When I die, I hope my friends and family make pumpkin empañadas to put on my alter for the Day of the Dead. I’m teaching my son how to make them and since he’s a fall baby, I made them for his birthday treat to take to his kindergarten class. I normally make pumpkin empañadas for the Day of the Dead. This squash like fruit has its roots here in North America and particularly in Mexico, where the holiday originates. So, making pumpkin empañadas during this time encapsulates a little bit of history, tradition, and love.

This is a sugar pumpkin, which is the best to use for baking and cooking.

I prefer to use a sugar pumpkin for any of my pumpkin related baked goods. First of all it’s smaller, so less scooping and messiness. Second, it has a bit of a sweeter taste than the jack-o-lantern variety. Thirdly, it’s called a sugar pumpkin, um cute!

Straight out of the oven and fully cooked pumpkin

Remember to preheat your oven from anywhere to 375-400 deg f* depending on the size of your pumpkin. Usually there is a little sticker on your squash with baking directions. I cut my pumpkin in half and with a sturdy spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and strings. If you like pumpkin seeds, then fill a bowl with water and throw your pumpkin seeds in there for a couple of minutes to wash off. Place your pumpkin halves face down and fill the pan with one inch of water. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check tenderness after 35 minutes by poking the skin with a fork.

Pumpkin Mash!

Once the pumpkin has cooled in its shell, squeeze or spoon out the flesh into a bowl. Get a masher or a large fork and mash away any remaining lumps. If you have a food processor and would like a smooth mash, then pulse away!

Sugar and Spice!

Pumpkin empañadas require little seasoning. Simply add some brown sugar (or piloncillo if you have it around), ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

Pumpkin and spices

Scoop out 2 cups of mash (a sugar pumpkin will usually make about 2 cups of mash) and add sugar and spices.

stir it up

Give the filing a good stir to incorporate all the ingredients. It’ll start to smell AMAZING!

Get the juices out.

I like to strain the pumpkin (usually prior to adding the sugar and spices) to get out all of the extra liquid. You don’t want to have a lot of excess liquid in your filling. It’ll make it harder and messier to fill empañadas later.

Get your dough ready!

Now that your filling is ready, get your dough out of the fridge to start rolling out little rounds. This recipe has been doubled. Having small chunks of butter visible is a good thing! You don’t want to over blend your butter into the flour mixture.

Making dough is so rewarding. Oh the little things in life!
Don’t add to much filling or they will BURST in the oven!

Doubling your dough recipe should make about 24 medium to large sized rounds. If you’re like me and like to use every last bit of dough, then you can stretch it out to make about 40 small ones. Make sure not to add too much filling. You only want to add about a tablespoon to small rounds and about 2 tablespoons for the medium to large rounds. Holding the round in your hand and adding the filling will help you gauge the right amount.

Little pockets of AWESOMENESS!

Make sure to have a small bowl of water near by to rub around one edge of the dough to ensure a tight seal. You can use a pastry cutter, a fork, or crimp the dough to make a decorative edge.

My oldies but goodies!

Keep a baking tray near so you can place all your finished empañadas directly onto it. Once they are all stuffed and sealed, brush the tops with an egg wash, and place the whole tray directly into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes prior to baking. A cold pastry bakes the best! Have the oven pre-heated to 350 f deg and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Take out of the oven and wait a few minutes before eating or else you’ll burn your mouth! I usually place them onto a cooling rack and then munch away after 10 minutes!

Pumpkin Empañada Filling

makes about 2 cups of filling


  • 2 cups fresh, or canned, pumpkin mash
  • 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon ( you can always add nutmeg, clove, or ginger to the mixture too! )

Measure and place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Filling can last for up to a week in the fridge.


Under the Avocado Tree

This past weekend my best friend of 14 years got hitched! It was a beautiful and homegrown kind of wedding at the Fairview Gardens in Goleta, CA (right outside of Santa Barbara). I was the maid of honor, cake lady, and piñata candy maker! It was all the sweet little homemade touches that really pulled the whole event together. I was incredibly impressed by all the hard work and detail that my gal put into the wedding. The location was magical. The ceremony and reception were in the avocado orchard. It felt like stepping into a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, where magical realism shapes every cervice and touch.

Homemade chocolate fudge for the piñata. Individually wrapped with love.

(Check out the simplest fudge recipe ever here)

A farm fresh dinner made by the bride upon our arrival.
fresh organic flowers we picked up at the farmer’s market to make our bouquets and flower arrangements.
Home made caramels! First time ever making them too! I would say they came out tasting like butter!

(Check out the caramel recipe!David Lebovitz ‘s Salted Butter Caramel recipe is so yummy! It was my first time making caramels so I was a tad nervous, but I love his recipes and commentary and they were a crowd pleaser!)

Organic strawberry jam made by the bride with strawberries from the urban farm. They were the filling for the cupcakes too!
The beautiful San Ynez Mountains.
Home brew anyone? Beer and label made by the best man.
Picking up flowers the day before the wedding!
Looking through the avocado tree to where the ceremony would be held. The sun shimmered through the branches like little burst of sun kisses.
The bride spent 3 days making this pinata!
The Bride and Groom crafted these awesome pint glasses as party favors for all the guests!
Our very talented friend and the second bride’s maid hand painted each ceramic pot to hold the table numbers. She even flew them all the way from Costa Rica!
The ceremony was breath taking. The colors, the dresses, the lighting, the love, and the couple were all perfect!

(In case you were wondering, our dresses were handmade in Mexico by the talented Aida Coronado. Her embroidery is colorful and immaculate.)

Just pronounced husband and wife!
The delicious cupcakes! Sun kissed lemon-strawberry cupcakes. The strawberries were picked the day before the wedding by our kiddos. Talk about local and sustainable.
The ‘day of the dead’ cake topper.
Who doesn’t want to dance under an avocado tree?
The couple’s first dance… again the lighting was perfect!
Yay! Cake time!

All in all every part of the wedding was as vibrant and colorful as the bride and groom. I feel so honored to have been invited and to have contributed to the wedding.

Under the Avocado Tree