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Empanadas de Calabaza

Empanadas de Calabaza

Empanadas de Calabaza are a classic Mexican dessert. They are prepared for the holidays of Holy Week, New Years and special celebrations. I love how the pumpkin and brown sugar pair magically to make a delicious filling for these turnovers.   This recipe is from Dolores’s mother who came from the Mexican State of Chihuahua. There are many recipes for these empanadas, but the family recipe is always the best one – right?  You’ll love this one.  First, you have to steal a pumpkin from somebody’s patch.




Use piloncillo (brown sugar) for this recipe.  Piloncillo is made from pure, unrefined sugar that is pressed into a cone shape. It tastes very similar to brown sugar with a molasses flavor (even though it does not contain molasses).  You can use it for anything that calls for brown sugar. It’s name means “little pylon” because of it’s shape. The smaller cones are usually around 1 ounce and the larger ones around 8 ounces and can be found in your Mexican markets or purchased from the internet.




Filling Ingredients

Makes 3 dozen empanadas

1 medium pumpkin (about 3 lbs of  Kabocha or  Butternut variety)

8 oz piloncillo, broken into smaller chunks

1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 cup water

Filling Preparation

Cut the pumpkin in half and remove and discard the seeds and stringy insides. Cut each half in four pieces and place the piloncillo and pumpkin in a 5 quart pot or dutch oven and add 1 cup of water.




Bring to a boil, simmer and cook covered for about 45 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.




Once the pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and discard the peel. Mix in the dissolved piloncillo and cinnamon and puree through a food mill or use a potato masher. The filling can be prepared one day ahead.




Dough Ingredients

4 cups all purpose flour

1 ½ cups cold shortening

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon vinegar

½ cup water

1 egg

Dough Preparation

Combine dry the ingredients and cut in the shortening until crumbly.  In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients, add to the dough and knead 4-5 minutes.   Press the dough together to form 2 balls then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.


Empanada Assembly

Roll out each ball into a very thin circle. Cut out a 5-6 inch circles with a cutter or cup. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in center of each; fold dough in-half to enclose filling and form a half moon. Seal edges by crimping with fork.



Brush tops with egg before baking to help the crust brown better. Bake at 375ºF for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.





Other spice options found in recipes include clove, anise, honey, nutmeg, vanilla extract, ginger etc.  Field pumpkins, which are bred for perfect jack-o’-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking. You can substitute canned pumpkin. You can save the seeds to dry and roast

Buen provecho!!

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  1. I tried the empanadas and they are so good and so many! Can you freeze them?

    • Yes, empanadas can be frozen. We have some in the freezer waiting for Christmas Eve dinner desert.

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