There’s not much cozier than a little hand-sized pie filled with sweet or savory goodness. You can eat empanadas standing up, but sometimes they’re so good you’re going to have to sit down to find your bearings. These little South American pockets of perfection with Spanish roots can be found all over Houston, filled with flavors as diverse as Houston itself.
10001 Westheimer Rd, Carillion Shopping Centre | Houston, TX 77042
Courtesy of @marinis_houston on Instagram
It's all in the name when it comes to The Original Marini’s Empanada House. A glance at the menu will have you awestruck, not realizing there could be so many creative combos inside a little hand-sized pie. The family history at Marini’s goes all the way back to the 70s in Montrose, where the family built a loyal following for two decades before relocating to Westchase and adding a Katy location. Like the creativity found in making rolls at a sushi restaurant, many unique combos can exist in something bite-sized. From Texas BBQ to Italian smoked sausage, tuna and basil to Hawaiian with ham and pineapple, the savory menu is as expansive as the sweet menu. Try the beef gaucho with ground beef, sautéed onions, hard-boiled egg, olives, and spices, or the chicken diablo with diced chicken breast, sautéed onions, bell peppers, tomato sauce, and spices.
811 Louisiana St, Ste 320, Houston, TX 77002
Courtesy of @5411empanadas
People who work downtown have been trying to keep this secret to themselves, but in the tunnels under Two Shell Plaza is a Chicago empanada transplant with Argentinian roots serving daytime eats since 2016. This small but modern shop has a bar that spans the perimeter and no other tables, because hey, you can eat an empanada anywhere, anyhow. The variety is impressive for such a small location, with creative combos like the Malbec beef (shredded Angus beef slow roasted in a red wine reduction) or bacon, dates, and goat cheese. Don’t forget to grab a Nutella empanada for good measure.
3055 Sage Rd #130 Houston, TX 77056
Courtesy of @theargentinacafe of Instagram
Houston foodies are well acquainted with Argentina Cafe, a slice of South America in Uptown with a small but solid selection of Argentinian empanadas. Against a modern backdrop of subway tile and reclaimed wood, the vibe is cute and casual and the food authentic. While the lomito is legit, the empanadas are the most popular choice for regulars. The crowd-favorite chicken empanada features savory spices with onion and egg while the beef is a hearty runner-up. Vegetarians, don’t despair — check out the onions and cheese empanada with melty mozzarella and caramelized onions.
Courtesy of @fatpocketshtx on Instagram
Empanadas are one of the most perfect food truck foods, perfect for scarfing down while standing up. Serving the inner loop area, Fat Pockets has some of the most aesthetically-pleasing empanadas, golden brown and covered in tiny bubbles from the fryer, some dressed up in elaborate fixings. Interesting combos abound like the pizza pocket, bulgogi pocket, hot chicken pocket, jalapeño cheeseburger pocket, and crowd favorite, the cheesesteak pocket. This truck also does delivery, so check out their website for instructions. Insider tip: definitely add a side of mac and cheese bites to your order for even more deep-fried heaven.
3833 Southwest Fwy, Houston, TX 77027
From the same culinary genius behind Argentina Cafe is their second eatery, this time specializing in ALL empanadas in a cheery West University location. Decorated just like Argentina Cafe with subway tile and reclaimed wood, the continuity can also be found in the delicious empanadas. Variety is the name of the game here, with inventive concoctions featuring chicken, beef, pork, seafood, vegetarian, and dessert options that you can get either fried or baked for a lighter experience. Regulars love the chicken avocado empanada, the curry chicken (also featuring eggplant, cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots, and peppers), salteña (ground beef with spiced potatoes and green onion), and the strawberry and banana empanada with a healthy helping of Nutella.
2925 W T C Jester Blvd, Houston, TX 77018
Courtesy of @theempandacom on Instagram
Not to be confused with the previous suggestion, The Empanada Company is a Timbergrove fixture with bright red brick, cozy seating, and a pretty expansive menu for a cafe on the smaller side. The picadillo is a big crowd-pleaser, almost full to bursting with the traditional Latin American ground beef staple. The chicken Tinga is another big hit, along with the brisket, chorizo and potato, and the delectable cajeta empanada filled with creamy smooth caramel.