They Call Her “The Empanada Lady”

by Rachel Nash Perlow

As you may be able to surmise, she makes empanadas. Lots of them. All kinds of flavors. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Sandi Levitsky-Connor started out as a friend of a friend. She and her husband came to one of our dinners at Chengdu 1. Then we saw her at another dinner party, and another. More than once, she brought along some empanadas for everyone to taste. These little Latin fried pies are her specialty. I thought she made them just for fun and the love of cooking.

Apparently, she’s got quite a business going. In addition to the empanadas, she does private catering, but she’s really known for her empanadas. I had only tasted her two mainstays of beef with and without spicy jalapenos, but her more creative flavors, like Hummus and an Asian Chicken are as popular with customers, and her kids.

Jason invited Sandi over recently to document the empanada making process. You can make them yourself… It’s not that hard. But if you live in driving range of The Empanada Lady, you may soon find yourself ordering a couple dozen.

Sandi Levitsky-Connor, aka The Empanada Lady, demonstrated empanada making in the OTB kitchen.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

To make things easier on yourself, you can purchase Goya Empanada dough. The orange colored ones are accented with annatto (also known as achiote). There isn’t much of a difference in taste, although some can tell the difference. Sandi uses these to indicate spicy flavors.

Click here to see a slide-show of all of Jason’s pictures of the Empanada making process.

This simmering mixture is a spin on Sandi’s beef filling. It contains sofrito, ground beef, tomato paste, lots of other herbs and spices, alcaparrado, plus Jason’s suggestion… chorizo. Later on, we made some spicy black bean and cheese, hummus (yes, hummus), and some sweet empanadas filled with bitter orange marmalade and ricotta cheese, and fig with queso fresco.

To fill an empanada with semi-liquid ingredients like hummus, you have to partially seal the corners first. Allow to cool a bit before eating, as the filling is like molten lava when fresh from the pot.

Spicy or mild empanadas are made by adding pickled jalapeno slices when filling the dough.  This one also has some Queso Fresco. Mmm.

The dough is pinched shut, then sealed with the tines of a fork and slipped into bubbling oil.

Want one?

You can reach Sandi for catering or just empanada ordering ($20/dozen) at and fan her on Facebook.

8 Responses to They Call Her “The Empanada Lady”

  1. Rosie says:

    Who knew? Sandi you rock. RS

  2. Sandi says:

    Thanks again Jason and Rachel for such a fun filled day of cookery!

  3. Laureen says:

    We love those Empanadas soooo much … almost as much as we love you!!! :)

  4. gina says:

    Great article!!! My mouth was watering just reading it! I need an empanada now….. The jalapeno beef with olives is my favorite but they are alllll amazing! As is Everything Sandi makes!!!

  5. […] without much of a reason. Our friend Sandi Levitsky-Connor, who we’ve profiled recently with her Jedi-master empanada making skills, decided to have a mega cooking and eating session at her house and invite a couple of friends […]

  6. […] The glorious deep fried pastry pocket filled with latino goodness. We’ve shown you the magic art of how they are made. And we’ve shown you Empanada-themed […]

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