Abuela's Recipe for Apple Empanadas

Apple Empanadas
Depending on their filing, empanadas can be a snack , breakfast, lunch, or, in the case of these sweet apple empanadas, dessert. Felipex / Getty Images
  • Total: 4 hrs 20 mins
  • Prep: 4 hrs
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 12 empanadas (serves 12)

My grandmother used to make these sweet treats with leftover dough from meat empanadas. She would cook chopped fresh apples with sugar and raisins to make the filling, then fry the empanadas after dinner for a much-anticipated dessert. Somehow, her empanada dough recipe always made way more than she needed for the savory ones, but we never complained.

Enjoy these for dessert, breakfast, or a snack, or serve small ones as a holiday appetizer or unexpected treat on a cookie tray.


  • For Dough:
  • 3 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 4 teaspoons sugar (white)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (ground)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup good quality pork lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup water
  • For Filling:
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 pounds apples (peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (ground)
  • 2 cups sugar (white)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1 cup raisins (softened in warm water and drained)
  • Oil or shortening for frying

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Empanada Dough:

  1. Use a fork or a whisk to toss the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and pinch of salt together in a large bowl.

  2. Cut in the lard with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

  3. Beat the egg in a medium bowl, then stir in 3/4 cup water. Add the egg to the flour mixture and knead it until a dough forms. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

Make the Apple Caramel Filling:

  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a simmer in a shallow pan. Add the apples and cinnamon and simmer until the apples turn fork-tender and the water evaporates. (Add a little more water, if necessary, for the apples to fully cook.)

  2. Stir the sugar, lemon juice, and 1/8 cup of water together in a small saucepan. Warm it over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a simmer. When it turns a dark golden color (or reaches 335 F / 168 C on a candy thermometer), take it off the heat, but continue stirring constantly.

  3. Quickly fold in the cooked apples and softened raisins.

Tip: If the filling begins to harden, return it to the stove and keep it warm over low heat.

Assemble and Fry the Apple Empanadas:

  1. Lightly flour a surface and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch (6.3 mm) thick.

  2. Cut out 4-inch (10-cm) circles for small empanadas, 5-inch (13-cm) circles for medium ones or 6-inch (15-cm) circles for large ones.

  3. Place 1, 2, or 3 tablespoons of filling in the center of the small, medium, and large dough circles respectively. Fold the dough over to form a semi-circle and use a fork to press the edges together.

  4. Refrigerate the prepared empanadas for 3 hours before you cook them.

  5. Deep fry the cold empanadas in batches in oil (350 F / 177 C) for 6 to 7 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Drain the empanadas briefly on a metal rack or several layers of absorbent paper before you serve them.

Caution: The filling may be very hot.