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1958 to 2021: The Evolution of the Sunset Empanada

Prep Time
1 hr

Cook Time
25 mins

Total Time
1 hr 25 mins

In 1958, we premiered a snack idea borrowed from Mexico in an issue highlighting a cabin you can live in year-round, tips for redoing a kid’s room, and easy entertaining ideas. I would not have imagined that one of those forms of entertainment would be serving your guests pastries filled with sweetened beef tongue—but maybe that’s the millennial in me speaking.

This week I wanted to offer a modern take on our 63-year-old empanada recipe. While the original recommends using pie crust or your own dough recipe, I’ve come up with a traditional lard-based pastry to wrap your fillings in; if you’re not a fan of going full fat, you can always swap in vegetable shortening.

As a tribute to the original, I didn’t want to just use a different protein, so I went the veggie route and made my take on carnitas out of jackfruit for my savory filling. My sweet pastry is a personal take on the pumpkin empanadas served throughout Mexico filled with raisins, pumpkin, and pepitas. I swapped the pumpkin for roasted kabocha squash and added golden raisins, chipotle in adobo, and pine nuts, which was a combination I wasn’t prepared to love so much.

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homemade empanadas

Magdalena O'Neal

 ½ cup lard or vegetable shortening
 1 tsp salt
 3 cups flour
Squash Filling
 1 medium sized kabocha squash
 2 tbsp olive oil
 1 tsp chili powder
 ½ tsp salt
 2 tbsp butter, softened
 ¼ cup heavy cream
 1 tbsp maple syrup
 4 chilis in adobo, chopped
 ¼ cup pine nuts
 3 tbsp orange juice
Jackfruit Filling
 1 lb canned jackfruit (20oz.)
 ¼ cup neutral cooking oil
 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
 1 tsp cumin
 1 tsp chili powder
 1 tsp paprika
 1 tbsp hot sauce

Melt lard in a small saucepan, remove from heat, and add salt. Pour lard into a measuring cup with hot water, stir to combine. Add flour to the bowl of a food processor and pulse adding liquid in four parts. Once a soft dough is formed, turn the mixture out onto a floured surface. Knead for a minute to form a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill until ready to use, at least one hour (can be made the night before).


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.


Cut the kabocha squash in half, and then in slices. Toss in olive oil, salt, and chili powder. Arrange on a baking sheet with an inch or so between each piece. Bake 20-30 minutes until a fork goes through easily. Let cool.


Heat orange juice and raisins in a small saucepan on the stove until boiling, remove from heat.


Remove the skin from the squash and discard, place the rest in a bowl. Add butter, heavy cream, maple syrup, and chilis, mix to combine. Add the pine nuts, raisins, and remaining orange juice, mixing to combine once more. Place mixture in the fridge until ready to assemble.


Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat, add oil to the pan and saute onions until translucent. Drain the jackfruit and shred the chunks with your fingers to resemble meat. Add to onions, along with cumin, chili powder, and paprika. Cook for 4-5 minutes until browned. Add hot sauce to pan and mix to combine, remove from heat, and chill until ready to assemble.


Remove the dough from the fridge and cut it in half. Cut each half into ten even pieces; you should have twenty empanadas total. Roll each piece of dough into a ball, roll into 6-inch circles, and place two tablespoons of filling into one side of rolled dough. Brush the outer edge with egg wash and fold over to seal; press evenly around the edge and trim any excess dough. Using the knuckle of your pointer finger or thumb, seal the edge with a simple pattern by repeating knuckle presses along the edge. Repeat for all of the empanadas, making ten with each filling.


Brush the tops with egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown along the edges. Remove to cool on a wire rack, enjoy them warm or room temperature.