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Chaya Empanadas

8 empanadas
Recipe courtesy Chef David Cetina


  • 2 cups fresh corn masa
  • 1/2 cup chopped chaya leaves, (may substitute spinach or watercress)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 4 cups grated Dutch edam cheese, (may substitute Gouda or Muenster)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Salsa roja, of your choice, warmed, optional

To Prepare

  • In a large bowl, combine the masa, chaya, and salt by kneading with your hands.
  • Pinch off a large, golf-ball sized piece of masa and roll it into a ball, then gently flatten with your palms. Place the flattened masa on a piece of plastic wrap and use your fingers to press it into a flat round tortilla about 1/8" thick (alternatively, use a tortilla press). Repeat until all of the remaining masa has been used up.
  • Place 1/2 cup of the grated cheese on one side of the masa round, then fold over to make a half-moon shape. Press around the edges with your fingers to close, using the plastic to help you out. Repeat with all the masa rounds.
  • In a large casserole or heavy bottomed pan, heat ½” of oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don't have a fry thermometer, test by dropping a small ball of masa in the oil; if the oil actively bubbles around it, it's ready.
  • Working in batches, fry the empanadas in the oil until crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place the fried empanadas on a paper towel lined plate to drain off the excess oil. You may serve them with a side of warm salsa roja or salsa of your choice.