It’s the Great Pumpkin Empanada! (with Mint Cilantro Sauce)

My go-to favorite cartoon for autumn and Halloween. Image Credit: Charles Schultz.

I can’t remember ever eating an empanada as a kid, but I did eat my fair share of calzone, pot pies, and the frozen food train wreck also known as Hot Pockets. Come on, folks. Who doesn’t like a thin bread-y shell filled with savory goodness (or, in the case of my Hot Pocket addiction,”bad for you” tastiness)?

I would stand before the glowing microwave waiting for the beepbeepbeep to deliver my fast food treat. It was this grade school kid’s contribution to science to get the hot pocket fully cooked in the middle without turning the rounded ends into tooth-shattering rocks. (I can’t count how many minor mouth burns I received from the Hot Pocket’s molten filling. No doubt its ingredients shaved a few years off my life.)

Today is my mother’s birthday, and even though we live too far apart for me to make her a cake, I dedicate this post and these homemade empanadas to her. Thanks, Mom, for permitting me my Hot Pocket obsession as a child. I’m a healthier eater now because you didn’t force me to shovel down salad as a kid. You know how stubborn I was!

Recently Cameron made a pile of savory pumpkin empanadas. They’re definitely a healthy alternative to my childhood obsession. If they’d keep, I’d send her a box to commemorate her patience for all those years I whined about stocking up on Hot Pockets.

Perfectly proportioned chewiness to melt-in-your-mouth-not-melt-your-mouth filling, these empanadas are a great snack, appetizer, or side for dinner. We enjoyed ours with a mint cilantro chutney (recipe below) and a Moroccan tagine, which I’ll feature in an upcoming post. Best of all: it’s vegan and delicious.

Handy Pumpkin-filled Empanadas. Image by Author.

Pumpkin Curry Empanadas
Makes 20 Empanadas

– 2 TBS vegetable oil, divided
– 12 oz cubed peeled baking pumpkin or butternut or kabocha squash (I made a new batch with a pumpkin from the garden, and it tastes great.)
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 1/2 tsp ground ginger
– 1/2 tsp ground cloves
– 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1 tsp ground cumin
– 1 tsp turmeric
– 1/4 cup currants, softened 10 minutes in hot water to cover
– 3 sheets frozen store-bought pie dough (or make a double batch of this recipe’s pastry dough, which I highly recommend for its magical butter content.)
– 1 large egg, slightly beaten
– Cilantro Mint Dipping Sauce (see recipe below)

Bowl full of spices! Image by Author.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Rub a rimmed baking sheet with 1 TBS oil. Spread pumpkin on sheet and roast, uncovered, turning once, till tender when pierced, 30 minutes or until soft when pressed.
2. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 TBS oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in spices and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
3. Transfer onion to a medium mixing bowl. Drain currants, and stir into bowl. Add warm pumpkin and mix well, mashing with back of a spoon to create a slightly chunky mixture.
4. Working with one pie-dough disk at a time, roll dough on a lightly floured surface into a 1/8-in.-thick round. Using a 4-in. ring cutter, cut out 20 circles, rerolling scraps.

Empanada Prep. Image by Author.

5. Mix 1 TBS water into egg and brush onto dough rounds. Spoon 1 TBS pumpkin mixture into center of each round, fold over, and seal edges with tines of a fork.
6. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Arrange empanadas on sheets, spaced slightly apart.
7. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with mint cilantro sauce.

Make ahead: Follow recipe through step 5. Freeze in an airtight container. Then bake from frozen, 25 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Mint-Cilantro Sauce
Serves 4

– 2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
– 1 cup chopped mint
– 1 TBS fresh ginger, chopped
– 1 large garlic clove
– 2 TBS desiccated coconut
– 1 tsp sugar
– 1 TBS vegetable or grapeseed oil
– 1/4 cup lime juice
– Salt to taste

1. Toss all ingredients in the food processor and pulse into pureed. Add more lime juice if needed to make a smooth puree, and increase the sugar, oil, and salt if you do, tasting until it’s to your liking.

32 Comments Add yours

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks so much, Vina. 🙂

  1. Anna says:

    I can’t wait to give this recipe a try! They look amazing. Thanks, G!

    1. gwynnem says:

      You’re quite welcome, Anna. If you’re hankering for a little cheese in the empanada, I’m thinking chévre would be an excellent addition, too.

  2. thefoodery says:

    Looks delicious, and I love the title of your post!

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Jennifer! I do love a good pumpkin story. 🙂

  3. Cara Olsen says:

    Firstly, Happy (belated) Birthday to your mother! Is she one of those who enjoys being born so near to a a major holiday? Or the opposite?

    My goodness, I would never have thought to create such a thing! These look scrumptious, however, and I think right up my husband’s alley. He is always looking for unique recipes and this one certainly fits the bill. Thanks for sharing it. 😉

    ~ Cara

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks for visiting my blog, Cara. I’m not sure how she felt about it as a kid, but I think she surely got a kick out of watching my brother and me in all our Halloween costumes over the years. 🙂

  4. Clanmother says:

    I am waiting now for the Great Pumpkin to appear! I found a sincere pumpkin patch – he will be here any minute….I hear him coming….

    1. gwynnem says:

      Seriously one of my favorite holiday cartoons of all time. I just wanna give Linus a hug. 🙂

  5. mmmm, yummy. Squash has to be my favourite vegetable and this looks like a great, new way to cook with it. I love the look of all those spices. And anything that involves pastry always scores extra points with me! 🙂

    1. gwynnem says:

      This recipe is a definite keeper. As for the spices, I was working in my office when my husband called urgently from the kitchen. When I hurried in, he looked at me and said, “Get your camera. The lighting looks great on the spices.” This is when I knew I’d won him over to food blogging. 🙂

  6. So glad you just liked my post as I enjoy a lazy Friday evening — I had missed this post of yours and it looks wonderful! I love those mint chutneys, and the combination of pumpkin curry flavors is intriguing! ~ Kat

    1. gwynnem says:

      The chutney is indeed delicious. I’m making an apple chutney for a latke dish (to be featured in the next few days.) So far, it tastes divine.

  7. Especially love your ’empanada prep’ image. This is something I’ve never tried. Bet they’re delicious!

    1. gwynnem says:

      I was able to be the food photographer while my husband slaved away in the kitchen on the empanada. It was a good day. 🙂

  8. Oh, good lord–these look incredible. You know what I am thinking, right? I want to cover these in APPLE CHUTNEY.

    1. gwynnem says:

      Haha! True. Autumn Portuguese-Indian fusion.

  9. hollykaann says:

    Awesome! My kids loved hot pockets. I did not ban them from the house like I wanted I simply changed how I cooked. When their bodies that had become used to whole foods- the meat and dairy grown on our farm- came in contact with the stuff in the boxes they would come to me and tell me not to buy them again because the “food” made them sick! Anyway, love the recipe and will have to give it a whirl. There is one last frontier I have yet to conquer- Ramen noodles…

    1. gwynnem says:

      Go for it! The pay-off on these little savory pockets are worth the effort. 🙂

  10. This recipe looks awesome! I am so trying this.

    1. gwynnem says:

      They’re one of the foods that are so good that I don’t even want to add cheese or other dairy. Hope you like them!

  11. Vibrant Bean says:

    I just made some empanadas and then saw this post! Looks like great flavors, I have to try these!!

    1. gwynnem says:

      They are so delicious. Nobody has ever asked me to include dairy in those little rascals. Happy Holidays!

  12. Robin says:

    Ooh- those look divine- I was just trying to think of a fun food to make with friends this weekend- this might be it! Thanks!

  13. gwynnem says:

    Thanks so much, Robin. Hope these empanadas turned out great for you and your friends.

  14. afracooking says:

    I adore empanadas but I have never made them with pumpkin – this has gone straight onto my “to-cook” list 🙂

    1. gwynnem says:

      They were delightful. Hope you enjoy!

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