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Spanish-style Salmon Saffron Empanadas

Spanish-style Salmon Saffron Empanadas

Recipe by Francesca Hodges

Spanish-style Salmon Saffron Empanadas

This is a riff on a traditional Spanish empanada de atún, with sweet paprika and peppers adding a smoky yet colorful flavor. Makes about 8 empanadas, with extra filling leftover that goes wonderfully on toast or with labne/yogurt.


Empanada dough:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup water

¼ teaspoon of loosely-packed saffron

¼ cup olive oil

4 eggs (1 for dough, 2 for filling, 1 for egg wash)



½ of a white onion

½ of a red bell pepper

3 green onions

3 cloves of garlic

1 heaped tablespoon of tomato paste

1 teaspoon of sugar

¼ - ½ teaspoon of Spanish sweet paprika, according to taste

1 tin of Fishwife smoked tuna or salmon


Cilantro sauce:

¼ cup loosely packed cilantro

1 clove garlic

zest of ½ of a lemon

juice of a whole lemon

¼ cup olive oil


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Boil ¼ cup of water and pour into a mug or small bowl, sprinkling in saffron. Let steep for about 10-15 minutes while the dough is prepared.
  3. In a large bowl, mix flour and olive oil with one hand to combine, before pouring in the saffron water and cracking in one egg. Mix again, until a sticky ball forms. Add more flour or water, one teaspoon at a time, aiming for little to no dry spots of flour.
  4. Pour dough out onto a floured surface, and knead with clean hands until smooth. Place into a small bowl and cover with a towel to retain moisture.
  5. Dice onion, red bell pepper, green onions, and mince garlic on a clean chopping board.
  6. Heat a small pan or pot over medium, and add in about a tablespoon of olive oil.
  7. When the oil looks shiny, sauté vegetables excluding the garlic and the tops of the green onions. After the onions turn translucent, add in garlic and cook for about five minutes, turning down the heat to medium-low.
  8. While the filling is cooking down, boil a small pot of water. When boiling, lower in the other two eggs gently with a spoon and cook for 10 minutes.
  9. Returning to the filling, sprinkle in the paprika and cook for about two minutes.
  10. Add in the tomato paste and stir, cooking until the mixture turns a rust-brown color.
  11. Mix in the sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Taste here, adding more seasonings if desired, and then decant the filling into a rimmed plate or shallow bowl to cool down.
  12. When the eggs are hard-boiled, take them out and put them in a bowl with ice water to stop the cooking process — this helps peel them too!
  13. Peel the eggs and dice them into small pieces before adding to the filling mixture.
  14. Open a Fishwife tin of tuna or salmon, and use a spoon to break up the fish as you add it into the filling. Gently mix to combine, being careful to keep the eggs intact. 
  15. On a floured surface, turn out the dough and knead a few times. Roll out with a rolling pin/clean wine bottle, aiming for a ⅛ of an inch thickness. 
  16. Cut out circles of dough with a cookie cutter or use a mug and small paring knife.
  17. Spoon in about a heaped tablespoon of filling to the center of the circle and crimp the edges, forming small half-moon shapes. This can be done by hand or with a fork!
  18. Place the empanadas on the parchment-lined tray. Crack and whisk the final egg, and brush onto the empanadas.
  19. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is golden-brown. Cool slightly while making the sauce.
  20. For the sauce, finely chop cilantro leaves, green onion tops, and garlic. Add into a mortar and pestle or blender and smash/pulse to release the herb/allium oils.
  21. Add in lemon zest, juice, olive oil, and smash/pulse again to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve alongside empanadas.


Spanish-style Salmon Saffron Empanadas


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