Empadinhas are a very popular street food in Brazil, along with classics like kibbeh, acaraje, and pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread). They are a savory hand pie that can be filled with any kind of meat and vegetables. In many cases, you may also find sweet empadinha with fillings like fruit and dulce de leche. Our recipe today is for a creamy and delicious chicken hand pie. A flaky, crisp crust is stuffed with shredded chicken mixed with herbs, spices, and of course, requeijao (Brazilian cream cheese).
What are Hand Pies?
As the name suggests, a hand pie is a filled pastry that is designed to be eaten with your hands. It is small enough to eat on the go, and contained enough so that you don’t get too messy while eating it. Nearly every culture around the world has some version of savory hand pies, from Cornish pasties to Mexican empanadas. The size, shape, and filling of the pies can vary greatly, depending on local tastes.
In Brazil, savory hand pies have a signature round shape that can be attained using a muffin tin or cupcake pan.
Tips for the Perfect Mini Pie Crust
You want your savory hand pies to have a crust that is both flaky and tender. Everyone has their own tips and tricks for a good pie crust, but we feel the answer to the perfect shell is simplicity: butter, flour, salt, and, instead of water, an egg yolk or two for moisture and a deep golden color. The following tips will help keep your crust flaky and tender:
- Make sure the butter you are using is cold. You want it to crumble into the flour, not mix into it completely.
- Use your fingers to pinch the butter in with the flour until it resembles coarse sand. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
- When it comes time to add the yolk, don’t over mix. Blend just enough to incorporate the ingredients relatively uniformly.
- Don’t skip chilling your dough. It allows for two things: 1) the gluten in the flour can relax, making it less tough and easier to roll out; and 2) it re-hardens the butter, which will help the pie shells maintain their shape.
Empadinha Filling Ideas
Today, we are using shredded chicken, parsley, garlic, onion, boiled eggs, green olives, seasonings, and requeijao cream cheese as the filling for our savory hand pies. You may notice some similarities between these ingredients and another Brazilian favorite: pizza! Brazilian pizza is often topped with boiled egg and olives, and a favorite variation is drizzled with Catupiry (a popular brand of requeijao).
With that in mind, you could channel your kitchen alchemist and add in other Brazilian pizza toppings, like ham, calabresa sausage, and bell peppers. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the fillings you choose!
Vegetarian Savory Hand Pies
There are also plenty of options for vegetarian fillings for you empadinhas. We love a mixture of curried potatoes, green peas, and hearts of palm. A simple filling of burgundy mushrooms encased in a flaky crust also wouldn’t go amiss.
Empadinha de Frango Recipe (Savory Hand Pies with Chicken)
Makes about 10 mini pies
For the pie crust
2 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 eggs, plus one for egg wash
1 tablespoon water
1 tsp kosher salt
For the filling
1 cup shredded chicken (chicken breast or leftover rotisserie chicken is great)
½ sweet yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 oz diced green olives
2 oz fresh parsley, chopped
7 oz requeijao
1 tbsp paprika (not smoked)
Freshly ground black pepper
Two boiled eggs, diced
Salt to taste
Make the Crust
- In a mixing bowl, add the flour, cubed butter and salt. Pinch the mixture together with your hands until it is fully incorporated, resembling coarse sand.
- Add in one egg yolk and one whole egg and continue kneading until you have a uniform, smooth dough.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for thirty minutes.
Make the Filling
- If your chicken is not cooked already, boil two chicken breasts in a pot of salted water or chicken stock. Simmer on high for 15 to 20 minutes, until cooked through. Remove the chicken breasts and shred them with two forks. Set the chicken aside.
- Next, heat a skillet over medium heat with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add in your onions and cook until they are softened and translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds, just until fragrant.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in your shredded chicken, paprika, and Brazilian cream cheese. Simmer the ingredients for a few minutes, until warmed through.
- Add in a few twists of black pepper, then taste for salt. You may not need much: Brazilian cream cheese is already salty, as are the olives you will be using.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in your chopped eggs, parsley, and diced olives.
Assemble the Savory Hand Pies
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Retrieve the pie dough from the refrigerator.
- Take about two tablespoons of the dough and press it into the bottom of your muffin tin (grease it first!), lining it completely to form a cup shape. Let a little of the dough hang past the top of the well.
- Repeat this process until you have ten shells.
- Fill each shell to the brim with your chicken filling.
- For the tops of your savory hand pies, take another tablespoon of dough and flatten it into a disc to cover each one. Pinch the seams to seal your pies.
- Make an egg wash with one large egg beaten with around a tablespoon of water. Brush the tops of your hand pies with the wash, then put them in the oven.
- Bake the empadinhas until they are golden brown (around half an hour). Enjoy hot or at room temperature.