Deep-Fried Masa Turnovers with Cheese



  • 1 pound fresh masa or 1 3/4 cups Masa Harina* mixed with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup flour*
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 scant teaspoon baking powder

* Use 1/3 cup flour if using Masa Harina.


  • 2 1/2 cups grated Monterey jack or mild Cheddar cheese
  • 12 leaves epazote


  1. Dough: If using Masa Harina, mix it with the hot water, cover and let stand 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Mix the fresh masa with the lard or shortening, flour, salt and baking powder. If necessary, correct the consistency of the dough. Divide into 12 balls and cover with plastic wrap.
  3. Filling: Divide the filling into 12 portions. Press each portion into a flat oval, about 2 x 2 1/2 inches. Using a tortilla press, flatten a ball of the dough between sheets of plastic to make a 5-inch thick tortilla. Remove the top piece of the plastic. Lay one portion of filling across half the uncovered tortilla, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Top with a leaf of epazote. Slip your hand under the plastic beneath the uncovered side of the tortilla, then carefully fold the tortilla over the filling. Press the edges together to seal.
  4. Peel the plastic off the top of the turnover, then flip the turnover onto one hand, uncovered side down ,and peel the plastic off the bottom. Lay on plastic wrap on the counter. Continue making the remaining masa balls into turnovers and lay each one apart from the next to ensure easy retrieval. Cover with plastic.
  5. Heat oil to 375 degrees F, then fry the turnovers 2 at a time, until browned, about 2 minutes per side.
  6. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a slow oven until all are ready.
  7. Serve immediately.

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