This recipe for sweet baked Pumpkin Empanadas should definitely be on your fall and winter dessert radar. They’re basically the Mexican equivalent of pumpkin hand pies, making them a perfect treat for holiday potlucks and parties – you don’t need knives, forks, or even plates to serve them!

Pumpkin empanadas on a vintage metal plate with pumpkins in the background        

These adorable pastry pockets are filled with a simple spiced pumpkin filling, then baked to flaky golden brown perfection. Empanadas are my go-to dessert of choice for large holiday gatherings because they’re so easy to make and serve, but they also pair perfectly well with a mug of steaming hot café de olla for an indulgent breakfast treat.

What Are Empanadas?

It seems that every country has a way to make stuffed dumplings – there are Chinese potstickers, Japanese gyoza, Eastern European pierogis, American turnovers, and countless more. Empanadas are the Latin American version, and they can be either sweet or savory, baked or fried.

Growing up, we always knew that the fall and winter meant we got to eat lots of the tasty treats known as empanadas. It makes sense, too – these little pockets of goodness can be baked on a sheet tray, which helps to warm up the house during cooler months.

Savory empanadas use a dough that is similar to a flaky, buttery, crispy pie crust. Savory versions can be stuffed with just about anything – meats, cheeses, beans, or veggies.

Here are a few of my favorite savory empanada recipes:

Sweet empanadas use a dough that is similar to a crisp yet tender pastry crust that is slightly sweet. Sweet versions, like this recipe for pumpkin empanadas, are basically little hand pies. I usually opt for stuffing mine with jams or preserves.

Here are some other sweet empanada recipes to try:

About This Recipe

When the days start getting shorter and colder, I’m a huge sucker for all the typical fall flavors – maple, apple, and of course, pumpkin. These pumpkin empanadas are one of my favorite treats to make because they’re so dang easy!

The filling is made using canned pure pumpkin (or homemade pumpkin purée), brown sugar, and spices. There’s no egg or evaporated milk to be seen, which means you can make it ahead of time for convenience. If you are looking for a homemade pumpkin filling made with fresh pumpkin simmered with piloncillo, cinnamon, and cloves you can find that recipe in the Muy Bueno cookbook or you can follow the pumpkin puree recipe in this pumpkin bread.

The simple pastry dough is easier than making pie crust! And if you’re in a time crunch, there’s no shame in using store bought pie dough, either.

This recipe for pumpkin empanadas yields about two dozen pastries, making it the perfect size for any holiday gathering or bake sale. Once made, the hand pies will last for about a week at room temperature, so they’re also great to have around when you’re hosting guests for the holiday season.

How To Make Mexican Pumpkin Hand Pies

Once you get the hang of making empanadas at home, I have a feeling you’ll start making them all the time! They’re super simple and ridiculously tasty. Oh! And you can also make all of the elements ahead of time, which is just what I need when life starts getting holiday hectic.

pumpkin puree in a bowl and spices for pumpkin empanadas

Pumpkin Filling

First up, let’s make the pumpkin empanada filling. Unlike pumpkin pie, this is less of a custard and more of a pumpkin butter situation.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until it dissolves with the butter. Stir in the pumpkin and the spices. Continue to stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Make sure the filling is nice and thick like a jam, cooking as long as it needs for the excess moisture to evaporate.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down. After it’s cooled off for about 15 minutes, put the filling in the refrigerator to help it set for 30 minutes, or up to a week in advance.

TIP: If you’re in a time crunch, feel free to use store bought pumpkin butter instead!

ingredients to make empanada dough all measured

Sweet Empanada Dough

While the filling cools, you can make the empanada dough.

Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening with the dry ingredients. I find that this works better if you use your hands.

Add the eggs, milk, and sugar. Continue to work the dough with your hands until it is uniform.

Split the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator for about 20 to 30 minutes, or up to a week in advance.

TIP: You can also make the dough and freeze it for up to three months. Simply defrost overnight in the refrigerator and proceed with the recipe as written.

Take out one half of the dough and split it into 12 to 18 balls of dough, depending on how small you want your empanadas. I prefer one dozen per half of the dough. They also fit nicely on one large cookie sheet.

Assemble & Bake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough into small round circles.

round circles of dough with a dollop of pumpkin filling to make pumpkin empanadas

Add a small dollop of filling on one half of the rolled out dough. Wet the bottom edge of the dough with water or milk to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to seal. Seal off the edges with a fork by pressing down along the two edges. This also makes for a pretty pattern when baked.

TIP: Want to get the little ones involved? My son loves to brush each empanada with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and puncture with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking. 

pumpkin empanadas on a wooden board sprinkled with raw sugar ready to be baked

Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray or place the empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on medium rack in the oven.

pumpkin empanadas baked on a baking sheet with parchment paper

If after 15 minutes you notice the bottoms of the empanadas starting to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes.

pumpkin empanadas cooling on a cooling rack

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I serve the empanadas warm or at room temperature?

Generally speaking, I like my pastries to be warm, especially when it’s cold outside. That said, these little nuggets of goodness are perfectly tasty at room temperature as a snack. If you have a few extra minutes, though, I recommend heating them up in the toaster oven for an extra delicious treat.

What can I use instead of pumpkin?

I actually recently found out that canned pumpkin is often not actually made from pumpkins, but rather from other winter squash. As such, feel free to swap in acorn or butternut squash purée, or even use some mashed sweet potatoes.

If pumpkin is not your jam, try using another preserve that suits your taste. Apple butter is an excellent choice for the holidays, but really any jam will do!

Can I freeze empanadas?

Yes! For best results, I recommend filling the pumpkin empanadas and freezing them on a sheet tray prior to baking. When you’re ready to make them, simply pop them out of the freezer onto a lined baking sheet and bake according to the recipe instructions, adding on a few minutes to the overall time. Frozen, unbaked empanadas should last for up to three months in the freezer.

You can also freeze the baked empanadas if you like, though the flaky texture of the crust will suffer a bit in cold storage.

pumpkin empanadas on a vintage silver plate on a brown linen runner with pumpkins in the background

Still craving pumpkin?

Try these other pumpkin recipes:

If you tried this quick and easy recipe for Sweet Baked Pumpkin Empanadas, please be sure to rate and review it below! Or, if you decide to Instagram your creation, tag me (@muybuenocooking) so I can see your delicious empanadas.

pumpkin empanadas stacked up on a silver serving platter.

Pumpkin Empanadas

4 (35 ratings)
This dough is a classic family recipe used by my grandmother, my mother and now my sister and I. We love this dough because it makes just enough to bake two dozen sweet empanadas. A sweet pastry pocket filled with pumpkin. These sweet treats are perfect with a cup of Mexican coffee before breakfast or after dinner. Our children love them because they are small enough and sweet enough to call dessert.

Ingredients

Pumpkin Filling:

Empanada Dough:

Instructions 

Make Pumpkin Filling:

  • Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until it dissolves with the butter. Stir in the pumpkin and the spices. Continue to stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Make sure the filling is not too watery; otherwise let it cook for a couple more minutes.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down. After it’s cooled off for about 15 minutes, put the filling in the refrigerator to help it set for 30 minutes or overnight.
  • You can make the Empanada Dough while the filling is cooling off.

Make Empanada Dough:

  • Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening with the dry ingredients. Works better if you use your hands.
  • Add the eggs, milk and sugar. Continue to work in with your hands. Split the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and put into the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes. Take out one half of the dough and split it into 12-18 balls of dough. Depending on how small you want your empanadas. I prefer one dozen per half of the dough. They also fit nicely on one large cookie sheet.

Assemble and Bake Empanadas:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You can fill your empanadas with any preserves made ahead of time.
  • Roll out the dough into small round circles. Add a small dollop of filling on one half of the rolled out dough. Wet the bottom edge of the dough with water or milk to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to seal. Seal off the edges with a fork by pressing down along the two edges. This also makes for a pretty pattern when baked.
  • Brush each empanada with egg whites, sprinkle with sugar and puncture each empanada with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking.
  • Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray, or place the empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes on medium rack in the oven. If after 15 minutes you notice the bottoms of the empanadas starting to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes.

Notes

Make Ahead Tip: The filling can be prepared one week ahead of time and refrigerated in a covered container.
Should I serve the empanadas warm or at room temperature?
Generally speaking, I like my pastries to be warm, especially when it’s cold outside. That said, these little nuggets of goodness are perfectly tasty at room temperature as a snack. If you have a few extra minutes, though, I recommend heating them up in the toaster oven for an extra delicious treat.
What can I use instead of pumpkin?
I actually recently found out that canned pumpkin is often not actually made from pumpkins, but rather from other winter squash. As such, feel free to swap in acorn or butternut squash purée, or even use some mashed sweet potatoes.
If pumpkin is not your jam, try using another preserve that suits your taste. Apple butter is an excellent choice for the holidays, but really any jam will do!
Can I freeze empanadas?
Yes! For best results, I recommend filling the pumpkin empanadas and freezing them on a sheet tray prior to baking. When you’re ready to make them, simply pop them out of the freezer onto a lined baking sheet and bake according to the recipe instructions, adding on a few minutes to the overall time. Frozen, unbaked empanadas should last for up to three months in the freezer.
You can also freeze the baked empanadas if you like, though the flaky texture of the crust will suffer a bit in cold storage.
Calories: 142kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Sodium: 67mg, Potassium: 71mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 64IU, Calcium: 31mg, Iron: 1mg