
Nonna's offers the biggest selection of baked empanadas in the city, from the traditional beef and chicken to wacky concoctions like mac 'n' cheese and hot dog. They also have a handsome assortment of sweet offerings, including Nutella with Oreo crumbs and cream cheese with dulce de leche. Don't let the names fool you; although Nonna's offers Korean kimchi mandu (kimchi, ground beef, tofu, noodles, onion) and Russian pirozhki (beef, green onions, eggs) options, these empanadas are 100% Argentine in style. 8570 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles; 310-385-0445.
As with Nonna's, The Empanada Factory is owned by Argentinians (they are masters of the baked empanada). Along with the traditional beef, chicken and spinach, they offer unique flavors like tomato and basil and spicy mushroom, which are very tasty. Their empanadas come with a generous side of house-made chimichurri, the classic Argentine condiment of parsley, cilantro, peppers and garlic in olive oil, so don't forget to dip. 2513 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-836-5944.
3. Rincon Chileno:
If you want super-sized baked empanadas on the cheap, go to Rincon Chileno at Melrose and Heliotrope. $2.25 buys you a massive spinach, cheese, chicken or beef load, perfect for a starving LACC student. If that doesn't whet your appetite, you can go for the Grande, a traditional Chilean empanada de pino, stuffed with ground beef, sauteed onions, olives and hard-boiled eggs. Though it's shockingly massive, it is absolutely delicious. Try the Chilean salsa, which is nice and spicy and has a flavor profile totally unlike Mexican salsa. 4352 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; 323-666-6075.
Grand Casino is an Argentine fixture in downtown Culver City. The empanadas aren't in the traditional crescent shape like those at Empanada Factory or Nonna's. These look almost like pot stickers, smaller, lighter in both color and texture, and less crispy — little ambrosial pillows encasing seasoned beef, chicken, spinach, or a delightful ham and cheese. Don't miss out on their expansive assortment of fresh pastries, especially the classic alfajores — sandwich cookies with dulce de leche. 3826 Main St., Culver City; 310-202-6969.
You're not going to find a tomato and basil or mushroom and bacon empanada at this old-school Argentinian market, but their beef, chicken, and spinach renditions are an absolute knockout. And, if you order them to-go, they're a measly $1.35 a pop, cheaper than all the others on the list. They also sport the largest selection of Yerba Mate known to God (we're talking like eight different brands, at least), and if you feel inspired to make your own empanadas, they sell the shells in their frozen section, along with an uncooked selection of house-made pockets that you can bake on the fly. 7540 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys; 818-786-0522.
Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer and a pastry cook at Lucques. Follow her on Facebook. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.