We’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month! We’re learning about empanadas and how to make pastry dough from scratch. This dough technique (cutting cold butter into flour) is similar to making pie crusts, biscuits, scones, pasties, turnover dough, and other pastries. This process creates tiny air pockets (the butter) in your dough, which when baked will help expand your dough and make a flaky layer.

In this lesson — as with many of our other Out of the Pantry teen cooking classes — we focus on creating a dish using simple, easily accessible ingredients which are *mostly* from the pantry, and do not use special equipment (such as mixers or food processors). We also use a recipe that can be completed within two hours from start to finish.

There are many ways to make and seal empanadas, but this lesson reviews just the basics. Participants are making semi-sweet pumpkin empanadas — perfect for breakfast, snacking, or as a side dish. The filling will be made using canned pumpkin puree, but it can be substituted with fresh pumpkin puree. 

What are empanadas?

Empanadas are hand-sized pies. They can be mini or large, fried or baked, sweet or savory. There are also many ways to seal empanadas. Many restaurants and bakeries use a different seal for each flavor; the seal identifies which filling is inside.

The origins are unknown, but they most likely first appeared in Argentina, made by immigrants from northern Spain. The name “empanada” comes from the Spanish verb “empanar,” which means bread wrapped.

Many countries have their own version of an “empanada.” They may be known by different names such as pasties, hand-pies, and turnovers, with slight variations of the dough, technique, or fillings.

Let’s get started! 

This video was edited from the live cooking class and practice session. Please read through the recipe before watching the recording.


yields 16-24 empanadas

prep + bake time = 2 hours


Ingredients for the filling: 

1T butter

3/4 c dark brown sugar

1 c pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp pumpkin pie spices

1 orange, zest, plus 1/2 orange juice

Ingredients for the dough:

3 c flour + .5 cup for rolling

1/2 c sugar

1 pinch kosher salt

2 sticks butter (1 cup)

2 large eggs

Ingredients for the finish:

1 egg white

1-2 T turbinado sugar

Equipment/supplies you might need: 

  • Zester
  • Can opener
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry brush
  • 4” Round cookie cutter
  • Oven & stove
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Mixing bowls
  • Spatulas
  • Forks
  • Knife 
  • Small pot
  • Cookie sheets or tray with liners or Silpat


Refrigerate 4 tablespoons of drinking water

Measure 1 cup pumpkin puree

Wash the orange; zest; then juice half the orange

Cube butter: first reserve 1T butter, then cube the rest, refrigerate until needed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Make the filling: 

Melt 1T butter in pot over medium heat. Add 3/4 c brown sugar. Cook for 3 minutes

Add 1 c pumpkin puree, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp spices. Stir, cook for 3 minutes

Remove from heat. Add orange zest and orange juice. Transfer to bowl and let cool in fridge.

Make the dough:

Mix 3c flour, 1/2 c sugar, and pinch salt. Add cold butter cubes. Cut butter into flour using fork, working really fast so you don’t melt the butter.

Add egg.

Add ice water in increments until the dough is just formed. (approx. 2-3T)

Do not knead, but mix and press together.

Divide the dough into two parts. 

Wrap each dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Assemble the empanadas: 

Roll out dough to about 1/8 of an inch (as thin as you can without breaking open dough)*

Using a large round cookie cutter (approx. 4 inches diameter), cut round disks.

Fill each disk with a spoon of filling (the filling should be cool enough now). 

Seal the empanadas

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.


Brush the tops with egg white (beaten lightly) and sprinkle with turbinado/raw sugar.

Bake about 25-30 minutes until browned. (Tip: Since egg white wash tends to not brown as easily, check the coloring on the bottom.)

Less time if smaller than 4” rounds; more time if larger.


*The extra dough can be rolled up 2 times.


Recipe adapted from: 







Please recycle!

Compost produce scraps.

Wash out the cans and recycle.

Wash out plastic containers and reuse.

Recycle cardboard boxes.

This recipe was adapted or created for Pasadena Public Library by Jane Gov, Youth Services Librarian. Any reference or adaptations to this recipe can be credited to Pasadena Public Library.

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