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I’m Andrea. I like to cook and bake and take photographs and write about life. Welcome to Bella Eats, where I share these passions of mine with you. I’m glad you’re here.

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butternut squash + mushroom empanadas

It may seem odd to be posting a recipe for empanadas in the dead of Winter. To me empanadas are a Summer food, or maybe Fall; plucked up from a street vendor or taco stand, wrapped in waxed paper, eaten as you walk an outdoor festival or Charlottesville’s downtown pedestrian mall. They are perfect on-the-go, warm weather, sandals and short sleeves food; self-contained pockets of goodness you can eat as you walk. Outside. In the sunshine. So why, then, am I sharing these with you in the gray and bitter cold of January?

Well, for one, I am long overdue in posting this recipe on Bella Eats. Had I uploaded the images of empanadas just after making them, at the beginning of October, when butternut squash was just starting its weekly appearance on our menu, there would still be Fall festivals and backyard BBQs to attend. I wavered with whether or not to even publish this one, thinking that I’d lost its window of opportunity along with that of a handful of apple dishes I’d prepared, until I received an email from a friend on Saturday. She and her husband were on their way to Bali. Bali! In January! How lovely.

Shortly after reading that email I watched Eat, Pray, Love (which, it turns out, is not nearly as good as the book) and stared longingly at the beaches and bike riding and sundresses of Indonesia, the warmth of it all seeping from the screen. That is what I crave this time of year, the ability to escape to someplace warm and tropical, if even for just one meal. If you’re at all similar to me then a dish like these empanadas, which are made up of Winter-ish ingredients but convey the spirit of warmer times, will be just what you’re looking for this January.

Unless, of course, your resolutions for the new year include limiting luxuries like butter in your diet. To that I say, “everything in moderation” and “invite some friends over”! These rich, savory, chock-full-of-butter pockets certainly are not something to have on hand for multiple days at a time, and so are really the perfect thing to make and experiment with when you have plans to eat with a group of people. Just as empanadas are an excellent walking food, they also work well at a mostly-standing, “lose the Winter blahs with tequila in one hand” party. I have a feeling that we will all be looking to add one of those gatherings to our calendars towards the end of this gray and dreary month, so keeping this recipe close will be handy. Trust me.

Butternut squash roasted with mushrooms and wrapped in a delicate, butter-full pastry has all the makings for a hearty Fall-Winter meal. The fresh tomatillo sauce, however, does throw me off. In a space where I try to share mostly seasonal recipes, anything that calls for tomatillos in the heart of January seems a bit hypocritical, does it not? Luckily, there are some good options for jarred tomatillo salsa out there, any of which would be an excellent (and much less time-intensive) addition to the empanadas. I would, however, keep this sauce in mind next Summer when tomatillos are available, and think about making and putting some away for the Fall and Winter months ahead.

Butternut Squash + Mushroom Empanadas with Tomatillo Sauce
from Gourmet, October 2002
makes 8 empanadas


  • 1 cup diced (1/4 inch) butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 6 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 (2 to 3 inch) fresh jalepeño chiles, seeded and ribs discarded, finely chopped
  • 1 pound fresh exotic mushrooms, trimmed and coarsely chopped (I just used cremini mushrooms, because I had them)


  • 1 dried pasilla de Oaxaca chile (I used a canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, also, because I had it) chopped finely
  • 3 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks discarded and tomatillos rinsed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Empanada Dough (from Gourmet, October 2004 - makes enough for 12 empañadas)

  • 2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 tbsp distilled white vinegar

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water


  1. First, make empanada dough. Sift flour and salt together in a large bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips or with a pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
  2. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated (the mixture should look shaggy).
  3. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least one hour.
  4. Next, make filling. Preheat oven to 400˚. Combine together the squash, onion, garlic, jalepeño, and mushrooms. Toss with olive oil and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper, and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. (The Gourmet recipe differs here, boiling and sauteing the vegetables. I love the flavor that is brought forth with roasting, so chose to cook the filling using this method instead.) Roast for 25-35 minutes, until the squash is tender and the mushrooms have released their liquid, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Remove from oven and cool in pan on rack.
  5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat dry, non-stick pan over moderately high heat until hot, then toast unpeeled garlic until lightly blackened, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Cool garlic and peel.
  6. Simmer tomatillos, onion, garlic, chile, water, and salt in a large saucepan, covered, until tomatillos are very tender, about 20 minutes, and cool slightly. Puree sauce in a blender (or with an immersion blender) until smooth (use caution as liquid is VERY hot). Return sauce to pan and season with salt. 
  7. Finally, assemble the empanadas! Keep the oven heated to 400˚. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and form each into a disk (you will only need 8 of these pieces, the rest can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month). On a floured surface, roll out one disk into a 6 to 7 inch round. Spoon about 1/3 cup of filling onto center and brush edge of pastry with egg wash. Fold dough in half to form a half-moon, enclosing filling, and press edges together to seal. Crimp edge decoratively and move empañada to a large baking sheet. Make 6 more empañadas using the same method.
  8. Lightly brush empanadas with remaining egg wash and sprinkle tops with coarse sea salt. Bake on middle rack of oven until golden, 25-30 minutes. 
  9. While empanadas are baking, reheat sauce. Cut each empanada in half when slightly cooled, and drizzle about 3 tablespoons of sauce around them. The sauce will keep for about a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and is wonderful as a salsa or drizzled over burritos, fish, or chicken. 

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Reader Comments (18)

Just came across your blog! i LOVE it!! i moved from Charlottesville [Earlysville] when i was 16 years old and have always dreamed of going back! Now I am able to enjoy it vicariously through your blog! it's wonderful!

01.11.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I just did a lasagna recipe using squash and mushrooms, too. The combination is amazing. Your empanadas are very seasonal and creative.

01.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterSanura

I was just looking up recipes since I have a butternut squash that I need to use. If I can make it out of this snow storm we are in to get some of your ingredients, I will definitely be making these :) Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for this butternut squash and mushroom empanadas recipe. The pictures alone are quite mouth-watering!

01.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobo Stir

Sara :: Welcome! It is always nice to meet a fellow (or former0 Cvillian! :)

Sanura :: Thank you! I like the idea of a squash and mushroom lasagna...

Cait :: Good luck with the storm! These empanadas are worth the effort!

Robo Stir :: You're welcome, and thank you!

01.12.2011 | Registered CommenterAndrea

Love empanadas and the idea of somewhere warm right now. Great post.

I LOVE empanadas, though I typically make mine with meat. My husband loves mushrooms and I love squash: sounds like the perfect combination!

01.12.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKasey

I'm in love with empanadas. Your's look especially tasty. I made some for my blog last week using phyllo dough (in my attempt to make flaky empanadas like I had in Costa Rica). Next time I'm going to use your recipe for dough.

Gosh, suddenly I'm regretting having eaten dinner, already...

01.13.2011 | Unregistered Commentermolly

I am SO thrilled you are back to blogging! I have missed your stories and great recipes like this. Loving the new look for the blog too :)

I just made these this afternoon/evening. It took quite a bit of time, but it was well worth it! The only difference with mine was that the last 1 1/4th cup of flour I used a whole wheat flour instead of AP white (the sweetness of the butternut was excellent with the wheat), and our local grocer was out of chipotles in adobo, so I added some chopped cilantro to our salsa verde instead. I'm sure it gave it a totally different vibe, but the cool flavor of the verde was a nice companion for the slightly spicy filling.

I think next time I'll try adding poblanos instead of jalepenos. They have a bit of a kick and I love poblanos.

Oh, and just as an FYI, I used an entire small butternut squash (before peeling and gutting it was approx. 2 lb) instead of one cup butternut squash. I thought I would have extra filling that I intended to reuse as taco or burrito filling leftovers, but it was the perfect amount for the 12 empanadas the dough yielded. The squash cooked down considerably, so I didn't think it was too much butternut squash for the chopped mushrooms.

Thanks for the recipe! I've already got requests for an encore!

01.17.2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

And I also love these! Any savory mix that's tucked into a warm bread pocket works for me, regardless of season!

01.20.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimberley

I LOVE empanadas - thank you for the recipe. Can't wait to try!

01.24.2011 | Unregistered CommenterShady

I made these two nights ago and they were fabulous! Really not as hard as I thought they would be . I didn't make the sauce and felt that was fine. I also substituted 1/2 whole wheat flour for the crust which gave it a nice chewiness. Thanks for sharing - and for the beautiful pictures!

01.26.2011 | Unregistered CommenterElana

@Amy : I am so glad you made them! Thank you for your notes on additions/changes!
@Elana : I'm glad you enjoyed them! After yours and Amy's comments, I will surely try whole wheat flour next time.

01.26.2011 | Registered CommenterAndrea

Hi Andrea
I stumbled upon your blog and this empanada recipe looked so good I had to try, and then had to come back to say we really liked it!
The only changes I made was to use coconut oil in place of butter and sweet potato instead of butternut (just because that's what I had at home), and it worked super well. Both my son and mu husband loved the empanadas, it was a hit!
Thanks for sharing the recipe!

06.23.2011 | Unregistered CommenterAna

Excellent shots on the exquisitely prepared menu showcase. I must derive a thing or two from your setting and try it on my artistic italian food products.

10.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterArsalan

Life is just so funny. I had just bought butternut squash and I have been dying to make emplanadas so I started googling recipes that sounded good. I actually found the epicurious recipe first but then I saw your blog and I was wowed. Your pictures make this look unbelieveable and I was ready to scrap the recipe I found for your's until I realized they were the same... I love it! New addict to your blog, and follower! Excellent writing and photos... and funny enough this recipe is what I am making tonight... and its close to exactly 1 year from when you posted it. fate!
thanks :)

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