Discovering the Galician Pie: A Culinary Treasure from Northwest Spain

Spain's rich culinary heritage offers a diverse array of dishes that showcase the unique flavors and traditions of its various regions. One such culinary gem is the Galician Pie, or Empanada Gallega. This savory pie, hailing from the northwestern region of Galicia, is a testament to the area's rich history and bountiful resources. In this article, we'll delve deep into the origins, ingredients, variations, and cultural significance of the Galician Pie, exploring why this dish is beloved by many and remains a staple in Galician cuisine.

The Origins of Empanada Gallega

The history of the Galician Pie dates back to ancient times, with roots that intertwine with the early history of Galicia itself. This region, known for its rugged coastline, lush green landscapes, and Celtic heritage, has a long-standing tradition of baking. The word "empanada" comes from the Galician and Spanish verb "empanar," which means to coat or wrap in bread. This method of encasing fillings in dough can be traced back to the Romans, who influenced much of Spanish culinary practices.

In medieval times, empanadas became particularly popular as they were easy to transport and preserve, making them ideal for long journeys and fieldwork. The pilgrims traveling the Camino de Santiago, the famous pilgrimage route ending in Galicia's capital, Santiago de Compostela, would often carry empanadas as a convenient and sustaining meal.

Ingredients and Preparation

Plate with 3 pieces of Empanada Gallega

The beauty of the Empanada Gallega lies in its simplicity and versatility. The basic components of the pie are the dough and the filling, each crafted with care to balance flavor and texture.


The dough for Empanada Gallega is typically made from a mixture of flour, water, and a bit of olive oil. The dough is kneaded until smooth and elastic, and although it doesn’t rise due to the lack of yeast, it is best to leave it to rest for a little while. This gives the crust a light texture while still being sturdy enough to hold the filling.

This is the key differentiator from other pies, which are usually made with either puff pastry or other lighter type of pastry.


The fillings can vary widely, reflecting both the region’s resources and the creativity of the cook. Traditional fillings often include:

- Meat:Pork or beef, sometimes combined with chorizo, providing a rich and hearty flavor.

- Fish: Galicia's coastal location ensures an abundance of fresh fish, with tuna (Bonito del norte - white tuna variety) being a popular choice. Salt cod and sardines are also commonly used.

- Seafood: Octopus and mussels are local delicacies that find their way into many Galician pies.

- Vegetables: Onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes are frequently sautéed with garlic and paprika to form a flavorful base for the pie. Spinach and Swiss chard are also used, often combined with raisins and pine nuts for a sweet and savory twist.

The Baking Process

Once the dough has rested, the next step is assembling the pie. The dough is divided into two portions: one for the base and one for the top. The base dough is rolled out and placed in a baking dish, then filled with the prepared mixture. The top dough is rolled out and placed over the filling, with the edges crimped to seal the pie. A small hole or slit is often made in the center of the top crust to allow steam to escape during baking, ensuring the filling remains moist without making the crust soggy.

The pie is then brushed with an egg wash to give it a glossy, golden finish and baked in a preheated oven until the crust is beautifully browned and the filling is bubbling with flavor.

Regional Variations

One of the fascinating aspects of Empanada Gallega is the wide variety of regional and local variations. Each area of Galicia, and even individual towns and families, may have their own unique recipes and methods for making empanadas. Some notable variations include:

- Empanada de Bacalao con Pasas: This version features salt cod mixed with raisins, offering a delightful contrast between the savory fish and the sweet, plump raisins.

- Empanada de Pulpo: A seafood lover's dream, this pie is filled with tender octopus, often cooked in a sauce of olive oil, garlic, and paprika.

- Empanada de Atún: Tuna empanada is one of the most popular versions, with a filling made from canned tuna, tomato sauce, onions, and bell peppers.

- Empanada de Lomo: This hearty pie is filled with marinated pork loin, typically cooked with onions and peppers, giving it a robust flavor profile.

Cultural Significance

In Galicia, the empanada is more than just food; it is a cultural symbol, representing the region's history, traditions, and communal spirit. Empanadas are often made for special occasions, family gatherings, and festivals, serving as a centerpiece that brings people together. The process of making an empanada is often a family affair, with recipes and techniques passed down through generations.

Empanadas also play a significant role in Galician festivals and celebrations. During the summer months, many towns and villages hold fiestas where empanadas are a highlight, enjoyed alongside music, dance, and other traditional foods.

Modern Adaptations and Global Influence

While the traditional Galician Pie remains a beloved staple, modern chefs and home cooks alike have embraced and adapted the empanada to suit contemporary tastes and dietary preferences. Today, you can find empanadas with a variety of creative fillings, including vegetarian and vegan options that use ingredients like mushrooms, tofu, and a medley of fresh vegetables.

Moreover, the popularity of empanadas has spread beyond Galicia and Spain, becoming a cherished dish in many parts of the world. In Latin America, empanadas have become a ubiquitous street food, with each country putting its own spin on the classic dish. Whether baked or fried, filled with meat, cheese, or sweet fillings, the empanada has proven to be a versatile and universally appealing food.


The Galician Pie, or Empanada Gallega, is more than just a delicious dish; it is a symbol of Galicia's rich culinary heritage and cultural identity. Whether enjoyed at a festive gathering, a family meal, or as a comforting snack, the empanada embodies the flavors and traditions of its region. By exploring and appreciating this savory pie, we not only savor a taste of Galicia but also connect with the history and spirit of its people.

Making your own empanada at home allows you to experience a piece of this tradition firsthand, bringing the warmth and hospitality of Galicia into your kitchen. So why not try your hand at baking an Empanada yourself?

Our Empanadas

We change our offer from time to time, but our best sellers are always the traditional ones

- White Tuna

- Slow Cooked Beef

- Morcilla - Black pudding *

- Eggs & Olives (Vegetarian option)

The base for our pies is our very own sofrito, a tomato base with bell peppers and onions, slowly cooked for amazing flavour.

Black pudding base is caramelised onion & pine nuts.

We cook our empanadas fresh for every market, so you can expect fresh food and the quality that characterises CulynArt.

CulynArt market Stall with Aixa and all the products in display
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.