Crispy Butternut Squash Samsa

published Nov 22, 2022
Crispy Butternut Squash Samsa Recipe

An oven-baked method for the Central Asian dish, samsa, that uses store-bought puff pastry.

Serves4 to 8

Makes8

Prep45 minutes

Cook37 minutes to 42 minutes

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Overhead photo of pumpkin samsa on cooling rack.
Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Samsa is a crispy, savory pastry baked in a tandyr oven, traditionally from Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries. You usually see the handmade laminated dough filled with chunks of lamb and onion, but my favorite filling happens to be pumpkin, cumin, and ghee. Something magical happens to the texture of the squash as it steams in the pocket of buttery pastry. The butter and cumin infuse a ton of flavor into the filling, and the contrast between the soft filling and the crispy, crunchy outer pastry shell is extremely satisfying.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Testani; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

Because we moved to the United States at an early age, we didn’t have access to a tandyr oven — or even this widely available street snack from Uzbekistan. So I created a simpler, oven-baked version that uses store-bought puff pastry dough and butternut squash, which is very similar to the pumpkins in Uzbekistan. If you can find it, I highly recommend using honeynut squash because it’s buttery and extra sweet.

Tips for Making Samsa at Home

  • Toast the cumin seeds. Toasting whole cumin seeds imparts the most flavor.
  • Use ghee. Topping the squash and onion mixture with ghee is key for flavor and texture.
  • Don’t worry if your samsa splits. Don’t worry too much if the samsa split at the seams while baking; this is just because of the moisture content of the squash, each one is unique and will be equally delicious! 

Crispy Butternut Squash Samsa Recipe

An oven-baked method for the Central Asian dish, samsa, that uses store-bought puff pastry.

Prep time 45 minutes

Cook time 37 minutes to 42 minutes

Makes 8

Serves 4 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 (14- to 17-ounce) package

    frozen puff pastry (preferably all butter), thawed in the refrigerator

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    cumin seeds

  • 1 pound

    honeynut or butternut squash

  • 1

    medium yellow or sweet onion

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons

    all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting

  • 4 teaspoons

    ghee or unsalted butter, divided

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 tablespoon

    water

  • 2 teaspoons

    nigella seeds

  • Flaky salt, for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Thaw 1 package frozen puff pastry in the refrigerator according to the package directions.

  2. Place 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat and toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and coarsely crush the seeds, or transfer to a cutting board and coarsely crush with a rolling pin. Transfer to a large bowl.

  3. Prepare the following, adding each to the bowl with the cumin as you complete it: Peel, seed, and dice 1 pound honeynut or butternut squash into 1/2-inch cubes until you have 3 cups. Finely chop 1 medium yellow or sweet onion (about 1 1/2 cups). Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper, and toss to combine.

  4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust a work surface with all-purpose flour. If your puff pastry is in one sheet, cut it in half crosswise. Roll out each sheet into a 12-inch square (refrigerate the second sheet while you roll out the first). Cut each square into 4 (6-inch) squares; you should now have a total of 8 squares. Dust the middle of each square with 1/4 teaspoon all-purpose flour.

  5. Assemble 1 samsa at a time: Top 1 pastry square with about 1/2 cup of the squash filling, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Top the filling with 1/2 teaspoon ghee or unsalted butter. Fold the corners of dough over the filling to meet at the center and pinch the seams together to complete encase the filling in dough (use damp fingers if needed to help pinch). Transfer to the baking sheet and refrigerate as you assemble the remaining samsas.

  6. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Place 1 large egg and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and whisk with a fork to make an egg wash.

  7. Check all the seams again to make sure they are pinched together. Cut a 1-inch slit through the dough in the center of each samsa to let steam release during baking. Brush the samsas with the egg wash. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons nigella seeds and flaky salt if desired.

  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and continue baking until golden brown and the squash in the filling is knife tender, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Nigella seeds substitute: Black sesame seeds can be substituted for the nigella seeds, but they won’t add any flavor like nigella does.

Make ahead: The onion and squash can be chopped up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Alternatively, the samsas can be assembled and refrigerated up to 4 hours before baking.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a stainless steel or cast iron pan over medium-low heat until warmed through and the bottom is crisp, or in a 400ºF oven for 10 to 12 minutes.