Love at first bite

Jamaican Beef Patties

Hi Everyone,
The first time I ate a Jamaican Beef Patty was not in Jamaica it was in Guyana. But it was made by Jamaicans and it was love at first bite!

More than a decade ago, Herdmanston Lodge was owned by a Jamaican couple and was called The Queenstown Inn. Each Friday they made delicious Jamaican Beef Patties that you had to pre-order at the beginning of the week. And then on Friday afternoons between 3.30 and 4, the very warm, flaky, meat sauced patties would arrive. Everyone stopped working to devour the patties. Man, they were so good!

The Jamaican Beef Patty is very different from the Guyanese Beef Patty but both are equally outstanding and I love them both for different things.

The Jamaican Beef Patty is made with a flaky pastry not a short crust pastry, which is what the Guyanese Beef Patty is made with. As you bite into a freshly made Jamaican patty, the flakes rain onto your lap and if you’re not careful onto the floor too. I don’t mind the clean up though as the flakes are the signature feature of an excellent flaky pastry.

Prepped Beef Patties (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

The meat filling for the Jamaican Beef Patty is more highly seasoned and has a sauced texture whereas the Guyanese Beef Patty is not as highly seasoned though flavourful. Jamaican Patties have a rich golden colour, which comes from the addition of turmeric or curry powder mixed into the dough. The patties are large; often, eating one Jamaican patty is a meal by itself. They are eaten as is or sandwiched between the famous Coco bread (think tennis roll), and washed down with a cold beer, hot beverage or an iced cold fruit drink. Jamaican patties are shaped like turnovers. Guyanese patties are round and some even cup shaped depending on the pan used to bake them. Can you tell? I clearly like beef patties – Jamaican or Guyanese!

Jamaican Beef Patties (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about these Jamaican patties because I want you to quickly get down to the task of making some and sharing them with your family and friends. Just a few things to note before you start.

●  You don’t want to get all-lean minced beef; 80-percent lean is perfect.

●  Have more iced water than the recipe calls for on stand-by. The reason is, depending on your location and the moisture or humidity in the atmosphere and the altitude, you may need more or less iced water.

●  As with all pastry dough, do not overwork the dough. The more you work pastry dough, the stiffer the final product will be once baked. While doing some research, I’ve noticed that some recipes for this particular patty call for the dough to be kneaded for 2 minutes. I didn’t. I wanted my pastry to be as flaky as possible and not like a dough that can be torn.

●  If you can, try to weigh the pieces of pastry dough you cut so that they are equal. This is not necessary, just me being a perfectionist.

●  If you like, pre-cut the dough into pieces before letting it rest in the refrigerator.

●  Let the dough that you are not working with rest in the refrigerator while you work on one batch at a time.

●  I like to put the pan with filled pastry back into the fridge to chill for about 15 minutes before putting it into a preheated oven. This helps to firm up the pastry and regain any coolness lost while I was working with it. Again, this step is completely optional. If your oven is already preheated and you are ready to put the patties into the oven, then go ahead.

●  I am sure that the filling can be substituted with ground pork, lamb, chicken, turkey or vegetables just in case you do not eat red meat or you are vegetarian.

●  Okay. Ready for the recipe? Here goes.

Jamaican Beef Patties

Yield: 10 – 12 large patties

For pastry dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground turmeric (substitute with curry powder)

1 + 1/3 cups vegetable shortening (250 grams or 8.81 oz)

1 cup ice cold water (plus more on standby)

For filling:

2 pounds minced beef

1 teaspoon ground all-spice

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup diced onions

Minced hot pepper to taste

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

Salt to taste

2 cups water

½ cup finely sliced green onions (white and green parts)

For assembling:

1 large egg and 1 tablespoon water

¼ cup water


For pastry dough:

1.  Add flour, salt and turmeric to a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

2.  Rub shortening into flour until they become small pieces completely coated with the flour.

3.  Pour in ½ cup iced water and mix with your hands to bring the dough together. Keep adding iced water 2 – 3 tablespoons at a time until the mixture forms a dough. At this stage you can cut the dough into 2 large pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour before using it. Or, cut the dough into 10 – 12 equal pieces, place on a platter or baking sheet, cover securely with plastic wrap and let chill for half an hour before using or while you make the filling.

For filling:

1.  Add minced beef to a large bowl. Sprinkle in all spice and black pepper. Mix together and set aside.

2.  Heat oil in pan until hot.

3.  Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add hot pepper, garlic and thyme and continue to sauté for another minute. Add ¼ teaspoon salt.

4.  Add minced beef, toss to mix breaking up any clumps and let cook until the meat is no longer pink.

5.  Add ketchup  and salt to taste.

6.  Pour in 2 cups of water and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and whatever is remaining has reduced to a thick sauce. Sprinkle and fold in the green onions. Remove from heat and let cool completely.


1.  Beat the egg and water together to make an egg wash. Set aside.

2.  Now you can prepare the dough in 2 ways:

No. 1

Flour the work surface and rolling pin. If you had cut it into 2 large pieces, then take one of the large pieces and roll in out into a very large circle. Take a bowl with a wide rim (about 5 inches) and cut out three circles.

Place about 3 heaped tablespoons of the filling onto one half of each circle; dip a finger into the water and moisten the edges of the pastry, fold over the other half and press to seal. Take a fork and crimp the edges. Cut off any extra to make it look neat and uniform. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and continue to work until you have rolled all the dough and filled the patties.


If you had pre-cut the dough into individual pieces, then working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it out on a floured surface into a 5-inch circle or it little larger; don’t worry if the edges are not perfect. Place 3 heaped tablespoons of the filling on one side of the circle; dip a finger into the water and moisten the edges of the pastry, fold over the other half and press to seal. Take a fork and crimp the edges. Cut off any extra to make it look neat and uniform. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and continue work until you have rolled all the dough and filled the patties.

3.  Add the pans to the refrigerator to chill while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4.  Just before adding the pans to the oven, brush the patties with the egg wash.

5.  Bake patties for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

6.  Cool on wire racks.

7.  Serve warm.



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