The Good Dish Cheesy Pulled Pork Empenadas With Spicy Green Sauce

Find out why Jen Balisi's cheesy pork empanadas won our Pulled Pork Dish Off! These crispy pockets hold warm pulled pork, gooey mozzarella, sweet plantain mash and a delicious marinade of garlic, oregano, cumin and lime juice. Dip them in her vibrant spicy green sauce for a dish you'll want more of. Good thing this recipe makes 20!

Reprinted with permission from "Indulgent Eats at Home" by Jen Balisi, Page Street Publishing, C0. 2022

Servings: 20 empanadas


Pork & Marinade

  • 2.2 lbs whole pork shoulder
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves (2 sprigs or 1 tbsp dried oregano)
  • 1⁄2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (about 1 bunch, hard stems removed1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Empanadas & Filling

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2–4 ripe plantains, sliced (depending on how sweet you want the empanadas)
  • 1.5–2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1–2 beaten eggs, optional
  • 20 frozen empanada discs

Spicy Green Sauce

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1⁄4 cup mayo
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp fresh lime
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


Cook the Pork

Make the pork up to 4 days in advance by either using a slow cooker (which doesn’t require marinating the pork and gives you a more hands-off approach), or by roasting the pork in the oven, which will give you a caramelized crust on the pork to mix into the meat. Once the pork is cooked, use two forks to shred the meat, or fit your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for ease. Let the cooked, shredded pork cool to room temperature before transferring to an airtight container. It will be easier to mold your empanadas if the pork is not hot.

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Option 1 — Slow Cooker: To make the marinade, blend the garlic, oregano, cilantro, salt, cumin, pepper, lime juice, vinegar and olive oil, then brush or rub it all over the pork shoulder. Place the pork inside the slow cooker, cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low until it shreds easily with a fork. I’d recommend letting it sit in the juices that develop in the slow cooker after you shred the meat for juicier pork.

Option 2 — Oven Roasted: First, marinate the marinade by blending together the garlic, oregano, cilantro, salt, cumin, pepper, lime juice, vinegar and olive oil, then brush it all over the pork shoulder, getting into every crevice. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight, if using a bigger cut of pork than the recipe calls for. Remove from the fridge 1 hour before cooking to let it come back to room temperature for more even cooking. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F, then bake the pork with the fat cap up in a roasting pan or baking pan for 3 hours, or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F and shreds easily with a fork.

Make the Empanadas

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a skillet, then cook the onion for 6 to 8 minutes until softened and set aside to cool.

Make the plantains by heating the other half of the oil in the skillet over medium-high, then cook the plantains for 4 minutes per side until golden and caramelized. Set aside to cool.

Combine the empanada filling by mixing the shredded pork, onion and plantains until well combined, mashing the plantains into the filling. Scoop 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of each empanada disc, then top with a small mound of cheese right in the center—this will give you a nice cheese-pull when you break them open. You want to pack as much filling into the empanadas as possible depending on the size of your disc.

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Fold the empanadas into half-moons and lightly press the edges to seal first with your fingers. Press on the middle of the empanada and squeeze as much air out from the filling, press on the edges to seal again, then use a fork to crimp the edges. This will help really seal the edges and prevent the empanadas from exploding if air is trapped inside.

Cook the empanadas by either deep-frying (which will produce the crispiest, flakiest result), air frying or baking.

  • To Deep Fry: Preheat 1.5 inches of oil in a Dutch oven or other high-walled pot over medium-high heat until 400 degrees F, which will take 8 to 10 minutes. Fry the empanadas in the hot oil in batches, cooking for 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown, flipping as necessary and letting the oil come back up to temperature in between batches.
  • To Air Fry: Brush with egg wash and air fry at 400 degrees F for 8 to 12 minutes until golden brown.
  • To Bake: Brush with egg wash and bake at 450 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

Make the Green Sauce

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth, adding some or all of the jalapeño seeds to reach your desired heat level. You can make this up to 5 days in advance by storing in an airtight container. Transfer to a small bowl for dipping and serve with hot empanadas.

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