When you go to the beach in Venezuela you can find, along the way, multiple mini vendors on the side of the road selling empanada. All kind of empanadas: cheese, chicken, beef, beans, cazon, etc.

In case you’re wondering, Cazón is a small shark. Apparently, Cazón is not available in the United States, or in other countries of the world, so it is recommended to use shark fillets, which are usually available in Asian food supermarkets.


Cazon Filling:

  • 4 Shark steaks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons achiote oil (onoto, annatto) (see notes)
  • 1 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup small sweet pepper, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup leeks, cleaned, and sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1/2 cup green onion, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Harina P.A.N (pre-cooked white maize meal)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Oil to fry (I use corn oil)


Make the filling:

Place the shark steaks, bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon salt in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the fish is cooked about 15 minutes. Transfer the fish to a bowl and shred with a fork (be careful to remove the skin and/or bones). Set aside. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, sweet peppers, leeks, green onions, and garlic; cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cumin. Add the shark, mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.

Make the dough:

Wash your hands. In a medium bowl add water, salt, and sugar. Mix until the salt and sugar are dissolved.

Mix Harina P.A.N, flour, and baking powder in a bowl

Slowly add dry ingredients to the water and mix/incorporate with your hands, making circular movements and breaking with your finger the lumps that may form. Let rest 5 minutes to thicken. The dough should be firm enough holds its shape without cracking when molded. If it is too soft add a little more of harina P.A.N; if too hard add a little more water.

Form the empanadas:

Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions and form into little balls. Flatten each ball between two sheets of plastic until it is approximately 8 inches (see notes). Put some of the cazon filling in the center of the empanada, about 1-2 tablespoons. Using the plastic sheet, carefully fold over the dough into a semicircle. Trim into a half-moon shape with a knife or press down with the round edge of a bowl.

Fry the empanadas:

Heat enough oil in a skillet until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350º F. Fry the empanadas in batches until golden, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet; keep warm in the oven at 300º F.

Serve hot.


To make annatto oil just heat 1 cup of oil (I use corn oil) in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the 1/2 cup of annatto seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the oil becomes a rich, orange-red color, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook or it will have a disagreeable flavor. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain the oil into a jar; discarding the seeds. Keep covered in the refrigerator.