ChamoritaMomma’s Empanada

CHAMORRO EMPANADAS, another island favorite! Crispy fried masa dough, filled with toasted ground rice, chicken, flavored with garlic, and bits of bacon.  They’re typically an appetizer or snack but they make a great meal, especially on the run!  My recipe is a rather large one, so you might want to gather a few of your friends and have an “Empanada Making Party”, lol!  Because it is a time consuming dish, I like making them in bulk and then freezing, for later use.  Give my recipe a try and please let me know what you think. 😉


When deciding to make Empanadas, always make the filling first! You can even make it a day ahead, the reason why is that you need to have the filling completely cooled off before wrapping them in the crusts.

6 skinless, bone-in Chicken thighs, excess fat removed
1/2 tsp. ground Black pepper
1 tsp. Salt
1 heaping Tbsp. Chicken bouillon (I posted picture below)
8 cups Water

1 (14 oz. pkg.) OR 2 cups Cream of Rice, toasted
1 (12 oz. pkg.) Bacon, cut into pieces and fried crisp (reserving 4 Tbsp. grease)
1 small Onion, sliced
8 – 10 whole Garlic cloves, finely minced
7 – 8 cups Chicken broth (use the one you made, plus add more water to make up the difference)
Cooked Chicken thighs, chopped or shredded
1 – 2 pkg. Mama Cita’s Achiote powder (depends on how dark you want the filling)
Hot pepper flakes, to your taste (If you have donne’ dinanche, then use that, to your liking)
2 tsp. Onion powder
2 tsp. Accent
1 – 1 1/2 tsp. Salt, adjust to your taste

1 (4 lb. bag) Masa harina, any brand (I used Masa Brosa brand, pictured below)
2 – 3 pkg. MamaCita’s Achiote powder
1 (16 oz. or 1 lb.) box Corn starch, any brand
1 – 2 Tbsp. Salt
1 tsp. Accent
1 1/2 cups Vegetable oil
10 cups WARM Water

Vegetable Oil, for deep frying

Let’s begin by making the broth for the filling. In a large pot, on MEDIUM HIGH heat, start by combining the chicken thighs, salt, pepper, bouillon, and water. Allow this to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to MEDIUM and cover. Cook this for about 35 – 45 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and tender. When cooking time is done, remove chicken pieces and allow them to cool, just enough to handle so you can shred the meat. Set the broth aside, this will be used in making the filling.

*NOTE: You can also use “store bought” chicken broth, if you’d like, but why?  You have to cook the chicken pieces anyway so why not kill two birds with one stone, lol! 😉  But, if you are using canned broth, make sure to adjust the salt, because there is usually tons of salt already in store bought broth.










Once the chicken is cooked and tender, remove it from the broth and set it aside to cool.  Reserve the broth for the filling’s liquid.  Once chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone, discarding any visual fat and the vein that runs through it, ewww!  I chopped the chicken using a mini food processor using the “pulse” mode.  I love using my kitchen gadgets, it makes me feel like I’m  working “smarter, and not harder”. 😉  Do not chop the chicken too finely, you also have the option of hand chopping or shredding them.  Set the chopped chicken aside.










Pour the box of Cream of Rice into a DRY skillet, placed over MEDIUM HIGH heat.










Toast the rice until it becomes a golden brownish color. Make sure to stir this often. Set aside.










Now, cut the bacon into small pieces. Fry them in a large pot until crisp, use a pot that you will be cooking the filling in. Reason why is, you want the flavors of the bacon and it’s grease to permeate into the filling, after all; everything with bacon tastes that much better, 😛  Remove the crisp pieces of bacon, pour off all but 4 Tbsp. of the grease.










To this bacon grease, add the onions and garlic pieces, cook on MEDIUM HIGH heat.  Stir this until translucent. NOTE:  If you were using the chopped bell peppers variation, you’ll add them at this time.










Add the chopped chicken pieces, stir to combine well.










Add the toasted cream of rice, the 7 – 8 cups of broth, and the seasonings.  Stir to combine well and make sure that the cream of rice doesn’t “lump” up.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to MEDIUM LOW and continue to stir.

NOTE:  If you’d like a little runnier filling, start with the 7 cups of broth, for a thicker filling, use 8 cups broth.










At this stage the mixture will start to thicken.  Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.  Add your pepper flakes or donne’ dinanche’, suiting your taste.  Stir to combine well.










If you’re using the crisp bacon you cooked earlier, add it at this stage.  Stir to combine well again.  Turn the stove off and remove the filling from the heat.

NOTE:  It is very important to allow the filling to cool off completely!  If you’re making the filling a day in advance, cool completely on the counter top and then cover and place into the refrigerator until ready for use.











Now let’s make the crust.  In a very large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients, masa harina, corn starch, achiote powder, salt and Accent.  Stir these ingredient well to combine.  Now make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Pour the vegetable oil and about 6 cups of warm water into the well.  Stir this mixture to combine well.  It’ll start to stiffen as you incorporate the water and dry ingredients together, making it harder to work in the bowl, but it’ll be fine.  Add the rest of the water in increments, kneading it into the dough.










You should have a soft pliable dough, that doesn’t feel sticky, it may still look a bit crumbly at the bottom of the bowl, but when you squeeze this together, it forms a dough.  Your dough is ready to be formed and filled.  It is very important that the dough doesn’t dry out.  I use a clean kitchen towel and wet it thoroughly, then I wring it out, squeezing all the water out.  Use this to cover the dough at all times!  Now, pinch of enough dough to form a golf ball sized ball.  Continue to form several at a time, making sure to keep them covered until ready to use.










Cut pieces of waxed paper AHEAD OF TIME, roughly about 6×6-inches or so.  You will be using them to help form each Empanada as well as for storing, so that they do not stick together.  You will also need a tortilla press to make the shells, but it’s not necessary, you could roll the shells out using a rolling pin.

Start by placing a sheet of waxed paper onto the tortilla press, place one of the dough balls in the center. Flatten slightly using your hand.  Layer another piece of waxed paper over top of the dough.  Close the top down and press the handle to flatten the dough piece forming a disc.  Because I prefer a thinner crust, I SOMETIMES rotate the dough disc 90 degrees and press down the lever again, just to flatten it a bit more.  You want to flatten the dough to about 1/8-inch (half of 1/4-inch) thickness or slightly thinner.  Anything thicker WILL NOT  result in a crispy crust!



















Now remove the top piece of waxed paper.  I usually use this piece for the bottom of the next dough ball.  Fill the center of the dough disc with about 1 Tablespoon of filling, maybe a bit more, but not too much, otherwise it’ll ooze out when sealing the dough.  Fold the waxed paper, bringing the edges of the Empanada together, as pictured below.










Starting at the top middle portion of the Empanada, following the edges down both sides, start pinching the waxed paper, forcing the dough edges to come together forming a seal,  Use the waxed paper to help you seal the dough together, as shown below.  Do not remove the waxed paper, keep the Empanadas encased in it to keep them from sticking together.  Continue this process until all the filling is used up.

NOTE:  At this stage, place the Empanadas in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them into the freezer. Allow them to freeze completely.  Now take the frozen Empanadas and either vacuum seal them or place them into freezer bags for storing.  Keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.










You can also start to fry them at this stage, heat up at least 2 inches of vegetable oil.  Place your Empanadas, about 3 – 4 pieces at a time.  Fry them for about 8 – 10 minutes or longer.  You want to ensure that they are crisp.  If you’re frying them from FROZEN, they will take longer to cook.  Just gauge and watch them carefully.  Drain, facing them downwards, on paper towels.  Serve and enjoy!

TIP:  The longer you fry them, the crispier they will be; but make sure your heat isn’t too high or they will burn.

empa35 empa36

FILLING VARIATIONS, that you can add or change with the current filling:
1.) Add 1/2 – 1 cup crisp fried Bacon pieces, add this at the end of cooking time.
2.) Add 1 cup finely chopped green Bell peppers, add this together when frying the onions and garlic.
3.) Canned sardines or mackarel is something that some friends and I have made a few years ago. Just fry the canned fish in some oil and onions, seasoned a bit, then wrap and fry as normal. (This IS NOT to be added to the cream of rice filling, this is a filling on its own.)

Here’s a tip to ensure that your Empanadas are all going to be the same size, using a scale, weigh the dough balls, adding or removing dough to keep them at the same weight.  Make sure to keep your dough balls covered at all times so that they do not dry out.










Here are some of the ingredients and brands that I used to make my Empanadas.  I just used what was in my local grocery stores.

This is the brand of Masa Harina I used.  I purchased this at Publix, but Maseca is still my favorite brand.

This is the brand of Masa Harina I used. I purchased this at Publix, but Maseca is still my favorite brand.

Achiote Powder

Achiote Powder

22 thoughts on “ChamoritaMomma’s Empanada

  1. hi rose im very excited and nervous at same time to make shell. so far so good lol..with this 4 lbs masa how many pieces did it come out to be? just wondering.

    • I never counted, but rest assured you don’t have to fry them all, because you can freeze them before frying. Just make sure to separate each empanada with something like waxed paper OR just wrap them each individually with plastic wrap or waxed paper.

  2. My wife & I make this from time to time and freez what we don’t fry. The only problem is they tend to flake & break apart when we do fry them. Weve tried thawing them out before frying, frying them straight from the freezer and different heat settings but nothing works. Any suggestions?

    • Hi John, when I make and freeze them, make sure to wrap them individually! This prevents them from sticking together and can be easily separated when ready to fry. I always fry my Empanadas while they are still frozen. Remember, to fry them on medium heat, for a longer time, to achieve crisp shells. I hope these tips help.

    • Thank you for the quick response. We do freeze them separately, but will try frying the frozen ones on medium as you suggested. One thing I did notice in the recipe that is different from ours is that I don’t think we have ever used corn starch in the dough mix. Thank you for sharing your recipe (s), and again, for answering my question. You have a new follower to your Recipes. 👍🏽😊

  3. Cool recipes I am a decedent of chamorro blood I my dad was born and raised on the island. I love the recipes I love how u think out of the box sometimes.

  4. A long lost friend of mine (Pat Gay) used to make these and other traditional dishes for me while I was stationed at Anderson. I will try this recipe very soon, I miss Guam very much!

  5. I’m so excited to gather the ingredients and tools to make this childhood favorite! I remember rushing to the student store (GWHS) to see if I got there early enough to snag one or two @ 0.35 a piece! Hard to get these stateside.

  6. Awesome. Thank you for the recipe. I remember having this in Guam in the early ’80s. Left Guam in ’85, but still vividly remember this.

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