1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast
1 16-ounce jar mild (or spicy) thick and chunky salsa (we love Chi-Chis brand)
2 cups (264 g) masa harina corn flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 to 1 1/4 cups (8 to 10 fluid ounces) warm water
4 to 6 ounces shredded melting cheese (mozzarella works, but so does Monterey jack or cheddar)
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon lukewarm water)
1 quart-sized zip-top bag
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
Cook the chicken. If you have an electric pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, cook it in there.
Instant pot directions: Place the whole chicken breasts and the entire jar of salsa in the instant pot. Set the vent to seal, lock in the lid and press “manual.” Set the timer for 10 minutes and allow the instant pot to cook the chicken at high pressure. When the pot is done cooking, turn the instant pot off (so it doesn’t continue to cook it), wait about 3 minutes, release the pressure manually, remove the top of the pot and allow the chicken to sit uncovered for about 10 minutes. Shred the chicken with two forks and allow it to absorb as much liquid as possible while you make the empanada shells.
Oven directions: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the chicken and the entire jar of salsa in a deep 4-quart casserole dish. Cover with aluminum foil or the heat-safe cover of the dish. Place in the center of the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. Remove the dish from the oven, uncover it and allow the chicken to sit for about 10 minutes. Shred the chicken with two forks and allow it to absorb as much liquid as possible while you make the empanada shells.
In a medium-size bowl, place the masa harina and the salt, and mix to combine. Add about 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) of the water and mix to combine. Add more water slowly, and work enough water into the dough that it isn’t crumbly. The dough should be slightly more wet than the consistency of playdoh. Press the dough into a disk, cover the bowl and set it aside to rest for about 5 minutes. This allows the dough to absorb more water.
Prepare the zip-top bag for use in pressing the masa dough. Cut off the top zipper, and slice down the sides and through the bottom of the bag. You should have two equally-sized rectangles of plastic. Divide the empanada dough into 10 equal pieces, each about 50 grams. Roll one piece of empanada dough into a round, press into a disk and place between the two plastic rectangles. If using a tortilla press, place it on the bottom of the press, close the press and press down with the handle. Whether you use the press or not, you’ll need to use a rolling pin to roll the dough (still in the plastic) into a round that’s about 6 1/2 inches in diameter. If using a cake cutter or a 6-inch pot lid, cut the rough edges off the dough.
Remove the top piece of plastic from the round of dough. Take about 1 1/2 tablespoons of shredded chicken mixture and press it against the side of the container it’s in to release any excess liquid. Place the chicken on one side of the first tortilla, place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of shredded cheese on top and spread the filling out into an even layer. Using the bottom piece of plastic wrap, fold the dough in half, enclosing the filling and gently pressing out any air as you go. Cinch the edges together, still using the plastic wrap. Place the empanada on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough and filling.
Brush the tops of the shaped empanadas generously with the egg wash, and place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until golden brown on the edges and light brown on top, about 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately or allow to cool completely before wrapping each empanada tightly with plastic wrap and placing the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Warm in the toaster oven or microwave before serving.
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