Mexican Pumpkin Empanadas (empanadas de calabaza)

Pumpkin empanadas are a delicious Mexican treat perfect to enjoy with a hot drink during the coldest months of the year. Filled with an aromatic and delicious pumpkin mixture and coated with brown sugar and cinnamon, this pan dulce is also very easy to make at home!

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 where its called empanadas de calabaza and is made specially during the celebrations for Día de Muertos.

Close up on empanadas de calabaza.

Fresh or canned pumpkin puree?

I like to make the filling using fresh pumpkin, first because is very cheap in this time of the year, and second because is also easy and fun to make. But I if you want a nice shortcut, swap fresh pumpkin for 2 cans of pumpkin puree and cook it with the spices as the recipe calls.

Fresh pumpkin cut into chunks in a cutting board.

The step by step recipe

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 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 pumpkin becomes tender. Remove the cinnamon stick and anise star.

Pumpkin chunks cooked after 20 minutes.

Add nutmeg and whole cloves powder and then use a potato masher to roughly mash the pumpkin. Keep cooking uncovered while stirring from time to time until until you’ll 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 pumpkin filling already cooked on a pan.

Make the 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, pulse again until a clumpy dough forms.

The clumpy dough on a food processor.

NOTE: 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.

Transfer the dough onto a floured and smooth surface and quickly knead into a ball. Wrap the dough with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

A dough ball on a marble surface.

Do some prep:

  • Prepare two cooking 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 empanadas.
  • Mix about 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoon of ground cinnamon in 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 and place it in a floured surface. Divide the dough into 14 pieces and then flour your hands and roll each piece into a ball.

14 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 a 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 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 an half-moon. With the empanada still covered with plastic, press the borders to seal it well.

Filling and folding an empanada collage.

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

Making the braid on an empanada.

*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 with all dough and filling.

Raw empanadas on a tray.

Brush all 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.

A collage showing brushing egg wash and pinching with a toothpick the empanadas.

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

Just baked empanadas on a cookie tray.

As soon as pumpkin empanadas are out from 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 pumpkin empanadas in a cooling rack. You can now eat them while they’re still warm or store as suggested below.

Baked empanadas in a cooling rack.

How To Serve Empanadas de Calabaza

Pumpkin empanadas can be served with café de olla (Mexican pot coffee), or also with the traditional champurrado or corn atole for breakfast or merienda (snack). If you want to serve them as dessert you can add some whipped cream on the side with a pinch of ground cinnamon or drizzle the empanadas with homemade cajeta.

An empanada opened to see the filling.

How To Store

After your pumpkin empanadas have cooled down, place them in an air-tight container and store in the kitchen countertop for up to 5 days. Or wrap them one by one with cling film and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight before eating.

Mexican pumpkin empanadas recipe.

Mexican Pumpkin Empanadas (empanadas de calabaza)

Those empanadas are filled with an aromatic and delicious pumpkin mixture and coated with brown sugar and cinnamon. Perfect to enjoy as a treat or for breakfast with a coffee or milk.
PREP 30 minutes
COOK 1 hour
TOTAL 1 hour 30 minutes
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 14
Author: Maricruz

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 (180)
  • 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, pulse again until a clumpy dough forms (read note 2).
  • Transfer the dough onto a floured and smooth surface and quickly knead into a ball.
  • Wrap the dough with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Prep:

  • Prepare two cooking 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 in 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 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 an half-moon and press the borders to seal well the empanada.
  • Gently place the empanada on one hand and peel the the last plastic.
  • Take the edge and carefully twist it to make the 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 from 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 later.

NOTES

  1. If you using 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
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.