Tasty and convenient, empanadas are a type of baked or fried filled pasty, popular in Latin American and Filipino cultures. The filling varieties are countless, making this a versatile option. They can be frozen for up to three months, as long as they are individually wrapped in plastic and placed in resealable plastic bags. They are also a great main lunchbox entree.

While you can always make your own empanada dough, give yourself a break and grab a refrigerated pie crust. Use a rolling pin to roll out the pie crust until 18 inches in diameter. With 2 1/2- to 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut 12 rounds from pie crust.

To fill and bake empanadas, start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Scoop filling onto the center of each round. Fold each round in half, gently stretching dough over the filling, then press seams to seal with a fork. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Here are four easy filling ideas to get you started.

Beef Empanadas

  • 1 lb ground beef  
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced white onion
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

In a skillet over medium heat, brown beef and onion in olive oil. Add pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and drain. Stir in cilantro.

Black Bean and Cheese Empanadas

  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup diced green onions  
  • 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese 

Mix the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.

Italian Sausage Empanadas

  • 1/2 lb bulk Italian sausage  
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) pizza sauce
  • 1 cup cubed mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown sausage; drain. Stir in the pizza sauce. When slightly cooled, stir in the cheese cubes.

Banana Coconut Empanadas

  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup flaked coconut

Place 4 banana slices on center of each round and top each with a tablespoon of coconut.