Thai Chicken Empanadas

Menu Part: 
Cuisine Type: 
About 5 dozen empanadas

Fusing the flavors of two on-trend cuisines is one way to attract adventurous palates. Although empanadas originated in Latin America and rely on ingredients from that part of the world, Zengo Chef-owner Richard Sandoval gives them a Thai accent with the sweet chili sauce known as mae ploy. A few spoonfuls of mango chutney complete the plate.


Diced meat from 1 roast chicken (about 5 cups, or 2 lb. diced meat)
2 poblano chilies
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
2 cups finely diced onions
1 bunch cilantro, minced
3/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce (mae ploy)
4 lb. puff pastry
12 oz. Oaxaca cheese, shredded
All-purpose flour, for dusting
3 qt. frying oil 


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub chilies with 2 tsp. oil, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Wrap chilies in foil and roast in oven until softened, about 30 min., checking every 10 min.

2. Remove from oven and set foil-wrapped chilies aside until cool enough to handle. Peel and seed chilies; cut into a small dice.

3. Heat a large sauté pan over med.-high heat. Add 2 tsp. oil and sauté onions until translucent, stirring frequently, about 8 min. Remove from heat.

4. Assemble filling: In a large bowl, combine diced chicken, diced poblanos, onions, 1½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, cilantro, Thai sweet chili sauce and Oaxaca cheese. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. (You should have a generous 6 cups filling.) Cover and refrigerate filling until chilled, at least 1 hr. or overnight.

5. Roll out puff pastry 1 sheet at a time on a lightly floured board. Cut out rounds using a 3½-in. biscuit cutter. (You should get 16 to 18 rounds from each pound of puff pastry.)

6. Fill each round with about 1½ tbsp. chilled chicken filling. To fold the empanada, place the round in your hand. With the fingers of your other hand, press the filling down as you are clamping the pastry into a taco or moon shape. (It may seem as if there is too much filling at first, but dough will stretch as you press filling down.) Seal the empanada by pressing edges with fingers; crimp with fork to seal completely. Refrigerate empanadas until ready to fry.

7. Heat frying oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot to 350°F. To order, fry empanadas three at a time until golden-brown, about 3 min. Drain on rack or paper towel-lined baking sheet. Serve immediately.

Recipe by Zengo Chef-owner Richard Sandoval, Santa Monica, Calif.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

Managing Your Business
line kings girl goat open kitchen

Open kitchen concepts satisfy guests’ curiosity and desire for transparency. But there are some caveats. Here’s how to create a positive experience for both staff and customers when the walls are down.

Train to serve

With the back-of-house up front, everybody gets hospitality training. “Our cooks understand the food and what they’re doing incredibly, but translating that to guests requires [soft] skills that need to be honed,” says Marie Petulla, co-owner of two restaurants in Southern California.

Dress for a mess

At Girl & The Goat in Chicago, chef-owner Stephanie...

Ideas and Innovation
bus advertising jagermeister

Because many locals use the bus system, we paid for some full bus wraps to advertise [job openings within] our dining services program. The buses go all over campus where students can see them, and to apartments where the public can see them. To top it off, the cost wasn’t much more than newspaper rates.

FSD Resources