This vegan custard recipe was inspired by the Cambodian recipe for sangkaya, also known as sangkhia. Traditional sangkaya is an eggy custard with a strong coconut flavor. Most recipes call for quite a bit of sugar, so this recipe is a loosely adapted interpretation of the original. It’s much healthier, completely vegan, and is a great alternative to flour-based holiday treats. This seasonal dessert does need to chill for several hours before serving, so plan ahead.
The coconut yogurt and soaked cashew base are held together with coconut, garbanzo, and chia seed flour. The sweetness of the maple syrup is balanced with lemon zest and juice. You can adjust the amount of lemon, or add more coconut flakes if you want a less tart or more coconutty flavor.
Kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin, is the best choice for this recipe. Similar to butternut squash, the kabocha has fewer calories and many people say it tastes better. It’s a great source of beta-carotene, iron, vitamin C, and fiber. You can substitute pie pumpkins if you have trouble finding kabocha. When selecting your kabocha squash, choose a squat, wide shape over a taller, round one. This will give the top of the custard a better chance to brown while baking. You can also skip the pumpkin entirely if you’re just looking for a vegan baked custard recipe. If you choose this route, make sure to bake the custard for only twenty minutes.
One item to note… This recipe makes enough custard to fill a pumpkin with a 25-inch (63 cm) circumference. If you’re using a smaller pumpkin, you may want to halve this recipe. I recommend keeping a small (5-inch) springform pan ready for any leftover custard. Just bake it along with your pumpkin for twenty minutes and allow it to cool before eating.
How Did Pumpkins Get to Japan?
If you thought pumpkin and squash came from the Americas, you are absolutely correct. Portuguese traders and explorers originally brought squash and pumpkins from Brazil to Japan in the 16th century while the Portuguese Empire was expanding into South Asia. The kabocha squash is simply a variety of Cucurbita maxima — the same species that produces the gigantic pumpkins that win ribbons at state fairs. I don't recommend you try to make this recipe with one of those monsters, though. It could feed an army, but the cooking time would take days! Their smaller Japanese cousins, however, do quite nicely.
In Japan, the squash is called Kuri Kabocha, or “nutty pumpkin”. If you’ve ever tasted kabocha you’ll understand the “nutty” moniker. The texture is fluffy and reminiscent of chestnuts, but the flavor is sweet, like a butternut squash crossed with a sweet potato. Kabocha squash have dark, forest-green skin, a slightly squished or flattened shape, and brilliant orange flesh. You can actually leave your kabocha out as a decoration if you’re going to use them within a few days. Otherwise, store them in a dark, cool area for up to a month.
Vegan Custard Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe
- Pre-prep: soak the cashews in lukewarm water for 2-4 hours
- Prep time: 20 minutes to hollow the pumpkin and prepare the filling
- Bake time: 45 minutes at 400 F (250 C)
- Chill time: 3-4 hours or overnight
- Servings: 10
- Sharp serrated knife
- Sharp spoon to hollow out pumpkin
- Citrus reamer (optional)
- Food processor or powerful blender
- Silicone baking mat or parchment paper
- Baking sheet
- Small springform pan (optional)
- 1 medium organic kabocha squash (about 25 inches in circumference)
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked and strained
- 2 cups organic vanilla coconut vegan yogurt (try our vegan yogurt recipe, just add 1 tbsp maple syrup and 1 tsp vanilla)
- 2 tablespoons organic coconut flour
- 1 tablespoon organic chia seed flour
- 1 tablespoon organic garbanzo bean flour
- cup organic maple syrup
- Zest and juice of 2 large organic lemons (about 5 tablespoons)
- 3 teaspoons pure, organic vanilla extract
- ½ cup organic coconut flakes, plus extra (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Himalayan crystal salt
- Start by preparing the custard. Drain excess water from the soaked cashews.
- Add cashews, yogurt, coconut flour, chia seed flour, garbanzo bean flour, vanilla extract, and Himalayan crystal salt to the food processor and pulse until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Add half the maple syrup and lemon juice and pulse for 15 seconds to combine. Taste custard to determine how much of the remaining maple syrup, lemon juice, and coconut flakes to add. Continue pulsing to mix ingredients. Once the taste suits your preference, allow the custard to remain in the food processor while you carve the squash.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use a serrated knife to cut the crown off the squash. Start a cut a couple inches from the woody stem of the squash. Continue to cut in a circle around the stem. Pull the crown off the squash and set aside.
- With a sharp spoon, thoroughly remove the seeds and sinew from the inside the pumpkin and discard.
- Using a spatula, slowly pour the custard into the pumpkin. Do not overfill. Leave enough room to replace the crown. The custard will rise slightly as it cooks and it will need this space to expand. You can either discard the crown or bake it alongside the custard.
- Add any remaining custard to the springform pan and smooth flat with a spatula.
- Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Place the filled squash, crown, and springform pan on the cookie sheet and place in the oven. If baking the crown, set it next to the squash for baking. Do not put it back on top yet.
- After twenty minutes, remove the springform pan and place on the counter to cool. You can eat this mini custard while you’re waiting for the main attraction to chill in the fridge.
- After the squash has been cooking for 40 minutes, check its status. Using the tip of a small knife or fork, poke a small hole in the squash. If it easily cuts into the flesh, congrats! It’s done! If the squash isn’t soft enough, bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for another 15 minutes.
- Let the squash cool on the counter for about ten minutes, then transfer to a plate or large glass bowl to chill in the fridge. If you baked the crown you can put it back on the squash. Chill the custard for at least 3 hours before serving.
- Use a sharp serrated knife to cut thin slices. Enjoy!
The Difference Between Squash and Pumpkin
Because their genetic history is intertwined, squash, pumpkin, and gourd are often used interchangeably. As a general rule, you carve pumpkins, cook squash, and decorate with gourds. If you let that sink in, you might wonder how it is that we have so many pumpkin-imbued treats every fall. Well, the truth is, our traditional “pumpkin” pies and other tasty dishes are actually made with squash. Pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies, even canned pumpkin actually contain squash.
Don’t despair, it’s just a quirk of taxonomy. Autumnal pumpkin delicacies are usually made using winter squash that resembles carving pumpkins, they’re just not officially classified as pumpkins. Proper pumpkins aren’t eaten because they’re watery, stringy, and don’t taste that good. Winter squash is smaller, softer, and sweeter than its pumpkin cousin. If you feel lost and confused, don’t worry — even the FDA has trouble deciding whether or not you’re eating a pumpkin or a squash.
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.