Ok. So I’ve only been to 4 countries so far, but the best empanadas, hands down (according to my oh-so-scientific-analysis of them) are CHILE!
But here is my comparison of empanadas in South America.
Venezuelan empanadas are highly fried. They sometimes smell like very Americanized Chinese food (due to the saturation of oil inside them). They also have very little filling. Just a small amount in the bottom and the rest of it is just a giant pocket of air. This does serve to hold sauces, like salsa, or cilantro pesto stuff you commonly eat with empanadas, but it is basically eating fried dough to me. Caracas (top) you can see does have much more filling than the empanadas from Juan Griego on Margarita Island (bottom).
Also fried, but stuffed with filling and not nearly as greasy as Venezuela. Usually meat or cheese, I’ve also seen pork and beans, and chicken and rice with potatoes (my favourite here). They are stuffed full of filling and one can fill you up. and I love eating the chicken with a bunch of spicy salsa (I really love picante foods)
Ok, so I only had a couple here. (And the photo sucks, cause I totally dropped the ball on this, and only have a couple bad photos taken with my phone.)
Ecuadorian empanadas are also fried but not super greasy either, and sometimes the meat filling has chopped celery or something in it. I was originally told this was ‘Chilean style’ but after being in Chile, these were not even close to Chilean empanadas, yet still really, really good. They actually seem quite similar to Colombian in size and way they are cooked, but the fillings have a little differences in taste and spices. I also had a gigantic Ecuadorian empanada filled with shrimp and cheese at another restaurant that was delicious (this one is also not pictured – again, I was too busy maowing it down and dropping the ball with the photo thing) They are very similar to Colombian style. The real differences between Colombian and Ecuadorian are slight differences in spices. And I have found 1 shrimp empanadas in Ecuador, but so far, none in the Colombian cities of Bogota or Medellin (the only 2 cities I have visited so far.)
Chilean empanadas for starters, are not fried. They are grilled. Which allows you to really taste the filling inside of them. Also, they are filled with more options (than just meat – aka beef – , pork, chicken, or queso cheese). You can get spinach and mushroom empanadas, shrimp and queso empanadas, tomato and sausage empanadas..pretty much anything you want inside these delicious little moon shaped pockets of awesomeness.
My favourite, so far…CHILEAN – hands down. I love the variety of fillings and the baked/grilled crust (which is much flakier and closer to a bread or pie dough than a corn flour/tamale type dough.) They are the biggest, but also taste much fresher and lighter (mostly due to the ingredients and fact you can get them filled with veggies). I just really like that you can taste the filling and not just the oil. I love empanadas, but so far, Chilean the best.