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These Caramel Apple Empanadas are melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Complete with Granny Smith apples cooked in a spiced caramel sauce and a flaky, buttery pie crust, they are the best caramel apple hand pies ever. Just like mini apple pies!
This Mexican empanada recipe is perfect for packing into kids’ lunch boxes, serving at parties, or just as a treat to enjoy at home.
They’re just what you need to remind you of the Taco Bell apple empanadas everyone misses, but even more delicious! Trust us, this little apple pie recipe is going to rock your world.
To make the dough by hand, you may want a food processor to pulse the dough mixture. However, you can combine the dough using your hands if you do not have one.
For cutting the dough, you can use a round pastry cutter or the bottom of a glass.
To make the mixture, you will need nothing more than a saucepan. And, of course, you will need a baking sheet, parchment paper, and your oven to bake these little hand pies!
- all-purpose flour
- granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- cold water
Caramel apple pie filling recipe:
- Granny Smith apples, diced
- lemon juice
- caramel, cajeta, or dulce de leche
- vanilla extract
- ground cinnamon
- ground cloves
- Pinch salt
Egg wash and topping:
- egg yolk
- Cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
- Caramel sauce, for drizzling
Slice your apples easily by following our How to Use a Mandoline guide!
Can I use store-bought pie dough?
Yes! You can use either ready-made pie dough or even Goya discos to make these caramel apple hand pies.
If you have the time, I highly recommend making the homemade pie dough. It is truly delicious! However, you will get incredible results using pre-made dough, too.
How to make empanada dough:
Get our empanada dough recipe!
How to make apple pie filling:
- Toss 4 diced Granny Smith apples with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, then add to a saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir together with the ⅓ cup caramel. Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the apples soften, 15-20 minutes.
- Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves, and a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to come to room temperature.
How to make empanadas:
- Once the filling cools, remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a thin sheet. Use a 3 ½″ circular cutter to cut out circles of dough, or cut using the mouth of a glass around the same size.
- Place 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of the apple pie filling into the center of one of the circles. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges together to seal.
Seal completely by slightly pulling out, folding over, and pressing down with a fork to create a rope-like appearance. Repeat until all empanadas are folded.
- Place the caramel apple empanadas 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375˚F.
- In a small bowl, beat together 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash over the tops of the chilled empanadas and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
👪 Serving Size
All in all, this recipe is enough for about 16 caramel apple hand pies.
They are perfect for a birthday party or holiday celebration like a Cinco de Mayo party!
⭐ Family Foodie Tips
- Refrigerate for 20 minutes before baking. Don’t skip this step! This helps firm up the dough and filling to keep everything inside as they bake.
- Crisp them up. To make your caramel apple empanadas crispy, swap granulated sugar for turbinado sugar to crisp up the tops of the apple empanadas further and add a little texture!
- How to make cinnamon sugar. You can easily make your own cinnamon sugar by mixing ½ cup sugar with 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Make it even sweeter. Add a spoonful of brown sugar or piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) to the simmering apples.
💭 Frequently Asked Questions
What is an empanada?
Empanadas are baked or fried turnovers with a sweet or savory filling. They are common in Latin American and Filipino cuisine, but variations of the empanada exist all over the world.
What is an egg wash?
An egg wash is a simple combination of egg and water or some other liquid, like milk. The ratio is one tablespoon of liquid to one egg. Place them in a glass bowl, beat together, and then use to brush over the top of whatever you’re baking.
In the case of these dessert empanadas, the egg wash gives the pastry dough a beautiful golden-brown color when baked.
However, egg washes are also useful for binding foods together to keep the filling inside, so you can brush it on the edges of these empanadas, too.
Can I freeze empanadas?
Yes, you can! You can freeze these caramel apple empanadas before or after baking.
- How to freeze empanadas before baking:
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Assemble the empanadas according to the instructions, making sure to seal them tightly, then place on the pan. Make sure the empanadas are not touching so that they do not stick together in the freezer.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap, then store in the freezer for 3 hours. Once frozen, remove them from the pan and add to freezer-safe bags or individually wrap them in plastic wrap. You can also store in an air-tight container.
- When ready to bake, add 10 minutes or so to the baking time.
- How to freeze empanadas after baking:
- Assemble and bake the empanadas according to the instructions. Allow them to cool completely.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the empanadas on the baking sheet, spaced out just so they do not touch. Cover the sheet loosely with plastic wrap, then store in the freezer for 3 hours.
- Once frozen, remove them from the pan to add to freezer-safe bags, or wrap individually in plastic wrap. You can also store in an air-tight container.
- When ready to reheat, you can do so at baking temperature for about 10-15 minutes straight out of the freezer.
Can I make empanada dough and filling ahead of time?
Yes! You can make both empanada dough and the apple pie filling ahead of time.
- Empanada dough: Form the dough according to the instructions outlined in the post. Then, add the dough to a greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store for no more than 3 days before assembling the empanadas.
- Empanada filling: Cook the filling according to the post instructions, then let cool and add to an air-tight container in the fridge. Store for the same amount of time as the filling, no more than 3 days.
- Instead of caramel, try using cajeta (Mexican goat milk caramel) or dulce de leche for these caramel apple empanadas. Dulce de leche is great for having on hand to make recipes like these hand pies or Carlota de Limón.
- Use ready-made dough or Goya discos to save yourself some prep time on making the dough. They are just as flavorful!
- Add a little piloncillo to the simmering apples. Piloncillo is like a Mexican brown sugar. It’s a raw form of cane sugar that tastes wonderful in this recipe!
This Mexican dessert recipe is truly delicious. It really will remind you of the Taco Bell empanada recipe, and we guarantee your family will love it!
🥟 Serving Suggestions
These caramel apple hand pies are perfect for pairing with dessert toppings or ice cream. Here are our suggestions:
- Serve with cinnamon gelato, ice cream, or a little whipped cream.
- Drizzle additional caramel sauce or even butterscotch sauce on top.
They are also perfect for a Cinco de Mayo celebration! Serve them following these dinners:
Or serve these apple hand pies as an alternative to a full pie for a holiday dessert. They make a wonderful treat in the Fall, especially for Thanksgiving!
Get more Fancy Finger Food Recipes!
📖 Similar Recipes
If you love these caramel apple empanadas, you are sure to enjoy these recipes:
Give our Deep Dish Apple Pie and Pumpkin Cobbler with Spiced Butter Toffee a try, too! And have I mentioned our Fresas con Crema? It’s a Mexican strawberries and cream dessert I know you’ll love!
And of course, if you like caramel apple empanadas, you are sure to love our other empanada recipes! Try our favorites:
Did you try these caramel apple empanadas? Let us know what you think in the comments below! We love to hear from you.
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Caramel Apple Empanadas
- 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- Pinch salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter chilled and cubed
- ½ cup cold water
- 4 Granny Smith apples diced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ⅓ cup caramel, cajeta, or dulce de leche
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- Pinch salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- Cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar for sprinkling
- Caramel sauce for drizzling
To make the dough:
- In a food processor fitted with a dough blade or a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Pulse in the cubed butter or cut in using a pastry blender or your fingers to create a crumbly texture with no pieces larger than a pea.
- Mix in enough water just to bring together the pieces and create a smooth dough. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
To make the filling:
- Toss the diced apples with the lemon juice. In a saucepan, stir together the diced apples and caramel over medium heat. Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the apples begin to soften, 15-20 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Once the filling has cooled to room temperature, remove from dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a thin sheet. Use 3 ½ inch circular cutter to cut out circles of dough.
- Place 1-1 ½ tablespoons of the apple filling into the center of one of the circles. Fold the dough over the filling and press the edges together to seal. Seal completely using the tines of a fork or create a rope appearance by pulling the edge out slightly and folding over, starting from one end and finishing at the opposite side. Repeat with remaining empanadas.
- Place the empanadas two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375˚F. In a small bowl, beat together the egg and water. Brush the egg wash over the tops of the chilled empanadas. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or turbinado sugar.
- Bake in preheated oven until the empanadas are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
If you want even more sweetness, add a spoonful of brown sugar or piloncillo to the simmering apples.
Using an egg wash to seal the empanadas is key to keeping the apple empanadas intact while baking. Don’t skip on refrigerating the empanadas for at least 20 minutes before baking. This will help firm up the dough and filling to keep everything inside.