Ideal handheld street foods tends to envelop meat, cheese, or veggies inside some sort of casing (think tacos, pupusas, samosas, or dumplings). With the rise of portable food in SF, it’s no wonder empanadas found their place in the food trucks and storefronts along our streets. These South American-influenced treats (which actually originated in and near Portugal) are fried or baked pockets of pastry dough filled with various savory fillings–and we've quickly welcomed them into the San Francisco food pantheon. Below, a list of our favorites throughout the city:
1. Chile Lindo: 2944 16th St. (pictured above)
Chile Lindo was one of the first restaurants to introduce empanadas to the San Francisco masses. We love that they recently upgraded to Niman Ranch grass-fed beef and cage-free eggs to create the perfect Classic Pino Beef Empanada: Beef mixed with egg, raisins, and olives. At $5.50 apiece, these empanadas are pricier than most, but large enough to make it worth the money. They are Chilean-style, which traditionally have a doughy, not flakey exterior and bigger, juicer fillings.
2. El Porteño: Inside the Ferry Building and sold at various farmers’ markets.
Champignon Empanada by Foodspotting user Josemari Cuervo
El Porteño is a favorite among empanada enthusiasts. They use fresh, local ingredients, and varieties come in beef, chicken, corn, mushroom, or the more gourmet jamon y queso (prosciutto and fontina cheese). For those with a sweet tooth, they also offer a homemade dulce de leche empanada with bananas. The dough of these empanadas is thick and fluffy, with a generous amount of filling.
3. Venga Empanadas: 443 Valencia St.
Beef Empanada by Foodspotting user Rose Alvarez
Venga Empanadas are traditional Argentinian style, meaning they have thicker, heartier dough, with leaner fillings. Their empanadas are baked, not fried, and at a mere $2.50 a pop, you can easily make a whole meal out of a variety of their offerings. This Mission spot is small with no-frills, but unlike most empanada stands, it serves beer and wine to make any Argentinian (or San Franciscan) happy.
4. Mama’s Empanadas: Food Truck
Beef Empanada by Foodspotting user Liezl R
This mobile empanada stand modifies the traditional Chilean empanada to include flavors from around the world. While they still serve the usual beef and chicken varieties, they also include Italian Squash Medley, Mediterranean Style, Spring Veggies (which incorporate fresh California ingredients), and gluten-free empanadas. Mama’s has consistently been ranked in the top 5 lists for San Francisco food trucks.
5. El Sur: Food Truck
El Parisian Empanada by Foodspotting user Jason Abromovitz
These traditional Argentinian empanadas are made by hand and from scratch in the oven of their mobile kitchen. But the small accommodations don’t hinder the bold, fresh flavors. Traditional beef comes with onions, pimentón, hard-boiled egg, olives, and oregano. Pollo Saltado is comprised of sautéed chicken, onions, tomato, hard-boiled egg, and olives. These two, plus the Parisien (ham and cheese) and Verde (spinach and cheese) make up the concise but satisfying menu. Order by the dozen or have them cater your next event.
Where are your favorite empanadas in SF?