Baked Pineapple Empanadas (Mexican Empanadas de Piña)
Sweet, tart and perfectly spiced, my delicious Pineapple Empanadas recipe is a family favorite all year long. With a gorgeously golden and flaky homemade pastry crust and deeply flavorful fruit filling, you’d never guess these from-scratch dessert empanadas are made with just 11 ingredients and 25 minutes of prep work.
Why I Love This Recipe
I’m not sure if I’ve told you this before, but empanadas are my favorite dessert. I love that they are individually portioned, mess-free, and easy to pack, which makes them ideal for potlucks. They’re also super versatile (you can fill them with whatever your heart desires!) and can be served warm or at room temperature.
Empanadas are also an important link to my Mexican heritage. I inherited my grandmother Jesusita’s rolling pin that she used to make flour tortillas and empanadas, and now I use her same rolling pin to continue the tradition of from-scratch Mexican cooking in my own kitchen.
I had never made pineapple filling for dessert empanadas before, but luckily for me, my mom shared her easy recipe with me. My mom is a devout woman of faith, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, and a Guadalupana (Female Christian community devoted to the Virgin Mary).
My grandma was also a Guadalupana and my mom is following in her footsteps. As a Guadalupana, she assists with church fundraisers by making lots of delicious dishes to sell. One of their perpetual best-selling desserts is always sweet empanadas. My mother learned to make this pineapple filling from another member (though she tweaked it a bit) and the dough is our beloved family recipe.
I dedicate these empanadas to my mother and children. Thank you, Mom, for continuing grandma’s traditions and sharing this special recipe with me, and for spoiling my children whenever you are in town. I know they will always treasure your special homemade recipes made with love. And to my children — may you continue cooking these recipes for your own children one day!
Ingredients & Substitutions
While the delightful hand pies known as empanadas de piña are chock-full of flavor, they have a pretty short ingredient list. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Canned Pineapple Tidbits and Crushed Pineapple – Make sure you’re reaching for canned pineapple that is packed in juice, NOT syrup, or your filling will end up tasting cloyingly sweet. I prefer using both types of canned pineapple to cut back on my prep work, but you can easily use whatever style you have on hand (e.g. rings).
- Ground Nutmeg, Ginger, and Cinnamon – This trio of warming spices pairs beautifully with the sweet and tangy flavors of pineapple.
- Granulated Sugar – Plain white sugar is all you need. You’re welcome to swap in brown sugar (either light or dark), organic cane sugar, coconut sugar, or even panela for more of a molasses undertone.
- Cornstarch – For thickening the filling. If corn products are a no-no, feel free to use either an equal amount of all-purpose flour or double the amount of tapioca starch.
- All-Purpose Flour – I use plain white flour to make my doughy empanada rounds. You can also trade in your favorite cup-for-cup gluten-free flour blend if you prefer.
- Baking Powder – For leavening.
- Salt – For seasoning.
- Shortening – For a deliciously short and flaky pastry crust. You can also use coconut oil or butter, though the results won’t be quite as flaky if you do. They’ll still taste great, though!
- Eggs – For binding the dough together and for giving the pastry a beautiful shine.
- Milk – For added richness in the dough. Feel free to use any dairy or unsweetened non-dairy milk you prefer.
- Raw Sugar – This is an optional addition. Add a sprinkle, ff you’d like a sparkle and crunch to the exterior of these pineapple empanadas.
How To Make Pineapple Empanadas
Despite having several steps, I promise: this is an easy empanada recipe! The sweet pineapple filling can be made ahead of time.
Make Pineapple Filling:
Step 1: Simmer. In a saucepan combine drained tidbits and drained crushed pineapple, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and ¾ cups of reserved juice. Stir ingredients, bring them to a boil, and then simmer on low for 45 minutes.
Step 2: Make Slurry. Remove about 1/3 cups of liquid from saucepan, reserve, and let cool. Combine cornstarch with the cooled cup of liquid and stir. Pour the slurry back into the fruit mixture to thicken the filling.
Step 3: Thicken. Stir and simmer for an additional 10 minutes, until the filling reaches a thickened consistency like fruit preserves. (If it’s still runny, add an additional tablespoon of cornstarch combined with 1/8 cup of reserved juice, and simmer the mixture for an additional 5 minutes).
Make-Ahead Tip: Pineapple filling can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Make Empanada Dough:
Step 1: Dry Ingredients. In a stand mixer, add the first 5 dry ingredients and combine on low.
Step 2: Add Shortening and mix to combine.
Step 3: Add Eggs & Milk. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and milk, then combine with the dry ingredients. Continue to mix until you have a soft, pliable dough.
Step 4: Chill. Knead the dough into a ball and split it in half, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a up to 1 hour. I honestly prefer not to refrigerate longer, the dough shrinks and is harder to roll out.
Make-Ahead Tip: You can also freeze empanada dough for up to 2 months. Place in the fridge to thaw overnight, then continue with the recipe as written.
Assemble & Bake Empanadas:
Step 1: Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Take out half the dough and split it into 12 equal balls.
Step 2: Roll. On a floured surface, roll out the dough balls into small round circles. Place a small dollop of pineapple filling on one-half of each of the dough circles.
Step 3: Seal. Wet the bottom edge of the circles with an egg glaze to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to cover filling and seal off the edges with a fork pressing down along the edges or using a pastry cutter. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
Make-Ahead Tip: Unbaked, assembled empanadas that are made up to this point can be frozen. Place them in a single layer on a plate or sheet tray, then pop them in the freezer for about 2 hours, until frozen through.
Once they’re solid, you can place them in a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag and freeze for up to 2 months. When you’re ready to bake, continue with the recipe as written — no need to defrost first.
Step 4: Finish Assembly. Brush each pineapple empanada with egg glaze and sprinkle with raw sugar, if using. Puncture the top of each empanada with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking.
Step 5: Bake. Place the empanadas on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on the middle rack in the oven. If after 15 minutes you notice the bottoms of the empanadas starting to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown.
While I think this recipe for baked empanadas with pineapple filling is pretty perfect in every way, there is always room for you to make customizations based on your needs and preferences. Here are a few simple variations to consider:
- Gluten-Free Empanadas – Make these pineapple empanadas celiac-friendly by swapping in your favorite measure-for-measure gluten-free all-purpose flour blend.
- Dairy-Free Empanadas – If you’re lactose intolerant, simply swap in your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk.
- Vegan Empanadas – Feel free to use empanadas discos (found in the frozen aisle) or any other vegan store-bought empanada dough you prefer to make these tropical treats completely plant-based. You’re also welcome to try a vegan empanada dough recipe if you want to make them from scratch!
Making Mexican empanadas is a bit of a labor of love, but once you start going, they’re so easy! Here are some of my best tips and tricks to make sure yours come out perfectly every time:
- Don’t overwork the dough. Once all the ingredients come together in a single, pliable dough, leave it alone.
- Rest the dough. This allows the gluten strands to relax, which makes it easier to roll out.
- Cool your filling so it doesn’t cause the dough to become too soft to handle.
- Make sure your filling isn’t too chunky. Otherwise, they’re hard to fold without breaking the dough open.
- Serving Suggestions: Enjoy your pineapple empanadas warm or at room temperature. They’re great with a mug of tea or Kahlúa Café as a post-dinner dessert empanada, or a mug of Café de Olla as a breakfast empanada.
- Refrigerate leftover baked empanadas for up to 3-5 days. Reheat in a toaster oven or bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.
- Work ahead of time. Make and freeze the pineapple filling up to 3 months ahead of time. Assemble the empanadas (without brushing them with egg wash) and freeze for up to 2 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
In my house, sweet empanadas are always baked. Not only are they quite a bit healthier this way, they’re also SO MUCH EASIER to make! Simply bake off a whole tray at a time, rather than frying in batches.
I use egg wash to help seal the empanada shut, then use more egg wash on the top of the turnover to give it a shiny exterior. If you’re asking whether you should egg wash the bottom of the empanada that is touching the parchment, I don’t suggest it.
You can if you wish, but you’ll need to do a lot more prep work if you do. You will also need to grab a small can of pineapple juice to make the filling.
Pineapple tidbits are simply small chunks of pineapple, so you’ll just need to drain the rings or chunks, then cut them into small pieces. For making crushed pineapple, use the “chop” function on your food processor or blender for about 30 seconds, or until it is mostly smooth.
More Sweet Mexican Empanada Recipes
- Easy Baked Pumpkin Empanadas
- Cherry Empanadas (Cherry Hand Pies)
- Guava Empanadas
- Empanadas de Membrillo (Quince Empanadas)
- Apple Empanadas
Baked Pineapple Empanadas (Mexican Empanadas de Piña)
- 1 egg
- raw sugar, optional
- In a saucepan combine drained tidbits and drained crushed pineapple, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, and ¾ cups reserved juice.
- Stir ingredients and bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 45 minutes.
- Remove about 1/3 cups of liquid from saucepan, reserve, and let cool.
- In a bowl combine cornstarch with cooled cup of liquid and stir.
- Pour back in mixture to thicken filling.
- Stir and simmer for an additional 10 minutes to a thickened consistency of preserves. (If runny add an additional tablespoon of cornstarch combined with 1/8 cup of reserved juice and simmer mixture for an additional 5 minutes).
- Make the empanada dough after your filling has chilled.
- In a stand mixer add the first 5 dry ingredients and combine on low. Add in the shortening and combine. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and milk and combine with dry ingredients. Continue to mix until you have soft dough. Knead dough and split the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Assemble and Bake Empanadas:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Take out half the dough and split it into 12 equal balls of dough.
- On a floured surface, roll out the dough balls into small round circles. Place a small dollop of pineapple filling on one half of each of the dough circles.
- Wet the bottom edge of the circles with egg glaze to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to cover filling and seal off the edges with a fork pressing down along the edges or using a pastry cutter.
- Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
- Brush each empanada with egg glaze, sprinkle with raw sugar, if using.
- Puncture the top of each empanada with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking.
- Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet; place the empanadas on the parchment paper and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on middle rack in the oven. If after 15 minutes you notice the bottoms of the empanadas starting to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown.
Photography by Jenna Sparks
Originally published: May 2016.
Learn how to make these Pineapple Empanadas over on my Skillshare class: Baking for Beginners: Delicious Mexican Desserts. I walk you through every step of the way, as if you were en la cocina with me.