How could you go wrong with apples and cinnamon? These baked apple empanadas combine both ingredients in perfect harmony. With a scoop of ice cream or caramel on the side, it just might become your favorite dessert!
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If you’re new to my blog, you may not know that I’m a Mexican food fanatic! I share a mix of decor and crafts on this site, but authentic Mexican recipes hold a special place in my heart because it’s part of my heritage. This recipe for apple empanadas (Mexican pastry turnovers) is no exception.
Easy Apple Empanadas Recipe
This recipe was originally shared as a collaboration among bloggers, organized by my friend Rachelle from My Hubbard Home. You’ll find a collection of other sweet treats and savory dishes at the end of this post. If you’re visiting from dear friend Paula at Virginia Sweet Pea, welcome, and thanks for coming over to visit!
Whereas my pumpkin empanadas had a soft and tender crust, these empanadas have a lighter and flakier crust. Some people prefer empanadas with puff-pastry dough, but this dough recipe is based on an all-butter pie crust. However, I substitute a portion of butter for shortening to get a flaky but stable crust that can contain the apple filling.
The recipe also requires pre-cooking the apple filling before baking. To make the filling, you can use Mexican piloncillo (brown sugar) or regular brown sugar. I prefer to use light brown sugar, as I think it allows the natural sweetness of the apples to shine through without too much richness. You can decide which you prefer.
Enjoy these empanadas à la mode or with a serving of fresh whipped cream, much like you would mini apple pies.
Step 1: Make the Empanada Dough
Begin by cutting the butter into cubes, and chill the butter and shortening in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15 minutes.
After mixing the dry ingredients, add the chilled butter and shortening and pulse until the dough begins to clump together. Then add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in bean-size clumps. The colder the water, the better.
Butter vs. Shortening
You can substitute shortening and butter in a 1:1 ratio when baking. Butter adds softness and rich flavor while shortening maintains the dough shape better.
Once the dough comes together, remove it from the food processor, and turn the dough on a floured surface until combined. Divide the dough in half, and form a disc shape with each half. Cover each disc in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight.
Step 2: Make the apple filling
Dice the apples into 1/2-inch cubes, and combine with brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small pot. You can also add a dash of nutmeg or ground cloves if desired.
Cook the apples over medium heat until the mixture is well blended but the apples remain firm in the center (15-20 minutes).
Let the apple filling cool completely before assembling the empanadas. You can also refrigerate the mixture for 5-7 days.
Tips & Tricks
- You have plenty of apple choices for this recipe. I love using Granny Smith apples for baking due to the slight tartness of the flavor and good texture. This apple variety doesn’t get overly mushy unless you cook it longer in the pot.
- Cut smaller apple cubes to get more filling in your small pastry pockets. This also results in a smoother, less lumpy empanada.
- Got leftover filling? For a fun party appetizer, buy mini filo dough shells, fill them with the apple mixture, and top them with whipped cream. You can use the same recipe as apple pie filling if you want to make an entire pie instead.
Step 3: Assemble the Empanadas for Baking
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Then remove one “disc” of dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. I like to divide the disc into 8 equal segments to make empanadas of equal size. (Since you have two discs of dough, this would make 16 empanadas total.)
Form each segment into a ball, then roll it out with a rolling pin to create a circle about 1/8-inch thick. Add flour as needed to prevent sticking. You can return the remaining balls of dough to the refrigerator as you work if needed.
3-Step Apple Empanada Folding
- Fill the center of the circles with about 1 tablespoon of apple filling, leaving enough space to seal the edges.
- Fold one edge of the dough over to create a crescent shape. Leave the top edge a bit shorter than the bottom edge.
- Roll up the bottom edge to cover the top edge and keep rolling or crimping along the edges, much like you would with a pie. You can also use a fork to seal the edges, but avoid pressing the edges too thin to prevent excess browning.
The art of the empanada lies in how you shape and seal it. You can experiment with different techniques, from crimping with a fork to spiral folding to scalloped edges.
Step 4: Bake the Empanadas
Place the empanadas on a baking sheet, either greased or lined with parchment paper. (You may also use a silicone baking mat.) Then, cut a few small slits in the top of the empanadas to release steam while baking.
The final (optional) step before baking empanadas is to brush on an egg wash and sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon sugar on top. Use large sugar crystals or turbinado sugar for more visual appeal and texture.
I use egg whites for my egg wash because this provides nice subtle browning without making the empanadas too shiny. You can also use a whole egg diluted with a bit of water.
One variation I’m planning to try is sprinkling sea salt and cinnamon on top. I think the combination of apples and sea salt might delight the senses! Let me know if you try it!
Bake the empanadas for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. While the first batch is baking, you can begin assembling the second batch of empanadas.
The best part about this recipe is you can make the dough ahead of time and leave it in the refrigerator for up to two days. The apple filling will last 5-7 days refrigerated in an airtight container.
Once you have prepared your apple turnovers, you can always freeze the unbaked empanadas on parchment paper to cook at a later date. They should last up to 3 months or so in the freezer, and you can bake them directly without thawing. I prefer freezing them before baking (as opposed to after baking) for the freshest, flakiest crust.
Freezing especially comes in handy when planning an event or holiday dinner. Who doesn’t love single-serve desserts at a party?!
One of my pet peeves is a cold apple empanada! I highly suggest eating them slightly warmed. If you can grab one about 5 minutes after it leaves the oven, even better!
Top your empanadas with homemade whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or a few sprinkles of ground cinnamon, and you’ll be in heaven! I’ve also been known to add a side of caramel sauce for an extra treat.
Pin it for later!
Baked Apple Empanada Recipe
- food processor
- pastry cutter optional
- 2-3 Granny Smith apples (about 1.2 lbs, peeled and diced in 1/2-inch cubes)
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- dash ground cloves or nutmeg (optional)
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp fine sea salt (may substitute table salt)
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¾ cups unsalted butter (1.5 sticks, chilled and cubed)
- 4 tbsp shortening
- 6-8 tbsp ice water (as needed)
- 1 egg white (to brush on top, optional)
- In a medium-sized pot, combine the diced apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1/4 of the cinnamon with a dash of ground cloves and/or nutmeg (optional).
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until the apples have released their juices but remain slightly firm on the inside and the mixture is well blended (about 15-20 minutes).
- Let the apple filling cool completely, or refrigerate for up to 5-7 days.
- Place cubed butter and shortening in the freezer for about 15 minutes to chill.
- In a food processor, combine flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Pulse slightly to mix. If you don’t own a food processor, you can simply stir the mixture and then use a pastry cutter to combine ingredients later.
- Add cold butter cubes and shortening. Then pulse until the mixture begins to clump into bean-size pieces.
- Add water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse gently until the dough comes together but is not overly moist.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface to combine. Then divide the dough in half and form each half into a flattened disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, divide it into 8 equal segments, and form each segment into a small ball. Roll the balls out into circles about 1/8-inch thick, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- Fill the dough with 1-2 tablespoons of apple filling, leaving enough gap to the edge to fold the pocket in half.
- Seal the edges of the empanada together forming a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges slightly with your fingers, or use a fork to seal the edges. Avoid pressing the edges too thin to prevent excess browning.
- Place the empanadas on a baking sheet, either greased or lined with parchment paper. Cut a few small slits in the top of the empanadas to release steam while baking.
- Optional: Brush the tops of the empanadas with egg white or an egg diluted with a small amount of water.
- Optional: Sprinkle additional cinnamon and sugar on top. You may use turbinado sugar or large sugar crystals for added visual appeal.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Can you substitute butter for shortening and vice-versa?
Yes, you can substitute butter and shortening in a ratio of 1:1. Shortening is a good vegan option that is also dairy-free. It results in a softer texture and does not change the flavor profile. Butter adds more flavor but can melt quicker, sometimes causing baked goods to flatten out. Using an all-butter crust may cause empanadas to break or crumble easily.
How do you fry apple empanadas?
You always have the option to fry your empanadas instead of baking them. To do this, I place your finished empanadas in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour before frying. Fry them for a few minutes on each side in canola oil or vegetable oil, flipping once, until the crust is golden brown. For a finishing touch, sprinkle the top with sugar and cinnamon immediately after frying.
Can you use an air fryer to bake empanadas?
Air fryers are another good option for finishing your little apple pies. The settings will typically require reducing the temperature by about 25°F/14°C (to about 350°F) and baking them in smaller batches for about 20% less time (18-20 minutes).
More Great Recipes!
I hope you enjoyed putting another recipe in your stash this season! Don’t forget my friends have plenty of good treats for you below. Next on your stop is my friend Carol from Bluesky at Home (bolded below).