Sweet pumpkin purée tucked inside of a soft pastry dough make this pumpkin empanada recipe the only one you’ll ever need. They are the perfect hand-held fall treat, filled with cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar.
Learn how to make pumpkin empanadas with real pumpkin completely from scratch with step by step instructions. They taste just like the ones you’ll find in any Mexican bakery. If you’re craving the empanadas you grew up eating, you’re in the right place.
You can also find a recipe for easy pumpkin empanadas for those days when your energy does not match your craving.
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How to prepare pumpkin for empanadas
Fresh pumpkin empanadas do require a little more work than using canned pumpkin. Most recipes call for boiling the pumpkin in a sugar syrup, but I like to roast the pumpkin instead.
Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the pumpkin, without making it watery.
Split the pumpkin in half and scrape out the seeds. Then cut each half into quarters and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until soft, then scoop out the flesh.
Pumpkin filling for empanadas
If you want to learn how to make pumpkin filling from scratch for empanadas, there are no shortage of ways to do it. This is how I have always done it, which is not the traditional method of boiling the pumpkin.
After the pumpkin has been roasted and the flesh has been scooped out, combine it with butter, sugar and spices. I use dark brown sugar, because it has more molasses in it than light brown sugar and has a deeper flavor. Use whichever brown sugar you prefer.
Pumpkin empanada dough recipe
To make this soft, bakery-style empanada dough, we’ll need the following ingredients:
When I’m making this particular dough, I like to add a bit of pumpkin spice to amp up the cinnamon flavor. If you prefer to keep your dough lighter in color, don’t add it, but it does make the dough really delicious.
The first step is to bloom the yeast. We need it to get active so it will do its job. I’ve included a photo of what it will look like, in case you’ve never done this before. The yeast will become foamy and it will expand, so you want to make sure you have a small bowl set aside for it.
Next, sift all of the dry ingredients together into a mixing bowl. Finally, add the wet ingredients to the bowl and stir it to make a crumbly dough.
This is what the dough will look like before it is kneaded. It will look like it’s never going to come together – it will. Trust me.
And just like that, after a few minutes of kneading, it becomes a beautiful, soft dough ready to roll out and fill. This dough makes authentic sweet pumpkin empanadas like the ones you’d find at a Mexican panadería, or bakery.
How to make pumpkin empanadas from scratch
Homemade pumpkin empanadas start with a soft, bakery-style empanada dough. Once the dough has rested for 3o minutes, it’s time to roll it out.
Roll each piece into a ball, borrowing a little from another piece if needed to make them as even as possible. Use your rolling pin to roll each ball of dough into a small 3″ – 4″ circle.
Place a bit of pumpkin filling in the middle of the dough disk, seal and bake.
Tips and tricks for success
There are a couple of suggestions to making this empanada de calabaza, or pumpkin empanada recipe.
First, the dough may be sticky when you are kneading – DO NOT ADD MORE FLOUR. Sorry for yelling, but this is very important. If it is sticky, just be patient. It will come together into a smooth ball of dough. Adding more flour will make it dry and you’ll be disappointed.
When rolling the dough out, lightly dust the counter. I like to use a small fine mesh sieve for this so I’m not too heavy-handed with the flour. For the same reason as above.
If it happens to be a warm, humid day, chill the dough before rolling out. I have made these on a hot day, I speak from experience.
Sign up for the empanada class online and cook along with me. You can watch anytime! Permanent access to the class. Rewind, pause or fast-forward – learn at your own pace. Learn to make two types of empanada dough, a sweet filling and a savory filling – all from scratch!
This recipe might seem a little daunting at first, but it’s not difficult. And you will be rewarded with delicious empanadas to enjoy with your coffee.
More fall recipes
- Día de los muertos cupcakes – Mexican chocolate cupcakes decorated with sugar skulls.
- Frosted pumpkin cookies – Soft pumpkin cookies frosted with a buttery cinnamon icing.
- Pumpkin applesauce muffins – This sparkly muffin is loaded with warm fall spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Pumpkin tacos with black beans – Roasted pumpkin tossed with chili powder and cumin makes these tacos delicious!
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Pumpkin empanada filling
- 1 calabaza squash (you can substitute pie pumpkin, butternut or kabocha squash)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 c. dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Soft empanada dough
- 1 tsp. dry active yeast
- 1/4 c. warm water
- 1/4 c. + 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 c. AP flour + extra for rolling out (bench flour)
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened (5 1/2 tbsp.)
- 1 egg, room temp. (+ 1 egg for egg wash, if desired)
- 1/3 c. whole milk, room temp.
- 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, optional
- 2 tbsp. cinnamon sugar, optional
Make empanada filling
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C / Gas Mark 4.
- Cut calabaza in half and use a large spoon to scoop out seeds. Cut each half into 4 pieces.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment and put the pieces skin down on tray.
- Drizzle calabaza with olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper.
- Roast, covered with foil, for 1 - 1 1/2 hrs., or until you can easily pierce with a knife.
- Let cool slightly, until you can easily handle the squash, then use a spoon to scoop the flesh away from the skin.
- In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and remaining salt. Stir to combine, then add 2 cups roasted calabaza flesh.
- Use a potato masher to combine spices into squash, then set aside to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Make dough and assemble empanadas
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 177°C / Gas Mark 4
- Add 1/2 tsp. sugar to 1/4 c. warm water and stir to dissolve. Add 1 tsp. yeast to sugar water and stir to mix. Set aside to bloom for 10 minutes.
- Sift 2 1/4 c. flour with 1/4 c. sugar, 1 tsp. salt and pumpkin pie spice, if using, into a large mixing bowl.
- Add softened butter, using a fork to cut butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.
- Whisk egg into milk, then add to flour mixture. Use fork to partially work milk/egg mixture into dough.
- Pour in bloomed yeast and water mixture. Use fork to mix dough until liquids are fully incorporated.
- Lightly knead dough in bowl with an oiled/buttered hand. DOUGH MAY BE VERY STICKY. Use a bench scraper to gather dough back into a ball. Knead the dough as best as you can for about 8 -10 minutes. DO NOT ADD MORE FLOUR.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes. (If it is a hot day - refrigerate).
- Lightly dust counter with flour and turn dough out onto counter. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and shape into a rectangle.
- Using your bench scraper, divide dough into 12 equal portions and roll into balls.
- Lightly dust your rolling pin with flour and roll each dough ball into a 3 - 4-inch circle. Add 1 1/2 tbsp. filling, then fold over and seal empanada by pinching edges closed or using a fork to crimp the edges.
- Brush with egg wash, if desired, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if using. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, or until golden brown.
How to store empanadas:
Store these as you would any pie. I live in a warm and humid climate, so I don't store things on the counter for more than a couple of days because they tend to spoil quickly.
To store for longer than a week, you can freeze for up to 3 months.
Filling can be made a day or two ahead of time. Store in an airtight container in fridge.
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Serving Size:1 empanada
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 233Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 402mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 2gSugar: 14gProtein: 4g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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