WHOEVER invented empanadas is a genius. That person practically turned a meal into a hand-held pie. Today, these portable pouches come with all kinds of fillings, from the savory and chunky to the sweet and oozy.

What distinguishes great empanadas from average ones though, is how their contents are as good as the crust. One favorite among Cebuanos is Grace’s Homemade Empanadas, with its higher filling-to-dough ratio and a crust that’s both soft and crispy, lighter and more pliable, encasing a well-seasoned, still moist filling that ought to stick to your ribs.

“My mom’s passion for baking began in 1999. Shortly after that, she sold baked goods to family, friends and my dad’s business acquaintances. She acquired a business permit for her home-based bakery and started selling her empanadas in 2005 along with her Choco Moist Cake and ensaymadas. She then joined the Cebu Bakers Association and won several competitions for bread making and artistry. She was also flown to Manila to represent Region 7 and won first runner-up for the Artistic Bread Competition by URC Flour Division. Throughout the years, she joined countless expos and eventually catered food for the Department of Health’s various seminars and activities. Now, my wife and I are helping out with the business as well as revamping her whole brand focusing on marketing and social media,” shared Gene Gallarde, one of the owners of Grace’s Homemade Empanadas.

The secret to their empanadas is the dough, the recipe of which has been perfected over time. Each empanada is formed by hand, deep-fried to a crisp in a special oil and painstakingly wrapped and labeled. That last step is a thoughtful one as Grace’s empanadas are available in several variants.

The savory selections include the “OG,” its bestseller with a mixture of ground pork, hard-boiled egg, cheese, raisins and pickle relish; the cheesy ube, a first in Cebu, filled with ube halaya and cheese; the Italian beef, another first, made with ground beef, Italian herbs and bechamel; the veggie menudo which has potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and green peas that have been stewed in tomato sauce; and the newest ones, pork asado and bacon-egg-cheese, both loaded with flavor and texture medleys that most if not all people already love.

Also a must-try is the empanada au chocolat, Grace’s sweet empanaditas stuffed with melty chocolate. Should you need another dessert, Grace’s offers a seven-layer Chocolate Decadence Cake. It starts with four alternating layers of chocolate moist cake and chocolate buttercream and cacao nibs, followed by gooey chocolate fudge, a bittersweet chocolate shard and a generous sprinkling of cocoa dust.

For the Gallardes, empanada making is a family affair. “Everyone in our compound helps out. My dad is in charge of contacting our suppliers while my wife and I take care of the social media marketing,” Gene said. “The best part about our business is the bond we have strengthened as a family while producing these empanadas. The most challenging part is perfecting our production process and system. Also, there is a lot of competition out there but we’re focused on consistently delivering quality empanadas and keeping our customers happy.”

To order, one can message Grace’s Homemade Empanadas on Facebook. It can deliver to the cities of Cebu, Talisay, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.