Empanadas de Pollo: Chicken Empanadas

Chicken Empanadas Recipe

 The Spruce

  • Total: 70 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Chilling time: 30 mins
  • Servings: 10 to 15 empanadas
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
333 Calories
20g Fat
32g Carbs
7g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 15
Amount per serving
Calories 333
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 20g 25%
Saturated Fat 6g 32%
Cholesterol 113mg 38%
Sodium 406mg 18%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 1mg 5%
Calcium 31mg 2%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 114mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Most countries in Latin America have their own delicious version of an empanada, a handheld half-moon-shaped turnover, all wonderful and juicy. Some are baked, some are fried, most are filled with meat or chicken, some have meat and chicken (and eggs), some have dairy, some don't. It's hard to choose a favorite, and if you ask a person from each country, they will assure you their local empanadas are the best. With hundreds of empanadas to choose from, it's impossible to crown a winner, but a fair bet in the rankings is the chicken empanada, or empanada de pollo.

All empanadas follow the same premise: tasty dough, hearty filling, crunchy outside, and spicy or other complementary dipping sauces. In the United States, most people have heard of Argentinian or Chilean empanadas, but the truth is all countries from Mexico to Chile have one or more versions. Our delicious take on an empanada uses juicy chicken, caramelized onions, olives, and pieces of hard-boiled egg. But in the empanada realm, all is fair, so use your imagination, as the standard is mainly the shape and not the size or filling—although smaller is always better to allow the crust to cook and the inside to warm up.

If you're making lots of empanadas, consider cooking the filling and making the dough the day before. Some say that the overnight rest enhances the chicken flavor and that the additional rest time makes a more pliable dough—but making everything the day of still makes wonderfully flavorful empanadas. Serve the empanadas as a snack; light lunch or dinner, or as a casual appetizer—alongside spicy ají—to accompany your favorite beer.

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Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 3/4 cup lard (or vegetable shortening; chilled)

  • 2 tablespoons butter (chilled)

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1 cup water (divided)

For the Filling:

  • 2 to 3 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

  • 1 cube bouillon (chicken)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 large onions (chopped)

  • 1 tablespoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon​ chili powder (or to taste)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

  • Salt (to taste)

  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

  • 3 eggs (hard-boiled, chopped)

  • 1/2 cup green olives (sliced)

For Brushing:

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 tablespoon water

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this empanada dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for making the dough for chicken empanadas
     The Spruce
  2. Place the flour into a bowl and stir in the salt and sugar.

    Flour, salt and sugar in a bowl
     The Spruce
  3. Add the chilled lard and butter into the flour mixture, and with the help of 2 knives or a pastry cutter, cut the fats into the flour until you have a sandy mixture.

    Cutting in the butter and lard into the flour
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  4. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 3/4 of the cup of water.

    Mixing egg yolk with water
     The Spruce
  5. Stir 1/2 cup of the water-egg mixture into the flour, a little bit at a time, until the dough starts to come together.

    Adding the water-egg mixture into the flour
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  6. Knead the dough, adding more of the water-egg mixture as needed until the dough is smooth. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of water, a tablespoon at a time, if the dough feels dry. The dough might feel saggy but will be pliable yet firm when thoroughly chilled.

    Dough is kneaded
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  7. Add an additional pinch of salt if you'd like savory crusts.

    Adding a pinch of salt to the dough
     The Spruce
  8. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. When ready to use, the dough should be soft and smooth, not elastic. If you poke a hole in the dough with your finger, the indentation should remain.

    Covering dough in plastic wrap
     The Spruce

Poach the Chicken

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for making the chicken empanadas filling
     The Spruce
  2. Place the chicken in a medium-sized saucepan. Crumble the bouillon on top and add the bay leaf. Cover with water and bring it to a boil.

    Chicken in a pot with crumbled bouillon and bay leaf
     The Spruce
  3. Once the liquid is boiling, lower to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat but allow the chicken breasts to cool off in the broth.

    Chicken simmering in a pot
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  4. Once it has cooled down, shred chicken into small pieces.

    After cooking, the chicken is shredded
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  5. Moisten the shredded chicken with 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Set aside.

    Adding cooking liquid to the shredded chicken
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Make the Filling

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet. Add the chopped onions, paprika, cumin, chili powder, sugar, and salt and pepper. Stir well.

    Chopped onions with seasonings in a skillet
     The Spruce
  2. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and transparent, and the mixture has a lively orange color. Taste and add more chili powder if desired.

    Chicken Empanadas filling recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the chicken. Let the filling cool down for at least 30 minutes. Some cooks choose to refrigerate overnight, but as long as the filling is not too hot, you can proceed to finish the filling and assemble the empanadas.

    Chicken Empanadas filling recipe
     The Spruce
  4. Add the chopped hard-boiled egg and olives into the filling mixture.

    Chicken Empanadas filling recipe
     The Spruce

Assemble the Empanadas

  1. Mix the egg yolk with 4 tablespoons of cold water. Reserve.

    Egg yolk and water
    The Spruce 
  2. Divide the empanada dough into 10 to 15 golf ball-sized pieces. Roll each one into a smooth ball.

    Empanada dough rolled into balls
     The Spruce
  3. Let the divided dough rest for 5 minutes.

    A baking sheet with 15 dough balls
    The Spruce 
  4. On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a circular shape of about 6 inches in diameter.

    Dough balls are rolled out into flat circles
     The Spruce
  5. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling into the middle of the circle. You want a good amount of chicken but not enough to overfill the disc of dough.

    Chicken filling is placed on a flat round of dough
     The Spruce
  6. Lightly brush the edges of the dough along the bottom half of the circle with water.

    Bottom edge of the dough is brushed with water
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  7. Fold the top half of the circle over the filling to form a semicircle. Firmly press the edges together to seal.

    The dough with filling is folded and crimped
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  8. Brush the pressed edge with water and fold the edge over itself, pinching and crimping as you go to make a braid-like effect.

    Crimped edge gets folded again for a braid-like effect
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  9. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

  10. Place empanadas on a lightly greased baking sheet.

    Empanadas on a baking sheet
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  11. Brush each empanada with the egg yolk and water mixture.

    Empanadas brushed with egg yolk
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  12. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and slightly puffed.

    Empanadas browned in the oven
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  13. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Empanadas on a plate for serving
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  14. Enjoy.

Can I Freeze the Empanadas?

Absolutely. Place the unbaked empanadas on a flat baking tray and freeze until hard. The empanadas shouldn't be touching one another during this first stage. Once they are frozen and hard, transfer them to a ziptop bag, label, and freeze for up to three months.


When ready to bake, simply preheat your oven and transfer the frozen empanadas to a lined baking tray, brush with egg yolk and water, and cook until golden brown. As the filling is frozen, it might take 25 minutes until ready.

Use a Different Dough

For a different version of the empanada:

  • Buy the empanada dough discs at a supermarket that sells Latin foods. The discs have the exact shape that you need and are a wonderful substitution for homemade dough.
  • Alternatively, use puff pastry. Although it isn't traditional unless you're purposely making empanadas de hojaldre (puff pastry empanadas), puff pastry discs also yield a flaky version of the empanada that's really tasty.
  • Some markets carry corn-based dough, which in most cases is meant to be fried. Heat the oil to 350 F before adding the empanadas, cook until golden brown.