Butternut Squash & Kale Hand Pies with Avocado Salsa

Celebrating the Goodness of Savory Pie

by Chef Deb Traylor

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am not a big sweets person. I love my tea without sugar, I like my fruit pies very tart, and I prefer really rich, bitter chocolate. It’s fair to say, I do not possess a sweet tooth, and my heart and my love reside in the land of savory foods.

At this point you might be asking yourself “wait, why is she opening a pie shop?” Well, I have two answers. First, I like to make others happy and there are a lot of people who’ll walk across hot coals and brave harsh elements for a sweet slice of pie, and if baking a bourbon pecan pie makes people’s heart sing, then I’ll be up at 3 a.m. making sure that pie is ready.

The second reason is there are thousands of savory pie possibilities and the thought of having creative freedom to play around with all things salty, savory, cheesy and meaty is what keeps me up at night thinking of endless options! I know there are a fair amount of savory pie lovers out there and with a huge harvest of butternut squash and kale from the Ginger and Baker garden, I thought this was the perfect recipe to offer those who live in the house of savory too!


  • We used butternut squash in this recipe but any of these veggies will work, too: sweet potato, Yukon Gold potatoes, zucchini, beets or any peeled and diced winter squash, including spaghetti squash.
  • We added ordinary curly kale because it has a chewy texture, but you can substitute Swiss chard, beet greens, spinach and/or arugula. We like to save the stems of the kale and dice them up as you would celery and add them in while sautéing the onions, the crunch from the stems adds additional interest to the filling.
  • This recipe doesn’t contain meat or cheese but we do know this recipe works well with large quantities of bacon and a smattering of cheese. 
  • All the components can be made and assembled in advance. The hand pies can be frozen raw until you are ready to bake them off.
  • I used a 3.5-inch cutter to make these little pies but you can use larger cutter if you want a more substantial pie. If you don’t have large cutters, try using the tub section of a cool whip or margarine container. 

Butternut Squash and Kale Hand Pies with Avocado Salsa

  • 1 recipe pie dough, chilled and divided into two (see below)
  • 2-2.5 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 bunch kale, stems removed and diced and leaves roughly chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced
  • 2-3 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 2-3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • egg wash: 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp. water

Prepare dough and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and cube squash and chop kale, then set aside. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat,  add onion and kale stems and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic, jalapeno, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute to allow spices to release their flavor. Add squash and kale leaves and sauté until squash is slightly tender but not too soft, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat, add vinegar and adjust seasonings to taste. Cool mixture while you are rolling out the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness and cut into circles. (We used a 3.5-inch circle cutter.) Brush edges of circles with egg wash, add 2 heaping tablespoons of filling, then fold and pinch to seal edges. Brush each hand pie with additional egg wash and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Makes about 10-12 hand pies if using a 3.5-inch cutter.

Avocado Salsa

(based on Venezuelan Guasacaca)

  • 6 green onions, white and green parts, roughly chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 avocado, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, leaves and small stems, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and small stems, roughly chopped
  • 3-4. Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. salt, and more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil

Put all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor or high powered blender and process until almost smooth, about 2-3 full minutes.  With the blender still running, add the olive oil in a slow steady stream and blend until smooth.  Let mixture sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to let the flavor develop. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Sauce will hold for a few days, covered in the fridge.  Let sit at room temperature before serving. Makes about 2 cups.

Basic Pie Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2  tsp. fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, chilled
  • 1/4 cup Tbsp. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, chilled (or 6 Tbsp. additional butter if not using shortening)
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. ice cold water
  • 1  tsp. lemon juice or vinegar 

Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening and toss to completely coat with flour. Using your hands or a fork, quickly smash the pieces of butter/shortening between your thumb and fingers to flatten each piece to the size of a dime.  Gently stir the flour and butter to make sure you flattened most of the pieces.

Combine ice cold water and lemon juice (or vinegar), and drizzle half of the lemon water over cold flour mixture and stir until the dough just starts to come together or turns “shaggy”.  We prefer to use our hands but a fork works nicely too.  Begin adding a few more tablespoons of water at a time, stirring between each addition. Once most of the water has been used (but you have a tablespoon or two remaining) use your hands to gather the shaggy strands into a ball and knead the dough two or three times. If you have dry bits remaining in the bowl, add a little additional water.  (Your dough may appear wet or dry depending the climate in your area, so you will need to go slowly and adjust accordingly.)

Gather the dough in a ball, dust your counter with a tiny amount of flour, and quickly pat dough into a small flat disk. Cut dough in half and then stack one piece on top of the other, flour side down. Use the heel of your hand and press the dough down and divide in half once more. Cover both pieces with plastic wrap.  Chill the dough for at least 4 hours or overnight. This dough can be made a day or two in advance. Makes enough for two 8 or 9-inch pie crusts.


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