Island Bites is a Puerto Rican cook with decades of experience in the kitchen. She's an expert in Latin American cuisine.
What Is an Empanada?
The empanada is a tasty and popular dish in Latin and Caribbean countries. It is a stuffed, flaky pastry in the shape of a half-moon that is either baked or fried. There are different fillings for the empanadas in each country, with beef and chicken being the most popular.
In Puerto Rico, empanadas (also known as empanadillas) are fried treats, never baked. Empanadilla de carne (ground beef empanada) is Puerto Rico's favorite, but fish, crab, "pizza," and chicken empanadillas are also found in every kiosk around the Island.
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For the dough:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons oil, lard or vegetable shortening
- 2 teaspoons salt
- water, warm
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
For the chicken filling:
- 3 boneless chicken breasts or thighs
- 2 tablespoons sofrito
- 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 to 10 olives, sliced
- 1 medium potato, diced
- 1 can Goya tomato sauce, or 3/4 cup tomato puree, or (2 tablespoons tomato paste + 1/2 cup of water)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt and pepper
- water, if necessary
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Step 1: Make the Dough
- In a big bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add oil or lard and warm water. Mix until incorporated. Use just enough water to form a dough ball.
- Turn empanada dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough for 3 or 4 minutes. Cover and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
Step 2: Make the Chicken Filling
- Add oil to a big skillet. Saute sofrito in hot oil for two minutes at medium-high temperature. Add tomato sauce, olives, peppers and spices. Mix and saute for another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
- Add chicken to the sauce and turn down the temperature. Cover and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the sauce and let it rest for a minute or two. Shred the chicken.
- Add the shredded chicken and small diced potatoes to the sauce. If necessary, add some water. Let it simmer uncovered until the sauce is reduced and the potatoes are fork-tender.
- Let it cool completely.
Step 3: Assemble the Empanadas
- Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 1/8-inch layer.
- Use a cutter or small plate to cut 5- to 6-inch circles or discs.
- Put a scoop of the chicken filling in each dough disc, fold and seal the edges with a fork.
- Heat 2 inches of oil in a skillet at medium-high temperature. Fry empanadas 2 or 3 minutes per side, until golden and crispy.
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Notes and Tips
- Pizza empanadas are also very popular among Puerto Ricans. To make pizza empanadas, just add your favorite marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese to your dough discs.
- To seal your empanadas, you could pinch or twist the borders instead of using a fork.
- Annatto oil can be added to the dough to give it color and flavor.
Want a Beef Empanada?
Check out this ground beef filling recipe: Puerto Rican Alcapurrias.
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