Happy Cinco de Mayo!

My favorite way to join in on this celebration of Mexican heritage is with homemade empanadas and piñatas! And here’s the recipe and instructions!

But first, why do we celebrate the 5th of May?  In the US, Cinco de Mayo is generally thought of as a day to celebrate Mexican culture but in the state of Puebla, Mexico the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day—the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico—which is celebrated on September 16. The Battle of Puebla was significant because the Mexican victors were outnumbered 2 to 1 by the better-equiped French army- so let’s celebrate the underdogs and pay tribute to Mexican culture!


Every empanada recipe starts with the dough. Have fun with the filler ingredient combinations: try chorizo sausage and apple, black bean and cilantro, chicken and queso fresca or whatever is in your fridge! I’d recommend lightly sautéing ingredients before filling the empanada just to make sure everything cooks through. If you don’t have time to prepare the dough, you can always cheat and use store bought puff pastry 😉 I use refined coconut oil to fry the empanadas because it browns them nicely and it’s an oil meant for high temperatures. You can substitute with vegetable oil or bake the empanadas.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients (makes 10 six-inch empanadas):

  • 3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • About 3 cups refined coconut oil (or vegetable oil)


  1. To make the dough, sift the flour and salt together in a bowl. Use a pastry blender or criss-cross 2 forks back and forth to cut the vegetable shortening into the dry ingredients until it is fully incorporated. Add the egg yolk and vinegar. Mix well.
  2. Adding 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time, knead in the water with your hands until a smooth dough forms. Pat the dough into a round, flat disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day before making the empanadas.
  3. To assemble the empanadas, divide the chilled dough into 10 1-inch balls. Using a manual tortilla press, a rolling pin, or the heel of your hand, press each dough ball into a circle about 1/8-inch thick and about 6 inches in diameter.
  4. Mound about 2 tablespoons of filler ingredients of your choice in the center of each round and fold the dough over to form a half-moon. Use a dinner fork to crimp the outer edge.
  5. Heat enough oil  in a stockpot so the empanadas will be covered. Place empanadas in when the oil is 350° using a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the temperature. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Fry the empanadas in batches until they are golden brown and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes each, turning once in the oil. Drain them on the baking sheet and serve with guacamole.

Tips:  The dough must rest properly and has to be rolled out thinly to be workable. When forming the empanadas, make sure the edges are well sealed so they don’t leak while frying. You can roll and crimp the edges a few times to help ensure that they’re closed up tightly. Fully formed empanadas can be frozen, wrapped tightly in plastic and foil, for up to 2 months; thaw in the refrigerator before frying. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.


This piñata was inspired by an installation that artist-design firm CONFETTISYSTEM designed at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, NY.

disco pineapple piñata

  • newspaper/ tissue paper
  • scissors
  • Elmer’s glue
  • silver paper or garland
  • neon card stock
  • balloon
  • rope
  • candy
  • bat


  1. Blow up the balloon- this is the structure for your pineapple’s body so blow it up to be as big as you want the piñata to be.
  2. Mix 1/2 cup of Elmer’s glue and 1/4 cup of water. Saturate strips of newspaper with it. Apply the newspaper strips to the balloon, crisscrossing strips to get complete coverage and add strength. Leave a small hole where the balloon is tied- this will be where you put the candy in. Cover with several layers of newspaper. Let balloon dry at least 4 hours. Tip: Spray balloon with pam or grease with vaseline so the newspaper doesn’t stick to the balloon.
  3. When the glue has dried, pop the balloon and you’ll be left with a newspaper shell.
  4. Fill with candy. Tie the rope onto the top of the piñata.
  5. Cut silver paper into fringed strips and then tape or glue around the piñata. Cover over the opening at the top.
  6. Cut the neon card stock into leaf shapes and tape or staple to the top.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Hope you’re inspired to celebrate with empanadas and a piñata!



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