Molotes (Oaxacan Masa Empanadas)

We are huge fans of tacos in our home. It’s kinda funny because if you ask my three year old what he wants for dinner he always says tacos. What’s not to love about tacos? We usually have tacos as a clever way to disguise leftovers. Whether it’s leftover shredded chicken, fish, or brisket – corn tortilla tacos with an assortment of toppings works every time. Our kids love garnishing their own tacos.

As I was playing with empanda recipes in the fall I tested savory empanada recipes, but for some reason our empanada dough recipe didn’t seem to do the savory fillings justice, so I did some research. Then I read about molotes. Have you ever heard of molotes? When I heard the word molotes I thought of hair buns, because that’s what we call them. Molotes (the food) are a common street food, found in Oaxaca during Easter and Christmas time. They are made with a disk of fresh masa then usually filled with a chorizo and potato filling, fried, then topped with salsa, crema, queso fresco, and garnished with sliced radishes.

I’ve seen cigar and torpedo shaped molotes as well as balls of dough similar to hush puppies. I figured this was the perfect opportunity to test this idea with some leftover chicken tinga and the results were just short of miraculous. The masa flavor is similar to a sope and a gordita. My hubby loved them and said they reminded him of calzones. He was rattling off all kinds of filling ideas that we are both very excited about trying. So the next time you have leftovers and looking for a different way to polish them off, use your leftovers to fill these pockets of dough.

To make the molotes, the masa harina is mixed with a small amount of all-purpose flour, baking powder, shortening, and hot water. When soft dough is formed, it is divided into round balls and pressed with a tortilla press into disks. The disks are then filled with your filling of choice, deep fried to a golden brown, and served with your choice of toppings.

Molotes make the perfect party appetizer or main dish as they can be made ahead of time and frozen up to one month prior to frying.

Make them ahead of time and you’ll have a platter of crispy goodness. Once you’ve tried them, you won’t save them for a special occasion; they’re that yummy and so easy to make.

Check out some of these recipes we have on file for filling ideas:

Have you ever had a molote?


Yield: Makes 12


2 cups masa harina
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups warm water
Filling as desired
Vegetable oil to a depth of 1-inch


In a large bowl thoroughly mix the flours and baking powder. Add the shortening and salt and mix well. Add water to give the dough the consistency of soft cookie dough. Divide into 12 balls and cover with plastic wrap.

Using a tortilla press, flatten a ball of the dough between sheets of plastic to make a medium-large (5-inch) tortilla. Remove the top piece of plastic.

Add your desired filling to one side of the tortilla, then fold in half and press edges together with a fork creating a seal.

Shallow fry in a little oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side.

Drain on paper towels and keep warm in the oven at about 250 degrees F. Best when served warm.

Written by Yvette / Photos by Yvette

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  1. oh my gosh…i’m reading these recipes and it’s one hit after another…doing some cooking this weekend…going to try the brisket….thank u!

  2. Now I know what to do with some of that 5 pounds of masa in my cupboard. My guys would love these.

  3. Thanks for posting this…it would be a better choice for me as I slowly transfer to a gluten-free diet. I will have to come up with some vegetarian/vegan Spanish recipes now to accommodate everything 🙂

  4. While I have eaten molotes in Oaxaca, I have never tried to make them. Thanks for this recipe–I feel inspired!

  5. This looks wonderful! I love chicken tinga, but I have never had it in empanadas…definitely have to give this recipe a try, yum! 🙂

  6. These looks AMAZING!!

  7. These look delicious! 🙂 I’ve never heard of molotes, but I have made quesadillas on the comal with masa. I will have to try these next time. 🙂

  8. I just got back from vacationing in Oaxaca were I tried molotes. They are AMAZING! The ones I tried were stuffed with potato, chorizo and epazote. Thanks for the recipe, I will be trying these!

  9. I did the chicken tinga filling, and put it in the slow cooker instead of boiling it. Turned out awesome! I looove empanadas, never had a Mexican one before, but this was bomb.

  10. I made these for dinner tonight and they were absolutely delicious. I came on this site specifically for the dough recipe and i have to say its the best dough for fried empanadas I’ve ever tasted. Thank you so much! Blessings to you and your family.

    • Your sweet comment made our day Margo! I even posted it on our facebook wall. Its comments like these that make us very happy. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving such wonderful words.

  11. If you want to try the chorizo filling, according to Nibbles & Feasts, Soyrizo by El Burrito tastes just like chorizo but with 57% less calories from fat. 🙂


  13. I love empanadas and these ones look amazing!!!! The dough made with masa is definitely new for me. I’ll have to try it!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe with us. Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!!!

  14. What is masa harina ? Don’t think I have seen that in the USA.

  15. I am making these now and the dough is extremely sticky making it hard to form the balls. I added a little bit more flour to see if that would help but it didn’t. I now have the dough sitting in the refrigerator to see if it will become a bit stiffer so that I’ll be able to form a ball without all of the dough sticking to my hands. I first had these at a church event and they were so good I had to look the recipe up and try to make them myself. Hope it works out.

    • Hi Karma,

      This dough made of masa dries out very quickly so I wouldn’t recommend refrigerating it. If its wet all you have to do is add more masa harina. I hope they turned out okay for you. Please keep me posted.


    • I let mine sit out uncovered with a large surface area for about an hour and it was still like glue. Added another half cup of flour and masa and it was perfect. Excited to try these!

  16. my mom makes those, they are so good !!!

  17. Many Mexican recipes I have never heard of but want to try.

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