Empañapita – Hot and Healthy Pockets of Deliciousness

So, what’s an empañapita? Think of it as an empañada redesigned as a hot and healthy pocket of deliciousness.

Empañadas are loved and consumed throughout Latin America, the Philippines, the Caribbean, and, today, much of the Southwestern United States. Traditionally, an empañada is a stuffed bread or pastry shell that is baked or fried. The name comes from the Spanish word empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

These turnovers are made by folding dough over a filling, sealing it, and cooking it, either by baking or frying. Fillings can be sweet or savory. Fruits, vegetables, beans, seafood, cheeses, meats – what you stuff inside is limited only by your palate and imagination.

Try this healthy empaña “pita” recipe, which uses pita bread in place of the pastry shell. Then, it is baked, not fried. This redesign focuses on retaining the deliciousness while limiting the more unhealthy choices. These small variations eliminate most of the salt, butter, and oil that can make more traditional empañadas less healthy.

Empañapita Recipe


2 (6½-inch) whole-wheat pitas

1 C Tangy Salsa (click to see the recipe)

For the filling:

2 C canned low-sodium* black beans, rinsed

2 C frozen broccoli, corn, and pepper vegetable mix, thawed (leftovers are fine)

2 C grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced (about 4 small breasts)

½ C shredded low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, rinsed, dried, and chopped (or substitute 1 tsp dried coriander)

2 Tbsp scallions (green onions), rinsed and chopped (or substitute red onions)

*Note: If you can’t find beans labeled “low sodium,” compare the Nutrition Facts panels to find the beans with the lowest amount of sodium. Rinsing can help reduce sodium levels further.


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Combine beans, vegetables, chicken, cheese, and seasonings. Mix well.

3. Cut pitas in half, and open the pockets. Divide filling evenly between the four halves (about 1½ cups each). Children can help stuff the ingredients into the pita pockets.

4. Place pitas on a nonstick baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes until the filling is hot, cheese melts, and chicken is reheated.

5. Serve each empañapita with ¼ cup of Tangy Salsa.


Prep time: 10 minutes (20 minutes with homemade salsa)

Cook time: 10 minutes


Yield: 4 servings

Serving size: 1 stuffed pita half, ¼ C Tangy Salsa

Each serving provides:

Calories 373
Total Fat 4 g
Saturated fat 1 g
Cholesterol 34 mg
Sodium 374 mg
Total fiber 14 g
Protein 27 g
Carbohydrates 60 g
Potassium 741 mg
Vitamin A 180%
Vitamin C 50%
Calcium 8%
Iron 25%

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

To get more healthy recipes, download Keep the Beat Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals .

Reprinted with permission from Keep the Beat Recipes: Deliciously Healthy Family Meals. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. NIH Publication No. 10-7531. Page 7. December 2010.