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Pumpkin empanadas (Empanadas de calabaza)

November 25, 2013


Pumpkin empanadas have always been available year round in  panaderias or Mexican bakeries all over Texas.  I can’t speak for the rest of the U.S.,  but I’m sure it would be the case all over. I can confidently guess correctly that canned pumpkin has been used in the bakeries since it first became available.   It would be nice to come up with a “from scratch”  recipe but I’m not going there this time around.  Apple and pineapple are two other popular flavors I remember from childhood that can still be found.   The dough for the pumpkin variety bakes very soft and I’m sure it is flavored with spice.  It is more brown,  not golden in color.  I don’t think I could ever duplicate that dough,  I’m content with buying the empanadas at our neighborhood bakery.  Here though I’m using the recipe for a dough that I’ve been getting acquainted with recently.  It’s from Fany Gerson’s “My Sweet Mexico”,  a well researched book which gives us a glimpse of the vast variety of candies and sweet baked goods of Mexico.   She uses the dough for an empanada filled with an incredible tasting tomato jam.  The sweet, flaky, and tender crust  works pretty well for all kinds of sweet empanadas.

There is very little info to be found on the techniques used in many favorite sweets and baked items of Mexico.  Experience and knowledge is largely passed on from generation to generation within family businesses and I think many recipes are carefully guarded secrets.  My impression is that on the whole,  the general public in the U.S. and Mexico leaves nearly all the pastry and candy making to the bakers much like bread making in France is generally left to the bakers.

I’m not sure if ginger and nutmeg are common ingredients in Mexican style pumpkin empanadas, but I’m using them my recipe.



2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

15 oz. (1 small can) pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

good pinch of nutmeg



2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes

1/2 cup crema or heavy cream


1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon of crema  or heavy cream


To make the filling put the 2 T. butter in a sauté pan and melt over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar and stir to dissolve.  Lower the heat a bit if needed to prevent scorching.  Add the pumpkin puree and stir to mix with the butter and sugar.   Add the spices and incorporate as you continue to stir.   Gently cook the mixture for about 8 to 10 minutes over low to medium heat.  Stir periodically to prevent burning.  Remove the pan to cool.

To make the dough stir together the flour,  baking powder,  sugar,  and salt in a bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add the cream and mix until just combined.  Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and uniform.  Resist the temptation to add more cream.  As you knead,  the butter will moisten the dough.  It will take about 2 minutes.  Flatten the dough into a disc,  wrap in plastic,  and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.

After the resting period, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut out circles that are 4 to 5 inches in diameter.  I used a small bowl.  You may have a cookie cutter about that size.  A 4 1/2 inch diameter size gave me 22 circles.  I suggest working with part of the dough while keeping the rest slightly chilled.  If you have a warm kitchen,  the dough will become harder to manage as it warms up.  I think it’s due to the amount of butter used in the recipe.  Use up all the dough by gathering the scraps and rerolling.

Place the circles on a lightly floured surface.  Place about 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin filling a little off center of the circle and fold over 1/2 the circle to seal.  You can squeeze together the edges to seal by hand or fork.  Make 2 or 3 small slits on top.   Put them on baking sheets and refrigerate the empanadas for about 30 minutes.  Be sure to preheat your oven to 350 degrees as the dough chills.

Whisk 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of heavy cream together in a small bowl.  Brush the empanadas with the mixture and sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake until they become a light golden brown.  Put them on wire racks to cool.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2013 4:35 am

    Calabaza and piña were always my favorites. Thanks for the recipe. Your empanadas look beautiful and delicious!

  2. November 25, 2013 4:44 am

    Thanks, they have always been a constant in our family Sunday breakfasts.

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