These easy Pineapple Empanadas (empanadas de piña) are made with caramelized pineapple chunks, real caramel sauce, and classic empanada dough. A perfect handheld dessert with bright, luscious flavor!
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Sweet Pineapple Empanadas with Homemade Caramel Sauce
Empanadas are practically synonymous with “delicious,” don’t you think? There’s nothing quite like a flaky hand pie, whether it’s filled with savory spiced beef, hearty potatoes, cheese, or fruit! So why not whip up some flaky, crispy treats?
Pineapple empanadas are a favorite sweet version of empanadas. You’ll find recipes calling for pineapple jam, pineapple preserves, or just regular old canned pineapple. This recipe is a little different because the filling is paired with real homemade caramel sauce! Plus, the pineapple is also caramelized with a bit of brown sugar and some cinnamon. All in all, the blend of bright tropical pineapple, warm buttery caramel, cinnamon, and a flaky crust – well, it’s pretty magical! This is seriously a recipe you’re going to want to try.
What You’ll Need
Although there are three main parts of this recipe, none of them is very complicated, and you don’t need many ingredients. (And of course, if you opt to use store-bought caramel sauce, the list gets even shorter.) Here are the items you’ll need to make this recipe from start to finish.
For the Caramel Sauce
- Sugar: I prefer Dixie Crystals Granulated Sugar, but you can also use brown sugar.
- Water: To dissolve the sugar – just a couple of tablespoons.
- Butter: I use unsalted butter, and I add a pinch of salt to the recipe, but you could use salted butter and adjust the added salt to your taste.
- Heavy Cream: A generous splash of cream makes the caramel sauce rich and extra-indulgent.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract gives the caramel sauce a dreamy flavor!
- Salt: Just a pinch.
For the Caramelized Pineapples
- Pineapple: This recipe is super easy thanks to canned pineapple chunks! But if you have some fresh pineapple to use, that is totally fine, too. Either will work beautifully!
- Brown Sugar: I used some Dixie Crystals Brown Sugar to caramelize the pineapple. Extra yum.
- Cinnamon: You can omit this if you prefer, but it really adds a special touch!
For the Empanadas
- Empanada Dough: I love my recipe for homemade empanada dough, but store-bought also works just fine. If using store bought, I recommend Goya tapas size frozen empanada dough. (If you go with frozen dough, you will need to let it thaw in the fridge before using.)
- Egg Wash: Beat 1 large egg with a couple of teaspoons of water to make an egg wash for the empanadas. This will give them an appetizing, golden-brown color.
- Sugar: A little more granulated sugar is nice for adding some texture and sparkle to the outside of the empanadas, but is not necessary.
Is Empanada Dough the Same as Pie Dough?
You might be wondering if you can substitute pie crust dough for empanada dough, and the short answer is: sure! Pie crust will work, but it does have a slightly different flavor and texture.
Because empanada dough is often made egg yolks, in addition to lots of butter, it has a more tender consistency than pie crust. It’s usually slightly less sweet than pie crust, as well.
So if you have the time, I do recommending making your own Homemade Empanada Dough! Or, check your local grocery store in the frozen foods section for empanada wrappers. Just make sure to thaw them before you use them in the recipe!
Let’s Make Pineapple Empanadas!
Following this recipe is not difficult, but there are quite a few steps. For that reason, I definitely recommend reading through the list of steps a couple of times before you get started. Happy baking!
Make the Caramel Sauce
- Heat the Sugar and Water. To begin, combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan, and give it a gentle stir to combine. Then slowly heat the mixture over medium heat. Do not stir while it heats; if necessary, you can carefully swirl the saucepan every minute or two. To prevent crystallization on the sides of the saucepan, use a silicone pastry brush to brush down the sides.
- Allow the Sugar Mixture to Simmer. Watch the sugar mixture carefully as it begins to simmer, and allow it to simmer until it thickens and changes to a deep, amber color. This can take between 8 and 12 minutes, but the sugar can go very quickly from “done” to “burned,” so be sure to keep an eye on it! Occasionally swirl the pot as the sugar simmers.
- Whisk in the Butter. Next, add the butter to the saucepan, but be very careful. Adding the butter will cause the super-hot syrup to bubble and rise rapidly in the saucepan. Just keep whisking until the bubbles subside. Then turn off the stove, and move the saucepan off the heat.
- Whisk in the Cream, Vanilla, and Salt.
- With the saucepan off the heat, slowly add the heavy cream to the caramel, whisking the whole time. Follow this with the vanilla, and then the salt.
- Cool. Allow the caramel sauce to cool for 10 – 15 minutes before pouring it into a glass jar, and allowing it to cool competely in the refrigerator before using. This will take about 45 to 60 minutes.
Make the Pineapple Filling
- Prep the Oven and Cookie Sheet. Before you get started on the filling, it’s a good time to preheat the oven to 350°F, and prepare a cookie sheet. I like to line mine with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, or you could lightly oil it with neutral, high-heat cooking oil. Then sprinkle 1.5 tablespoons of granulated sugar across the bottom of the cookie sheet, and set it aside.
- Caramelize the Pineapple. Now heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pineapple chunks and let them cook, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes. This will help the excess liquid to cook out. Next, add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir well to coat the pineapple thoroughly. Allow the pineapple mixture to come to a simmer, and continue to cook for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the sugar is melted. Swirl the pan now and then to prevent scorching. When the sugar is all melted, take the skillet off the heat and allow the filling to cool for a few minutes.
Make the Empanadas
- Assemble the Empanadas. Once the caramel sauce is ready and the pineapple filling is cool, it’s time to make the empanadas. Take out the empanada dough, and lightly roll the dough if needed, so that it becomes more pliable. Place about 3 chunks of pineapple on each empanada, along with a small spoonful of the caramel sauce. Fold the dough over, and use a fork to press the edges of the dough completely closed (be careful not to accidentally poke or tear a hole in the pocket of the empanada).
- Add Egg Wash and Sprinkle with Sugar. Place the empanadas on the prepared cookie sheet as you go, and gently bend each one into a crescent shape. Then make the egg wash by cracking the egg into a small bowl and whisking with a little water. Using a silicone pastry brush, brush egg wash over each empanada, and sprinkle each one with a pinch of sugar.
- Bake, Cool, and Serve. Bake the empanadas for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow them to cool slightly before serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
- Enjoy! These are amazing served still warm with a hearty drizzle of caramel sauce. And if you really want to go the extra mile, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
Is It Better to Fry or Bake Empanadas?
This is really a matter of taste! Frying and baking are both common ways to make empanadas, and each one will yield a tasty result when done right. I love the rich flavor of deep-fried empanadas, but there’s no doubt that baked empanadas are easier to make and still super yummy to eat. If you’d prefer to fry instead of bake these, go for it!
Helpful Tips and Easy Recipe Variations
- Fresh Fruit Option: If you would rather use fresh pineapple, that’s great! Fresh pineapple will definitely work in this easy recipe. You can also swap out the pineapple for any fruit you like instead!
- Sugar Options: For a more robust, molasses-like flavor, try using dark brown sugar instead of the light brown sugar.
- Make More: This recipe can easily be doubled if you’d like to serve a crowd (or freeze some for later!).
- Store-Bought Sauce: To save time, you can use store-bought caramel sauce instead of making your own. Either way, these easy treats are sure to please.
- Larger Empanadas: If using homemade empanada dough, you can make them any size you like. However if you use store-bought dough, they make a few different sizes. Goya has tapas-size empanada dough rounds and the larger size. To use this recipe with larger empanada dough, plan on making five or six empanadas instead of 10.
- Don’t Burn the Filling: The pineapple sugar mixture can easily burn, so it is important to cook on a fairly low heat and watch it carefully.
- Serve Warm: While tasty at room temperature, this dessert is best when served warm from the oven, with just a little time to cool off.
- Sundae Toppings: Both the caramel sauce and the pineapple filling are not only awesome in empanadas – they’re amazing as ice cream sundae toppings!
Storing and Reheating
- To Store: These empanadas can be stored for up to 1 week in an airtight container or in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.
- To Reheat: Microwave the empanadas on 50% power for about 45 seconds, or bake them again at 350°F until warmed through. You can also reheat them in an air fryer, this will really help them get crispy again.
Can I Freeze Pineapple Empanadas?
Sure! Pineapple empanadas freeze well baked, and also unbaked. Either way, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and stick them in the freezer until they are frozen solid. Then gently pack into freezer bags or containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen empanadas in the fridge before baking or reheating.
Homemade Caramel Sauce
- 1/2 cup Dixie Crystals Granulated Sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 can (20 oz) pineapple chunks, drained
- 1/2 cup Dixie Crystals Light Brown Sugar, packed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Make the Caramel Sauce
- In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and water. Gently stir. Heat over medium heat. Allow the sugar mixture to come to a simmer. DO NOT STIR the mixture, but gently swirl the pot every minute or two. Using a silicone brush, brush down the sides of the pot to help prevent crystallization.
- Continue to allow sugar mixture to simmer and occasionally swirl pot until the mixture thickens and turns a deep amber color - typically this can take between 8 and 12 minutes. Mixture will need to be watched to prevent burning.
- Then, add the butter and whisk mixture until completely melted. Warning: the caramel sauce will bubble up and rise rapidly when you add the butter. Continue to whisk and it will subside. Next, turn off the stove and take the pot off of the heat.
- While whisking, slowly add the heavy cream and mix until fully incorporated. Add vanilla extract and salt, and whisk together. Set the pot aside and allow the mixture to cool for 10 - 15 minutes. Transfer the caramel to a glass jar and allow to cool completely in the refrigerator, for about 45 to 60 minutes, before using.
Make The Pineapple Filling
- Heat a large pan over medium heat. Pour in the pineapple chunks and cook, stirring, for 1 - 2 minutes or until the liquid is cooked off. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir the mixture together, coating the pineapple thoroughly. Allow the pineapple mixture to come to a simmer. Continue to cook over medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes, or until the sugar is melted, swirling the pan to prevent burning. Once the sugar has melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool for several minutes.
Make the Empanadas
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Sprinkle 1.5 tablespoons of granulated sugar across the bottom of the cookie sheet and set aside.
- Once the pineapple mixture is cool, prepare the empanadas. Remove the homemade caramel sauce from the refrigerator, along with the empanada dough. Use a rolling pin to lightly roll the dough if needed, so that it becomes more pliable. Add roughly 3 chunks of pineapple and a small spoonful of the caramel sauce to the center of the dough. Fold the dough over, and using a fork, tightly pinch the dough closed (be careful not to accidentally poke or tear a hole in the pocket of the empanada). Place each empanada on the prepared cookie sheet as you go, and gently bend each one into a crescent shape.
- Repeat until all of the empanadas have been assembled and placed on the baking sheet.
- Crack the egg into a small bowl and add water. Whisk together. Using a silicone pastry brush, brush egg wash over each empanada, and sprinkle each one with a pinch of sugar.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for several minutes before serving. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of additional caramel sauce.
- **You can also use store bought empanada dough to save on time. Goya makes two different sized empanada doughs, a tapa size (about 5 inches in diameter) and a larger size. To use the same recipe with larger size empanadas, plan to make 5 - 6 empanadas instead of 10. They also will need a few minutes longer in the oven to bake completely.
- Fresh pineapple can be used instead of canned.
- This recipe can easily be doubled, if desired.
- Store-bought caramel sauce can be substituted for the homemade caramel sauce to save on time.
- The pineapple sugar mixture can easily burn, so it is important to cook on a fairly low heat and watch it carefully.Caramelized pineapple also makes a great ice cream sundae topping.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 322Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 144mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 1gSugar: 35gProtein: 2g
More Luscious Latin Dessert Recipes
Looking for more sweet recipes with a Latin flare? Here are some of our favorites:
- Coffee Flan Recipe
- Pumpkin Empanadas
- Churros With Salted Caramel Sauce
- Easy Tres Leches Cake
- Banana Empanadas
- Arroz Con Leche
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