Coconut Caramel Pulled Pork Empanadas

In my most recent post, I wrote about Marx Foods 100% grass fed beef, and when I visited their blog page, I noticed they started a new blogger recipe challenge.  This challenge looks really interesting as they send participating bloggers a sample of five random ingredients, and each must use two out of the five ingredients to make an original recipe.  As someone who is always up for a good challenge; especially when it comes to food, I thought I would throw my name into the hat and see what ingredients I'd end up with.  Days later, I got a package of these random ingredients: coconut sugar, auburn rice, juniper berries, Cacsabel chillies and crushed Guajillo chilies.  Right away I knew I would use one of the chilies since I love my food a little spicy; even though these chilies are very mild, I still want to use them to give the dish a little heat.  I then really want to make something with the coconut sugar, and thought it would be great if I could make a coconut caramel sauce in a savory dish.  At the same time, I'm thinking about a pie party that I'll be attending that is hosted by my friends Jackie and Ken.  This party's theme is to bring a pie either sweet or savory, and it could be any type of pies from tarts to hand pies, empanadas, etc.  So I thought somehow I would tie these ingredients to this pie event and create a recipe for the contest.  The pie party was held yesterday, and will be doing a future post on it at a later date.  So upon doing research on savory caramel sauce, I discovered a northern Vietnamese dish that braised pork belly with a caramel sauce.  I tested the recipe and even though the pork belly tasted great it was too fatty to be stuffed into a pie.  So I decided to slow roast a pork butt and make pulled pork empanadas with the caramel sauce.

Coconut Caramel Pulled Pork Empanadas
3-4 lbs of boneless pork butt
2 tsp of Chinese five-spice powder
5 stalks of scallions
6 pieces of ginger (1/4 in thick)
Salt and pepper

Coconut Caramel Sauce
1 1/2 cups of coconut sugar
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of fish sauce
1 tbsp of crushed Guajillo chilies

Empanada Dough (Yield about 24-30)
3 cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp of salt
1 stick of butter (4 oz) - small diced and keep cold
1/2 cup of ice water
2 eggs lightly beaten
For the pulled pork, preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Season the pork butt with Chinese five spice and generously season with salt and pepper.  Spread the scallions and ginger on the bottom of the roasting pan.  Place the seasoned pork on top of the herbs.  Cover and slow roast for 6-8 hours until the meat is falling off and easily pulled apart.  Reserve the meat for later use.  To prepare the sauce, add sugar and water in a heavy bottom sauce pan over moderately heat until the sugar is melted and the sugar begins to brown further and turns into caramel.  Slowly add the fish sauce and the Guajillo chilies.  Let it cook for a few more minutes and stir repeatedly.  Once the sauce is done, strain and combine it with the pull pork and set aside.  Prepare the empanada dough by combining the flour, salt and cold butter.  Rub the cold butter into the flour until it turns into a course meal consistency.  Then add the egg and ice water, knead the dough a few times until the dough comes together and shape into a round ball.  I used a food processor and pulse to combine as mentioned above until the dough came together.  Place the dough in the fridge and let it rest for at least an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the dough in half and set one half on the side and cover with a damp cloth to prevent the dough from drying out while work on the first half.  Roll out the dough on a flour surfaced into a rectangular shape until the dough is nice and thin about 1/8 or an inch.  Using a 4 1/2 inch round mold or use a round take out container (that's what I used) and cut each piece out and set aside.  Once all the pieces are shaped, fill the dough with the pulled pork filling, be careful not to over stuff.  Brush the edge with egg wash and fold the dough in half to form a semicircle.  Seal the edge with a fork to create a decorative rim.  Brush the empanadas with egg wash and bake 30 minutes or until golden brown.

I love the sweetness of the coconut sugar caramel and the saltiness of the fish sauce.  The sauce added the moisture it needed for the pull pork so after baking it with the dough, it didn't dry out the filling.  The pulled pork is so delicious with this coconut caramel sauce that you could definitely eat it by itself or make a sandwich with your favorite bread.  Enjoy!


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