Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
December 31, 2022

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Baked or fried, the empanada is a craveable snack or shareable that has moved into the mainstream today. The easy-to-eat handheld holds strong consumer appeal and offers both menu versatility and flavor adaptability. Here, we home in on the opportunities in Mexican flavor profiles, leveraging the trend in Mexican comfort foods.  Mexican ingredient combinations and flavors continue to provide an exciting wealth of complexity for menu developers to explore. Look to satiating slow-cooked shredded meats, specialty ingredients, distinctive cheeses, complex chiles and spices and hits of citrus or herbs.

Here are six ideas for empanadas with Mexican flair, paired with dipping sauces to match. Chefs can capitalize on the growing popularity of empanadas and the boldness of flavors from Mexico. Pack in a trio of flavor: Liven up the dough, stuff with a trend- forward filling and pair with a flavorsome dipping sauce.

1: Squealing Scrambler: Piloncillo in the empanada dough + soft-scrambled eggs + seared ground chorizo + crushed chicharrones + Oaxaca-Jack cheese

‣‣ Dipping sauce: Jalapeño-lime crema

2: Smoky Sweets: Cumin in the empanada dough + roasted and smashed sweet potato + huitlacoche + chopped smoked brisket + chopped oranges

‣‣ Dipping sauce: Chipotle-goat cheese queso

3: Surf n’ Turf Birria: Achiote in the empanada dough + chopped steak + crabmeat + charred bell peppers/yellow onions + asadero cheese

‣‣ Dipping sauce: Salsa verde-beef consommé

4: Pickled Picadillo: Mexican oregano in the empanada dough + seared ground beef + diced Yukon gold potatoes + tomato + pickled red onions + Cotija crumbles

‣‣ Dipping sauce: Mole rojo

5: Fantastic 4 (Sweet-sour-spicy-savory): Cilantro in the empanada dough + carnitas + habanero black beans + queso fresco crumbles

‣‣ Dipping sauce: Mango chamoy

6: Mexi Dipper: Tajín the empanada dough + “spinach-artichoke style” roasted poblano-requesón-fresh corn kernel dip + Modelo beer-braised beef cheek

‣‣ Dipping sauce: Salsa roja


Barbacoa Empanadas

Barbacoa EmpanadasCredit: Smithfield Culinary

These Barbacoa Empanadas surprise with a flaky biscuit dough, but deliver traditional Mexican flavors in the filling: tender barbacoa, achiote and asadero promise a craveable experience.

GET THE RECIPE FOR Barbacoa Empanadas

About The Author

Rob Corliss

Rob Corliss is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu.