A Taste of Cartagena: Chorizo-Filled Empanadas + Avocado Cream Dipping Sauce

February 11, 2019

Hey, y’all!

This article first appeared in the Voice-Tribune – both in print and on their website. Be sure to follow them & pick up the monthly issue to stay in the know for all things Louisville!



That is – unequivocally and incontestably – the word that describes my life. Maybe it was the summer I spent in France and Spain before high school. Maybe it was the internship that I completed with a part of the Mexican government when I was an undergraduate at Centre College. Maybe it’s genetic. Pinpointing the catalyst aside, one thing is clear: my love of travel runs deep within my veins.

Originally a small town boy from Southern Kentucky, wandering the globe illuminates the importance of cultural relativity. It proves to me, without doubt, that we are all one – our societies, no matter how different, boast more commonalities than we presume. Dissimilarly, the cultural aspects and phenomena that make populations unique are to be celebrated.

That’s how I discovered the intersection of being a traveler and a gastronome.

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What this has caused is a perpetual, insatiable hunger for foreign culinary experiences. Having crossed over the twenty country mark in my twenty-fourth year of life, I’m not planning to stop anytime soon.

My most recent trip took me to a bucket list location: Cartagena, Colombia. A gem of the Caribbean, Cartagena is a preserved oasis of culture, food, and the good life. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the most lively, charming places that I have visited. What I love about traveling in el mundo hispanohablante (the Spanish-speaking world) is the palpable sense of vibrancy. Colorful buildings, energetic plazas, and a devotion to flavorful, fresh food – it doesn’t get much better in my book.

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I had very high expectations for Cartagena; to understate, the city surpassed them with ease. The colonial stone walls, cobbled streets, bougainvillea, and the water were highlights for me. Even more than that, however, I loved exploring the boundless food.

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Arepas (made from cornmeal) are wildly common, as is the bandeja paisa (a platter with a variety of meats and accompaniments). However, above all else, I found myself loving the empanadas.

Popular across Hispanic cultures, each region boasts different varieties of the dish. Empanada comes from the verb empanar, which means to cover in pastry, bread, breadcrumbs, or dough. Commonly, meat is found inside the dough, which can be either baked or fried; additionally, one might find cheese and vegetables inside. My favorite version is chorizo-filled – which, luckily for me, is avidly found in Colombia.

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When I got back to Louisville, I had to recreate them! The part that took the longest to execute perfectly was the seasoning of the chorizo; from there, I wanted to develop an easy, light dipping sauce to offset the heaviness of the empanada. Lastly – the dough. While it is feasible to make your own, I do believe in cutting corners for the sake of efficiency when quality is not compromised. I found that a great substitute for empanada dough is refrigerated pie crust. When baked, it proves to be perfect – easy to use and the correct thickness.


Chorizo-Filled Empanadas & Avocado Cream Dipping Sauce


Chorizo-Filled Empanadas

  • 1 pack (9 oz.) Cacique Pork Chorizo
  • 1 pack Pillsbury Pie Crusts
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground clove
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Avocado Cream Dipping Sauce

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 6-8 dashes of hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Cilantro, to taste


Chorizo-Filled Empanadas

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a bowl, mix chorizo, chili powder, cumin, ground clove, paprika, and garlic powder together.
  3. Over medium heat, transfer the chorizo into a skillet. Stir until thoroughly cooked.
  4. Roll out the pie crusts. Using a circular object (rim of a glass, 2 inch. cookie cutter), cut out even circles from the dough.
  5. With the dough in hand, spoon a small amount of chorizo into each circle. Fold the ends together, press firmly; it should resemble a half moon.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with a splash of water and brush it over each empanada.
  7. Lightly spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, place the empanadas equidistant apart, and bake for roughly 10-15 minutes (until golden brown).
  8. Allow to cool and enjoy with the Avocado Cream Dipping Sauce.

Avocado Cream Dipping Sauce

  1. Mash the ripe avocado well and thoroughly mix with the sour cream.
  2. Add in the lime juice, hot sauce, garlic powder, and cilantro; stir well.
  3. Refrigerate until serving with the empanadas.

Baking these in my kitchen, though located in the Highlands, took me back to the streets of Cartagena. For that, I am thankful.

Food can transport us anywhere in the world; that is, without doubt, one of the most magical parts of the experience.

As always: Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living.

Y’all come back now, ya hear?

My best,


FTC: This is a repost of an article that I authored for The Voice-Tribune of Louisville, KY.


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