There are dishes that you have somewhere that are so amazing and so unexpected that you never forget them. Pineapple empanadas are just such a dish for my BF Trilo. He discovered them at the farmer’s market a few years ago, was wow’d by them. That seller never had them again, and he’s looked for them at every farmer’s market we’ve gone to ever since. It was time to try making fresh pineapple empanadas.
The best we can guess was that there must have been a visiting friend or relative who made their famous treats to sell at the market that day. It was a delicious one-time-only treat. Those empanada have lived in infamy in his memory ever since. Trilo encouraged me to try to make them someday. There are lots of dessert recipes I love making (like brownies), and a whole bunch I have been doing for years. Making empanadas is not one of them.
That Day Was Today
On a shopping trip to the market, we noticed a large display of pineapples at a very good price. Trilo declared that this must mean it was prime pineapple season, so we grabbed one. I thought to myself: ‘pineapple empanadas are going to happen!’
A quick glance around online for some recipe guidance and empanada-making tips, and I was pretty sure that this was something I could do successfully. I weighed the option of creating my own pie crust for the pastry, but decided to focus on the filling, and go with a simpler option to use pre-made crust. I think there are some good crusts available, and if I could simplify the process, I’d be more likely to make these more often. (Which, if I do it right, is probably going to be required! lol)
Simple Filling, Simply Delish!
For the filling I wanted to stick to the basics. Since the last large producer in Hawaii shut down years ago, most pineapple available at US grocery stores comes from Costa Rica. I still prefer pineapples from Hawaii, and have often stated that I would move to Hawaii JUST for the pineapple! If you ever want to taste one for yourself without taking a trip, check this site out. When it is in season, it’s so juicy and sweet, pineapple hardly needs anything else. So for my fresh pineapple empanadas filling, I went with just sugar and a touch of cinnamon, cooked down and thickened with a bit of cornstarch.
One pineapple actually made enough filling for two boxes of pie crust (4 sheets of dough). Which is fortunate, since I had two on hand. That also gave me the opportunity to try making some larger empanadas with the second batch. For grab-and-nibble snacks I think I like the smaller sized ones, but the larger were a bit easier to make. Perhaps somewhere between the two is worth trying next time.
Make Ahead Brilliance
Once the filling was made, the pastries came together quickly. Seems to me it’s worth grabbing pineapples when I see them, cook them down to filling and store that in the fridge. Then I can whip up pineapple empanadas on a whim!
That’s the same concept I have with my semifreddo recipes. I make curd in advance and store it for use later. That makes the process of throwing together something tasty so much easier! Clearly I need to do the same with pineapple filling.
Well, lets get baking already!
- 1 Fresh pineapple peeled, cored, and roughly chopped into small pieces
- 2 cups Sugar
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Ground cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp Cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp Cold water
- 1 box Pre-made pie crust
- 1 Egg beaten
- Sugar for sprinkling
Making the Filling
- Peel and core the pineapple by cutting the top and bottom off. Stand the pineapple on your cutting board and slice off the skin from top to bottom, taking about 1/4" of fruit off. Work your way around all sides. Make sure you cut off all of the small round holes left behind.
- When all the skin is gone, slice down lengthwise using the core as your guide. Slice the halves into lengthwise quarters, following the core.
- Slice off the inner core by cutting diagonally across each quarter lengthwise. Make sure to remove all of the light-colored core. This part is woody, and won't break down in cooking.
- Roughly chop the pineapple into small pieces. The smaller, the better. There can be some small chunks.
- Put the pineapple, sugar, salt, and ground cinnamon into a saucepan.
- Using a silicone spatula, cook down the pineapple, stirring occasionally to keep it from burning or sticking. Scrape down the sides of the pan as you stir. When the mixture begins to boil reduce the heat and continue to cook for 15 minutes.Mash the cooked pineapple slightly with an immersion blender, keeping it a bit chunky. (You can also use a potato masher).
- In a small bowl, combine cold water and cornstarch and mix well.
- Stir the cornstarch mixture into the pineapple, stirring constantly to combine. Cook until the mixture starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Prep for Pastries
- Preheat Oven to 350°.
- Remove boxed pie crusts from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. When at room temp, unroll and lay out flat on your cutting board.
- Using a round cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can fit on the sheet of pastry.Note: if you don't have a large circle cutter, you can use a small bowl as a guide. Lay the bowl upside down on the pastry and run a small knife around the edge to cut the dough.
- Set the circles aside and collect all of the cuttoff pieces. Repeat for second sheet of pastry.
- Using the cutoff dough, gather it together into a ball and squeeze it slightly to combine. Do not overwork the dough or it will become tough! Continue to cut circles out of the remaining dough.
- Lay out the circles on your cutting board and place a spoonful of cooled filling onto each circle, leaving room to fold them over and crimp them. For small circles, you can do this in your hand.
- Using a pastry brush, brush some beaten egg on the inside edges of the dough, just wetting the pastry. Fold the dough over and press together with your fingers, making sure that the filling doesn't squeeze out the edges. It is important to have about 1/4"-3/8" of dough sealed around the edge. Use a fork to crimp the edges to seal them.If holes appear while you are working with them, you can use leftover dough to patch them.
- Place each empanada onto a silicone baking mat in your cookie sheet pan. Because they won't grow in the oven, you can place them close to each other on the baking tray. Brush the tops with beaten egg.
- Sprinkle the pastries with sugar.
- With a sharp small knife, poke a couple of small holes in each one. This will let the steam escape whick keeps them from bursting.
- Put into the preheated oven, middle rack, for 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown.
- Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. You can test them right out of the oven, but the filling will be extremely hot! Don't worry if some of them have split open, they will still be delicious!
- Big or small, these will become a new favorite treat! Enjoy