Chamorro empanadas are high up on the list of my favorite snacks, but they can easily be a meal in and of themselves. In fact, when I was on Guam recently, I would visit the village store and buy empanadas, fresh out of the fryer, for breakfast.
My mom taught my sisters and me how to make empanadas years and years ago. It’s quite the labor of love, although you can make the filling ahead of time, thereby cutting back on the actual preparation of the empanada.
A tortilla press, while not essential, is a great tool to have when making empanada. While you’re at it, a bunch of kitchen helpers is good too. 😉 I remember when I was younger, we only had one tortilla press to share among my three sisters and mom; someone usually got stuck with using the much slower rolling pin. We did it assembly-line style, with a couple of us flattening the dough, another couple of us filling it, and then someone sealing it tightly.
I’ve had a lot of requests for my empanada recipe, but my good friend, Judy Fernandez Dillinger, has an amazing recipe and she was gracious enough to allow me to feature it here.
As a side note, this is the packet of achote powder used in Judy’s recipe below. Each packet contains 1/3 ounce of powdered achote, which is roughly 2 teaspoons. Use this as a guide. Some people like more or less achote to make the crust lighter or darker. I also know someone who doesn’t use achote at all.
So, without further ado, here is Judy’s empanada recipe. Give it a try. I KNOW you’ll love it. 🙂
- ½ cup cream of rice mixed with ½ packet of achote powder*
- 2 cups of chicken broth (you can use water but will have to season with salt)
- ½ onion, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup chopped chicken or imitation crab meat
- black pepper to taste
- hot pepper (optional)
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 packet achote powder*
- ½ cup corn starch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 teaspoons oil
- 1½ - 1¾ cups chicken broth or water (if using water, increase salt to 2 teaspoons) - warm
- Saute onions and garlic in a large pot. Cook till onion becomes transparent. Add chicken and saute for about 2 minutes.
- Add chicken broth or water. Remember, if you use water you'll have to season it with salt (to taste). Bring to a boil.
- Using a whisk, gradually add the cream of rice. Keep stirring so that there are no lumps. Bring heat to medium and cook for about 3-4 minutes.
- Add hot pepper (as hot as you want it) and then remove from heat.
- Completely cool before filling the shells.
- Mix masa harina, corn starch, salt and achote powder in a bowl. Add oil and broth or water to the flour mixture. Kneed with hands until dough is pliable.
- Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Use a tortilla press to flatten to form a circle. Be sure that you press the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper.
- Fill the bottom half of the circle with the cooled filling. Fold over the top of the dough to meet the bottom and press to seal the edges.
- Deep fry until nice and crispy. The trick is to fry at a very low heat. I like to set my dial at the 4th interval, right below the middle. If you fry it at high heat it will burn and the crust will not be crunchy but stale.