Mexican Chicken Empanadas

, from Issue #61. September, 2015
Photography by Aaron McLean.
Mexican Chicken Empanadas

These Mexican ‘hand pies’ use masa flour, which has a beautiful nutty flavour. A tortilla press is the traditional way of pressing out the dough, but a rolling pin works fine too.


2 cups masa flour (I used 1 cup each of blue and yellow)
sea salt

500 grams boneless chicken thighs, skin-off
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander and smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon chipotle chilli flakes
½ teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons cocoa
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
sea salt and ground pepper

To finish
canola oil for cooking
guacamole, sour cream and tomato salsa for serving (optional)


Chicken: Cut each chicken thigh into 2-3 pieces. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and cook the onion with a pinch of salt until tender. 

Add all the remaining ingredients down to and including the tomato paste, and cook for 2 minutes, adding a splash of water if the pan is dry. 

Add the chicken and turn to coat in the spices. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Season, add the stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and the chicken is cooked through and coated with a thick, glossy sauce. 

Cool for 15 minutes then use two forks to shred the chicken finely. Cool completely before making the chilangas.

Pastry: Mix the masa flour and salt with just enough water to make a smooth, pliable dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 30 minutes. 

Pull off golf ball-sized pieces of dough and place between 2 pieces of baking paper. Roll out to a 16cm circle. Remove the top piece of paper and place a spoonful of the chicken on one half of the dough. Using the baking paper as a guide, fold the dough over to make a half moon shape. Press the edges together to seal well. Make sure there are no holes in the pastry.

Heat 5cm of oil in a deep medium-sized saucepan until 160°C on a thermometer or until a piece of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in 30 seconds. 

Cook the chilangas in batches for 3-4 minutes until the pastry is golden, turning them halfway through cooking. Drain on kitchen towels then serve hot with guacamole, sour cream and tomato salsa, if using. Makes 10

Pantry Note: Masa flour is a traditional Mexican flour made from maize. Available at specialty food stores.