Chicken Tinga Empanadas

Chicken Tinga Empanadas - At Dana's Table

Chicken Tinga Empanadas - At Dana's Table

Ya’ll, I told you I was on a pastry and Mexican food kick.  I wasn’t kidding.  It started back during Cinco de Mayo festivities, I had made some chicken tinga for the holiday and with leftovers I decided to wrap them in dough.  Chicken tinga is normally stuffed into a taco or onto a tostada and layered with some slaw, beans, cheese….. but pastry is my name and rolling dough is my game.  I blame my pastry loving husband.  He loves a good crust.  I even made him chicken pot pie for his birthday – more on that in a different post.  And once again I’m feeding that inner smokey chicken desire that represents a new phase in my food life.

This is a Pati Jinich recipe.  And I love her.  I don’t know why, she just tickles my funny bone and makes me want to get in the kitchen and stay there cooking up Mexican food delights.  She’s the type of person, where I’d love to pull up a stool in her kitchen and chat about food, share stores and a meal.  Hi Pati, in case you ever read this!

Chicken Tinga Empanadas - At Dana's Table

This chicken tinga recipe, admittedly, is a little fussy.  I say that because the tinga I’ve made before this don’t require any tomato or tomatillo softening and then blending into a sauce.  Then again, this one does start with fresh instead of canned tomatoes.  In the future, I’m going to char the tomatoes and tomatillos in the broiler before simmering to soften for even more of the smokey flavor.  But, I truly found the recipe worth it.  It was worth it for the party we had (served in tacos), it is worth it as a make ahead filling for future dinners.  I love it.  Worth the effort.

The sauce in the middle of the plate is just some sour cream mixed with chipotle and lime juice.  Simple and easy and delicious.  So it’s a bit of chipotle on chipotle plus fresh, but that’s how I like it.  It’s not too hot at all because sour cream tempers the chipotle heat.  It’s quite perfect for me.

Chicken Tinga – Adapted from the irrepressibly wonderful Pati Jinich

Remember, this can be empanada filling, used in tacos, in flautas, on tostadas.


  • 3 tablespoons safflower, corn, or grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 white onion slivered
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 8 roma tomatoes or 2 lbs, rinsed
  • 2 tomatillos or 1/4 lb, husked and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sauce from chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 whole chipotle chile in adobo sauce

To Prepare

  1. Place tomatoes and tomatillos in a medium saucepan, cover with water. Bring it to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes and tomatillos are soft, thoroughly cooked and mushy but not falling apart.
  2. Remove tomatoes and tomatillos with a slotted spoon, and place them in the jar of a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
  3. Heat the oil in a large and deep pan over medium heat; once it is hot but not smoking, stir in the onion and cook until soft and translucent, for about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until the onion and garlic mixture becomes fragrant and lightly browned, about 1 minute.
  4. Pour the tomato/tomatillo sauce on top and add the oregano, marjoram, thyme, salt, black pepper and the chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (if you want more heat add an entire chipotle chile in adobo sauce). Let it simmer, stirring now and then, until it seasons and deepens to a deep red color, about 10 to 12 minutes. You may want to partially cover the pan as the sauce will want to jump out onto your burners.
  5. Add the shredded chicken and combine it with the sauce. Let it cook, occasionally stirring, until the chicken has absorbed almost all of the juices and the mixture is moist but not juicy.

Empanada Dough – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour + 3 cups all-purpose
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup or 8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup ice water
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.) Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour. Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours total. [For the record, I did save and use some of the dough the next day….no.  Use the same day, as the recipe calls for.]

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