Let’s talk about pie. Pie is a beautiful thing. But, do you know what I believe to be even more beautiful than regular old pies?
Take everything that you love about traditional pies, double the crust and make them portable, and then you’ve got hand pies. Crispy, buttery, flakey dough enveloping a pocket of sweet or savory filling just ready to burst through the seams. You rarely see a savory pie, but there are savory hand pies galore, filled with cheese, meat, vegetables, or all of the above. When it comes to hand pies, anything goes.
In addition to myriad fillings, every recipe has its own style of dough. Some are crispy and flakey while some are more soft and doughy. I love both for different reasons.
There’s a popular outdoor shopping center in San Antonio called Pearl Brewery (it’s not actually a brewery anymore), and every weekend they have a farmer’s market. The farmer’s market offers produce, cheeses, honeys and other artisan foods, but they also have a variety of premade food vendors. One vendor that I absolutely love is Yapa Artisan Empanadas.
Empanadas are just another version of hand pies, and their empanadas are so good. Yapa’s fall on the soft, doughy side, and their fillings are so delicious and rich that the sauce served on the side isn’t even necessary. One of my favorites is the Peruvian Style Chicken, which is slightly spicy and oh so creamy from ground nuts and parmesan cheese.
My take on a chicken empanada starts with a crispy crust inspired by Smitten Kitchen that I made gluten-free with gluten-free all-purpose flour. If you prefer regular all-purpose flour, then that will work just fine too and will actually be much easier to roll out. Gluten-free dough is much more delicate and crumbles very easily. Many recipes say to roll gluten-free dough between two pieces of parchment paper, but I prefer to use plastic wrap. Parchment paper slides all over the place when you’re trying to roll it, and you can’t see what you’re doing through the opaque sheets.
For the filling, I took inspiration from Yapa’s Peruvian Style Chicken empanada and added a little parmesan cheese for that little extra touch of umami 😉 And because I’ve never regretted adding cheese to anything. The beer adds a deep richness of flavor and the raisins give a little pop of sweetness to balance all of these savory notes.
Oh, and as a finishing touch I glaze each empanada with warm pepper jelly. Serving with homemade chimichurri is optional and not totally necessary, but definitely completely delicious.
Gluten-Free Chicken Empanadas
These gluten-free chicken empanadas have a tender, flakey, buttery crust wrapped around a rich chicken filling, glazed with a sweet and spicy pepper jelly. Keep them unbaked in your freezer for a delicious snack, lunch or dinner any time.
Dough (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
- 4 ½ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour I used King Arthur
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 stick cold salted butter cut into cubes (If you prefer to use unsalted butter, then double the salt)
- ⅔ cup cold water
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
- 4 cups shredded chicken
- 2 chicken sausages diced (I used a chicken apple sausage since that’s what I often have on hand)
- ½ medium onion diced
- ½ large red bell pepper diced
- 2 stalks of celery diced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 12 oz beer I used Modelo Especial. I would recommend a lighter beer over a dark beer, but whatever you have on hand will do
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup green olives roughly chopped
- ½ c grated parmesan cheese
To make the dough:
Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with your hands, a pastry blender, a fork, or whatever works for you, until the mixture resembles sandy crumbs. Small, pea-sized chunks of butter should still be visible.
Next, whisk the two eggs into the water and add the vinegar. Pour the mixture into the flour and butter, and stir until combined.
Knead the dough just until it comes together and separate into two rectangular pieces. Wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour, until chilled.
To make the filling*:
Place a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add a small drizzle of oil and the chicken sausage, and sauté until browned. Remove it from the pot and set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium. Without wiping out the pot, add in the onion, bell pepper and celery. Sauté the vegetables until soft and translucent, and then add in the garlic. Continue sautéing for about a minute until the garlic is softened and fragrant.
Next, add in the cumin and paprika and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Pour in the beer and scrape up all of the brown bits from the bottom.
Add in the raisins and chicken, bring the mixture to a low boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed, but the mixture is still very moist.
Finally, stir in the olives and parmesan cheese. Set the mixture aside and allow to cool to room temperature, or make ahead and refrigerate.
To assemble and bake:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Pour ¼ cup of pepper jelly into a small pot and warm over low heat while you assemble the empanadas.
Once your filling has cooled, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit for about 10 minutes (I think this makes rolling a little easier). Roll the dough to about ⅛ in. thick between two pieces of plastic wrap,** and cut into 4-5 in. circles. You can use a cookie cutter, a bowl or a glass to make your cutouts.
Place about 2 tablespoons of filling into each circle, carefully fold over and crimp edges shut with a fork. Lay empanadas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush on the pepper jelly, being careful to avoid the edges (they tend to burn).***
Bake for 20-25 minutes, reglazing halfway through, until empanadas are golden brown. Allow to cool slightly (if you can wait!) and enjoy by themselves or with some homemade chimichurri sauce.
*You will most likely have a good amount of filling leftover. The filling is awesome as leftovers in tacos or a burrito bowl or just on its own.
**Gluten-free dough is notoriously fragile. Rolling between two layers of plastic wrap will help the dough from sticking. I prefer plastic wrap over parchment paper as parchment tends to slide around and you can’t see through it. I wouldn’t recommend attempting any fancy folded edges since the dough is so crumbly, but I personally love the homemade look of a fork-crimped edge.
***If you’d rather skip the pepper jelly glaze, beat one egg with a tablespoon of water and brush on once right before baking.