Halloween is perhaps my favourite time of year. I get to scare the hell out of the kids and celebrate my witchy-ness for a few weeks leading up to it, so I really lean into the spooky season.
One thing that has always bugged me about Halloween, though, is how it tends to focus so much on candy. So I decided to whip up a Halloween snack that’s not all wrappers and sugar and sodium. These empanadas are super tasty, and contain some real nutrition!
Speaking of empanadas, I’ve kind of fallen in love with them recently. Spanish in origin, they’re basically like shortcrust turnovers (or pasties) and can be made sweet or savoury or anything in between, baked or pan fried. The end result is like a traditional mini pie that you can easily eat with one hand – PERFECT snack food if you ask me, just watch where the crumbs are falling!
What I enjoy the most about these pumpkin empanadas is the welcome relief from the sickly sweet offerings that is typical Halloween fare. This recipe is gold for those of us who prefer their sweets on the more subtle side.
Why not rope the family into helping make them as a mini-project? Then have fun spotting the ones that little fingers made!
One caveat: as good as these pumpkin empanadas are, don’t be that weirdo who hands them out when kids come trick or treating – or we’ll be round to come TP your house!
The recipe works well with most types of “regular” pumpkin, though the baking time can vary quite wildly. Once fifteen minutes have elapsed, keep an eye on the oven – caramelized is great, but burnt bits can turn the filling quite bitter and unpleasant. If you’re in a hurry you could also just use a can of pumpkin puree instead and skip the first couple of steps!
There is a knack to closing up the empanadas, so don’t be disheartened if the first few are a bit messy. Try to pinch the edges shut all the way round before making the “brim” wider.
This recipe works very well when served with a dipping sauce (also pictured). Simply take some date paste, add a few teaspoons of almond butter, then add a bit of almond milk until it’s the consistency you want. Delicious!
Don’t serve them hot! Let the pastries stand for 5 or 10 minutes before serving them up, because the filling can stay piping hot when the pastry feels warm to the touch. Don’t be greedy like me and burn your tongue on the first one!
- 450 g butternut squash or any sweet pumpkin
- 1/3 cup date paste
- 2 Tbsp soy milk
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 400 g short crust pastry or pie crust dough, two sheets
- Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F) and line an oven tray with baking paper.
- Peel and cube the pumpkin into one-inch cubes. Place them on the oven tray and bake for about 30 minutes until they're JUST starting to show signs of caramelizing on the edges and corners.
- Ensure the pumpkin is fork tender when you remove it from the oven, then set it aside to cool for a few minutes.
- If your pastry is in the freezer, take it out now to thaw.
- Add the date paste, soy milk, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt to a blender.
- When the pumpkin has cooled, add it to the blender and blitz – on a slow speed – for a minute or two. It's good for the filling to have a bit of texture, so don't worry about getting the mixture perfectly smooth – just ensure the spices and date paste are evenly mixed through.
- Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry sheets until they are about 1mm thick.
- Cut the pastry into circular shapes using a glass or coffee mug as a template. Collect and re-roll the offcuts, then cut them into additional circles. We used a 9cm wide (diameter) glass to cut 24 pastry circles.
- Spoon a similar amount of filling onto each pastry circle. We used about half a tablespoon per empanada.
- Fold each pastry circle in half and press the edges together, taking care not to squeeze any filling out. There's a knack to it, so don't fret if you make a bit of a mess.
- Crimp the edges with a fork, and poke a few holes in each pastry with a toothpick – this will let steam escape and reduce the odds of your empanadas bursting in the oven. Transfer the empanadas to a lined baking tray, and brush lightly with soy milk.
- Bake at 200°C (400°F) until golden brown and the pastry is cooked, about 25 minutes.
- Serve warm or cold, these pastries will keep for a day or two if refrigerated in an airtight container – if they last that long! Be careful if serving immediately, because the filling can be quite hot when the pastry is only warm to the touch.
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Gabrielle is an evidence-based vegan coach who believes that health transformation begins when you switch to a plant-based diet. Her mission is to help midlife women eat in alignment with who they are and what they value so that they can lead a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.
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