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An empanada ripped in half filled with guava jam and cheese.
Chicago Empanada Mama is new in town.
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Where to Eat Empanadas in Chicago

Sample an array of styles from all over Latin America

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Chicago Empanada Mama is new in town.
| Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Originating in Spain, empanadas spread throughout Latin America where the snack developed numerous regional variations. Luckily Chicago’s diverse food scene means it’s easy to try versions from Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico, along with fusions of the different styles and explore the differences between baked and fried preparations and the numerous sweet or savory fillings like beef, cheese, and plantains. Another key element is the dipping sauces ranging from garlicky chimichurri to spicy salsa. These spots provide a delicious sampling. Customers don’t have to worry about ordering too many in the name of experimentation since empanadas usually reheat very well in an oven.

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Don Pablo's Kitchen & Bakeshop

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Don Pablo’s Kitchen & Bakeshop started as a ghost kitchen and then opened in a small counter-service spot in Uptown early this year. The menu focuses on Chilean empanadas with a buttery crust used in eight savory varieties such as the Poeta filled with shrimp, basil, oregano, and a mix of mozzarella and gouda, and the Greek Tragedy packed with artichoke hearts, cremini mushrooms, kalamata olives, and feta. For dessert, grab an apple-stuffed empanada sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Cafe Tola

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Cafe Tola’s empanadas are a favorite at Chicago festivals; the chain also has four BYOB cafes spread across Avondale, Lakeview, and Logan Square. Mexican, Cuban, and American flavors inspire the 25 sweet and savory varieties including ropa vieja, birria, and apple pie. If the choices seem overwhelming, order online and play “empanada roulette” by letting an employee choose three meat or vegetarian varieties for a $2 discount.

La Nonna

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Argentine and Italian fare combine at La Nonna, which serves golden flaky empanadas stuffed with vegetables, beef, chicken or ham and cheese along with the namesake pizza topped with ham, roasted red pepper, and green olives. The Avondale restaurant has a patio that’s a nice place to relax while sipping a glass of wine or an iced latte.

5411 Empanadas

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Named for the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, Argentina, 5411 Empanadas started as a food truck before opening its first permanent location in Lakeview in 2012. They’ve kept growing since, adding restaurants in Wicker Park, Lakeview, and Evanston and shipping frozen empanadas around the country. The chain offers 16 varieties including an Impossible plant-based version of the traditional Argentine empanada made with ground beef, diced potatoes, sauteed onions, scallions, and green olives, and pork chorizo sauteed with red peppers combined with black beans and scrambled eggs. They are served with chimichurri or roasted jalapeno hot sauce.

Golden Tuzo

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English miners brought Cornish pasties to Central Mexico in the 19th century, where they evolved into pastes: firm pastry dough stuffed with traditional Mexican fare like red or green chicken mole, chorizo with beans, and poblano peppers with cheese. Golden Tuzo provides a perfect place to try them alongside sweet empanadas with equally traditional fillings such as arroz con leche and guava with cheese.

Lito's Empanadas

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Lito’s Empanadas first opened in Lincoln Park in 2007 and has since added locations in Little Italy and inside the Chicago French Market and Revival Food Hall. They offer 17 varieties with fillings inspired by the flavors of Mexico City including a breakfast version stuffed with chorizo, egg, potato, and cheese; al pastor made with marinated pork, pineapple, cilantro, and cheese; and vegetarian with chipotle, cilantro, and onion. Try dipping them in sauces spiced with morita or serrano peppers.

El Nandú Restaurant

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Argentina shines at this Logan Square restaurant. The camarones are nice, with shrimp and cheese, and so is Tucumana, apparently a Northern Argentina tribute with steak, green onions, and eggs. There are several options, and most are excellent. But the truth is the chimichurri here is so good it will mask any disappointment from the empanada.

Omarcito’s Latin Cafe

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The Cuban ropa vieja-stuffed empanada is one of the highlights Omarcitos, this cute family-owned Latin American cafe that earned a rave review from the Tribune. The influences come from the entire region and the empanadas, including the guava and cheese version, run the gamut. There’s something for everyone; even vegans. And owner Omar Cadena is a delight.

Rica Arepa | Venezuelan Restaurant

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Venezuelan empanadas have deep-fried corn dough, making them sweeter and bigger than other versions. Rica Arepa makes nearly 25 of them to order until 3 p.m, with varieties including ham and cheese, sweet plantains, shrimp, and pabellon, a traditional mix of shredded beef, black beans, cheese, and sweet plantains. Their newest flavor is rompe-colchon, stuffed with an octopus and shrimp ceviche that’s meant to be an aphrodisiac. They’re served along with hot sauce and a creamy garlic sauce. The restaurant also has a location in Lakeview.

Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant & Catering

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Any meal at this Bucktown BYOB stable should begin with an order of fried empanadas stuffed with beef and potatoes, spinach and cheese, or the sweeter plantain and cheese combination. Cover them with plenty of the Costa Rican restaurant’s creamy empanada sauce and a squeeze of the hot sauce stationed on every table. Bring a bottle of rum to spike the fresh pina colada mix that helps tame the heat.

ArePA George

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Siblings Juan and Nathalie Betancourt bring Colombian food to Humboldt Park, serving chicken, beef, cheese, and sweet plantain empanadas along with spicy or mild version of aji, a green sauce made with onions, peppers, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice also commonly used on arepas. Empanadas serve as the starter for a three-course meal deal for two that also includes arroz con pollo, fried cassava, and flan.

The lobster empanadas, made with big pieces of claw and tail meat, chihuahua cheese, and flaky pastry dough and served topped with avocado slices with a side of chipotle aioli have been a favorite at this Latin-inspired seafood spot since it opened along the Chicago River in 2020. They’re available along with the rest of Azul’s menu on the Cielo rooftop; enjoy them with pitchers of margaritas and sangria.

Cafe Central

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In one interation or another, Cafe Central has been around since 1952, and this iconic Puerto Rican restaurant continues to provide family-friendly fare in West Town. Pastelillos are the Puerto Rican version and at Central, there are plenty to pick from.

Chicago Empanada Mama

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In West Town, Chicago Empanada Mama is a full-service Puerto Rican restaurant with an assortment of empanadas to pick from including guava with gruyere; and chicken, basil, and cheese. Wash them down with a cocktail.

An empanada torn in half filled with chicken, basil, and cheese. Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Dell' Rooster Restaurant & Bar

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Dell’Rooster is a West Town pan Latin restaurant good for date nights or family meals. There are two empanadas on the menu. The Caribbean version comes stuffed with bone marrow, braised beef, and cheese. The Dell’Rooster version is simpler with corn and cotija. They’re larger than standard empanadas, so hearty appetites will be rewarded.

Tanta Chicago

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Get a taste of Peru in River North with brisket, raisin, and onion empanadas served with herbaceous huacatay sauce, stewed chicken empanadas filled with sweet yellow peppers and rocoto pepper cream, and a vegetarian version featuring sweet corn, cilantro, queso fresco, and huancaina, a mild cheese sauce. Order two pieces as a snack or a tasting trio that offers one of each. The restaurant also features a rotating empanada of the day as part of its happy hour menu from 5-7 p.m. on weekdays.

Fons - Plant Based Empanadas | The Loop

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Fons is a mini chain from Venezuelan owners who use many South American countries as influences for their meat- and dairy-free selections. They make their own vegan cheese and use items like jackfruit as meat substitutes. Find them at various locations and at select farmers markets.

A cluster of empanadas. Fons

Peruvian street food inspired the menu at this Loop rooftop bar, which offers chicken empanadas spiced with panca peppers and served with a side of aji amarillo, a spicy and creamy green sauce. A vegetarian version combines kale, provolone, and cremini mushrooms and comes with romesco sauce.

Piccolo Mondo

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This Hyde Park institution serves Italian fare with a splash of Spanish tapas including empanadas stuffed with spinach and bechamel, or chicken, onions, red peppers, green olives and hard boiled eggs. Piccolo Mondo also features an Argentinean bakery in front serving traditional pastries including croissant-like medialunas and cañoncito, a cannon-shaped pastry stuffed with dulce de leche.

Don Pablo's Kitchen & Bakeshop

Don Pablo’s Kitchen & Bakeshop started as a ghost kitchen and then opened in a small counter-service spot in Uptown early this year. The menu focuses on Chilean empanadas with a buttery crust used in eight savory varieties such as the Poeta filled with shrimp, basil, oregano, and a mix of mozzarella and gouda, and the Greek Tragedy packed with artichoke hearts, cremini mushrooms, kalamata olives, and feta. For dessert, grab an apple-stuffed empanada sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Cafe Tola

Cafe Tola’s empanadas are a favorite at Chicago festivals; the chain also has four BYOB cafes spread across Avondale, Lakeview, and Logan Square. Mexican, Cuban, and American flavors inspire the 25 sweet and savory varieties including ropa vieja, birria, and apple pie. If the choices seem overwhelming, order online and play “empanada roulette” by letting an employee choose three meat or vegetarian varieties for a $2 discount.

La Nonna

Argentine and Italian fare combine at La Nonna, which serves golden flaky empanadas stuffed with vegetables, beef, chicken or ham and cheese along with the namesake pizza topped with ham, roasted red pepper, and green olives. The Avondale restaurant has a patio that’s a nice place to relax while sipping a glass of wine or an iced latte.

5411 Empanadas

Named for the international dialing code for Buenos Aires, Argentina, 5411 Empanadas started as a food truck before opening its first permanent location in Lakeview in 2012. They’ve kept growing since, adding restaurants in Wicker Park, Lakeview, and Evanston and shipping frozen empanadas around the country. The chain offers 16 varieties including an Impossible plant-based version of the traditional Argentine empanada made with ground beef, diced potatoes, sauteed onions, scallions, and green olives, and pork chorizo sauteed with red peppers combined with black beans and scrambled eggs. They are served with chimichurri or roasted jalapeno hot sauce.

Golden Tuzo

English miners brought Cornish pasties to Central Mexico in the 19th century, where they evolved into pastes: firm pastry dough stuffed with traditional Mexican fare like red or green chicken mole, chorizo with beans, and poblano peppers with cheese. Golden Tuzo provides a perfect place to try them alongside sweet empanadas with equally traditional fillings such as arroz con leche and guava with cheese.

Lito's Empanadas

Lito’s Empanadas first opened in Lincoln Park in 2007 and has since added locations in Little Italy and inside the Chicago French Market and Revival Food Hall. They offer 17 varieties with fillings inspired by the flavors of Mexico City including a breakfast version stuffed with chorizo, egg, potato, and cheese; al pastor made with marinated pork, pineapple, cilantro, and cheese; and vegetarian with chipotle, cilantro, and onion. Try dipping them in sauces spiced with morita or serrano peppers.

El Nandú Restaurant

Argentina shines at this Logan Square restaurant. The camarones are nice, with shrimp and cheese, and so is Tucumana, apparently a Northern Argentina tribute with steak, green onions, and eggs. There are several options, and most are excellent. But the truth is the chimichurri here is so good it will mask any disappointment from the empanada.

Omarcito’s Latin Cafe

The Cuban ropa vieja-stuffed empanada is one of the highlights Omarcitos, this cute family-owned Latin American cafe that earned a rave review from the Tribune. The influences come from the entire region and the empanadas, including the guava and cheese version, run the gamut. There’s something for everyone; even vegans. And owner Omar Cadena is a delight.

Rica Arepa | Venezuelan Restaurant

Venezuelan empanadas have deep-fried corn dough, making them sweeter and bigger than other versions. Rica Arepa makes nearly 25 of them to order until 3 p.m, with varieties including ham and cheese, sweet plantains, shrimp, and pabellon, a traditional mix of shredded beef, black beans, cheese, and sweet plantains. Their newest flavor is rompe-colchon, stuffed with an octopus and shrimp ceviche that’s meant to be an aphrodisiac. They’re served along with hot sauce and a creamy garlic sauce. The restaurant also has a location in Lakeview.

Irazu Costa Rican Restaurant & Catering

Any meal at this Bucktown BYOB stable should begin with an order of fried empanadas stuffed with beef and potatoes, spinach and cheese, or the sweeter plantain and cheese combination. Cover them with plenty of the Costa Rican restaurant’s creamy empanada sauce and a squeeze of the hot sauce stationed on every table. Bring a bottle of rum to spike the fresh pina colada mix that helps tame the heat.

ArePA George

Siblings Juan and Nathalie Betancourt bring Colombian food to Humboldt Park, serving chicken, beef, cheese, and sweet plantain empanadas along with spicy or mild version of aji, a green sauce made with onions, peppers, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice also commonly used on arepas. Empanadas serve as the starter for a three-course meal deal for two that also includes arroz con pollo, fried cassava, and flan.

Azul

The lobster empanadas, made with big pieces of claw and tail meat, chihuahua cheese, and flaky pastry dough and served topped with avocado slices with a side of chipotle aioli have been a favorite at this Latin-inspired seafood spot since it opened along the Chicago River in 2020. They’re available along with the rest of Azul’s menu on the Cielo rooftop; enjoy them with pitchers of margaritas and sangria.

Cafe Central

In one interation or another, Cafe Central has been around since 1952, and this iconic Puerto Rican restaurant continues to provide family-friendly fare in West Town. Pastelillos are the Puerto Rican version and at Central, there are plenty to pick from.

Chicago Empanada Mama

In West Town, Chicago Empanada Mama is a full-service Puerto Rican restaurant with an assortment of empanadas to pick from including guava with gruyere; and chicken, basil, and cheese. Wash them down with a cocktail.

An empanada torn in half filled with chicken, basil, and cheese. Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

Dell' Rooster Restaurant & Bar

Dell’Rooster is a West Town pan Latin restaurant good for date nights or family meals. There are two empanadas on the menu. The Caribbean version comes stuffed with bone marrow, braised beef, and cheese. The Dell’Rooster version is simpler with corn and cotija. They’re larger than standard empanadas, so hearty appetites will be rewarded.

Related Maps

Tanta Chicago

Get a taste of Peru in River North with brisket, raisin, and onion empanadas served with herbaceous huacatay sauce, stewed chicken empanadas filled with sweet yellow peppers and rocoto pepper cream, and a vegetarian version featuring sweet corn, cilantro, queso fresco, and huancaina, a mild cheese sauce. Order two pieces as a snack or a tasting trio that offers one of each. The restaurant also features a rotating empanada of the day as part of its happy hour menu from 5-7 p.m. on weekdays.

Fons - Plant Based Empanadas | The Loop

Fons is a mini chain from Venezuelan owners who use many South American countries as influences for their meat- and dairy-free selections. They make their own vegan cheese and use items like jackfruit as meat substitutes. Find them at various locations and at select farmers markets.

A cluster of empanadas. Fons

Boleo

Peruvian street food inspired the menu at this Loop rooftop bar, which offers chicken empanadas spiced with panca peppers and served with a side of aji amarillo, a spicy and creamy green sauce. A vegetarian version combines kale, provolone, and cremini mushrooms and comes with romesco sauce.

Piccolo Mondo

This Hyde Park institution serves Italian fare with a splash of Spanish tapas including empanadas stuffed with spinach and bechamel, or chicken, onions, red peppers, green olives and hard boiled eggs. Piccolo Mondo also features an Argentinean bakery in front serving traditional pastries including croissant-like medialunas and cañoncito, a cannon-shaped pastry stuffed with dulce de leche.

Related Maps