How to Make Baked Pastelillo {Empanadas} with Chicken & Potatoes

These Puerto Rican Chicken and Potato Pastelillos are awesome right from the oven and also freeze extremely well. Filled to the brim with savory chicken, comforting potatoes, and gooey cheese, this baked version is a healthier alternative to the fried version – without sacrificing any flavor!

closeup of a plate with some spanish empanadillas, small meat or tuna pies, served as tapas

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What is the Difference Between Empanadas and Pastelitos and Pastelitos?

A quick google search won’t turn up a concrete answer to the difference between pastelillos and pastelitos and empanadas. 

It could be a difference in size, or the amount of lard in the dough, or even the origin of the recipe in question.  Others say it could be the flakiness of the crust or the way the edges are rolled.

While I haven’t found a definitive answer, what I am certain of though, is that, regardless of what you call them, once you make this recipe, these handheld meat pies will become a staple in your home.

I came up with this pastelillos recipe after enjoying a version a former co-worker used to make. I decided to recreate the recipe myself and, through trial and error, settled on the recipe I’m sharing with you today.

I love the fact that these empanadas are baked instead of fried, so they’re not only less messy to make but a tad bit healthier than some other versions.

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What You’ll Need to Make Pastelillos

  • 3 packages (10 count) frozen Goya pastry disks (I use a mixture of the orange and plain disks)
  • 2 lb. of cooked, shredded chicken
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced into ¼ inch cubes
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican blend)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 packets of Sazon con culantro y achiote seasoning (made by Goya)
  • 6 tbsp Sofrito (Goya makes a version that is found in the freezer section)
  • 6 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of water
  • Cooking spray (or olive oil in a MISTO)

Goya Pastry Disks Are Amazing

I have a total mental block when it comes to rolling out any sort of dough. (I hate it and I’m not good at it.)

These Goya pastry disks (usually found in the Hispanic food section of the freezer aisle) are a game-changer. Since a friend told me about them, I’ve been able to make these pasteillos, empanadas, and handheld fruit pies that don’t look like mutant creatures!

They are so easy to use, you just use your rolling pin to flatten them out a bit before you fill them. That’s it!

How to Make Baked Pastelillos

Chicken and potato pastelillos on a white plate

Step One

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and gathering all of our ingredients.

You’ll also want to make sure that you have a few baking sheets ready and lined with parchment paper.

Step Two

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic and sofrito until fragrant. Next, add the shredded chicken, lime juice, and potatoes, cover, and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the Sazon packets along with 1 cup of water and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Next, stir in cheese and remove from heat.

Allow chicken and potato mixture to cool slightly and transfer to a large bowl.

Step Three

On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry disks out just a tiny bit, until they are slightly larger in diameter and thinner.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken and potato mixture on one side of the pastry disk. (Really, just eyeball this…you will get the hang of the correct amount as you go along.)

Moisten the edges of the disk with water and fold the disk in half, creating a half-moon-shaped pastry. Next, use a fork to crimp the edges to seal.

Step Four

Transfer pastelillos to a cookie sheet. In addition, use your MISTO or cooking spray to lightly spray the tops of the pastelillos. (This will help give them a slightly crispy, “fried” feel, even though we are going to bake them.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until crispy.

Cheese empanada, meat empanada or chicken empanada, on a white plate. Empanada (meat pie) - traditional snack originally from Spain.

What is Sofrito Made From?

Sofrito is generally made from finely chopped:

  • green peppers
  • red peppers
  • yellow peppers
  • garlic
  • red onions
  • cilantro,
  • oregano
  • apple cider vinegar
  • tomato paste

What Can I Substitute for Sofrito?

While there really isn’t a substitute for sofrito, you could chop peppers, red onion, and fresh chopped cilantro. Mix them together and add some minced garlic and dried oregano.

Again, it won’t taste the same, but it’s about as close to a substitute for sofrito as you’re likely to get.

How Long Does Sofrito Last?

Very good question because if you purchase a tub of Goya Sofrito, you’ll have a lot left after making this recipe!

Make sure to store it in the freezer and it will last about a year frozen. If you keep it in the refrigerator, it will last about 3-4 months.

What Else Can I Use Sofrito For?

You can also use any leftover Sofrito to add extra flavor to:

  • beans
  • meat – chicken steak, or pulled pork
  • stews
  • rice
  • scrambled eggs
  • vegetable dishes

You can also pull out some tortilla chips and eat it like a salsa!

puerto rican chichen empanadas on a white plate

The More the Merrier

If you like to cook with your kids, this is a great recipe to set up an assembly line and get everyone involved. 

In fact, recently, I had a friend over and we spent an afternoon making 4 batches of these pastelillos. 

After we were done baking, we each poured a glass of wine and divvied these up in freezer bags for our families…the definition of a successful day in my book!

Other Awesome Meals You’ll Love:

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puerto rican chichen empanadas on a white plate

Puerto Rican Pastelillos (Emanadas)

Print Recipe
These pastelillos are awesome right from the oven and also freezer friendly, making them a convenient item to serve for lunch, dinner, or a quick snack.  Just thaw and pop them in the toaster oven to reheat quickly.
Prep Time:40 mins
Cook Time:40 mins

Ingredients

  • 3 packages 10 count frozen Goya pastry disks (I use a mixture of the orange and plain disks)
  • 2 lb. of cooked shredded chicken
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes diced into ¼ inch cubes
  • 2 cups shredded cheese cheddar or Mexican blend
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 packets of Sazon con culantro y achiote seasoning made by Goya
  • 6 tbsp Sofrito Goya makes a version that is found in the freezer section
  • 6 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup of water
  • Cooking spray or olive oil in a MISTO

Instructions

  • Step One
  • First, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and gathering all of our ingredients.
  • You’ll also want to make sure that you have a few baking sheets ready and lined with parchment paper.
  • Step Two
  • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic and sofrito until fragrant. Next, add the shredded chicken, lime juice, and potatoes, cover, and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the Sazon packets along with 1 cup of water and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Next, stir in cheese and remove from heat.
  • Allow chicken and potato mixture to cool slightly and transfer to a large bowl.
  • Step Three
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry disks out just a tiny bit, until they are slightly larger in diameter and thinner.
  • Place 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken and potato mixture on one side of the pastry disk. (Really, just eyeball this…you will get the hang of the correct amount as you go along.)
  • Moisten the edges of the disk with water and fold the disk in half, creating a half-moon shaped pastry. Next, use a fork to crimp the edges to seal.
  • Step Four
  • Transfer pastelillos to a cookie sheet. In addition, use your MISTO or cooking spray to lightly spray the tops of the pastelillos. (This will help give them a slightly crispy, “fried” feel, even though we are going to bake them.)
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until crispy.

Video

Not Available

Notes

If you have kids, this is a great recipe to set up an assembly line and get everyone involved.  Recently, I had a friend over and we spent an afternoon making 4 batches of these pastelillos.  After we were done baking, we each poured a glass of wine and divvied these up in freezer bags for our families!
Course: Chicken
Servings: 30
Author: Snug and Cozy Life

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7 Comments

  1. I’m afraid pastry discs are but a dream in South Africa ! What pastry would be good as a substitute? They’ve also never heard of Sofrito !

    1. Hi Jennifer, Have you tried making your own pastry discs? While not as easy as the premade, this empanada dough recipe from Epicurious should work: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/empanada-dough-230786
      Here’s a quick recipe to make your own Sofrito -it’s a puree of different veggies that’s often used in Hispanic dishes. You can also substitute your favorite pureed (not chunky) salsa in this recipe if you’d like. https://www.thespruceeats.com/basic-sofrito-recipe-2138283

  2. These are in the oven as I type this and smell delicious! I sautéed some onions with garlic & through in some fresh peas from the garden as we didn’t have potatoes. I can’t wait to dig in! I also wish I read the directions all the way through as I would have invited a friend over to drink wine while assembling! Will do next time. Thank you!

  3. Some of the best empanada’s I’ve every had. I baked the first batch which were good, but the next were fried and OMG were they simply delicious. This one is a keeper.

  4. These were delicious but I thought the filling lacked flavor. I added salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder but it needed something else. I’m not sure what, maybe more sofrito next time! I would love to fry them next time too!

    1. Katherine says:

      Perhaps adding another type of meat ie some shredded leftover steak, ground beef – bacon bits? Garlic and lime always helps spruce up the flavor a bit too. Or you could also marinade the chicken in some lemon pepper seasoning & olive oil / or verde sauce first?

      I’ve never made these but I just had the best empanadas I’ve ever had (in Manchester NH) hence why I’m figuring out how to make them myself now! Oh – maybe some extra finely chopped red onion / cilantro?

    2. Here is a huge tip for flavor, make your own sofrito! For some reason Goya like to switch their labels around and label Recaito ‘sofrito’ & Sofrito ‘Recaito’. The main difference is tomato. Recaito has a tomato base, while Sofrito has a Cilantro base. So red + green. While both are yummy, Sofrito really should be much simpler. I usually use 1green pepper, 6 bunches of Cilantro (be sure not to confuse with curly parsley, the flavor is very different), a few cloves of garlic and a medium onion (Any color). Throw it in your food processor and puree!

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