Colombian-Style Chicken Empanadas

Small Bites & Snacks  ·   Latin  ·   Poultry  ·  

Once you bite into one of these chicken empanadas, you’ll be wondering where they’ve been all your life.

You can make mini chicken empanadas or larger ones  – they’re perfect for a dinner party, casual night at home, or quick lunch. Plus, they’re Colombian style – so naturally gluten-free!

I learned to make this dish at the catering company that I worked at after I graduated from culinary school. There was the sweetest Colombian couple who made these delicious empanadas, Jimmy and Mary. They would take weekly orders and bring them in for everyone. Before then, I had never had an empanada before, since most are not gluten-free. However, Colombian empanadas are made with precooked cornmeal. Needless to say, I fell in love.

They shared how to make the gluten-free dough and I tried to become a master. Tried being the operative word, because for every single one I would make, Jimmy and Mary would each make 6! They’ve been making empanadas since they were 3 years old, so they’ve had a lot of practice at the technique.

Regardless, they’re so fun to make and even more fun to eat. I hope you love my recipe!

What Should You Serve This With?

TEQUILA BABY! And not the horrible stuff you had in college, there are some excellent tequilas out there. I am always up for suggestions, what’s your favorite?

But what about food? To be honest, these are a meal all in one – you can serve them and the salsa on their own as is. However, guacamole or any light salad would be excellent along with them, too!

Ingredient Notes:

  • Avocado Oil – I love using avocado oil for cooking when I am sautéing, stir fry-ing, or searing. It has a high smoke point, which means it can get very hot before it starts to smoke and burn, similar to other neutral oils, like vegetable or canola. However, it’s SO MUCH healthier than those oils, almost as healthy as olive oil. You can read more about it here. You can substitute olive oil or grapeseed oil, but you should be able to find avocado oil in most stores.
  • Hot Hungarian Paprika – Just because you’ve never heard of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t at your local grocery store! I’m usually able to find it at most places, but if you cannot, order it here or substitute regular or smoked paprika.
  • Aji Amarillo Paste – The aji amarillo is the yellow aji pepper, which is more mild than other varieties. I’m obsessed with all the pastes that Inca’s Food makes, and luckily they are easy to buy on Amazon, check it out here. Don’t skip on this ingredient, it’s the most important part of the recipe!
  • Masarepa – This is pre-cooked cornmeal is milled after it’s cooked, so it’s different than regular cornmeal. It’s very important to this recipe and can be found in most grocery stores.

Colombian-Style Chicken Empanadas

Course Small Bites
Cuisine Colombian
Servings 12 pieces

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 ½ russet potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • ½ yellow onion diced small
  • 1 jalapeno cut in half vertically, seeded, and diced small
  • 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 tablespoon aji Amarillo paste
  • 3 tablespoons chicken stock

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 2 cups yellow masarepa precooked cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons avocado oil
  • 2-2½ cups hot (not boiling) water
  • Oil for frying canola, corn, vegetable, soybean, etc., unless using an air fryer

Ingredients for the salsa:

  • 2 roma tomatoes finely diced
  • ½ jalapeno finely diced
  • 2 scallions finely chopped
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Instructions
 

For the Filling:

  • Peel the potatoes and cut them into sixths. Place them into a medium pot and fill ¾ of the way with water. Season with a big pinch of Kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook until tender and completely cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Drain, mash until almost smooth, and set aside.
  • While the potatoes are boiling, heat the avocado oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, and ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt (double this amount of salt if doubling the recipe) and stir. Then cover tightly and set over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring twice in between.
  • Uncover and raise the heat to medium-high. Add the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, cumin, and paprika. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, until softened and fragrant, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the ground chicken and 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt (double this amount of salt if doubling the recipe), breaking it up into pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, then add the aji Amarillo paste. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until completely cooked through.
  • Take off heat and stir in the chicken stock and mashed potatoes. Taste and season with more Kosher salt, if needed. Set aside.

For the Dough:

  • Combine the masarepa and salt in a large bowl. Add the avocado oil and hot water and knead for 1-2 minutes until smooth. Start with 2 cups water then add more if it feels dry. Cover with a damp paper towel and let sit for 15 minutes. While making the empanadas, keep the dough covered with the damp paper towel so it doesn’t dry out.

For the Salsa:

  • Combine all the salsa ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Assembly:

  • Take a long piece of plastic wrap and lay the top half of it on the counter, allowing the bottom half of the wrap that's closest to you to fall off the counter.
  • Take about ½ cup of the empanada dough and roll it into a ball. Place it in the center of the plastic wrap portion on the counter. Press down slightly. Take the bottom of the wrap and fold it over the dough, as if you are folding the plastic wrap piece in half.
  • Using a rolling pin, evenly roll out the dough until 1/8” thick. Unfold the plastic wrap, leaving it hanging over the counter again. If making regular-sized empanadas, place 2 tablespoons of the filling onto the dough, about two inches from the top in the center. If making mini empanadas, place 2 teaspoons onto the dough.
  • Take the bottom part of the plastic wrap and use it to help fold the dough over the empanada filling, making sure there are no air bubbles or extra space. Take a small round bowl or cup and press half of it over the empanada dough, cutting it in a half-moon shape. Lift up the saran wrap and peel the extra dough away from the formed empanada (You can mix this with additional dough and use it again).
  • Place the formed empanadas on a parchment lined sheet pan and cover well with damp paper towels. If not covered well, they will dry out and crack. Once all the empanadas are formed, fry immediately.
  • Pour the frying oil into a medium-sized deep skillet or pot, so it’s halfway full. Set over high heat. When the oil is hot, turn the heat down to medium and fry the empanadas, about 4 minutes each, until golden and crispy on both sides (If using an air fryer, omit this step and air fry instead). Remove from the oil and serve immediately while hot with the salsa.

Notes

Mini Empanadas: This recipe will make about 40 mini empanadas.
Empanada Filling Storage: The filling for the empanadas can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days, or kept in the freezer until ready to defrost and use.
Empanada Storage: After the empanadas have been fried, you can cool and freeze them. They are best reheated in an oven at 400°F until warmed through or in air fryer.
Keyword crispy, empanada, fried, gluten free, hors d’oeuvres
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