Meat-filled pies have been around for as long as anyone can remember. Their dough serves as a handy, edible carrying case for many delicious fillings inside. Nearly every cuisine across the globe has some form of meat pie.
The empanada is a perfect example of this with many versions of it existing within the Hispanic culture. They’re known by many names and made from a wide range of doughs, flours, and grains. Some are served cold, but most are cooked.
Some are filled with fresh, tangy fruits while others are stuffed with traditional seasonings just like the chef’s family has made them their whole life. They are so popular that many big-box grocery stores keep frozen versions of many types of meat pies on hand.
Empanadas are very popular in Hispanic cuisine, particularly in Latin America, Portugal, and Spain. They’re typically made to be eaten by hand as on-the-go food by folding the dough in the shape of a half-moon and filling it with a variety of ingredients. Although the fillings of an empanada are usually savory, dessert hand-pies are fairly common.
Typical fillings include beef, pork, chicken, and spices. For dessert options the most common filling is apple, but any fruit will do. Empanadas are traditionally made by hand and fried in oil before being served, but they do hold up well in a lunch bag or box for a meal later in the day.
Because of the simplicity of the dish, it’s no surprise that many cuisines have similar options.
Jiaozi are popular all over East Asia and the Western world. Also known as potstickers, Jiaozi are similar in shape to empanadas, although a bit smaller. Their filling is usually ground meat or vegetables that are partially cooked before being sealed by pressing the edges together and pinching them closed with your thumb.
Boiling, steaming, or frying in either a pan or deep oil, Jiaozi is served with a wide range of sauces such as soy sauce, black vinegar with sesame oil, or even yum-yum sauce. There is even a soup made involving potstickers called Tang Jiao. Their flavor and consistency vary widely based on the cooking method, making Jiaozi very versatile.
Guotie is a Northern Chinese version of the Jiaozi. Typically served as street food, they can also be found as a side order in many Chinese restaurants. They differ from potstickers in that their shape is like a tiny burrito, with the ends left open and they’re less half-moon shaped and more tubular.
Guotie is usually filled with pork, but chicken and beef versions are found fairly often as well. Cabbage versions exist too. Guotie is usually pan-fried to order since they are street food.
Gyoza is the Japanese version of potstickers, with their most notable difference being flavor. Gyoza is rich in garlic and their outer wrappers are usually thinner because they aren’t usually made by hand anymore but instead by machine. They are served with any sauce the customer prefers just like Jiaozi and just like Guotie are most commonly made with pork but can be made from chicken, beef or veggies too.
Gyoza is readily available all over Japan both premade and made to order. They are also immensely popular in America. They can be found frozen and ready to cook in the microwave, a pot of boiling water, the oven, a shallow pan of oil, or even an air fryer.
Momo is the Eastern and South Asian version of the filled dumpling. Unlike their half-moon-shaped cousins, Momo is round like little decorative pillows. They are a bit differently flavored as well, being heavily influenced by Tibetan cuisine.
Momo is made using a very basic flour and water dough that is filled with minced meat, vegetables, tofu, or cheese. The type of meat used varies greatly, with different regions preferring different ones. In the Himalayas, the predominant meats are lamb and yak, but in Nepal, they prefer goat meat or chicken.
Momo are traditionally steamed but can easily be fried and is almost always served with a chili garlic sauce and pickled daikon. Often a mint chutney is offered as well.
Pierogi are dumplings from Central or Eastern European nations but are gaining popularity in American and Canadian cuisines. Unlike the Asian version, these dumplings are typically filled with potato, sauerkraut, mushrooms, and onions. Dessert versions also exist.
The dough is a mixture of flour and warm water and is cut into circles using a drinking glass. After sealing the pierogi are simmered in water until they float, drained, and then usually deep or pan-fried in butter before serving. Garnishes include butter, sour cream, bacon, onions, mushrooms, or pretty much anything you can think of.
Dessert versions can be eaten alone or tossed in jam or apple sauce.
This is the Hungarian version of a pierogi that is almost always a festive dessert. They’re traditionally filled with jam or cottage cheese. They can be pierogi shaped or ravioli shaped and are cooked like pasta. Derelye is often rolled in breadcrumbs before serving for a crunchy contrast to the sweet interior.
Panzerotti and Calzone
Panzerotti is also known as panzarotto. This is a savory turnover/hand pie popular in Italian cuisine. It is similar to a calzone both in shape and that it uses the same dough in its preparation.
The main difference between the two is that a panzerotti is usually fried whereas a calzone is almost always oven-baked. Calzone crust is always thicker than Panzerotti because it is baked. The two are usually filled with tomato and mozzarella, but onions, anchovies, and capers.
Calzone is larger than Panzerotti, which makes them harder to eat on the go. Panzerotti is designed to be eaten on the go, but make sure the steam is given a chance to escape before biting into it so you don’t burn yourself.
Pasties come from Britain and are a blanket term for a number of different meat pies. These are made like little pies using raw dough and raw filling and cooking them together after sealing the edges. They can be half-moon-shaped like empanadas, round or even boat-shaped.
Traditional fillings include beef, potato, turnip, rutabaga, and onion. Pasties were used as a portable meal source for miners and sailors and are still readily found all over Europe today. Cornish pasties in particular are officially protected and have to be crafted to certain standards.
A key difference between Pasties and the dumplings found in Asian countries is that the filling in a meat pie is usually chunky and hearty and the pie itself holds the juices inside whereas a dumpling’s filling is very finely chopped in order to lend a softness to the dumpling itself.
A fleischkuekle is a meat pie that hails from Crimea. It is very popular with street food dealers and is typically served straight out of the fryer after being poked to drain any excess oil. They are served with pickles and ketchup or sometimes gravy and maybe even a singular slice of cheese.
They are traditionally fried in lard, which adds a lot of flavors but also a lot of calories. Modern versions are fried in canola or corn oil, which is still pretty fatty but not as bad as lard. Sour cream is used in place of milk in the dough to add a bit of sourness and depth of flavor.
Hot pockets are an American variant of cheap, easily made turnovers. They’re made to be microwaved and have been produced in a wide range of flavors and dough options including pretzel bread, croissants, and paninis. Fillings are more varied than any of our meat pie options so far.
Hot Pockets are made to replicate other cuisines as well as bringing out flavor combinations that are distinctly American. Pizza Hot Pockets, breakfast Hot Pockets, and even fruit Hot Pockets are all extremely common in American grocery stores. They are viewed as snack food although one pocket contains nearly 400 calories.
Hot pockets are designed to be microwaved, but they cook up well in an oven or toaster too. Although they are touted as a meat pie by some, many refer to Hot Pockets as a type of burrito or an American abomination.
The Bedfordshire Clanger, also known simply as a ‘clanger’ is a meat pie from Bedfordshire that dates back to the 19th century, so please excuse its simple shape. Its name is meant to reference the thickness and denseness of the dish. The dough of a clanger is made from suet, or raw fat from an animal, and was designed to be used as a lunch option for farmers and herders.
There is evidence to suggest that the crust wasn’t intended to be eaten but instead to protect the fillings but hungry people will eat just about anything. Clangers are boiled in a cloth-like suet pudding if made with traditional crust, but modern versions that use shortcrust can be baked like a pastry.
A deep-fried turnover that hails from Russia, Lithuania, and Turkey, the Chebureki is a half-moon-shaped pastry made from puff pastry that is usually filled with ground beef or lamb before being deep-fried. Chebureki is usually offered as a breakfast item but many Slavic countries offer them throughout the day from street vendors as quick meals or snacks. They take about half an hour to prepare from start to finish and offer the hungry patron a crispy outside shell with a soft and chewy interior.
Although many versions of meat pie have been mentioned in this list, the meat pie itself has not. Popular in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the UK, meat pies are exactly what they sound like. Pastry dough is usually baked or fried in order to achieve that golden-brown crust and cook the filling.
Unlike the portable versions, a meat pie is supposed to be served hot. The meat used largely depends on the length of time the chef wants the pie to cook for. A short-baked pie will use more tender cuts of meat that won’t toughen and vice versa.
The types of meat and vegetables used vary widely from region to region, as do the spices. You can even buy two meat pies from the same locale and get something entirely different from each chef.
Turnovers are a puff or shortcrust pastry usually served as a dessert item. They are often served as a breakfast item, filled with fruits and drizzled with icing. While they may be fried, turnovers are typically baked to achieve a flaky, crispy dough. Savory versions do exist like the Panzerotti but usually, a turnover is sweet and flaky.
Samosas are South Asian pastries that are baked or fried to a deep golden brown before serving. Their fillings are usually spiced potatoes, peas, chicken, and onions but lentils are often used. Samosas come in a range of shapes such as triangular, cone-shaped, or a half-moon like many of the empanada-like dishes on this list.
They can be offered as an appetizer, entree, or snack and are often served with chutney and chilies. In Indonesia, Samosas can be found filled with curry, noodles, or even cheese.
This Tajik version of a Samosa is traditionally made with mutton mixed with tail fat, onions, cumin, and spices all sealed into a dough and baked in a tandyr. The finished product is a triangular pie that is firm but flaky. Sambusa Baraki is eaten as a snack or served as an appetizer
The Arabic version of Samosa, filled with meat, onion, pine nuts, and cheese. Largely consumed during Ramadan. Also commonly found in Africa, the Sambousek can be triangular, cone-shaped, tube-shaped, or crescent-shaped. These are smaller than empanadas and meant to be eaten as snacks instead of a full meal.
This dish differs from other meat pies on the list because it is designed to be triangular. Originating from Russia, an ocpocmaq is usually filled with chopped beef, onion, and potatoes before being fried and served with tea or bouillon. The dough used is yeast-based and the end shape is triangular with an open hole at the top so that stock can be poured in after cooking.
Not to be confused with Samosas, the Samsa is a baked bread dough filled with minced lamb and onions. Chicken, minced beef, and cheese varieties are commonly found in street vendors as well. During fall it is possible to locate pumpkin-filled versions of this tasty treat.
They can be rectangular or triangular in shape and are typically cooked in a tandoor.
A Lithuanian pastry traditionally filled with mutton and onion. They are commonly compared to cornish pasties even though they look like empanadas. Kibinai is leaf-shaped, like large gyoza although they are baked rather than steamed.
They are brushed with an egg wash before baking to achieve a delicious golden-brown color during the cooking process