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Pumpkin Custard

pumpkin custard

Getting into the spirit of the season, I whipped up this no bake gluten free and vegan pumpkin custard. Quick and easy to make, it is also dairy free and the perfect way to end an autumn meal.

I am on a major pumpkin kick right now as is the rest of the family.  Last weekend, my husband took the boys and their friend Josh to purchase pumpkins for Halloween; upon return the three little ones spent hours in the back yard carving their jack-o-lanterns.

Pumpkin Custard

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  • ½ cup (raw) cashews
  • 1 tablespoon agar flakes
  • 1 pinch celtic sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cups water, boiling
  • 1 ½ cups roasted pumpkin (learn how to roast pumpkin in 10 easy steps!)
  • ¼ cup agave nectar or honey (plus a little more if you want it sweeter)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
    1. Place cashews, agar and salt in a vitamix and process to a fine powder
    2. Pour boiling water into Vitamix and process on high speed
    3. Add pumpkin, agave and vanilla and process again until smooth
    4. Blend in cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and lemon zest
    5. Pour custard into ramekins or half cup mason jars
    6. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes
    7. Serve

Makes 6 servings

I was determined to make a vegan custard, not the easiest thing since custard is basically made of eggs; After a bit of research I came upon this quick and easy no cook recipe which provided the inspiration for my custard base.  I am quite intrigued with this no fuss method of making custard and look forward to using it for many other flavor variations.

For this recipe and my others, I would not recommend using canned pumpkin.  First, I do my best to avoid canned foods whenever possible as most cans contain BPA, an endocrine disrupting agent linked to cancer.

Second, canned pumpkin is very wet, so I would not recommend substituting it for roasted pumpkin.  My pumpkin recipes aren’t written for such a watery ingredient and probably won’t turn out well, unless several adjustments are made.  If anyone does experiment with canned pumpkin, please stop by and leave a comment letting us know if it worked; there have been a couple of inquiries lately about this specific substitution.


posted on October 22, 2008

  1. The Wind Attack @ windattack.com

    mmm… looks so rich and creamy. I love the little jars you serve it in!

  2. Tatyana

    This maybe a silly question, but did you bake the pumpkin ahead of time or did you use it raw?
    Thank you very much for your terrific recipes. I made the apple stuffed acorn squash and it turned out delicious. I also made the squash “pie” and it turned out for me neither savory nor sweet, so maybe I am missing something or I just realized that I used Himalayan salt instead of celtic sea salt….

  3. Joy the Baker @ joythebaker.com/blog

    this recipe looks fantastic. i love the purity of the pumpkin. just lovely!

  4. Beth

    Looks so yummy!

    I’m definitely buying some pumpkin this weekend.
    I want to make this custard, as well as your pumpkin pie muffins.

  5. Hänni @ hannihaus.com

    I have been looking for a good vegan custard recipe. One that’s sans-tofu? awesome.

    I think the custard would be darling served in little hollowed out pumpkins.

  6. Stefanie Rohman

    Just wondering if you have a recipe or can tell me how to roast pumpkin, so I can make your recipes…I am surely craving pumpkin and the muffins and the custard seem delicious!

  7. Allison

    This looks great! I’ll definitely give it a try. It’s not custard, though, it’s panna cotta.

  8. I made this last night with my left over squash and it is delicious! Thank you.

  9. I have just discovered your blog and I´m amazed. I write a food blog about the Seignalet diet. This diet is so popular in France because of the important effects on health, and proved effectiveness. I find that almost every recipe in your blog follows the diet, so I´m happy! I will go on visiting your blog for sure.
    Nice blog!

  10. Arlene

    I made the pumpkin pie muffins with canned pumpkin. I cut the agave & oil in half and made 12 muffins and baked for 20 minutes. They turned out great.

  11. Angela

    I am anxious to try this one as I absolutely love pumpkin.
    This would also be a great dessert to take to a dinner I am going to be attending.

    I have a question about the cashews, a couple of children in attendence are allergic to nuts of all kinds- do you have any suggestions for a replacement or are the cashews absolutely necessary?

    • Angela: I have made a pumpkin dip (not a custard) that calls for cream cheese and used cashews instead and it wonderful. If the children with nut allergies do not have dairy allergies, you could try cream cheese for this custard recipe. Another thought would be to use a combination of seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, hemp) as long as they are not made in a facility that also uses nuts. Just a thought…

  12. Daphne

    I love your recipes, Elana and would like to ask you if you’ve used Xanthum gum for thicking. If so, could you tell me how to use it so it doesn’t lump. I was making a sauce for chocolate cake from crushed pineapple and decided to use this instead of the usual cornstarch. It lumped when I added cold water, so wondered what I was doing wrong. Since the crushed pineapple is lumpy anyway it wasn’t too noticeable, but would like to know the correct method of mixing it.

    Many thanks.

    Daphne Woodhouse

  13. Tatyana

    Never mind about the cooked or uncooked. I must have had a tough day, so I did not notice:)

  14. Paulette

    I tried the pumpkin custard last night and put it in the fridge overnight. My husband and I had it today after our soup. It was delicious. The consistency was perfect. I didn’t have any agave so I use a tablespoon of rice syrup and a little unfiltered honey. I had no cashews and really wanted to make that recipe so I used pecans instead. I’m glad my husband liked it. He loves pumpkin. I know what we’ll be having for dessert tonight. I will try it again with cashews and agave nectar and hopefully it will turn out as good with the cashews as it did with the pecans. Thanks for your delicious recipes. I tried the stuffed squash last week and loved it. Keep up the good work. Have a blessed week.

  15. WA -Thanks, I think those jars look nice too and they are handy little receptacles for storing the custard.

    Tatyana -Not a silly question at all! How the pumpkin is prepared is an important direction which I left out; I added it in thanks to your comment. Per the squash pie, since squash is naturally sweet, I would consider this a side dish that is on the sweeter end –sort of like baked sweet potato. If you find it too bland, I would suggest adding more agave, though it is not intended to be a dessert, more of a squash puree, perhaps the name is somewhat misleading…

    Joy -Thanks.

    Beth -Thanks, please let me know how they turn out :-)

    Hanni -Love the idea to serve this custard in little hollowed out pumpkins; I hope that if you make it that way you’ll take photos and upload them here in the comment section for us all to see!

    Stefani -You got it. I wrote up the “how to roast a pumpkin” post (just above this one) thanks to your question.

    Allison -Yes, in preparation it is closer to a panna cotta, however (if you make it) once you taste it, you will find that it is more custard-like in its consistency.

    Vittoria -Thanks for the report and so glad you liked it! I am hooked on this one myself. It is a good dessert and an even better late night snack, so soothing.

    cdecocina -Thank you very much for your kind words, I will check out your blog too.

    Arlene -That is great news; several readers have been asking as to whether this would work. I like your adaptation, it is very intuitive in reducing the liquids in the recipe to compensate for the extra moisture in the canned pumpkin. Bravo.

    Angela The cashews give it the creamy consistency. You could use heavy cream instead and play around with that. Or, you might try substituting blanched almonds for cashews. Another reader left a comment here that she made this recipe with pecans and liked the way it turned out. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

    Daphne -You had previously asked this question and I had answered it in the comments section of this post. Hope that helps.

    Tatyana -I apologize for not getting back to you sooner on this edit. As you will see in my comment above, I actually had not given the proper directive regarding cooked or uncooked and entered it after you pointed it out to me. Thanks again for catching this and for your help!

    Paulette -Thanks for letting us in on your experiments and substitutions. I am so glad that you and your husband enjoyed them! Thanks also for your kind words.

  16. Magi

    Made the custard with canned pumpkin and the texture was just fine! Didn’t have enough agave and used maple syrup to reach 1/4 cup……tasted AMAZING. Thanks so much for this delicious recipe.

  17. Magi,

    Thanks for letting us know that the canned pumpkin and maple syrup worked!

    Elana

  18. Another tempting recipe though I haven’t tried agar/kanten flakes before (I know it’s a great substitute for gelatin).
    I hope you’ll let us know when your book gets published ;).

  19. elana, i made the pumkin cranberry upside down cake and used organic canned pumpkin. it was great—everyone loved it.

    thanks,
    miriam

  20. WOW! These look amazing! I just found your blog and I LOVE IT! Totally adding to my google reader! :) Can’t wait for more updates!

  21. Alchemille -Thanks or your comment, it’s due out in fall 2009…

    Miriam -Thank so much for letting us know that the cake can be made with canned pumpkin.

    Kate -Glad you found us and thanks for the great comment!

  22. Paulette

    I just couldn’t help myself. I made a second batch of pumpkin custard only this time I used the agave instead of the rice syrup and honey I had to drive an hour to get the agave nectar but it was worth the drive. It was sooooo good. I’m going to try the pumpkin muffins tonight. I love cooking and I love eating so it’s great to get a recipe that I like that doesn’t have wheat, dairy and eggs in it. I use flax seed instead of eggs for my cooking. Anyway, I just wanted to drop you a line to say how good that recipe turned out. Have a blessed week.

  23. Paulette,

    Thanks so much for your comment, each of your comments is lovely and inspiring.

    Take Care,
    Elana

  24. Elana,
    I have been singing the praises of the pumpkin custard to anyone who will listen. I prepared it using fresh pumpkin, i left out the cloves (i am not a clove person) i decreased the nutmeg. It was fabulous—this is the first time i used agar. i ate all the dessert except one which i allowed my husband to eat. i researched the caloried count and am thrilled that pumpkin is so low in calories.
    After having such a positive experience with the recipe and agar, i decided to try it using banana. i also decided that i wanted the recipe to be a tad sweeter, so i increased the amount of agave. well the result was terrible—too sweet and the texture wasn’t the same. I discussed it with a friend that understands the chemistry of cooking and she suggested that i increase the amount of cashews. i also mentioned that i wanted to try it with chocolate.
    i am pleased to say that both recipes came out great.

    chocolate
    1 tbsp agar flakes
    1 1/4 cup boiling water
    3/4 cup cashews
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa or more to taste
    1/4 cup agave
    1 tbsp vanilla
    I deleted the spices and salt.

    banana
    1 tbsp. agar flakes
    1 1/4 cup boiling water
    1 1/2 large firm bananas
    3/4 cup cashews
    1/4 cup agave
    1 tbsp vanilla
    I deleted the spices and salt.

    i think it’s important to really blend the ingredients for a long time to get the best texture. The nice thing about these recipes is that you can taste it as you go along (there’s no egg) to get the right flavor. Anyhow—thanks again, as always your recipes are wonderful and inspiring.

  25. Miriam,

    Thanks for sharing these versions with us –they look delicious!

    xo Elana

  26. I used canned pumpkin and the custard did not set-up, but then I had a flash of brilliance and I made an oat crust with cinnamon, agave, and butter and lined a pie pan with it and filled it with the custard. It made a fantastic pumpkin pie. Try it out.

  27. Alison,

    That sounds great! Thanks for sharing your tip with us. Nice save.

    Elana

  28. Heidi

    Elana,
    Just love your incredible site. Have a question about this luscious looking custard. Do you think it would work to take the crust from your Chocolate cream pie and put the pumpkin custard in it, a kind of mock pumpkin pie? Or is the consistency of the custard not stiff enough to hold up? Would more agar flakes thicken it? Also, is it possible to use the almond crust like a normal pie crust for a fruit pie (in other words the crust cooks along with the pie instead of being pre-baked.) Do you think that would work or be overcooked? Thanks so much for your ideas & help.

  29. Heidi,

    Thanks for your comment. I think this might work, the custard is very firm and would set in it, my only hesitation is that it’s definitely more of a custard than a pie filling. I guess you could experiment with a pumpkin custard pie –if you do, please let me know how it turns out. I’m not sure how the crust for the chocolate cream pie would hold up with a fruit filling, might get soggy. I would recommend just doing the apple crisp instead.

    Great questions; hope this helps!

    Elana

  30. Christina

    Hi Elena, Thanks for saving my autumn. I love pumpkin! I just found out I am allergic to wheat, yeast, gluten, dairy, and eggs. AND.. my sugar is too high :( I generally eat meat and veggies. I was really sad about giving up my pumpkin, and now I don’t have to! One question… our whole foods does not have agar flakes, but powder.. how much difference is in the measurement?

  31. Christina,

    Thanks for your sweet comment, I appreciate it.

    Not sure exactly what the difference in measurement would be as I haven’t used the powder, I bet it’s pretty close though.

    Elana

    • Primrose

      If I could just chip in here to say that the formula used is 1 tsp Agar powder = 3 tsp (1 Tablespoon) Agar flakes.

      It’s not too hard to change agar flakes into powder using a spice/coffee grinder.

  32. Crystal

    Hi! I just want to say thanks sooo much for this web site–it is truly inspirational. I recently discovered ten new food allergies in my daughter and it has been about two weeks–she was starting to get depressed and sick of the foods we were preparing. She is allergic to: Milk, Peanut, Soy, Rice, Oat, Rye, Wheat, Corn, (Therefore, Gluten Intolerant) & Codfish–it has been a challenge.
    I have found that speghettii squash is a good substituion for pasta–and have been making her bread from tapioca and potato flour. Any other suggestions?

  33. Crystal,

    You are so welcome; I’m glad you found us!

    I follow an eating plan very similar to your daughter’s. I think just about every recipe on this site would work for her (other than the very few containing dairy –and those have butter or cream cheese, not milk).

    Take some time to go through the recipes and you will find many options that work for her and will hopefully please the rest of the family as well!

    Good Luck,
    Elana

  34. Yael

    I made this custard and used it as pumpkin pie filling. I used the crust recipe from this website. It was so delicious!! The only thing I’d do differently next time is maybe use a bit more agar to stiffen the custard more so that the pie slice would hold up better. Or, maybe I didn’t need the crust at all.

  35. Lynne

    Elana,

    Made this over two days last week (Tuesday for roasting the pumpkin and Wednesday for making the custard. Then I had it on Thanksgiving when my guests had their pumpkin pie. It hit the spot for me!

    Thanks.

  36. Yael -Glad you liked this and nice experimenting in using it as a pie filling.

    Lynne -Thanks for your comment; this is one of my favorite desserts, it’s so smooth and soothing.

  37. candice

    I want to make the pumpkin custard (and a number of other recipes) but am wondering about the cashews – do you use raw or roasted? If raw, soak them first?
    Thanks for the great blog; I was turned onto it by your fab sister Dina who’s a friend!
    Candice

  38. candice,

    If it doesn’t specify roasted then the cashews are in their natural state, raw.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    Elana

  39. Michael @ veggieboards.com

    Just wanted to thank you for the link to VeggieBoards!

  40. Aleta

    I have not tried the recipe as is, so I can’t compare per se, but I decided to try this variation with canned pumpkin puree and cashew butter (because that’s what I had on hand), and it came out pretty well. I’m not sure the agar made much difference, the texture did not change (set) when refrigerated. But the texture was definitely thick and custard-like. I poured it into ramekins and realized that it was just like a mini pumpkin pie with an allergen-free, reuseable crust! I am sharing my recipe if others want to try it.

    1/4 cup raw cashew butter
    1 tablespoon agar flakes
    1 pinch celtic sea salt
    1/3 cup boiling water
    1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspon garam masala spice blend*
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (didn’t have any whole lemons on hand for lemon zest)
    3 T agave nectar (plus a little more if you want it sweeter)
    4 drops stevia glycerite (or other stevia product to taste)

    Bring water to boil in small saucepan, add agar flakes, stir & heat on low until flakes are dissolved.

    Add all ingredients in a blender or food processor, including agar gel. Blend until creamy, taste & adjust sweetener/spices if necessary. Serve!

    * This is my favorite spice blend, I substitute it for pumpkin pie spice blend. So if you don’t have it, sub an extra tsp of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

  41. Terry

    I am looking forward to trying your pumpkin custard! I have tree nut allergies, as well. What might you recommend as substitution for the raw cashews?
    Thank you!

  42. Jennifer

    I did try the canned pumpkin and it worked well. Here is what I changed.

    I soaked the cashews in water for one hour, drained them, and put them in my food processor (cuisinart) along with the spices, vanilla, all but about 2-3 oz of a 15 oz can of pumpkin and lemon zest and processed them.

    Then I put the 1 TBSP agar flakes in one cup of water. I brought it to boil, then simmered 5 minutes.

    I mixed it all together with the agave syrup in my blender as my food processor is too small to accomodate all of that.

    I ate the first serving room temperature and it was more like a mousse. Very yummy and just the filling bedtime snack I have been looking for since having to give up eggs, corn, and dairy in addition to wheat!

    jen :D

  43. I know this recipe is from a couple years ago, but I just found it. I made it without agar (I can’t have that) and took it to my friend’s birthday party this past weekend – I just poured it into a big flat-bottom glass bowl rather than individual jars.

    I considered subbing gelatin for the agar (I even looked up the equivalent amount & ran to the store to buy the gelatin), but decided to just leave it out to keep it vegetarian / almost vegan, since there’s usually a shortage of those types of sweets at parties. (I use honey in place of agave, so mine wasn’t vegan, but it was the only dairy-free, egg-free dessert there.)

    I called it Pumpkin Pudding / Custard since it wasn’t as firm as I assume it gets with agar and people loved it. They didn’t care about how firm it was – they liked the taste. Thanks for this recipe. I’m excited to have a dairy-free pudding / custard type recipe to enjoy AND share with others.

    Jen

  44. That looks so good. I make raw cheesecake out of raw cashews similar way.

    I need to get agar flakes and i will surely make this!

  45. Amber

    Elana,

    This recipe looks amazing. If we wanted to do a non-vegan version with eggs what would you suggest?

  46. AmyGrace

    When I cook with canned pumpkin instead of roast, I find I have to dry it out using layers of paper towel. It is a time consuming process, but possible.

  47. Laura

    This is fantastic!!!! I was roasting pumpkin for a pumpkin dish that I’m making for Thanksgiving, and I had enough to make this, too. It was so unbelievably easy and so delicious. Thank you for this! I never thought that I would eat a good custard again after going dairy-free.

  48. Sarah

    Just made these yesterday! My first recipe to make off of this site. It wasn’t the consistency of custard so I had to have an open mind. But I still loved it and couldn’t stop eating it. My 4 year old son was also begging for more!

  49. Shawnie

    Can I use unflavored gelatin instead of Agar flakes in this recipe?

  50. MeGo

    I made this today and it was exquisite! Wow! I didn’t have a lemon handy to make zest so I used a little bit of bottled organic lemon juice. It worked out fine. Thank you!

  51. Cassie McGurk @ soulstew.com

    While I was reading the recipe I thought it would be great with Kombucha squash instead of pumpkin. Kombucha (also called Japanese pumpkin) tastes like a much sweeter version of regular pumpkin, so you could make it with less added sweetener.

  52. Alene

    Your vita mix recipes look fantastic. Do you have a suggestion on a cashew substitute to make your ice cream recipes nut free?
    Thanks!

  53. MeGo

    Update to my post of 12 days ago… I’ve been making this a lot! I love it so much! I’m using acorn squash instead of pumpkin. I actually think it would be ideal made with kabocha squash, in fact, as that has such a rich velvet quality when cooked.

    Also, I’ve been sprinkling smashed (dry roasted and salted) pistachio nuts on top before serving and the flavor mix is fantastic. I imagine raw pistachios would also be good.

    Thanks again for this recipe, Elana. You rock!

  54. Heather

    the lids to those mason jars also contain bpa… :(

  55. Victoria Olson

    Instructions should read, “First, buy a Vitamix”.

  56. Gale Wright

    Keep in mind if you use honey from bees, then it is no longer a vegan dish.

  57. Jerri-Lynn DeGayner

    I never used cashews before, only almond flour, I purchased some raw cashews from the store and the date is a year out yet. My husband popped one in his mouth and spit it out saying they were really soft. How do you know if you are getting good cashews or any nuts and would they still be ok to bake with? does anyone know? Thanks.

  58. Aleta

    Hi Jeri-Lynn,

    It is definitely normal for raw cashews to be very soft! This is what makes them very useful for making vegan dishes with creamy textures. You can roast them with salt if you want some for snacking.

  59. Geralyn

    Hi Elana,

    Another delicious recipe. I actually just wanted to make a request. Have you ever developed a chocolate/peanut butter (or almond/sun butter) cake? I am craving one, but as I look around for a recipe, I am also longing for your simplicity. Just putting a bug in your ear. Thanks for all the great recipes!

  60. Carolyn @ n/a

    It works with canned pumpkin, just be sure to reduce the liquid to no more than 1/2 cup, 4 oz. Otherwise, it is far too soupy.

  61. Aunte Wisconsin

    Hi,
    I have nieces with extensive food allergies. Can you tell me if this recipe can be made without nuts as this is also on their list of “do not eat”. Their allergies include dairy, egg, wheat, and nuts.

    Thank you

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