Panuchos con Queso y Flor de Calabasa

Corn Empanadas with Cheese and Zucchini Flowers

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Amor y Tacos

Amor y Tacos

By Deborah Schneider

Published 2010

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Half-moon-shaped panuchos are a variation on a Yucatecan recipe made from fresh corn masa dough, stuffed with a delicious filling of gooey cheese and delicate zucchini flowers, fried until crisp, and served topped with black beans, crema, and salsa. (In the Yucatán, the beans are frequently on the inside.) The filling used here is typically Mexican, but you might come up with your own, less traditional variations. Lard is often used for frying panuchos, but vegetable oil or shortening or a combination, may be substituted here. For a leaner version, cook them on a lightly oiled griddle; they will become more like traditional quesadillas.


  • Spicy masa
  • 4 ounces crumbled cotixa cheese (divided use)
  • 16 large zucchini flowers (see note)
  • 5 ounces shredded Oaxaca or Jack cheese
  • ¼ cup epazote leaves, finely shredded
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • Fresh lard*, vegetable shortening, or oil, for frying
  • Black beans
  • ½ cup crema fresca or sour cream
  • Pico de gallo
  • Sliced pickled jalapeños
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce (optional)


  1. Form the masa into 12 equal pieces, each about the size of a golf ball, cover, and set aside. Measure out ¼ cup of the cotixa cheese and set it aside for finishing the dish.
  2. Rinse the zucchini flowers quickly in a bowl of cold water, drain, and pat dry with a clean towel. Roughly chop the flowers into ½-inch pieces.
  3. Mix the remaining cotixa cheese, the Oaxaca cheese, epazote, and green onions. Toss the mixture with the zucchini blossoms.
  4. Line a tortilla press with plastic squares (squares cut from clean, unused plastic grocery bags work well). Gently press out a masa ball to about inches in diameter. Leave the masa on the plastic. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on one side of the masa circle. Use the plastic to fold the masa circle in half, and gently press down all over the panucho, lightly compressing the cheese and completely sealing edges around it. Peel off the plastic and set the panucho on a cookie sheet; cover with a dry kitchen towel.
  5. Repeat the proecess with the remaining masa. If the masa begins to crack, dip two fingers into water and work the moisture well into the dough ball before pressing. At this point, the panuchos may be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
  6. In a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat, melt enough lard to have it a ½-inch deep. Fry the panuchos in the lard on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Drain briefly on paper towels.
  7. Serve the panuchos hot, topped with a spoonful of beans, a dab of cream, a generous spoonful of pico de gallo, the reserved cotixa cheese, the jalapeños, and the shredded lettuce on top for crunch, if you like.

*Fresh lard is sometimes available at Mexican supermarkets with delis, where it is a by-product of carnitas. It is semi-liquid and has a wonderful “roast pork” flavor. White lard may be substituted.


  • Add chopped cooked chorizo or shrimp in step 3.
  • Add a slice of raw serrano chile to each panucho just before folding it in half.