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New Mexico Empanaditas

empanaditas a new mexico holiday traditional treat

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Empanaditas are a special New Mexico holiday tradition! Think flaky pastry that melts in your mouth, wrapped around a cinnamon spiced, lightly sweetened meat filling sprinkled with piñon…mmmm!



For the Meat Filling

  • 2 cups shredded pork/beef mixture. (I used a Pork Shoulder roast and Beef Chuck roast. You can also use all pork or all beef, I cooked both in the crockpot overnight and shredded while still hot. Combine and cool slightly before using.)
  • 6 Natural Delights Medjool Dates (quartered lengthwise then chopped into small pieces)
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup piñon (pine nuts) or walnuts

For the Pastry Dough

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup shortening (I used palm oil shortening)
  • 11 ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 egg (for egg wash to seal the empanaditas before frying)

For Deep Frying

  • Peanut Oil or high heat oil of your choice


For the Meat Filling

  1. With a spoon, mix the cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and salt into cup of applesauce.
  2. Add the shredded meat (cooled), chopped dates, and applesauce/spice mixture to food processor bowl.
  3. Pulse a few times to break up the mixture, then blend on high until its well combined and consistency resembles minced meat (about 5 mins). It should be slightly wet but not soggy and hold together when squeezing a portion in your hand. If it’s too dry you can add a bit of broth from the roasts, but be careful not to add too much moisture.
  4. Transfer meat mixture to a large bowl and incorporate the piñon, folding in with a spatula. 
  5. Set aside while you make the pastry dough. 

For the Pastry Dough

  1. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and shortening to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix with hands until the shortening is fully integrated
  3. Add warm water a bit at a time until desired consistency is reached. 
  4. Once dough is ready, break/cut into 12-16 uniform size round balls 
  5. Scramble one egg in a cup and set aside for egg wash

To Make the Empanaditas

  1. Using a rolling pin, roll ball into a circle
  2. Place a spoonful of meat on half of the circle close to middle leaving space along the edge
  3. Brush egg wash along the bottom edge of the half where filling is
  4. Fold upper half of dough over filling. 
  5. Cut excess with a pastry sealer (or pizza cutter, then seal edges with a fork.)
  6. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment. 
  7. Repeat until all empanaditas are made or you can make a few at a time and fry, making more while you wait on them to cook. If you do this I recommend setting a timer to avoid overcooking. 

For Deep Frying

  1. Depending on the size of your fryer, place a few empanaditas in at a time. My fryer had room for three at a time. 
  2. Fry in hot oil (heated to 350 degrees) for about 4 minutes, turning over with tongs halfway through. Set a timer for 2 minutes so you don’t forget to turn over. 
  3. They should look golden brown on both sides. 
  4. Remove from fryer with tongs or slotted spoon and place on another baking sheet or plate lined with paper towels to drain/cool. 

Best served warm with a cup of coffee!



  • If reheating, avoid the microwave. Reheat in toaster oven, regular oven or airfryer for best results. 
  • Empanaditas can be stored in refrigerator for up to seven days or frozen up to a month.


Keywords: New Mexico, Empanaditas, Empanadas, Taos, Northern New Mexico, Traditional recipes