Carnitas Empanadas – Easy to Make From Leftover Carnitas

Rating: 5.00
By Dave
December 28, 2021

Carnitas empanadas from leftover carnitas meat. The key is to sear the carnitas meat before making the filling.

Carnitas Empanadas – What to do With leftover Carnitas Meat

I love carnitas. But if I cook a 7 pound pork shoulder I end up with about 6 pounds of leftover carnitas meat. What a difficult problem to have. Carnitas empanadas is a great way to use of some up that fantastic meat.

Sear the Carnitas Meat

The key to making great carnitas empanadas is to sear the carnitas meat before making the filling. There is just something special about the flavor of seared carnitas. That slightly greasy caramelized goodness that comes from searing belongs inside the empanadas. So grab a cast iron skillet and start cooking.

Searing Carnitas Meat
Searing Carnitas Meat

Carnitas Empanadas Dough

The dough for carnitas empanadas is easy to make. Mix the ingredients until it comes together and stop. Avoid the temptation to over work the dough, but make sure the baking powder is evenly distributed.  Also, don’t skip the lard. Lard has its place in Mexican cuisine. I use it frequently in dough recipes like empanadas and tamales. There is only one tablespoon of lard in the whole recipe and most of that melts and escapes during the cooking process leaving a wonderfully crunchy and tasty empanada.

Flatten 1/4 cup of dough into a disc, no thinner than 1/8″. I was able to do this with an old tortilla press with a large surface area by pressing down very lightly, then rotating the disc and doing it again. If you are unable to make the disc on a tortilla press because it get’s too thin, just make them with a rolling pin.

Fold and Seal

Place a few tablespoons of filling in the bottom half of a flattened disc, fold over the dough, and seal by gently pressing the seam together.

Preparing an Empanada
Preparing an Empanada

Then gently press the tines of a fork into the the seam and continue to the end of the seam. The dough will be soft and fragile and that is ok. Be gentle with it. It it tears, take another little piece of dough and patch the hole. It will be fine.

Sealing an Empanada
Sealing an Empanada

Cook in Hot Oil

Cook the carnitas empanadas in hot (350˚ F) oil for four minutes per side. It will take the full four minutes per side for perfect empanadas. The golden brown color develops in the last 30 seconds. Use a spider to drop the empanada into the hot oil. Just rest it there for a second and the empanada will begin to float and will lift off the spider

Frying an Empanada
Frying an Empanada

Favorite Side Dishes

Some of our favorite side dishes:

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Carnitas Empanadas

Carnitas Empanadas – Easy to Make From Leftover Carnitas

5 from 1 vote
I love carnitas. But if I cook a 7 lb pork shoulder I end up with about 6 lbs of leftover carnitas meat. Here is a great way to use of some up that fantastic meat. The key to making great carnitas empanadas is to sear the carnitas meat before making the filling.
Servings 4 servings
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 38 minutes


Guajillo Salsa

  • 8 dried Guajillo chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 10 dried Chile de Arbol stemmed and seeded
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 bay leaf

Empanada Dough

  • 2 cups Masa Harina
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tbs lard


  • 4 cups canola oil
  • 1/2 lb leftover carnitas meat
  • 1/4 cup fresh salsa
  • 1/4 Mexican crema or Sour Cream
  • 1/4 green onions sliced


  • Preheat canola oil in a deep pan to 350°F. Toast the chiles in a hot pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Flip the chiles over and toast the other side for another minute. Remove chiles from pan and cover with cold water. Let the chiles soak for 30 minutes.
    Dried Chiles
  • Meanwhile, breakup the carnitas meat and sear it in a pan over medium heat with a little olive oil. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, flip the meat over and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
    Searing Carnitas Meat
  • Drain the chiles and add them to a blender along with the garlic, onion and chicken stock. Blend for 3 minutes. Add a little water if the mixture is too thick. Strain into a small sauce pan. Add the cumin, oregano and bay leaf and simmer on low heat for 5 – 10 minutes. Add the warm salsa to the carnitas meat and stir.
    Peppers in Blender
  • Add masa harina, salt and baking powder to the bowl of a stand mixer and blend with a paddle attachment for one minute. The key is to make sure the baking powder is evenly distributed. Add the water and lard and mix for two minutes on medium-low speed. Using a tortilla press, flatten 1/4 cup of empanada dough to a thickness of 1/8″, no thinner. Add a scant 1/4 cup to the lower third of the dough. Gently fold the dough over the filling and press to seal. Press the tines of a fork along the edge of the seal.
    Preparing an Empanada
  • Carefully drop the empanada in the hot oil. Cook for 4 minutes. Turn the empanada over and cook for another 4 minutes. Drain and serve with salsa, Mexican cream and green onions.
    Frying an Empanada



BBQ Tools & Supplies


Serving: 8ozCalories: 308kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 13gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 788mgPotassium: 380mgFiber: 5gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 928IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 135mgIron: 5mg
Calories: 308kcal
Cost: $12
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: carnitas empanadas, empenada

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