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Recipe of the Day: Butternut Squash Empanadas

Butternut squash empanadas (photography by Nicole Luna)
Butternut squash empanadas (photography by Nicole Luna)

Every year—as soon as the leaves start changing colors—my aunt, Tía Irma, makes a large amount of small, sugary empanadas to share with family all over the Mexico and the United States. She fills them up with jelly, dulce de leche, and butternut squash.  After spending some time with her this weekend, I found out just how easy these tasty treats are to make. They’re festive and they’ll put you in the mood for the holiday season. Try them.

Butternut Squash Empanadas

Makes about 50 empanadas
Takes about 2 hours to make


For the dough

3 Crisco baking sticks
1 Tbp vanilla extract
12 ounces of beer (any beer)
½ cup of pecans, finely chopped
16 cups of all-purpose flour

For the squash puree

1 butternut squash
4 Tbp brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves

For the cinnamon sugar topping

1 cup of sugar
1 Tbp finely chopped pecans
1 Tbp ground cinnamon

In order to make these empanadas, you have to create the dough, the squash puree, and the cinnamon sugar topping. Preheat the oven at 350 F.

Before you do anything else: Cut the squash into pieces and boil in a pot with little water for about 15 minutes. While the squash boils, this is the time to make the dough.

Make the dough: In a large bowl, take three baking sticks and whisk it into a cream base. Once you have the cream, add one tablespoon of vanilla extract and the 12 ounces of beer. Beer will help the dough rise nicely.  Then add half a cup of finely chopped pecans and the flour.

Stir the mixture until it clumps together. Then remove the dough from the bowl and use a clean surface to begin to knead the dough with your hands. Once the dough is smooth, wrap it in plastic and let it rise in room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes.

Prepare the squash puree: By this time, the squash should be ready. The flesh should be quite soft and the tops brown. When the squash is cool enough to peel, simply place it in a bowl and mash it with brown sugar, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, and ground cloves. Heat it up on the stove at medium heat, constantly stirring for about five minutes to soften the mixture.

Prepare the cinnamon sugar topping: After the puree is done, get started on the sugar cinnamon topping. In a bowl, mix in sugar, one tablespoon of finely chopped pecans, and one tablespoon of ground cinnamon. The sugar should become a brown color.

Go back to the dough: The dough should be ready by now. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the dough. Cut into 4-inch circles and begin to fill the center of each round with ¼ teaspoon of the squash puree.  After filling the rounds, moisten the edges with water, fold them in half, and seal the edges using a fork.

Place the empanadas on a cookie sheet, put it in the oven, and cook the empanadas for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Once they are ready , dip each empanada into the cinnamon sugar mixture. (Be careful, the empanadas are still hot.) The heat from the empanada helps the sugar stick on.

*The great thing about this recipe is that when it comes time to fill in the empanada, you can fill it in with anything you like. Go wild with jelly, caramel, dulce de leche, and even pumpkin puree. Make sure to keep empanadas made of squash or pumpkin refrigerated.

Nicole Luna is an editorial intern at D Magazine.