Mexican Pumpkin Empanadas (empanadas de calabaza)

These Mexican pumpkin empanadas are stuffed with an aromatic and delicious pumpkin mixture and coated with brown sugar and cinnamon. A hearty and warm treat that is perfect to enjoy with Mexican coffee!

Mexican pumpkin empanadas piled in a wooden board.

What Are Empanadas?

Empanadas are a classic Mexican and Latin American treat made with either baked or fried dough.

The fillings vary and can be either sweet made with fruits, seeds, and other ingredients, or savory with vegetables, meat, and cheese.

The pumpkin empanadas I am sharing with you today is a popular pan dulce recipe in Mexico which is called empanadas de calabaza and is made specially during the celebrations of Día de Muertos.

Those sweet turnovers are mostly enjoyed along with traditional Mexican atole or other sweet, hot drinks such as coffee, champurrado, etc.

Empanadas de calabaza, aka pumpkin empanadas, opened showing the filling.

Fresh or canned pumpkin puree?

Is really up to you, empanadas de calabaza can be made with either homemade pumpkin puree or store-bought.

I like to make the filling myself using fresh pumpkin, first because is cheap at this time of the year, and second, because is also easy to make and I really enjoy cooking most things from scratch (when I have the time, of course).

But, if for whatever reason you don’t want to make the filling from scratch, swap fresh pumpkin for 2 cans of spiced pumpkin puree and just cook it with the spices as instructed in the recipe below.

Fresh pumpkin cut into chunks on a cutting board.

How To Make Pumpkin Empanadas

Make the filling:

Place the pumpkin chunks in a medium pot and add piloncillo, the cinnamon stick, and anise star.

Pour in 1/4 cup of water, cover the pot, and set the heat to medium-low.

The raw pumpkin with piloncillo, anise star, and cinnamon in a cooking pan.

Allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes, mixing from time to time to dissolve piloncillo and until the pumpkin becomes nicely tender.

Once done, remove the cinnamon stick and anise star.

Pumpkin chunks cooked after 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the nutmeg and whole cloves powder, mix, and then use a potato masher to roughly mash the pumpkin.

Keep cooking uncovered while stirring from time to time until you will have a thick and dense mixture as in the photo below.

Allow to mixture to reach room temperature while you continue with the recipe.

The spiced pumpkin filling already cooked on a pan.

NOTE: If you want to use canned pumpkin, first chop the piloncillo or use packed brown sugar, then stir it with powdered spices (do not use water!). Cook until you will have a thick jam-like mixture. (see photo above).

Make the empanada dough

Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor or a stand mixer.

Pulse two times to combine. Add butter and shortening (make sure both are cold from the fridge) and pulse a few times to form a crumbly mixture as in the picture below.

The crumbly dough mixture in a food processor.

Add the egg yolk and cream, and pulse a few times until a clumpy dough forms.

The clumpy dough on a food processor.

NOTE: You can also make the pastry dough by hand, you just need a fork to integrate the butter and shortening with the dry ingredients, then combine quickly the wet ingredients to form the dough.

Transfer the dough onto a floured and smooth surface and quickly knead it into a ball.

Empanada dough ball on a marble surface.

Wrap the dough with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Do some prep:

  • Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat.
  • Cut two squares about 6×6-inch (15x15cm) from a plastic bag. You’ll need those to make the pastries.
  • Mix about 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoon of ground cinnamon on a deep plate.
  • Make an egg wash whisking together the milk and egg in a small bowl.
  • Last, preheat the oven to 360°F (180°C).

Make the empanadas de calabaza

Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a floured surface. Divide the dough into 14 pieces and then flour your hands and roll each piece into a ball.

Empanada dough balls on a plate.

Now, place a dough ball on one of the plastic squares, cover with the other and slightly press with your hand to make a small patty.

Making an empanada patty with a dough ball between two sheets of plastic.

Using a heavy dish, press the dough to form a flat disc. You can also use a tortilla press to do this step.

Flatting the dough patty with a heavy dish.

Peel the top square gently, then add some pumpkin filling in the middle of the disc and fold one side over to make the half-moon shape.

With the empanada still covered with plastic, press the borders to seal it well.

A collage with two photos of pumpkin empanadas preparation.

Now, gently place the empanada on one hand and peel the last plastic sheet. Then, take the edge and carefully twist it to make the repulge (the braided edge).

Making the braid on a pumpkin empanada.

NOTE: This step is optional and actually you can skip it if you just pinch the edges of each empanada with a fork to seal it and make a simple decoration.

Place the empanada on a baking sheet and repeat the steps until all dough and pumpkin pie filling are used.

Raw pumpkin empanadas on a tray.

Brush the empanadas de calabaza with the egg wash and make some small holes on the top with a toothpick to allow the steam to get out while baking.

A collage with two photos of brushing egg wash and pinching with a toothpick the pumpkin empanadas.

Bake between 25 and 30 minutes or until the pastries are slightly browned on all sides.

Just baked empanadas de calabaza, aka pumpkin empanadas, on a baking tray.

As soon as the empanadas de calabaza are out of the oven, coat them in the sugar and cinnamon mixture carefully.

Don’t allow the empanadas to cool down or the sugar won’t stick to them.

Pumpkin empanadas coated with sugar and cinnamon powder on a deep plate.

Place the pastries in a cooling rack. You can now eat them while they’re still warm or store them as suggested below.

Baked pumpkin empanadas in a cooling rack.

What To Serve With Pumpkin Empanadas

This Mexican sweet treat is often served along with hot drinks for breakfast or merienda. Here are our recommendations:

  • Café de olla. Mexican clay pot coffee flavored with cinnamon, anis star, and whole cloves.
  • Champurrado. A thick and hot beverage made of corn masa and chocolate.
  • Atole. There are many versions of this traditional drink, we recommend corn atole or oat atole.

You can also serve empanadas de calabaza as a dessert with some whipped cream on the side or drizzle them with homemade cajeta.

Close up of empanadas de calabaza.

How To Store And Reheat

  • First, make sure your empanadas de calabaza are completely cooled down, as any heat left could create moisture that can spoil quickly the pastries.
  • Then place them in an air-tight container and store them on the kitchen countertop for up to 3 days.
  • If the temperature of your kitchen is too warm (like 80°F/27°C and up), better store the pastries in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • If you want to freeze them, first wrap them tightly with cling film, transfer them to a resealable bag, and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.

For reheating: If frozen, first thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C, and heat the pumpkin empanadas for about 10 minutes. Or use the microwave in 1-minute intervals until they are heated through.

FAQ

What is empanada pastry made of?

The empanada dough for our recipe is made of all-purpose flour, butter, egg yolk, sour cream, and brown sugar.

Are pumpkin empanadas vegan?

Not in most cases, because butter, cream, and eggs are often used to make the dough.

Are empanadas from Spain or Mexico?

Empanadas have their origins in Spain during the time of the Moorish invasions. But, there is evidence that the first reference to empanadas was found in Persia back in 100 BC.
You can go to this blog and read more about the origin of the empanada.

What is the difference between Spanish empanadas and Mexican empanadas?

Mostly the ingredients to make the dough, most Mexican empanada recipes will make the dough using lard (manteca de puerco), while the Spanish version will use butter.

Also, many Mexican versions of this pastry will use nixtamalized corn dough to make them, such as empanadas fritas.

Similar Recipes

Mexican pumpkin empanadas recipe.

Mexican Pumpkin Empanadas (empanadas de calabaza)

author Maricruz
Those Mexican pumpkin empanadas are made from scratch. Filled with homemade spiced pumpkin puree, they are the perfect sweet treat for fall.
prep 30 minutes
cook 1 hour
total 1 hour 30 minutes
serving 14

Ingredients 

  • 2 lb pumpkin (clean and cut into chunks)
  • 4 oz piloncillo
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 anise star
  • ½ Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup water

For the dough

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup butter
  • cup sour cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt

For the decoration

  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • sugar
  • ground cinnamon

Instructions
 

Make the filling:

  • Place pumpkin in a medium pan and add, piloncillo, cinnamon, and anise star (read note 1).
  • Pour in water, cover the pan, and let gently simmer for 20 minutes while mixing one or two times.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and anise star. Add nutmeg and cinnamon powder.
  • Using a potato masher, mash roughly the pumpkin.
  • Keep cooking uncovered while stirring from time to time until you’ll have a thick and dense mixture.
  • Set aside and allow to mixture to reach room temperature.

Make the dough:

  • In a food processor place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse two times to combine.
  • Add butter and pulse a few times to form a crumbly mixture.
  • Add egg yolk and cream, and pulse again until a clumpy dough forms (read note 2).
  • Transfer the dough onto a floured and smooth surface and quickly knead it into a ball.
  • Wrap the dough with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Prep:

  • Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat.
  • Cut two squares about 6×6-inch (15x15cm) from a plastic bag.
  • Mix about ½ cup of sugar and 1 ½ tablespoon of ground cinnamon on a deep plate.
  • Make an egg wash whisking together the milk and egg in a small bowl.
  • Last, preheat the oven to 360°F (180°C).

Make the pumpkin empanadas:

  • Remove the dough from the fridge, divide it into 14 pieces and then flour your hands and roll each piece into a ball.
  • Place a dough ball on one of the plastic squares, cover with the other and slightly press with your hand to make a small patty.
  • Using a heavy dish, press the dough to form a flat disc (read note 3).
  • Peel the top square gently, then add some pumpkin filling in the middle of the disc.
  • Fold over to make a half-moon and press the borders to seal well the empanada.
  • Gently place the empanada on one hand and peel the last plastic.
  • Take the edge and carefully twist it to make the braided edge (read note 4).
  • Place the empanada on a baking sheet and repeat the steps with all dough and filling.
  • Brush all empanadas de calabaza with the egg wash and make some small holes on the top with a toothpick.

Bake:

  • Bake between 20 and 25 minutes or until the pastries are slightly browned on all sides.
  • As soon as empanadas are out of the oven, coat them in the sugar and cinnamon mixture carefully.
  • You can now eat them while they’re still warm or place them in a cooling rack and store them for later.

Notes

  1. If you use canned pumpkin, you’ll need to chop the piloncillo or use packed brown sugar, then add it to a pan with powdered spices and cook until you’ll have a thick jam-like mixture.
  2. You can also make the dough by hand, you just need a fork to integrate the butter and shortening with the dry ingredients, then knead quickly the wet ingredients to form the dough.
  3. You can also use a tortilla press to make the dough discs.
  4. This step is optional and actually, you can skip it if you just pinch the edges of each empanada with a fork to seal it and make a simple decoration.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 236kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 226mg | Potassium: 271mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 6028IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 2mg
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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I had some leftover homemade pumpkin puree from a failed donuts recipe I tried and I didn’t want it to go bad, these would be perfect for it. I need to make sure I don’t overstuff mine, I always end up adding too much filling in these.