As I mentioned earlier in the week, my grandma was a liar. Your grandmother probably is too. Juuust kidding. That was to get your attention!
Now that I have it, let’s talk about pumpkin pie. Traditional pumpkin pie is made with custard: a creamy, dense base of eggs and milk. The proteins from the eggs lend stand-up properties, while the fat and flavors from the milk make the custard sweet and rich. The lecithin (an emulsifier) present in the egg yolks make the filling satin-smooth, save any gritty bits or fibers present from the pumpkin/squash puree. Side note: some people like that sort of texture in their pumpkin pies!
So, how do we replicate a custard, plant-based style? We rely on another type of suspension (truly a colloid) or gel: a starch-based gel. Now, this could get complicated…but it is pie, so I won’t make it so. Essentially, I am telling you one thing: you will get close to the classic custard texture, but you will not mimic it 100% and fool your grandma. A starch-based gel has very different properties than a protein-based gel.
But fortunately, our starch-based gel is still delicious. Creamy, smooth, thick, and flavorful. All without dairy or eggs. Topped with your favorite whipped cream, either one of these is sure to satisfy a hankerin’ for pumpkin pie. I really hope you try either version…I did a lot of baking, and WE did a a lot of pie eating for you!
Our plant-based “custard” secret weapons:
- Arrowroot Starch: provides the primary gel structure; it forms a semi-rigid gel, thickens the filling upon heating (starch gelatinization), and provides stand-up properties.
- Coconut Cream: Provides air and lift. Eggs, when mixed into traditional filling, help increase viscosity of the custard, and while mixed, help trap air for slightly lighter filling.
- Soaked Raw Cashews: lends fat and a nutty “cooked” flavor that cooked/baked milk takes on. Helps shorten the firm starch gel structure, leaving you a beautifully creamy and tender filling.
So if I haven’t sold you on this “starch based gel pumpkin pie”, I really urge you to try it for yourself. As I mentioned, I have tested TWO recipes several times, and have had two (unofficial) taste testers for each. The verdict:
- Version 1: very tasty, but a firmer, ridgid texture. However, not as firm as traditional pumpkin pie. Spices are strong, to which I suspect is the lower fat content since fat helps dampen the impact of flavors and spices. Great cold and room temperature, but room temperature is softer if you like that texture better.
- Version 2: again, very tasty; texture is less rigid, and more “voluptuous” thanks to the addition of both cashews and coconut cream, and slightly less arrowroot. The added fat from the cashews and coconut helps replace some of the stand-up properties of the starch in the finished filling, leaving you with a firmer but more tender “custard”. The flavors and spices are warm, not overpowering. The color is more opaque, more like the traditional pumpkin pie. The texture is still soft and pudding-like at room temperature, but firms once chilled.
In sum: both get darn close, with version 2 coming in slightly closer. If you do not like or cannot eat cashews, then version 1 is still an incredibly tasty contender. If you cannot consume coconut, feel free to substitute the 1/4 cup with 1/2 cup of your favorite unsweetened plant-based milk, leaning more towards a organic soy-based one as it has more fat and protein for a firmer filling. But, almond milk works well, too.
And now, for the crusts:
- Traditional Style: cut-in-solid fat type, using virgin coconut oil, was what it always is: tender, flakey, but substantial enough to stay firm, even without a blind-bake. Best when you plan on serving the pie sooner, rather than later, as it gets soggy after a day or so. In addition, it requires a chilling period, as all traditional pastry for crusts do. However, can be made a few days ahead of time and stored in the fridge until you are ready to roll. I love using the crust in fruit-based pies !!!!!!!!!!!(exhibit A and B). !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Melted Fat & Plant-Based Milk Style: overall a more “rustic” texture, much more crispy, and held up to the moisture in the filling for 2 whole days, making it ideal for serving the next day. In contrast to the traditional style, you can roll out this one immediately, no chilling required or recommended, although it is a bit fragile to handle.
So, you pick your ideal filling and crust. MY FAVORITE??? I’d have to go with the traditional crust and filling option #2!!
Don’t forget the whipped cream, coconut or otherwise! Happy Pumpkin Pie’ing! If you do make any of these combinations, I would love to know how it went!!
Pumpkin Filling Option 1 // plant-based, vegan, soy-free option, nut-free option // makes 1 9″ or 10″ pie //
- 2 1/2 cups pumpkin or squash puree, homemade or canned
- 1/4 cup coconut cream or 1/2 cup plant-based milk of choice (using a soy-free milk if desired)
- 1/2 cup organic sugar of choice, like white, brown, coconut or sucanat
- 3 TB arrowroot starch
- 2 tsp molasses
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp dried ginger, or 1/2″ hunk grated fresh
- small pinch cloves
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 TB bourbon (optional, but very tasty)
Traditional Cut-In-Solid Fat Crust // plant-based, vegan, soy-free option, nut-free // makes enough pastry for TWO 9″ or 10″ pies //
- 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry, unbleached all-purpose or spelt flour, or any combination thereof
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 TB sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil OR a 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil:Earth Balance (use soy-free Earth Balance if desired)
- 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar or other vinegar
- 5-7 TB ice water, or very cold water
1. Make the pie crust (can be made up to 3 days in advance, or frozen for up to 1 month): Sift the flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. In small spoonfuls, drop the coconut oil over the dry ingredients. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm the fat up again. While waiting, prepare ice water and get vinegar. Once fat has firmed up, cut the fat into the flour using a pastry cutter or fork. You want medium-small pieces, think pea size. Add the water, starting with 5 TB, and all of the vinegar. Cut the water into the dough, adding more by the TB until you can squeeze the pastry together into a mass that sticks together but is not sticky/wet. In the bowl, form pastry into a disk, cover with a tea towel and let sit in the fridge while you prep the filling. Or, you can wrap the pastry tightly in plastic wrap and place in a storage bag, and chill it for a few days, or even freeze it for up to 1 month.
3. When you’re ready to make the pie, preheat oven to 450F. Make the pie filling: mix the sugar and the arrowroot together with a whisk in a large bowl. This helps prevent the arrowroot from clumping together. Add the remaining ingredients, whisk until smooth, and taste for spices. Adjust as needed. Alternatively, add everything into a blender, and blend until smooth. If you like more texture to your filling, and still want to blend it, simply reserve 1 cup of the pumpkin puree to mix in after you have blended the filling (that is my favorite method)
4. To roll out the pie pastry, be sure that it is not too firm from chilling in the fridge. If it is, allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes until you can easily roll it out (alternatively, thaw frozen pastry overnight in the fridge, and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature once thawed). Cut the dough disc in half (freeze the other half or use for another pie). Use plenty of flour to help prevent sticking. Pick up and rotate the pastry as you roll it out every few passes of the rolling pie to re-flour if it is sticking. Roll about into a ~12″ diameter circle (or large enough to have a 1″ overhang on a 9″ to 10″ pie dish). Fold the pastry into quarters or roll-up on the rolling pin, and place into pie dish, gently coaxing it into place. If a tear happens, simply patch it up or press together again when the pastry is in place. Trim, or patch pastry in place if necessary, around the edges for a 1″ overhang. Turn the 1″ overhang under, and crimp as desired.
5. Fill the pie crust with the pumpkin filling. Gently tap the pie on the counter to get rid of any air pockets. Smooth out top with a spatula or spoon. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, then for 35-40 additional minutes at 350F. If the crust is browning too much, simply shield it with tin foil or parchment. The filling will be firm, but may wiggle just a bit when moved. Cool the pie completely on a cooling rack for a few hours, and then in the fridge for up to overnight, at a minimum for 4 hours. This allows the filling to set completely. Slice and serve with your favorite whipped cream. Pie will last for 4 days, covered in the fridge, but crust will get a bit moist over time.
Fat + Flour = Crust Power!
The pastry, with just enough water to hold it together.
Roll, fit and crimp. I really like using a scissors to trim excess pastry.
Now, mix the filling. Taste it, too. No one likes an under-spiced pumpkin pie.
Pour into crust, no pre-baking required. Bake, admire how awesome your kitchen smells, and contemplate whipped cream toppings.
Pie for breakfast = breakfast of champions.
With extra whipped coconut cream, please!!
Pumpkin Pie Filling Option 2 // plant-based; vegan; soy-free // makes 1 9″ or 10″ pie //
- 2 ½ cups pumpkin puree
- ½ cup raw cashews, soaked, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup coconut cream
- ½ cup organic sugar of choice, like white, brown, coconut or sucanat
- 2 tsp molasses
- 1 TB agave, maple syrup or honey
- 2 TB arrowroot powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger or ½” piece fresh, grated
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- pinch cloves
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 TB bourbon (optional)
Quick Crispy Spelt Crust // plant-based; vegan; soy-free; nut-free // makes one 9″ or 10″ pie crust //
- ¾ cup spelt flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
- ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour OR other flour of choice
- 1 TB ground flax seeds
- 6 TB virgin coconut oil OR a 50:50 ratio of virgin coconut oil:Earth Balance (use soy-free Earth Balance if desired)
- 6 TB plant-based milk (use a non-soy milk if desired)
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp apple cider or coconut vinegar
- 1 TB white sugar, brown sugar or sucanat
- To make the pie crust, sift flours, sea salt, flax seeds, sugar together. Melt the milk and coconut oil together, and then add to the flour mixture. Stir briefly, but make sure everything is mixed well.
- Allow pastry to sit for 5 minutes. Then, roll out as any pie crust, following the directions for the traditional pie crust above. The pastry for this crust will be more delicate, and can stick to the rolling surface so be sure to use plenty of flour to help roll the pastry out.
- Although I do not recommend chilling the pie dough in a disc as the traditional crust as it gets too firm, you CAN chill in the fridge once in pie plate, up to 1 day ahead of time, covered tightly with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
- When you are ready to make the pie, preheat oven to 450F. Make the filling by adding everything into a blender, and pureeing until the cashews are completely smooth. If you want more texture to the filling, simply reserve 1 cup of the pumpkin puree ad stir it in after pureeing the filling. That is my favorite method to use! Taste the filling, adjusting spices if necessary.
- Pour the filling into the prepared crust, tap on the counter one or two times to get rid of air bubbles, and smooth the top out with a spoon or spatula. Bake for 15 minutes at 450F, and then for another 35-40 minutes at 350F. If your crust is getting too brown, simply shield it with tin foil or parchment. The filing will be soft, and may wiggle a bit. Cool the pie completely on a cooling rack for a few hours, and then in the fridge for up to overnight, at a minimum for 4 hours. This allows the filling to set completely. Slice and serve with your favorite whipped cream. Pie will last up to 4 days covered in the fridge, with the crust getting only slightly less crispy.
Crust time: simply sift, mix and roll. No chilling required for this one.
Mix it all up…being gentle, don’t over mix or else you will have a tough crust.
Crust purists would probably sneer at you now, but eh…whatever.
This crust is a bit more delicate than others, so just be gentle, use enough flour to prevent sticking, and when in doubt, just patch up any holes or tears that happen.
Gingerly put into your pie pan, trim the edges, fold under and crimp.
Ok, now onto the filling! Our secret weapons: soaked cashews and coconut cream!
I put 1 cup of pumpkin puree in a bowl, and then everything else in a blender to puree. I did this to keep some texture to the filling.
Puree until smooth…this took me about 2 minutes in a Vitamix, but let your blender run as long as you need to. Your neighbors may hate you, buuuut pie!
Mixed with the other 1 cup of pumpkin puree.
Pour into prepared pie shell, tap on the counter to rid any air bubbles, smooth out and bake!
You’re well on your way to pie…it should smell like autumn-spice heaven, and give any stupid pumpkin spice latte a run for its money.
After you’ve let the pie cool and set, you can slice and enjoy!
Pie for breakfast, as I already stated, is pretty much the best thing on a chilly fall morning. With hot coffee, of course.