These pumpkin empanadas are delicious pastry pockets with a smooth, soft and gently spiced filling. Think of them like a pumpkin hand pie or almost a mini pumpkin pie - either way, they are easy to make and delicious!
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It's funny, pumpkins are not something I grew up with (they're not a crop that's grown in the UK, where I grew up), but it's something I've adopted over the years. They started becoming more available as I got into cooking, and from my first pumpkin pie from scratch, things have evolved from there.
While we love some sweet pumpkin treats like these, we also enjoy it in savory dishes. Pumpkin ravioli are a favorite we have at least a few times each year, then we also love a comforting bowl of pumpkin risotto or homemade pumpkin pasta (with pumpkin in the dough).
Bring on the empanadas!
But back to these little parcels of tastiness. If you're not familiar with empanadas, it's the Spanish term for a filled pastry, what you might translate as a turnover or hand pie. They can be both savory and sweet, and you find them in both Spain and across Latin America.
I don't make empanadas all that often, but they're a handy on-the-go snack and have endless filling options. I've made strawberry empanadas in the past which we all enjoyed, and keep meaning to play with more fillings.
I had a hunch that pumpkin would work well. It's soft, creamy texture kind of asks to ooze out of pastry. And in fact, as I did some digging I found it's a traditional Mexican treat as well, often made to use up a slow-stewed spiced pumpkin dessert.
How they're made
While you can make the pastry by hand, I find that a food processor makes it so wonderfully easy and quick. It's as simple as adding and mixing until crumbs form. It's a relatively soft dough, so don't worry if it seems slightly sticky.
While as I say traditionally, the filling is leftovers from another dish, you can also make it by heating together pumpkin, sugar and spices as I have here. You cook them down a little to both dissolve the sugar and reduce the liquid in there.
You can use either bought pumpkin puree or homemade for the filling, as you have and prefer (be sure not to use pie filling, though, as it is loaded up with various spices etc).
Tips for making pumpkin empanadas
As I say, these are pretty easy, but a couple tips to help them work well:
- Allow time for the pastry to chill before rolling to make it easier to work with.
- Be sure to reduce the filling on a low heat so that it doesn't get stick or burn, but then give it time to reduce down and thicken. It should be relatively jam-like. Let it cool before using as well.
- Roll the pastry out thinly and loosen them before adding filling. This is to help avoid the pastry breaking as you lift it up (you can re-stick it when just pastry, but less easy with filling on top).
- Add filling to one side to help you judge the amount. You want enough so it feels full, but not so much it spills out. Leave space around the edge to allow for joining.
- You can join the edges either by pressing with a fork, or more traditionally by crimping the edge. Do whichever you prefer or feel able to do.
- Make a small hole in one side to allow steam to escape.
I like to hold back a little egg white from the pastry to brush over the pastry before baking. This saves you wasting part of an egg, but you still get that nice browning from adding it (though granted maybe not quite as much as a whole egg).
If you like, you can also drizzle a little coarse sugar or cinnamon sugar on top before baking. I have also made these with added mini chocolate chips. It's less traditional, but delicious, too.
These pumpkin empanadas are a fun little treat. They have a tasty mix of smooth, gently sweet spiced filling and crisp buttery pastry. As an added bonus, they're perfectly hand-held bites so are great to serve at a party, as after school snacks, or just because. Be sure to try them soon!
Try these other pumpkin treats:
- Pumpkin cupcakes
- No bake pumpkin cookies
- No churn pumpkin ice cream
- Plus get more seasonal ideas in the fall recipes archives.
- 1 cup all purpose flour plain flour
- ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour or additional all purpose/plain
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter cut into chunks
- ¼ cup milk cold (can use water)
- 1 egg note hold some egg white back to glaze
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup brown sugar packed
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon allspice
- Put the flours, baking powder and the salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Remove around 1 ½ - 2 tablespoon of the egg white and set aside, then add the rest along with the butter and milk. Pulse to mix and bring the mixture together in coarse crumbs.
- Remove the dough from the food processor, press together and wrap then refrigerate for around 30 minutes, or more if it suit your timing better.
- Place the pumpkin puree, sugar and spices in a small saucepan then place over a medium heat. Warm, stirring now and then to mix and dissolve the sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer for around 5 - 10 minutes until the mixture thickens up and becomes quite jam or fruit butter-like. Set aside to cool.
Making the empanadas
- Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Prepare a baking sheet/tray with either a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface until about as thin as you are comfortable with (around ⅛in/2-3mm) and cut out circles - I used my largest scone/pastry cutter which is about 2 ¾in diameter.
- Put a heaped spoonful of the pumpkin mixture slightly to one side of each pastry circle, but away from the edges. They should look as if they'll be fairly full but with enough space to fold one side over then seal the edges.
- Carefully pull together the sides of the pastry and press the two edges together. This is easiest by folding over the side without the filling then pressing down the edge, taking care not to press out the filling or have an air bubble. Press together with the tip of a fork to seal. Alternatively, crimp the edges by folding over the edge, in towards the filling, and pressing with your thumb, then folding in the next edge again and again to form the braid-like edge.
- Place the formed empanadas on top of the prepared baking sheet, with a little space between them. Gently prick the top of each to allow steam to escape. Brush the pastry with the reserved egg white (and add coarse sugar, if you like).
- Bake for approx 20 minutes until the empanadas are starting to brown.
This post was first shared in October 2016 and has been updated, primarily with new photos and video.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Try some more pumpkin-inspired treats:
Kabak Tatlisi from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Pumpkin Pierogies with Brown Butter Sauce from Palatable Pastime
Pumpkin Hummus from The Freshman Cook
Fall Festival Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes from Kudos Kitchen by Renee
Mexican Braised Pumpkin with Pork from A Day in the Life on the Farm
Pumpkin Bread Pudding from A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures
Pumpkin Cheesecake Cream Puffs from Cooking With Carlee
Whipped Cinnamon Pumpkin Honey Butter from Making Miracles
Pumpkin Churros from The Redhead Baker
Pumpkin Madeleines from Family Around The Table
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Spice Latte with Rum Chata from Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks