The Most Authentic Baked Pumpkin Empanada Recipe

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This pumpkin empanada recipe mixes authentic Mexican flavors of piloncillo (brown sugar), cinnamon and pumpkin to create a rich pocket full of flavor. This is the best tasting, most authentic baked empanada recipe in town!

Mexican baked empanadas with pumpkin filling

What is an empanada?

The empanada is Latin America’s version of a pastry turnover. It’s an individually portioned party in a pocket!

You can head over to my YouTube video to see the whole process for making these delicious treats.

An empanada can have either a sweet or savory filling. I always opt for the sweet empanada…unless you’re offering me a savory one.

Empanada dough with pumpkin empanada filling

You can find empanadas filled with a variety of meats, cheeses or fruit inside. Each region of Latin America also has its own spin on empanadas, with some baked and others fried.

When I lived in Argentina for a summer, I fell in love with the savory empanadas they served. I had never experienced eating those before, and I was in HEAV-EN! My mom had only made dessert empanadas for us, so my mind was blown.

Common empanada fillings include:

  • Ground beef with onions and peppers
  • Chicken (pollo)
  • Cheese (queso)
  • Pumpkin (calabaza)
  • Pineapple (piña)

My Empanada Story

I grew up with a fabulous chef for a mother. No, she has not (yet) achieved recognition from the James Beard committee or any other food critics.

Does she deserve recognition, though? Yes.

This pumpkin empanada originated with an old family friend who ran a Mexican bakery. Over the years, my mother modified the dough recipe to add brown sugar cane (piloncillo) and other ingredients to her liking.

Sealing the edges of a pumpkin empanada made with authentic dough recipe

It took some effort to document this baked empanada recipe, since my mom usually adds more or less of certain ingredients based on texture and taste. It’s the old fashioned way of cooking: feeling + intuition!

We documented the steps in painstaking detail, but we reserve the right to make tweaks and adjustments as we experiment with future batches. After all, isn’t that what all good chefs do?

Hopefully, you’ll share your ideas and suggestions with us, too!

You might also like my Baked Apple Empanadas or this traditional Mexican Oatmeal (Avena) Recipe.

Why pumpkin empanadas?

Pumpkin empanadas have deep roots here in Texas. Many local grocery chains and Mexican bakeries (panaderías) MUST carry pumpkin empanadas if they are going to offer a Mexican pastry assortment.

Not having pumpkin flavor in the mix would be like having a mariachi band without sombreros. Just no.

Poking holes in pumpkin empanada dough to create vent holes while baking
Creating vent holes in empanada before baking

There’s nothing like the smell of this Mexican empanada recipe. The flaky dough and smooth pumpkin and cinnamon filling make this my favorite type of sweet bread (pan dulce).

While most people think pumpkin is for fall, I’m bringing this family recipe to the world just in time for Cinco de Mayo because it’s always a good time for dessert empanadas.

These Empanadas are Gourmet

Let’s be clear. There’s no Keto here. There’s not an Instant Pot version. These are serious, “for real” empanadas for Mexican foodies.

Perhaps in the future, I’ll bring out the Instant Pot alternative recipe. But probably not.

Mexican baked empanadas using family recipe

If you came here for mouth-watering, pumpkin-oozing pastries that will make your whole house smell like a pumpkin spice latte exploded…this is it.

Tips for Following This Baked Empanada Recipe

There are a few tips you’ll want to follow when you make this recipe.

Empanada dough recipe before adding filling
Empanada dough before rolling
  1. The most important tip is to add only enough flour to make the empanada dough not sticky. Adding too much flour may result in a thicker, flakier crust but also risks the shell cracking.
  2. Don’t overfill the empanada with pumpkin filling. You’ll want to make sure you can completely seal the edges to prevent leaking.
  3. As with any recipe, you can experiment with adding more or less sugar or different amounts of piloncillo (dark brown sugar) to arrive at the perfect level of sweetness.

From my family to yours, enjoy baking your empanadas, and buen provecho!

Be sure to check out my summer fig preserves recipe, and other dessert recipes!

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Empanada dough recipe with pumpkin filling
Baked pumpkin empanadas in Mexican dishware

Authentic Baked Empanada Recipe

Yield: 15 empanadas
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

This authentic baked empanada recipe comes from a traditional Mexican-American chef who has perfected her technique over the course of 50+ years.

Try these dessert empanadas with pumpkin filling as shown, or substitute your favorite fruit for any occasion.

The empanada dough recipe is extremely versatile if you'd like to experiment with other fillings.

Ingredients

Empanada Spice Tea Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup piloncillo brown sugar cane, or 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp anise seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks

Empanada Dough Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 0.6 ounce cake yeast, see recipe notes
  • 2 3/4 cup bread flour, may substitute all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 ounces spice tea, see recipe above

Empanada Pumpkin Filling Ingredients

  • 1 can pumpkin, 15-ounce can
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon, or to taste

Instructions

Make Empanada Spice Tea

  1. If using traditional brown sugar cane (piloncillo), you'll need to break it into smaller chunks with a mallet.
  2. Pour 1 cup of water into saucepan and add 3 cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, 2 tablespoons of anise seeds and piloncillo (or dark brown sugar). Bring to a slow boil.
  3. Let boil for about 5 minutes and turn off heat. Let steep until lukewarm. Then, strain the mixture and preserve the liquid.

Empanada Dough Recipe

  1. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients except for yeast (flour, salt, and baking powder).
  2. Create yeast paste: Separately, crumble 1 cube of cake yeast (0.6 ounces) with a small amount of flour and blend together with fingers until it creates a thick paste.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and shortening with hand mixer until well blended.
  4. Add yeast paste to the sugar and shortening mixture. Then, add 4 ounces of the spice tea. Continue to mix.
  5. Gradually add in the flour mixture, and continue mixing to make a soft dough until it is not too sticky to the touch. Empanada dough recipe before adding filling
  6. Cover dough with a soft tea towel until ready to use.

Pumpkin Empanada Filling Recipe

  1. Add sugar and cinnamon to pumpkin pie filling and blend with a spoon.

Make the empanada turnovers

  1. Divide dough into small balls, then roll out the dough into 5-inch circles.
  2. Place about 1-2 tablespoons of pumpkin filling into bottom-middle half of empanada leaving enough room to crimp edges and seal pocket. Empanada dough with pumpkin empanada filling
  3. Fold over top half and press the edges together well. Sealing the edges of a pumpkin empanada made with authentic dough recipe
  4. Transfer to a greased baking sheet and pierce tops of empanadas 2-3 times with a fork to create vent holes. Poking holes in pumpkin empanada dough to create vent holes while baking
  5. Cover with a tea towel and let rise 1 hour before baking. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  6. 7.Bake at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. (You may also choose to bake the empanadas at 375ºF for 15-20 minutes if pressed for time.) 

Notes

Cake yeast is not as widely available as dry yeast and must remain refrigerated until ready to use. For this reason, you may choose to use dry yeast instead. To create your yeast paste, moisten 1 packet (1/4 ounce) of dry yeast with 1 tablespoon or less of warm water, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, mix it with the sugar and shortening mixture and continue the recipe.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 15 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 220

Did you make this recipe?

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26 Comments

  1. These are absolutely delicious. We have made these at least 6 times since finding this recipe, and I’ve been showing it off to anyone that comes over. Ha ha ha My mother in law also makes empanadas by memory, and I have been trying to get her recipe right for a while now. I finally decided to try, these because I kept getting her recipe wrong.(Always just a tad off) But one day I gave her a batch of these to try and she was completely wowed. Even called me up a few hours later to tell me how they were so good and out did hers. Anyone who knows my mother in law knows she wouldn’t give that complement lightly. Lol We did make one very small change, which was sweet potato filling since that is what my mother in law uses when pumpkins aren’t in season. Growing some pumpkins out back so I can try, it with fresh pumpkin as soon as they are ready. Gotta remember to strain all the extra liquid out though so I don’t have wet empanadas. Ha ha

    Anyway thank you for the recipe it is amazing!

    1. Wow, Jenn! You totally made my day today! I really appreciate you sharing your experience with me. This blog is a labor of love, and sharing our family recipes brings me great joy. When I hear from someone like you, it makes it all worth it. I haven’t tried sweet potato filling, but I imagine it would taste great too. I hope you and your mother-in-law enjoy making empanadas for many years to come! Best wishes, Crissy

  2. I made these last night and they were great! For anyone who is intimidated by this recipe…don’t be! I have baked many things from scratch and even I sat on this recipe for about a week until I finally just dove in. I’m glad I did! It is actually a very easy recipe! It all came together quickly and the hardest part was waiting for them to bake! Delicious! The dough is sweet enough and flavorful with the tea! The pumpkin filling is so good too! Who knew adding just cinnamon and sugar would flavor the filling so much! I am currently enjoying one with my coffee. I heated it this morning and they’re amazing! My only gripe is that it did not make enough empanadas!! Next time, I will double the recipe 😀 Thank you so much!!!

    1. Hi Lindsey! This has to be one of the nicest comments anyone has left on my site! I’m so thrilled that you liked the empanadas. They are near and dear to my heart since my mom and I made them together. I love eating them warm too.

      I hope you continue to enjoy them! Thanks again for the kind words and encouragement to others!!

      P.S. You might also enjoy trying my recent apple empanadas recipe. Totally different dough and flavor! https://www.firstdayofhome.com/baked-apple-empanadas/

      Best wishes, Crissy

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I made these in honor of my Nana Carmen. For a long time I was searching for a pic that would resemble her empanadas. Your looked it and they tasted like hers!! Thank you!

    1. Hi Sarah! Wow, that means so much. My family and I have a lot of memories and feelings tied up in our food and recipes. My mother will be so pleased to know that we helped remind you of your Nana Carmen. Truly it makes my day. Enjoy your empanadas! Best wishes, Crissy

  4. So i tried out your recipe, and the dough seemed to tear apart when i worked with it (i.e., to get it into circles to fill). does that mean i’ve used too much flour?

    1. Hi Julie. Thanks for trying the recipe! If it’s crumbling or cracking a lot when you roll it out, you might need to add a little more of the liquid. So yes, it’s possible you added too much flour if it seems very dry. If it’s very sticky, however, that’s a sign to add more flour. Let me know if that helps!

    1. Donna, thank you so much for the kind comment! This recipe is special to me because it’s one my mother has perfected over many years. We’re thrilled that others will enjoy it.

  5. We visited the Domican this past summer and my son loved their empanadas, so in visiting your blog( so much inspiration) I am going to try making your pumpkin empanadas! Wish me luck☺️

    1. Donna, I’m so excited that you’re going to try the recipe! There are many different types of empanadas across Latin America, and these are more of a Mexican style. I’d love to know how they compare to those in the Dominican. Don’t hesitate to e-mail again if you have any questions as you get started. I can’t wait to see how your empanadas turn out!

      1. So I followed Recipes from YouTube and my empanadas had no flavor I used a whole real pumpkin so that all went to waste I am currently working on your recipe I cannot wait and I am using the Punkin from the Cannes thank you

        1. Hi Yvette! Well, I hope you have better luck with this recipe. I think the canned pumpkin works a lot better than using real pumpkin, and you’ll love the flavor of the spice tea in the empanada (I hope). Please reach out if you have any questions. Sometimes cake yeast is very hard to find in stores, but you should be able to substitute dry yeast. Good luck!

          1. Omg. Awesome empanadas. The dry yeast worked perfectly. My favorite bread and I love to bake so this was very reasonable recipe. All the ones on youtube are horrible confusing and no flavor or misleading. I used a egg wash on the dough before baking. Thank you.

          2. Yay! I’m so glad to hear that. I used an egg wash for my apple empanadas, which is a completely different crust. (I think that crust might be a little too flaky, so I’m still experimenting.) Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the empanadas! Best wishes, Crissy

  6. Oh. my. gosh. DO you deliver??? These look amazing! I never associated empanadas with dessert flavors as I’ve only encountered the savory variety. Dessert empanadas AND pumpkin and spice flavors? Perfection! Thanks for this recipe-definitely adding it to my recipe files!

    1. Ha ha! I should start delivering these, huh? They are divine, Janet! Pumpkin empanadas are very common in Texas, but I did fall in love with Argentine savory empanadas when I lived there. You must try these sometime!

  7. Talk about yum! Pumpkin desserts are my fave, and this is going to the top of my list! Maybe a new Thanksgiving family treat!