'Tis The Season For Empanadas

An empanada is a stuffed pastry popular in many latin countries and other parts of the world. You can pretty much find some version of a stuffed pastry anywhere you travel. These delectable treats can be eaten any time of day and as an appetizer, entrée, or a snack. And with such versatility, you can come up with so many great options for the pastry filling―from meats to vegetables to fruits. Sweet empanadas are a personal favorite, but we like to explore our options. In this baking session, we try two versions.

Since fall is upon us, we thought now would be a great time to enjoy a classic pumpkin empanada. I know, pumpkins are everywhere right now. But ‘tis the season, right? We also wanted to try something with a spicy kick to it, so we opted for a jalapeño chicken con queso empanada. Be warned: We kicked up the spice level a notch because some of us just love the heat. You can adjust the recipe to your preference, or skip the jalapeños altogether. But if you don’t mind a little spice, give this recipe a try!

Jalapeno Chicken Con Queso Empanadas

Making The Salsa 

  • 3–4 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • ½ white onion, sliced
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup water
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions

Heat Advisory: We kept some seeds in the jalapeño peppers for a spicy kick. If you like it hot, keep some seeds in; if not, go seedless. 

Combine jalapeños, tomato, onion, cilantro, and garlic in a blender. Add lime juice, olive oil, water, and salt and pepper to taste.

Blend ingredients to a puree. Make sure no thick chunks or pieces remain in the salsa. The perfect salsa is different for everyone, so we like to taste and adjust our spices as necessary.

Remove salsa from blender. Place in a small bowl and let chill in the fridge.

Making The Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (wheat flour is great too)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2–4 tablespoons water

Directions

In a large mixing bowl (or food processor), combine flour, baking powder, and salt and mix together. Add butter, eggs, and water and knead until dough starts to form.

Divide the dough into half and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in fridge and chill for 30 minutes.

While we wait for the dough to chill, let's start on the empanada filling!

Making The Filling

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cloves garlic, whole
  • ½ yellow onion, halved or sliced
  • 1 ½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth, garlic cloves, and onion to a boil. Carefully add chicken breast; add salt and pepper to taste. Continue boiling for 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Use a fork to poke through chicken. Chicken should be tender and break apart easily.   

Drain chicken stock using a colander and let chicken cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

While the chicken is cooling off, we can prep the cheese!

Crumble the queso fresco into a small bowl. You can crumble by hand or use a cheese grater.

BarbacoApparel Tip: For extra cheesiness, add ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese!

Now that the chicken has cooled off . . .

Shred chicken and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

Add crumbled queso and pre-chilled salsa to the shredded chicken. Mix thoroughly. The mixture should be juicy but not runny.

You now have your jalapeño chicken con queso empanada filling!  

Pumpkin Empanadas

Making The Dough

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk (almond milk works great too)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

In a large mixing bowl (or food processor), combine flour, baking powder, and salt and mix together. Add butter, eggs, milk, and sugar and knead until dough starts to form.

Divide the dough into half and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in fridge and chill for 30 minutes.

While we wait for the dough to chill, let’s start on the empanada filling!

Making The Filling

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar (light brown sugar works great too)
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine butter and sugar over medium heat and mix thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes. Add pumpkin puree, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg and mix thoroughly.

Reduce heat to low and let cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove pumpkin filling from stove and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

You now have your pumpkin empanada filling!

Making The Empanadas

  • 1 egg (for egg wash)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Lightly flour countertop and rolling pin. Take one half of the dough and lay on the countertop.

Use the rolling pin to roll out the dough to about ⅛-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter [We used a round lid about 4 ½ inches in diameter.] to cut out circles of dough about 4 ½ to 5 inches in diameter.

Repeat process until all of the dough is used, yielding approximately 8 to 10 pieces. Place the pastry circles on a buttered cookie or baking sheet.

Use a pastry brush to coat egg wash around the edges of the pastries. This will help the pastry stick together.

Scoop 1 tablespoon of your filling [try a batch with pumpkin and another with chicken] along the center of each pastry circle.

Fold each pastry circle in half, forming a taco. Using the tines of a fork, lightly press around the edges of the pastry to close and seal the empanadas.

BarbacoApparel Tip: Use a toothpick or the tines of a fork to poke a couple small holes on the tops of the empanadas. This will help let out steam during baking.

Lightly brush the tops of the empanadas with remaining egg wash and place in the oven.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the empanadas are golden brown.

Remove empanadas from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Pour a dash of dulce de leche on top of the pumpkin empanadas. 

¡Buen provecho!