Costa Rica empanadas are found throughout the country and are cheap, delicious and filling. They are actually one of the must eat things in Costa Rica!
They aren’t too hard to make so I’m going to share our Costa Rican empanadas recipe with you. It’s fairly easy and you can make it vegetarian/vegan as well. So here is our Costa Rican empanadas recipe so you can add a little bit of pura vida in your kitchen.
Costa Rican Empanadas Recipe
Empanadas are a common dish in Latin America, Spain, some countries in Europe and even some countries in Asia. It’s a simple dish but each country has their own yummy twist to making them.
The name “empanada” comes from the Spanish verb Empanar which means to bread. Costa Rican empanadas are usually made of a corn dough that can be filled with anything: chicken, beef, beans, pork, potatoes. You can find sweet versions as well as savory ones. My personal favorite are the ones with beans.
Yeison’s brother is a fabulous cook and he makes some of the best traditional Costa Rican dishes I’ve ever eaten. He came over to show us how to make empanadas and I have to say, it was much easier than I expected.
First, you make the dough. They use cornmeal to make the dough, add a little chicken consome (very common here since it’s so cheap) and water. Not too much to it. Mix until nice and smooth.
Next, the filling. You can pretty much put anything you want in there but for this particular recipe, I’m going to do a chicken filling.
Chop chicken breast into small pieces along with some garlic, tomato and onion. Stir fry the garlic and onion first and then the chicken.
Now, the important part. Add Salsa Lizano. If you don’t know what that is, you HAVE to try it. It’s what makes Costa Rican food, Costa Rican. It’s the flavor of Costa Rica! It’s kind of a tangy sour sauce that Ticos put in everything.
Add as much as you like along with a pinch of salt. Add the tomatoes and fry a bit more until the chicken is fully cooked. At this point the kitchen should smell pretty darn good.
Next comes the fun part! Making the tortillas. Take your dough and roll it into balls, about the size of your palm. Now if you don’t have a tortilla maker, you can try this handy little trick.
Take a plastic bag and cut it in half in between the folds. Save both pieces.
Set one piece down on a plate, the ball of dough, and then the other piece of bag on top. Lay it straight, get another plate and use the bottom side to press down and flatten the dough. Lift up the top piece of bag and set aside.
And voila! You now have your beautifully made tortilla. Now who needs a fancy tortilla maker when you have this?
Now put in your filling along the middle of the tortilla. Make sure not to put too much or you’ll squish all the contents out. We made both blended beans and a chicken filling. Here we have our bean filling.
After you put in the filling, take one corner of the plastic bag on the bottom and fold in half to close your empanada.
Now all that’s left is frying. Put about half an inch of oil in the pan and put in the empanada when the oil is hot. Fry on each side until it’s golden brown and crispy. Top with salsa, guacamole, or any toppings of your choice.
Buen provecho! (Bon appetit)
This will make 6 empanadas
For the dough:
- 2 cups of cornmeal (harina de maíz)
- 1 packet of chicken consomé (chicken bouillon)
- Half a cup of water
For the chicken stuffing:
- 2 chicken breasts
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 small beefsteak tomato
- Salsa lizano
- Vegetable Oil
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together cornmeal and the chicken bouillon.
- Add the water and mix. If there is excess water, drain and mix until smooth. Set aside.
- For the chicken stuffing, cut chicken breast into small bite size pieces.
- Dice onion and tomato into small pieces and mince garlic.
- Add oil to a frying pan and add garlic and onion.
- Cook for a minute or two and then add chicken on high heat.
- Add a little salt and stir fry for another couple minutes. Add Salsa Lizano and then tomatoes.
- Stir fry until chicken is cooked. Turn off heat and set aside. Heat up another frying pan with a half inch of oil for the empanadas.
- To make tortillas, cut a bag in half between the folds. Set one layer down on a plate.
- Take a handful of dough and roll into a ball about the size of your palm.
- Put the ball on top of the bag and place the other bag on top.
- Using the bottom of another plate, press down to flatten the dough. Remove the top layer and set aside.
- Add your stuffing length wise in the middle and grabbing the bottom bag, fold in half and press along edges to close the empanada.
- Fry the empanada on both sides until golden brown and crunchy.
- Serve with your favorite toppings.
Want more Costa Rica flavor in your kitchen? Check these recipes out!
Nice recipe, but you need to fold over the edges! They should be neatly hemmed together with little divots, not just pressed together. It is a sort of fold and twist motion.
For this recipe, how much is in a packet of chicken bouillon? If I bought it in cubes, would it be one cube?
Hi Tori! One cube will be perfect go luck and please let us know how it goes.
margaret v fyffe says
We tried this recipe in my culinary class…and it failed miserably. The dough would not stay together, we had no extra liquid….what happened? we tried twice…..
Hmm not sure. Are you using hot or cold water? We used warm water since it is very hot where we are but you need warm/hot water, you may need to heat up your water a bit to keep the cornmeal together.
Did you use maseca (masa harina) or just plain cornmeal? Use maseca next time. It’s processed in a way that makes it stickier than regular cornmeal. If it’s still not sticky enough, your dough might need more water. Alternatively you could add a teaspoon of guar or xanthan gum.
Wondering if I would totally ruin the recipe if I baked it instead of frying? Have you tried it?
I haven’t tried baking it but I’m sure you can try it! I have seen some recipes for baked empanadas. Now I’m thinking to try baking it and seeing how it turns out myself!
It wouldn’t taste the same way! Frying the empanadas it’s what makes it special. There’s many recipes for baked empanadas but those are usually call Pasteles and they’re made out of all purpose flour not corn meal or masa.
Just try frying them once in a while …is not gonna kill you lol!
Just got back from Costa Rica and fell6n love with their empanadas and black beans and rice. Going to try to make these.
Their empanadas are really good right?! I hope you like the recipe!
I’d love to hear what goes into the other fillings that you love. Particularly if your have a great papas recipe. I’m going to start making these for the boys quick lunch when I’m away. Pura Vida.
Hi Michelle! We also use blended beans and shredded beef. I’m planning on putting a recipe up for blended beans since theirs is not the same as refried beans. They’re easy to make and I’m sure your boys will love them!
Ava Gavloski says
going to have to try making these. thanks for the tortilla dish making tip…. great way to flatten the dough. I have a bottle or 2 of the sauce…..
It’s a great little trick! Let me know how it goes, hope you like them! The sauce is key to making it Costa Rican style 🙂
you can get the Lizano salsa from the ticoshopping website 😉
Hi Saara I am not sure about that site, I have an uncle that buys it from amazon here is the link http://amzn.to/1yoI5aK
I had a chance to visit Costa Rica this past March. Went ATV’n in the mountains above Jaco. We stopped at a small snack stand where a local made fresh chicken empanadas. I remember the Lizano Salsa too. It was the first time I ever had it and the most memorable meal I had while visiting. In celebration of Costa Rica’s win yesterday, I used your recipe to make them today and they came out fantastic. Oh, and as for the Lizano Salsa, I had a couple of bottles stashed away for a day like today. Thank you for the website and the recipe. Pura Vida!
Lizano sauce is amazing, it has such a great kick. I’m so glad to hear you liked the recipe and even more that you had a great time in Costa Rica celebrating the win. Pura vida James!! 🙂
I can get the sauce if you want some.
Oh boy, this looks so good. How I miss Lizano sauce!
Thanks! I love Lizano, it’s soo good!
I brought TONS of bottles of Lizano back from my first trip in Costa Rica to try making gallo pinto. I’m bookmarking this recipe too!
Lizano is the best!! Try the empanadas – it’s easy and so good!
I have a international day in my school and this is perfect to make ….