Lately I have been reminiscing about my childhood and all the different types of Latin food that my Panamanian Nana used to make. She loved to cook for the whole family and, in turn, we loved her cooking! One of my favorites that I enjoyed helping her with on a Saturday morning were these corn meal empanadas. I always found this recipe to be quite special since, to this day, I have never had empanadas quite like these. Most empanadas are flour based and are delicious in their own way. But these are corn based, which, if you read my Panko Shrimp Tacos post, you would know that I like them far better. Don’t get me wrong, flour based fritos are great, but there’s just something about the corn that just adds another level!
So about that corn. The cornmeal that is used in this recipe is pre-cooked cornmeal, otherwise known as masarepa. This is the type of cornmeal typically used in making traditional arepas, which, I promise, I’ll post a recipe about soon! Instead of making arepas, we use this same dough for our empanadas. Hmm, maybe I’ll start calling these Arempanadas!
Other thing that’s special about the dough is the mozzarella cheese. Yes, you read the correctly! We melt down some mozzarella cheese that is mixed into the dough and adds another element of flavor and texture.
Now moving on the filling. The thing I love about this filling is you can pretty much fill these with anything you want! Chicken, beef, pork, veggies, shrimp, pretty much anything! Back in the day, we used to fill them with leftover meat sauce from the spaghetti dinner the night before. I know it sounds random and weird but it was soooo delicious! I would recommend using any type of saucey filling. I’ve used dry filings before and it was good but I found that fillings with adequate sauce, like a meat sauce, work perfectly. If your filling is kind of dry, or hell, if you just feel like it, add a dipping sauce on the side. I actually tried this recipe with three different sauces – chimichurri, chipotle mayo and avocado crema. I guess I was feeling adventurous this day!
So there you have it! Get creative with it! I’ve shared with you one of the staples meals that I had growing up. Now it’s up to you to take it and make it your own! Comment below and let me know about all your creative ideas and I’ll try some of them myself!
- 2 cups masarepa (pre-cooked cornmeal)
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 cup cool water
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 tsp. adobo seasoning
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. vegetable oil, plus more for fryingFilling
- 1 lb chicken breast
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 1 can chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp. olive oilInstructions
- Cut chicken into 2-inch strips, season with salt and pepper and place in a bowl. Pour chipotle chilies in adobo sauce over chicken and stab with a fork a few times to ensure some of the sauce penetrates the chicken. Marinate chicken for 30 mins.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Put chicken pieces in the boiling water, saving chilies and sauce. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare dough by heating 1 cup of water in a small sauce pan, until steaming. Water does not have to come to a boil. Remove from heat and add shredded cheese to the hot water and stir. Cheese should begin to melt and form a large clump.
- Mix masarepa, adodo seasoning and sugar in a large bowl. Add in hot water and cheese followed by cool water. Combine ingredients as much as you can with a large wooden spoon. Sprinkle a bit of masarepa on a flat, clean surface and transfer the dough from the bowl to the surface.
- Kneed dough until well combined. It might work best to separate dough into two sections, working on each separately. Add a little more masa if dough is too sticky. If dough is sticking to the surface, add more masa a little bit at a time. Ideal consistency should be slightly firm and easily rolled with a rolling pin without sticking to anything. Wrap dough in plastic wrap to prevent from drying out while you prepare the filling.
- Once chicken is fully cooked, remove from boiling water and carefully shred into small pieces, set aside. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add in onions and peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Add in beans, adobo sauce from marinade (not including chili pieces), cumin and garlic powder and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes until sauce is bubbling. Add in a bit of water to thin out sauce, if needed. Remove from heat and add shredded chicken, mixing together thoroughly. Allow filling to cool.
- Remove dough from plastic wrap and separate into four sections. Sprinkle rolling pin with masarepa and roll out one section of dough until 1/4 inch in thickness. Use a 3 to 3.5-inch round cookie cutter or the rim of a cup to cut out sections from your dough and set them aside. Repeat until all of the dough has been cut intp rounds.
- For a standard sized empanada, place one cutout on top of another and roll it out to be about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide, about as long as the tip of your index finger to the base of your palm. Place about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling into the center of the dough. Fold the dough over the long side and gently press the edges. Use the back of a fork to seal around the edges.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large pan. Fry empanadas for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil. Serve with chimichurri sauce or chipotle mayo.DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12-14 empanadas
Skill Level: Intermediate
- 1 tsp. adobo seasoning