Chicken Empanadas

Masa harina is a corn flour that is used to make tortillas. It is processed with lime, which is what gives it such an authentic Mexican flavor. When blended together it creates a tender flaking pastry, that is the perfect pocket to hold the ooey-gooey goodness inside!


Use your fingers, or two forks to pull apart the cooked chicken breast into bite-sized shreds. If the shreds are too long, use a knife to cut them into pieces no more than 1 1/2″. ChickenChiliEmpanadas2

The key to making light and flaky pastry (yes it’s totally possible with gluten free flours!), is using cold shortening and only cutting it into the flour until it forms pea-sized crumbs.

Once in the oven, the heat melts the fat pieces trapped in the pastry and causes it to release steam. This steam is what separates the layers of the dough, making them flaky. You could use butter instead of shortening, but since butter has more moisture in it, the pastry won’t be as light and flaky. ChickenChiliEmpanadas3

Don’t be temped to overfill the pockets. If the edges don’t get a clean seal when pressed together, the filling will just ooze out as it cooks in the oven. Make sure you wet the edges of the pastry before you press it closed, this will help the pastry stick together and create a tight leak-proof seal.

See also
Tomato & Bean Crostini


Check all the pockets to make sure all the edges are firmly closed. If there are any openings, use a fork to crimp them again – otherwise all the filling will bubble out as it bakes. For a golden brown shiny crust, brush the tops with an egg wash (or milk will work as well).

If you don’t have one of these pocket-making gadgets, just cut the dough into circles using a round cooking cutter (or tin can!), and crimp the edges closed using a fork. ChickenChiliEmpanadas5


Chicken Empanadas

Marla Hingley
Using masa harina gives the pastry an authentic flavor.
Prep Time 40 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Servings 6



  • 1 cup masa harina corn tortilla flour
  • 1 cup GF flour blend
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup GF shortening
  • 2/3 cup cold water


  • 2 cups cooked chicken shredded
  • 1 cup mozzarella grated
  • 2 Tbsp - 1/4 cup green salsa or 2 Tbsp canned green chilies finely diced
  • 1 tsp oregano


  • For the pastry, combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut in the shortening until pea size crumbs are formed. Stir in the cold water until a dough forms, may not use it all. Chill dough for 15 minutes.
  • To prepare filling, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Roll dough out and cut out into 4-6” circles. Place some filling into the center of each circle, wet edges of dough with water, fold dough in half and press edges together to seal. Use a fork to crimp edges to ensure filling doesn’t leak out when baking. For a golden brown crust you can brush pastry tops with an egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tbsp water + pinch of salt).
  • Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes (you can also fry them in some oil using the stovetop).


- Depending on size, makes about 24.
- You could use butter instead of shortening, but since butter has more moisture in it, the pastry won't be as light and flaky.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
See also
Honey-Garlic Meatballs


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  1. No you shouldn’t need to add anymore gum. Although having said that, if I make up a large batch (5cup+) of a flour blend and added xanthan gum at that time, I still add an extra amount (1/4tsp) of xanthan when I’m making a particular baking recipe. I find it is such an important ingredient to the structure of the baked good, that I want to ensure that enough of it is in the mixture. A large flour blend, as much as you mix it, you never really know how well distributed the gum is. But that’s me 🙂 Which is why now when I make up flour blends, I never add xanthan gum to it. I want to control how much I add – since different recipes require different amounts (cookies require less, in comparison to breads which need more of it structural properties). Hope that makes sense!

  2. Just replace the masa harina with more of your (corn free) gluten free flour blend. And replace the xanthan gum with guar gum.

  3. I was soooo excited to try these, because they look so delicious! But mine didn’t turn out well. I don’t know what went wrong. The dough fell apart when I put the filling inside, even just a tiny bit of filling. Then I did the egg wash, and they didn’t brown, either. They still tasted pretty good, but I was disappointed in the presentation to my hungry family. Any ideas what happened?

  4. Sorry to hear they didn’t turn out. Using the corn flour (masa) definitely makes the dough a bit dryer, and prone to breaking if you don’t handle it gently. I had a similar problem when I was filling them and the dough would split, so to fix it I just used a larger cookie cutter and the problem was solved (that way the dough isn’t trying to stretch over a bunch of filling). After they were cooked, if you put them under the broiler for a few minutes they should brown up nicely.

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