James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

From A Baker’s Odyssey: Pumpkin Empanadas

The cookbook A Baker’s Odyssey contains baking interviews with immigrants from around the world. The following recipe is from Greg’s interview with Maria Elena Flores from Chihuahua, Mexico. This recipe has been featured on many news sites and cooking sites. It was Greg’s final recipe for the Missoulian newspaper after many years of writing cooking features.


For this recipe, Greg uses King Arthur flour. You can order King Arthur flour and flavorings through Greg’s King Arthur Affiliate site, which helps pay the costs of this website!

Pumpkin Empanadas

4.50 from 2 votes
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine Mexican



  • 2 1/2 lbs pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla


  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces), plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup warm milk any fat content
  • whipping or heavy cream for brushing unbaked pastries


Cook the Pumpkin

  • Cut the unpeeled pumpkin or butternut squash into large chunks.
  • Scrape out the seeds and fibers and discard.
  • Put the chunks into a large pot (4-quart size is ideal) and add the 2 cups water
  • Cover the pot and set it over high heat.
  • When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking about 45 minutes more until the pumpkin or squash is soft but not completely tender.
  • Test with the tip of a sharp knife. You should feel a bit of resistance the deeper the knife goes in.
  • Drain in a colander and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • With a spoon, scoop off any remaining fibers.
  • Cut off the skin and cut the vegetable into 1 1/2-inch chunks. You should have about 4 cups of packed pumpkin or squash.
  • Return the vegetable to the pot and add the cinnamon stick. Sprinkle on the brown sugar.
  • Cover the pot and set it over medium high heat. The sugar will melt slowly and the pumpkin will release some of its juices.
  • When the boil is reached, reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  • Uncover the pot and cook at a boil, stirring occasionally, for another few minutes, until the pumpkin is completely tender and the liquid is syrupy and almost all absorbed.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the ground cinnamon, cloves and vanilla.
  • Remove the pot from the heat, and mash the pumpkin with a potato masher to make it very smooth. You’ll have a scant 3 cups of filling.
  • Cool completely before using. (May be prepared to this point 2 to 5 days ahead; when cool, cover tightly and refrigerate).

Make the Dough

  • To make the dough, in a medium size bowl, whisk together for 30 seconds the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a large bowl, beat the lard, shortening, or coconut oil with an electric mixer on medium speed just until smooth and creamy, less than 1 minute.
  • Add the granulated sugar, cinnamon and cloves and beat them in well.
  • Add the egg and beat 1 minute.
  • On low speed, add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour, and beating only until each addition is incorporated. The dough should be firm, non-sticky, and pliable.
  • If too wet, knead in up to 1/4 cup additional flour by hand on your work surface.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • May be made 2 to 5 days ahead, wrapped securely, and refrigerated

Prepare the Oven

  • Line two large baking sheets (18 x 12 x 1-inch) or two large cookie sheets (14 x 17 inches) with silicone baking pan liners or cooking parchment.
  • Adjust two oven racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Shaping the Empanadas

  • To shape the empanadas, divide the dough into 20 pieces weighing about 1 1/2 ounces each and shape each into a ball.
  • Flatten a ball of dough slightly, and roll it out on a wooden board (flour lightly only if dough sticks) to a 5-inch circle.
  • Spread 2 level tablespoons of filling slightly below the midpoint of the circle, and fold the dough over the filling.
  • Pinch the seam to seal, and press firmly with a fork.
  • Prick the top of the empanada three times with the fork and set the pastry on one of the prepared sheets.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, and space the empanadas 1 to 2 inches apart on the sheets.
  • Brush the tops of the pastries with cream.


  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the empanadas are a deep golden-brown color.
  • Rotate sheets top to bottom and front to back once during baking to insure even browning.
  • Cool for 1 minute on the baking sheets.
  • With a wide metal spatula, transfer the pastries to wire cooling racks to cool completely.


  • The empanadas keep well at room temperature, stored airtight, for 2 or 3 days.
  • To freeze, when completely cool, replace the empanadas on their lined baking sheets and freeze solid.
  • Transfer the pastries to heavy-duty re-sealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Thaw empanadas completely in their wrapping.
  • Unwrap, arrange on a baking sheet, and refresh in a preheated 300 degree oven for 10 minutes.

3 thoughts on “From A Baker’s Odyssey: Pumpkin Empanadas”

  • 5 stars
    My Panamanian husband always calls turnovers and pasties, empanadas. He also told me that his Grandmother made them with paste, not chunks of fruit or meat. This is the first time I have ever heard someone else mention this type of pastry. He was very happy to have them!

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