Fresh Masa Empanadas | Cravings & Crumbs

These fresh masa empanadas have been hanging out on my list of recipes to post for far too long.  I made them on a rainy day back in March and they were so delicious that three of us devoured the entire batch before dinner time, yet  for various reasons they haven’t made it onto the blog until now.  Either I had just posted a Mexican recipe (if you can’t tell by now, I like Mexican food a lot), or the weather was too hot, or I had cooked something else that I was just so excited about that I couldn’t wait to post it.  But really, those excuses aren’t any good because there is no bad time to have freshly fried empanadas.

Fresh Masa Empanadas | Cravings & Crumbs

These are inspired by a recipe from the Rancho Gordo cookbook, Heirloom Beans.  They’re listed in the appetizers and snacks section, but these are so hearty and satisfying that 2 or 3 easily turns into a meal.  I like these because the flavor of the masa adds an extra layer of flavor and texture that empanadas made with a flour based dough don’t have.  Not only that, but making the masa dough is less trouble, making these empanadas easy to whip up at a moment’s notice as long as you have masa harina and beans in the pantry and a bit of cheese in the fridge.

Fresh Masa Empanadas | Cravings & Crumbs

For the cheese you can choose any that you like, although I would suggest jack, mozzarella, or queso Oaxaca for the flavor and meltability.  Here we hand shred the cheese so that you get pockets of melted cheese, whereas grated cheese would incorporate into the beans too much.  To add freshness and pick up the flavor I paired these with a homemade salsa verde and quick pickled red onions.  The empanadas really benefit from the freshness and acidity that these bring.  

Fresh Masa Empanadas | Cravings & Crumbs

Fresh Masa Empanadas
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Ingredients
  1. 2 c. Maseca
  2. 1 t. salt
  3. 2 c. boiling water
  4. 3 thick slices bacon
  5. ½ onion, diced
  6. 1 t. ground cumin
  7. 4 c. homemade pinto beans with juice (or 2 cans)
  8. 1 ball queso Oaxaca (about 10 oz.)
For the pickled onions
  1. 1 cup red onions, thinly sliced
  2. 1 t. kosher salt
  3. 1 t. sugar
  4. ¼ c. red wine vinegar
For the salsa
  1. 1 lb tomatillos
  2. ½ medium yellow onion
  3. 1 large jalapeño
  4. 4 cloves garlic
  5. Cilantro
  6. Salt
Instructions
  1. Begin by making the pickled onions. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside to pickle while you make the rest of the components.
  2. To make the salsa remove husks from tomatillos and wash off any dirt. Peel onion and garlic.
  3. Simmer all ingredients in water until softened, about 15 minutes. Remove from water and add to a blender, adding just enough of the cooking liquid to barely cover. Add salt to taste, starting with 1 ½ t., and blend. Chop as much cilantro as you like and add to the salsa. Taste and add more salt if necessary, keeping in mind that you’ll have to adjust to taste once the salsa is chilled. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Next make the beans. Start by slicing the bacon crosswise into thin strips. In a frying pan over medium heat begin to render the bacon. When the bacon is just on the brink of becoming crispy, add the diced onions and continue to saute until translucent.
  5. Add the beans with their juice and allow to heat for 3 or so minutes. Using a potato masher or the back of a fork mash the beans as chunky or smooth as you like them. Remove beans from heat and allow to cool.
  6. While beans are cooling, Shred the cheese by hand (or cut into small cubes) and make the masa. In a bowl combine the masa harina, salt, and boiling water, stirring with a wooden spoon to fully combine. The masa should feel like playdough. Allow to cool enough that you can easily touch it.
  7. Roll the masa into balls about 1 ½” in diameter. Cut a quart size ziploc at the seams and use it to line a tortilla press. Place a ball of masa in between the sheets of plastic and press to about ⅛ - ¼” thickness. Add a bit of beans and cheese to one half and fold over, pressing the edges to seal. Repeat with the rest of the masa. If you notice any of the empanadas beginning to dry out, cover with a towel or plastic wrap so that they don’t crack.
  8. Heat an inch of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Once oil is about 350°, add the empanadas one at a time and cook until golden brown and crispy, flipping halfway through. Remove to drain on paper towels.
  9. Serve empanadas with salsa verde and pickled onions.
Notes
  1. Unfortunately, these empanadas cannot be baked. The beans and cheese will melt out the edges before the masa has a chance to cook or get crispy. However, the fried empanadas can be reheated in the oven at 375° for about 12-15 minutes.
  2. I made two batches of dough - one with regular Maseca and one with blue corn. I would suggest using only one type since the flavor difference between the two isn't noticeable enough to warrant the extra work.
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