Empanaditas: A New Mexico Holiday Tradition

new mexico empanaditasIn New Mexico, empanaditas are a special holiday treat!

There are many versions of empanadas out there. In New Mexico they’re a holiday tradition- a single-serving sweet treat best served with a hot cup of coffee and good conversation!

I have happy memories of visiting family for the holidays where there was always a plate piled high with this specialty to share. Think flaky pastry that melts in your mouth, wrapped around a cinnamon spiced, lightly sweetened meat filling sprinkled with piñon…mmmm! They’re not difficult to make but require time and love! 

Developing this recipe was a passion project! I wanted to recreate the recipe, using fresh Natural Delights Medjool Dates in place of sugar to boost the nutrient profile without sacrificing flavor…

I was able to completely substitute the sugar in this recipe with dates and was very pleased with the result! The natural sweetness and caramelly flavor of the dates really shines through! I can’t wait to share them with my family in Taos over the holidays to (hopefully) get their nod of approval!

new mexico empanaditas

I have always looked forward to eating them during the holiday season but I’d never actually made them myself!

This was my very first time! I chatted with a couple of family members for best tips but no one had an actual recipe for me to follow, they just impressively recall it from memory (special thanks to Trinnie Barela and Christina Espinoza)! With those tips, a little research, and help from my friend, Kristen of Joy and Oliver, this recipe was created!  

After this experience, I can see why my family gathers together for an afternoon empanadita assembly line of cooking and chisme! Many hands make light work and it’s a good excuse to slow down and spend time together while making dozens to take home. Now I fully appreciate the labor of love that goes into making them! It’s a sweet tradition I intend to pass along to my family too…


New Mexico Empanaditas

Empanaditas are a special New Mexico holiday tradition! Think flaky pastry that melts in your mouth, wrapped around a cinnamon spiced, lightly sweetened meat filling sprinkled with piñon…mmmm!

  • Author: Andrea Overturf
  • Yield: 12-16 depending on size 1x
  • Category: Dessert



For the Meat Filling

  • 2 cups shredded pork/beef mixture. (I used a Pork Shoulder roast and Beef Chuck roast. You can also use all pork or all beef, I cooked both in the crockpot overnight and shredded while still hot. Combine and cool slightly before using.)
  • 6 Natural Delights Medjool Dates (quartered lengthwise then chopped into small pieces)
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup piñon (pine nuts) or walnuts

For the Pastry Dough

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup shortening (I used palm oil shortening)
  • 11 ¼ cup warm water
  • 1 egg (for egg wash to seal the empanaditas before frying)

For Deep Frying

  • Peanut Oil or high heat oil of your choice


For the Meat Filling

  1. With a spoon, mix the cinnamon, coriander, cloves, and salt into cup of applesauce.
  2. Add the shredded meat (cooled), chopped dates, and applesauce/spice mixture to food processor bowl.
  3. Pulse a few times to break up the mixture, then blend on high until its well combined and consistency resembles minced meat (about 5 mins). It should be slightly wet but not soggy and hold together when squeezing a portion in your hand. If it’s too dry you can add a bit of broth from the roasts, but be careful not to add too much moisture.
  4. Transfer meat mixture to a large bowl and incorporate the piñon, folding in with a spatula. 
  5. Set aside while you make the pastry dough. 

For the Pastry Dough

  1. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and shortening to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix with hands until the shortening is fully integrated
  3. Add warm water a bit at a time until desired consistency is reached. 
  4. Once dough is ready, break/cut into 12-16 uniform size round balls 
  5. Scramble one egg in a cup and set aside for egg wash

To Make the Empanaditas

  1. Using a rolling pin, roll ball into a circle
  2. Place a spoonful of meat on half of the circle close to middle leaving space along the edge
  3. Brush egg wash along the bottom edge of the half where filling is
  4. Fold upper half of dough over filling. 
  5. Cut excess with a pastry sealer (or pizza cutter, then seal edges with a fork.)
  6. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment. 
  7. Repeat until all empanaditas are made or you can make a few at a time and fry, making more while you wait on them to cook. If you do this I recommend setting a timer to avoid overcooking. 

For Deep Frying

  1. Depending on the size of your fryer, place a few empanaditas in at a time. My fryer had room for three at a time. 
  2. Fry in hot oil (heated to 350 degrees) for about 4 minutes, turning over with tongs halfway through. Set a timer for 2 minutes so you don’t forget to turn over. 
  3. They should look golden brown on both sides. 
  4. Remove from fryer with tongs or slotted spoon and place on another baking sheet or plate lined with paper towels to drain/cool. 

Best served warm with a cup of coffee!



  • If reheating, avoid the microwave. Reheat in toaster oven, regular oven or airfryer for best results. 
  • Empanaditas can be stored in refrigerator for up to seven days or frozen up to a month.


Keywords: New Mexico, Empanaditas, Empanadas, Taos, Northern New Mexico, Traditional recipes

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can't wait to see what you've made!

After tackling this project I want to attempt biscochitos next, my favorite New Mexican holiday cookie! Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you love these too, or try them! Have a wonderful holiday season! 

Note: I also experimented with making a gluten free dough for these but I am not confident in sharing that recipe because it needs to be further perfected! I’m convinced it can be done but my experience with pastry making is limited! If you have any tips please send them my way.

Photography: Kristen Massad

This post was sponsored by Natural Delights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Loubies and Lulu and make sharing this content possible! I appreciate you! 

Welcome! Loubies and Lulu is a Dallas-based fitness, fashion, and healthy lifestyle blog by Andrea Overturf.

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  1. Brenda wrote:

    I have never had these empanaditas but I look forward to trying the recipe thank you Andrea!

    Posted 12.12.21 Reply
    • Andrea wrote:

      Let me know if you try the recipe! Happy Holidays!

      Posted 12.15.21 Reply
  2. Dolores wrote:

    My mouth is watering! Mmm Soon as I get to store to buy ingredients, I will make these empanaditas. Are dates available at all grocery stores?

    Posted 12.26.21 Reply
    • Andrea wrote:

      Excited for you to try it! Yes, dates are available in most grocery stores and can be found in the produce section or the aisle near raisins. Look for Natural Delights brand, they’re the best!!

      Posted 12.26.21 Reply
  3. seferino portillo wrote:

    i love empanaditas. do you sell them?

    Posted 11.6.22 Reply
    • Andrea wrote:

      I don’t sell them…but hope you like the recipe!

      Posted 11.19.22 Reply
  4. Lynda Novak wrote:

    My mother’s recipe came from the Socorro area by way of Spain/Portugal roots. We used the traditional recipe with sugar. We used the unsweetened applesauce too for a healthier version. And switched up the piñon for pecans due to price. I would love to see your family’s original recipe from the Northern NM area it is indeed a labor love and tradition. Also, can you find out what the ‘Sopa’ recipe is for Northern NM that does not use the cheese.?

    Posted 12.12.22 Reply
  5. Joseph Korte wrote:

    My mother would make them for Christmas. She would use prunes and dates.I would like to get a good recipe. She is know longer a live and leave no recipe, can yo help me?

    Posted 1.21.23 Reply
    • Andrea wrote:

      Definitely try the recipe here! Hope you enjoy!

      Posted 1.23.23 Reply
  6. Maggie wrote:

    I printed your recipe . Thank you so much I am making them this week-end. Will let you know how they come out.

    Posted 12.18.23 Reply
    • Andrea wrote:

      I hope you loved the recipe!

      Posted 1.14.24 Reply