Pumpkin Spice Hand Pies with Apple Cinnamon Cranberry Filling (Vegan & Gluten-Free)


I wrapped up all the best flavors of the season in a perfect little pumpkin-spiced envelope, just for you! Happy Thanksgiving! Hand-pies, empanadas, turnovers… whatever you want to call them, these lovely little treats are the perfect no-guilt nibble to offer your family and friends this Thanksgiving. The crust is crisp on the edges, yet tender, and delicately pumpkin-flavored with a touch of pie spices, while the filling is bursting with cinnamon infused apples and tart cranberries. Did I mention they are also just too cute? Sweet and neat little mini pies, no forks necessary. If you’re looking for a last-minute appetizer or dessert idea, look no further!

I got inspired a month or two ago while flipping through a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, when I came across a series of mouth-watering photos and recipes for empanadas. They featured savory fillings as well as a sweet pumpkin pie filling. The recipe for the dough was quite traditional and used a lot of butter and white flour, so I folded the corner of the page and made a mental note to make-over the recipe to be vegan, gluten-free, and a lot healthier. Then I proceeded to forget about the empanadas entirely and became stuck on this idea I had dreamt up for stuffed squash. It was going to be the perfect Thanksgiving recipe to share with you all this week and I could almost taste it (and it was delicious). I tried a few different ideas for the stuffed squashes, and let me tell you, they weren’t so delicious. So I decided to scrap the squash idea for now and move on. I pondered what to make. Then, a few days ago I was texting with my eldest sister and she just happened to mention her love of Latin American culture; the music, the food, everything. Then it hit me… the food!  Empanadas! I dug out the magazine and looked up a few recipes online, and got to work on my healthy hand-pies.

It took me quite a few tries, and there were plenty of trials and tribulations along the way. Yesterday, we traveled to the central part of the state to spend a few days at my parents house. I knew I wanted to do at least one more variation on the pies and try them out on my family. Well, the wacky Michigan weather struck again.  Last week, we were piled with snow, this week the temperature started to rise and it rained cats and dogs. On top of that, we had a strong wind advisory, with gusts bending the tops of the trees and making the rain fall horizontally. Right in the midst of my dough rolling and hand pie forming, the electricity goes out! Now, losing power in town this isn’t such a big deal. It’s inconvenient, sure, but basically you don’t have lights and can’t charge your phone or use the toaster oven. We still have water, and can still cook on our gas oven. Living out in the country, losing power is a whole different ballgame.  There’s no water, no lights, and since my parents have an electric oven, there’s no cooking. Fortunately, the electricity was not out for long, and I was able to pull the dough out of the fridge and roll it out, fill those babies, bake ’em, and try them out on everyone in time for after-dinner tea and coffee. They got the thumbs up, and many a mini pie were enjoyed. I, however, was still not happy with the filling. So, after 4 different batches, and lots and lots of mini-pie tasting this morning (not complaining!) I think I’ve got the winner.

pumpkin spice empanada

We’ve got quite a surplus of hand-pies around here, and I’m hoping they will last until Thursday. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, and this year our family is partaking in some fun Thanksgiving festivities. My sister has invited us to join her for 5k Thanksgiving Day run. My brother-in-law, two of my nieces, and my cousin (visiting from Atlanta) will be running as well.  I have to say, I’ve been feeling a little nervous.  The past few weeks, my jogging routine has been a bit inconsistent nonexistant.  I’m relying on good ol’ adrenaline and the freezing cold temps to keep my butt moving (and maybe a few pumpkin spice pies waiting for me at the end).  Wish me luck!

Now, on to the recipe!

I wanted to keep things simple, so although I love the results when combining gluten-free flours like oat, almond, and sorghum, I decided to stick with an all-purpose blend. These pies are sweet but not overwhelmingly so. You can adjust the sweetness in the filling, but it’s nice to have a treat that doesn’t make you feel icky after you eat it.  The instructions may seem long, and maybe a bit tedious, but trust me, if I can do it, so can you!  They really come together quite easily.  I hope you give these a try!

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Pumpkin Spice Hand Pies with Apple Cinnamon Cranberry Filling

Makes 12-14


Pumpkin Spice Empanadas Dough:

1 cup + 2 Tbs Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp cinnamon

scant 1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbs coconut oil, solid

1/4 cup + 2 Tbs pumpkin puree

1 Tbs maple syrup

extra coconut oil to brush on while baking

Apple Cinnamon Cranberry Filling:

2 small apples, chopped small (I used Gala, but Cortland, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith are all good options)

2 tsp fresh lemon juice + a pinch of lemon zest

2-3 Tbs coconut sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground ginger

pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

pinch of salt

dash of cloves

1 tsp coconut oil

1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries

Parchment paper for rolling the dough and baking


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin by whisking together the dry ingredients (first 3 ingredients) for the dough.  Then, cut in the solid coconut oil with a pastry cutter or fork (or with your fingers) until the oil is incorporated into the flour and resembles tiny pebbles.  Then, add in the pumpkin puree and maple syrup and mix with a large spoon or your hands until you have a shaggy looking dough.  Bring the dough together and knead a few times, just enough to form it into a ball.  You don’t want the dough to be too dry and crumbly, nor too moist and sticky.  It should hold together, but not feel tacky.  Wrap your dough and place it in the fridge while you make the apple filling.

2.   In a medium size mixing bowl, place the chopped apples, lemon juice and zest, salt, coconut sugar, and spices and stir together.  In a small pot, melt the teaspoon of coconut oil over medium high heat.  Add the apple mixture and cook for a couple of minutes until the juices start to simmer, then turn the heat to medium low.  Add the cranberries and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the apples have softened and the juices have evaporated a bit.  If you’d like to thicken the mixture, you can add an 1/8 tsp of flour or arrowroot powder, but I actually preferred the empanadas with the juicier filling.  Remove the apples from the heat and set aside.

3.  Take your dough from the fridge and unwrap.  I opted to divide the dough into two balls for easier rolling.  Take a large piece of parchment paper and sprinkle flour on top of it.  Place the ball of dough on the parchment and sprinkle a little more flour on top.  Take a second piece of parchment paper and place it over the dough and roll the dough out between the sheet of parchment.  This is the easiest way to roll the dough, as gluten-free dough can be sticky and fall apart easily.  Try to roll it out to 1/8 inch thickness.  The thinner the better, but the dough can be tricky!  Use a large round lid or glass to cut out circles.  Fill each round with a small scoop of filling.  You’ll learn as you go how much filling you can stuff in those babies without them falling apart.  They’ll look a bit rustic, with some cracks and such, but that’s ok!  I also took the extra step of using a tiny fork to stamp the edges and I added 3 slits to the top of each pie to let the steam escape.

4.  Place on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and pop them in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Melt a teaspoon or two of coconut oil and after about 20 minutes, take your empanadas out of the oven and brush them with the oil.  Put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Take them out and cool for 10 minutes (seriously, those buggers are HOT fresh out of the oven).  Enjoy!


Do you have any big plans for Thanksgiving?  I hope you all have a safe and very happy holiday!


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