Baked Cheesy Chicken Empanadas

These little pockets of delight are filled with chicken cooked with adobo seasoning, chilies and garlic then smothered in Monterey Jack cheese. It’s all packed inside a homemade tortilla and baked until they are crispy on the outside, but soft and cheesy on the inside. Don’t fret if you don’t want to make your own tortillas. You can use pie dough or even pizza dough. I’ve used both of these several times and they all turn out great.

These half moon goodies can be filled with more than just chicken. You can fill them with beef, pork, vegetables or even eggs. These can be baked or fried, whichever you prefer. I like to brush them with oil and bake them instead of frying because it’s easier to just throw them into the oven and even easier to clean up, which I’m always for.

Most countries have their own versions of empanadas. In Colombia the dough is made with ground corn or with wheat or corn flour. Some are filled with mashed potatoes with ground meats, peanuts and cheese or even stews of meat or chicken with rice and vegetables. In Indonesia the thick crust is made from fried bread filled with spicy fish and chili, curry, potatoes or quail eggs. In some regions of Venezuela the fillings consist of shredded beef, chicken, cheese, black beans and fried plantains. So let your imagination and taste buds go a little wild and see what you might come up with, but first try these cheesy chicken empanadas. Not only do they make a great meal, but they can make a tasty snack as well.

Here’s what you need to make your own:

*Chicken thighs; you can use chicken breasts if you prefer

*1 1/2 TBS. adobo seasoning or more to taste; you can usually find this at the grocery store or at any Latin market or you can make your own: *2 tsp. salt *1 TBS. paprika *2 tsp. ground black pepper *1 1/2 tsp. onion powder *1 tsp. garlic powder *1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano *1 1/2 tsp. cumin *1 tsp. chili powder

*1 dried or fresh chili pepper any kind you prefer, seeds and stems removed; I used dried Mexican Puya chili.

*2 clove of garlic, smashed

*canola oil for frying + to brush the empanadas

*shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

*homemade tortilla dough or pie crust dough

Preheat the oven to 400°

If using dried chili peppers, place in a glass bowl. Cover the pepper with boiling water and let it sit about 20 minutes or until it is soft. Take it out of the water and coarsely chop; set aside.

Dry chicken with paper towels and sprinkle with the adobo seasoning.

Heat a skillet to medium high heat and add in a thin layer of oil, the chili peppers and the garlic. As the oil heats up, stir the chopped chilis and garlic around in the oil. This helps the oil to infuse with all of those great flavors. When the oil is hot add the chicken.

If the oil is getting too hot, turn the heat down to medium.

Cook 5 minutes and turn the chicken over and cook another 5 to 6 minutes or until the chicken is done. If the garlic starts to burn, remove it from the pan. Remove the chicken and drain on paper towels.

Let the chicken cool then chop into small pieces.

Make the tortillas and form into a 7″ thin circle.

Place some of the chicken and the shredded cheese onto one side of the dough.

Fold the dough over and using a fork, firmly press the edges together.

To seal the edges using a rope like method, I find it easier to fill the dough with the chicken and cheese while holding it in one hand.

Fold the dough over to form almost like a taco.

Starting a one end, pull some of the dough to overlap the edge and slightly pinch and twist to seal it closed. Repeat all the way around the opening until the edges are completely sealed.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect. It took me several tries before I got the hang of it. Some of mine still look a bit “rustic”.

Fill the rest of the empanadas and seal.

Spray a baking sheet with no stick spray or use parchment paper and place the empanadas onto the baking sheet.

Lightly brush each empanada with a little of the canola oil.

As you can see, not all of mine turn out pretty, but that’s when we use the word rustic. It sounds so much better doesn’t it.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until the outside turns golden brown and the inside is hot.

Serve and Enjoy!

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