Chicken Empanadas

If you follow me on Instagram you should have seen my latest post where I share my new photography for this delicious empanada recipe! I have been dying to share this updated recipe all week; we have guests visiting with us in Hawaii this week so I’ve been busy playing tour guide but I’ve finally found some time to share this much anticipated recipe!

Chicken Empanadas

For a little background, I learned how to make these empanadas as a child from my Panamanian grandmother. This is one of those old crumpled paper, hand written recipes that she kept in an overflowing recipe tin which she would dig through every now and then, whenever we were in the mood for something different and delicious! Usually it would be during breakfast time. We would knead the dough and roll it out then take the leftovers from the night before to use as a filling. Most of the time it we would have leftover spaghetti bolognese sauce, which I know sounds a little weird in this case, but it was honestly one of my favorite things to eat as a kid!

For this recipe, I decided to go with a chipotle chicken filling which was inspired by the empanadas served at a Peruvian restaurant where I worked in college. You could say this recipe is the perfect combination of my childhood and young adult empanada experiences.

Filling: I recommend starting this recipe with the filling. If you decide to start the dough first, make sure to cover in plastic until right before use. The filling is relatively simple to make. I start by cooking and shredding some chicken. There are many ways to cook shredded chicken, such as, slow cooking or boiling, but I found that boiling gets it done fast but sacrifices some of the flavor. If you have the time, slow cook the chicken for at least three hours. You can always use leftover chicken as well.

Chicken Empanadas

Dough: Now let’s talk about the dough! This dough may seem daunting but I promise it is very simple to make! First, make sure you are using “Masarepa” pre-cooked cornmeal flour. I can’t stress this enough. Do not substitute it for regular corn meal or instant cornmeal or masa harina. It has to be “Masarepa”. Masarepa is the flour that is used to make traditional Arepas. What makes this recipe so unique is that we use arepa dough that we fashion into an empanada shape. I often like to call them Arempanadas since it’s pretty much a hybrid of the two!


Sometimes I use my KitchenAid standing mixer with the dough hook attachment to mix my dough but using a good ole fashion bowl and spoon works fine too. You’ll notice that we use both hot and cool water in the dough recipe and the reason is because once you’ve melted the cheese, the hot water can make the dough too hot to handle with your hands. If you’re mixing by hand, the cool water will allow the dough to cool down enough to kneed. Dust your surface with more masarepa and kneed dough until a large ball is formed. The dough should not be dry enough so that it’s not sticking to anything but wet enough that it can maintain a shape. Add more water or masarepa to achieve constancy, if necessary. Separate dough into at least two workable sections then proceed to roll them out.

Tip: I suggest rolling out the dough into a thick, even layer, about 1/4 inch then cut out your rounds. For best results, use a 3-inch round then when you’re ready for the filling, roll out each one out even thinner, about 1/8 inch. The dough should now be about 4-5 inches in diameter.

Chicken Empanadas

Assembling & cooking: Make sure your filling has cooled before assembling empanadas. Add one to two tablespoons of filling in the center of your flattened dough then fold it over and gently press the sides closed. To seal, gently press a fork into the edges. The empanadas are cooked by either pan frying or deep frying. The goal is to achieve that beautiful golden brown crust which takes around 3-4 minutes per side for pan frying or about 6 minutes deep fried. Oil should be around 375 degrees F to prevent from burning. Transfer empanadas to a paper towel to soak up excess oil.

Chicken Empanadas

And there you have it, delicious shredded chipotle chicken Arempanadas! I like to pair these with either a chimichurri or chipotle mayo sauce on the side. Devin likes his plain or with sour cream. Oh! and don’t forget to save those leftover dough scraps. You can still fry them up and eat them as regular arepas! Hope you all enjoy this little piece of my childhood!

Chicken Empanadas
Chicken Empanadas
Chicken Empanadas
Chipotle chicken and black bean stuffed "arempanadas" made with homemade arepa dough.
    Empanada (Arepa) Dough
  • 2 cups masarepa (pre-cooked corn meal)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup cool water
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp. adobo seasoning
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Chipotle Chicken Filling
  • 1 1/2 lb. Chicken breast
  • 1 15oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 7oz. can chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • oil, for frying
  • 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.*
  • 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.
  • 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 into a large clump.
  • Mix masarepa, adodo seasoning and sugar in a large bowl. Add in hot water with cheese followed by cool water. Combine ingredients as much as you can with a large wooden spoon or use the hook attachment to your standing mixer. 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. 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 if it’s not being used right away.
  • 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 into rounds. To assemble empanadas, evenly roll out dough flatter, to about 1/8 inch in thickness. 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 frying pan or large pot. When temperature reaches 375 degrees F, fry empanadas for 3-4 minutes per side or deep fry for 6-7 minutes until golden brown. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil. Serve with chimichurri sauce or chipotle mayo.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12-14 empanadas


  • *If you have time, slow cooking the chicken for at least 3 hours is recommended!

  • **Using the rim of a cup is not recommended but can be used if a biscuit or cookie cutter is not on hand. See Tip in the post above for image and description of how to roll the dough.