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!
What is an empanada?
The empanada is Latin America’s version of a pastry turnover. It’s an individually portioned party in a pocket!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
- The most important one is to add only enough flour to not make the empanada dough sticky. Adding too much flour may result in a thicker, flakier crust but also risks the shell cracking.
- Don’t overfill the empanada with pumpkin filling. You’ll want to make sure you can completely seal the edges to prevent leaking.
- 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 don’t forget to pin this for later!
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
Make Empanada Spice Tea
- If using traditional brown sugar cane (piloncillo), you'll need to break it into smaller chunks with a mallet.
- 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.
- 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
- In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients except for yeast (flour, salt, and baking powder).
- 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.
- In a separate bowl, mix sugar and shortening with hand mixer until well blended.
- Add yeast paste to the sugar and shortening mixture. Then, add 4 ounces of the spice tea. Continue to mix.
- Gradually add in the flour mixture, and continue mixing to make a soft dough until it is not too sticky to the touch.
- Cover dough with a soft tea towel until ready to use.
Pumpkin Empanada Filling Recipe
- Add sugar and cinnamon to pumpkin pie filling and blend with a spoon.
Make the empanada turnovers
- Divide dough into small balls, then roll out the dough into 5-inch circles.
- Place about 1-2 tablespoons of pumpkin filling into bottom-middle half of empanada leaving enough room to crimp edges and seal pocket.
- Fold over top half and press the edges together well.
- Transfer to a greased baking sheet and pierce tops of empanadas 2-3 times with a fork to create vent holes.
- Cover with a tea towel and let rise 1 hour before baking. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- 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.)
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