Why It Works
- Coconut and pumpkin are complementary flavors (but you can also swap in another dairy-free milk)
- Using cornstarch as a thickener makes a custard with just the right texture.
For the last few months, I've been playing with gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free recipes for Thanksgiving. One of the bigger challenges turned out to be pumpkin pie. Several times I wondered if I could make a tasty custard, and that's what pumpkin pie filling basically is—a custard.
After making many pies, I finally created one I loved. How much do I love it? It'll be the only pumpkin pie on my Thanksgiving table.
Making the Filling
I knew that creating a dairy-free pumpkin pie filling would be relatively easy. I could swap gluten-free rice milk* for the dairy used in a traditional pumpkin pie recipe. But instead of using a dairy-free milk substitute, I wondered if the more flavorful coconut milk would be a better choice.
If you've ever had coconut-pumpkin soup, you know that these flavors work incredibly well together. The coconut seems to coax more flavor out of the pumpkin, making this the most pumpkin-y pumpkin pie I've ever eaten. However, if you are allergic to coconut (or just dislike the flavor) feel free to replace it with an equal amount of gluten-free, dairy-free milk.
With the dairy conundrum solved, I focused on the eggs. Eggs play an important role in custard, providing texture and lending a delicate flavor. I knew the coconut milk would more than make up for the missing flavor of the eggs, so I focused on the texture. Without eggs to set up the custard, the filling would not require baking. But if you go the totally no-bake route, using gelatin to set the filling, the result is more like a Jell-O pie than a true custard. Not only did I dislike this texture for the filling but I realized that if I got rid of the gelatin, the filling would be vegan, making the pie even more accessible to those on special diets.
So instead of a no-bake filling, try a stove-top cooked filling using cornstarch as the thickener. The cooked and cooled "custard" has a smooth texture, somewhere between pudding and, surprisingly, a soft custard. While the filling requires no baking, it does need to chill overnight; so be sure to make it the day before Thanksgiving.
Choosing a Crust
As for the crust, you have some choices. You could make a crumb crust by grinding allergen-safe gingersnaps (or other cookies), or a gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free crust or a gluten-free crust with butter and eggs.
*Soy milk also works but I have a soy allergy and was unable to taste the final filling. My tasters enjoyed it; noting that it had a bit of a "grain-like nuttiness."
This recipe was originally published as part of the column Gluten-Free Tuesday.
1 recipe gluten-free pie crust, baked and cooled (crumb, allergen-free or classic.)
1 3/4 cups (13.5-ounce can) coconut milk, divided (unsweetened)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups coconut milk and granulated sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk. Whisk cornstarch mixture into coconut-sugar mixture. Continue whisking and cook until filling boils and thickens. Add pumpkin pie spice and salt. Whisk to combine. Reduce heat to low. Add pumpkin. Whisk until thoroughly combined.
Spoon filling into prepared pie crust. Press plastic wrap onto the top of the pie or a skin will form. Chill pie overnight before serving.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 17g||22%|
|Saturated Fat 10g||51%|
|Total Carbohydrate 40g||15%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 18g|
|Vitamin C 2mg||11%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|