Hearts of Palm Hand Pies (Empadinhas de Palmito)
These cute hearts of palm hand pies are impossible to resist! A delicate buttery crust that falls apart in your mouth encases a creamy savory filling that will have you licking your fingers clean. If you’ve never tried this Brazilian delicacy, you are in for a treat!
A delicious and portable savory pie
My heart flutters every time I encounter an empadinha!
Who could resist a pastry that melts in your mouth before letting its appetizing contents touch every inch of your taste buds?
And while hearts of palm can be an exotic flavor to American palates, it tastes like home and childhood to me and to every Brazilian out there! After all, I could bet money that all my fellow countrymen have stuffed their faces with empadinhas more times then they would care to admit.
Creamy and slightly nutty, hearts of palm make the perfect filling for these little pastries. Some people describe them as tasting like artichokes.
Make these little empadas as soon as possible! Gee, go ahead and make a double batch and freeze the extra. That way you could always have these delicious hand pies on hand for when the craving strikes.
Because, believe me, once you taste these, you will crave them over and over again!
The origins of the empadinha
This tasty Brazilian snack has its origins in the Portuguese pastelões, large savory pies, with several different fillings, and a strong medieval influence.
In the 19th century, small pastelões – then known as “empadas de caixa” – were served to Catholics on the days that they had to abstain from meat (beef and pork). They were usually made with chicken.
It was only in Brazil that they finally got the now popular hearts of palm version.
Nowadays you can find several types of these hand pies in every bakery and coffee shop. They are also commonly served as appetizers or finger food at parties!
Ingredients for Butter Pie Crust
To make this crumbly crust, you will need:
- All-purpose flour
- Egg yolk
Ingredients for Hearts of Palm Filling
Here’s what you’ll need to make the creamy filling:
- Hearts of Palm
- Cream Cheese
- Olive Oil
- Salt and pepper
Where do I find hearts of palm?
Hearts of palm – the inner core of palm trees – can be found in the canned goods section of your supermarket.
Chances are you won’t find a huge selection, but I would be surprised if you couldn’t find at least a couple options. If, for some reason, you are out of luck, you can order it online!
How to Make Hearts of Palm Hand Pies
The secret of a good empadinha is a crust that is light and delicate but sturdy enough to support a good amount of filling. You want every bite to be an explosion of flavors in your mouth!
And while no special equipment is needed, I highly recommend getting egg tart molds to make them. They are inexpensive and you can also use them to make other pastries, like Portuguese Pastel de Nata!
That being said, you can also make these hand pies in muffin tins – regular or mini size. If you’re in Brazil, you can find empadinha molds, ranging in size, which are usually a little deeper than the egg tart molds that I use here in the US.
But without any further ado, here’s how to make these savory pastries:
Massa Podre (Crumbly Crust):
- Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Add butter and eggs. Using your fingers, mix until it comes together. Be careful not to overmix the dough. We do not want gluten to develop, so no need to knead!
- Cover and refrigerate for 40 minutes while you make the filling (instructions below).
- To assemble the hand pies, take small portions of the dough – how much will depend on the size of your molds – and press it, using your fingers, into the bottom and sides of the molds. Add the filling (don’t be shy!) and then cover with more dough, shaped into a circle, pressing against the edges to seal. Run your fingers, or a pairing knife, along the edges to trim the excess dough.
- Place the molds on a baking sheet. Brush all the empadinhas with egg wash (one egg beaten with a teaspoon of water).
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. Let them cool slightly before serving!
Creamy Hearts of Palm Filling (Recheio de Palmito):
- Heat oil and butter in a large skillet, over medium heat, until butter has melted.
- Sauté onion and garlic until fragrant and translucent.
- Add tomatoes and cook until softened.
- Add hearts of palm and olives.
- Add the flour and stir to combine.
- Add milk and cream cheese.
- Cook until cream cheese melts and the mixture is thick and creamy! Season with salt and pepper.
- Add chopped parsley. Remove from heat and let it cool so you can use it to assemble the savory hand pies!
How to serve Hearts of Palm Hand Pies
That doesn’t mean you can’t eat them for lunch or even dinner. Just add a side salad and it can be a filling meal!
Oh, and don’t forget the hot sauce, cause some people like it hot!
While hearts of palm is the common filling for empadinhas, these are also delicious options:
- Cod Fish
- Carne Seca – Brazilian jerk beef
- Creamed Corn
- Dulce de Leche – yes, sweet versions do exist!
How long will these keep in the fridge?
Hearts of palm hand pies can be kept in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Can I freeze these hand pies?
Yes, they freeze well! Just let them cool completely after baking and then freeze in an airtight container.
To thaw, you can either let them defrost overnight in the fridge and then bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, or bake frozen, for 30-35 minutes, or until hot.
For the crust:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg yolk
- Egg wash for brushing the hand pies
For the filling:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 21 ounces (1 1/2 cans) hearts of palm, diced
- 1/3 cups chopped green olives
- 1 tablespoon flour (or cornstarch)
- 1/3 cup milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley
To make the crust:
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, work it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
- Add the egg and egg yolk and mix with your hands until the dough comes together. Do not overwork the dough as we do not want to develop gluten. If needed, you can add a little bit of cold water, about a teaspoon at a time.
- Wrap your dough in plastic and refrigerate for 40 minutes.
To make the hearts of palm filling:
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet, over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the hearts of palm and olives and mix to combine.
- Stir in the flour, cooking for about a minute to get rid of the raw flour taste. Then, add the milk and cream cheese, stirring until the cream cheese melts and the mixture is thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the chopped parsley and reserve until cooled to room temperature so you can assemble the hand pies.
Assembling the hearts of palm hand pies:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Using your hands, cut a small portion of the dough (about 2 tablespoons) and press it into the bottom of an egg tart mold, making sure there is a little extra hanging off the edges.
- Using a spoon, top the bottom crust with as much filling as you can fit. I pile it up high as I like my empadinhas very plump.
- Grab another portion of dough and press it into a disk. Place the disk on top of the assembled pie, pinching to seal edges together. You can then run your fingers across the circumference of the mold to "cut" the excess dough.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, forming about 10 small hand pies. Place them on a baking sheet.
- Brush the pies with egg wash and bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
- This recipe was developed using egg tart molds. If using traditional Brazilian empadinha molds or a muffin tin, the sizes will be different and the number of hand pies will vary.
- Alternate fillings: shredded chicken, shrimp, tuna, creamed corn, ground beef, and many others.
- Savory hand pies keep well in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
- Freezing instructions: Let the hand pies cool completely and then freeze in an airtight container. Thaw in the fridge overnight or bake straight from frozen.
- To reheat empadinhas, put them in a 350 degrees F oven for 20-25 minutes or 30+ minutes if frozen.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1 hand pie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 331Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 541mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 6g
Nutritional values are approximate, please use your own calculations if you require a special diet.