PUMPKIN PIE!

Vegan & Gluten-free with Fresh Pumpkin

Have you seen those sweet, bright orange pie pumpkins at the store or farmer’s market, and wondered how to actually turn one into a pie? There is a way.

When I was in first grade, we made little illustrated books showing how a pumpkin changes from a seed in the ground, to a pumpkin growing on a vine, and eventually to a pumpkin pie. But it was only recently that I put this plan into action and used fresh pumpkin to create a pie. Canned pumpkin is convenient and works great, but there is something magical about picking out your own pumpkin and transforming it into dessert.

Fresh pumpkin is very wet, so the key to turning it into pie filling is cooking it down until it thickens. This vegan recipe uses coconut oil and natural sweeteners to create the perfect pumpkin pie taste and texture. The fresh pumpkin does make this recipe fairly labor-intensive, so there is an option for using canned pumpkin instead.

This pie is miles ahead of other holiday desserts in the nutrition department. Fresh pumpkin contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that protects our bodies from free radicals, which can cause all kinds of damage and inflammation. Pumpkin is also a good source of potassium, fiber, and some B vitamins.

This recipe is sweetened with dates, maple syrup, molasses, and coconut palm sugar. These sweeteners all contain nutrients (2 tbsp. of blackstrap molasses contains more iron than a 3 oz. steak!) and are unprocessed, and they won't raise your blood sugar as much or as quickly as white sugar.

The crust is made with almond flour, which provides fiber and healthy fats, along with an amazing nutty taste and buttery texture.

You can replace the maple syrup with agave and the coconut palm sugar with brown sugar, if you would like. But these are great sweeteners to have around in your kitchen!

Pumpkin Pie

(vegan & gluten-free)

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 2 cups almond flour*
  • ¼ cup toasted pecans
  • 2 tbsp. coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted (It's firm at room temperature. Pack into the measuring cup while still firm, then melt on the stove over low heat.)
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • Small pinch of sea salt

Filling:

  • 2 small pie pumpkins**
  • 10 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in water for an hour or so to soften
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup (or more, if you want it sweeter)
  • ½ tbsp. blackstrap molasses (or just use more maple syrup)
  • 1 tbsp. coconut palm sugar
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. of pumpkin pie spice
  • Handful of crushed toasted pecans for topping (optional)

*This might not be easy to find, but look in a natural food store or order it online. It's delicious for baking, and there are tons of recipes out there using almond flour!

**Canned pumpkin can be substituted! Use 1 can of pumpkin purée, and blend with the other filling ingredients. You can skip the cooking stage if you use canned pumpkin.

To make:

-Assemble the crust first. Put all of the crust ingredients in a food processor and process for about a minute. If you don’t have a food processor, you can just mix everything by hand, but leave out the pecans and use a little more almond flour. The dough should stick together when you press it between your fingers. If it falls apart, add a little more maple syrup and mix again.

-Press the dough into a pie dish and put in the fridge to chill.

-Make the filling. First, slice the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds (you can save them to roast) and goop, and roast the pumpkin face down on a baking sheet at 375 F for 60-75 minutes. Keep checking the pumpkin. You should be able to poke a fork easily through the outer skin when it’s done.

-Let the pumpkin cool enough to handle, then scoop the insides into a blender (you might have to do 2 rounds). Add the dates (half at a time if you do 2 rounds) and blend until very smooth.

-Pour this mixture into a pot and cook over low heat for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put a lid on the pot, but leave it ajar, so that steam can escape. Since fresh pumpkin is so watery, it is essential to cook it down until it thickens. The lid is there because the pumpkin tends to splatter when cooking! Don’t worry; it’s all worth it.

-When the mixture has thickened, add the remaining filling ingredients and stir well. Fill the crust, and let it chill for at least 3 hours in the fridge; overnight is best. If you have any extra filling, put it on your oatmeal, or just top it with nuts and eat it with a spoon! When the coconut oil inside the filling cools down, it firms up again and causes the whole filling to thicken and take on the texture of a traditional pumpkin pie.

-Finally, top with the crushed toasted pecans. The pecans will soften if left on the pie too long, so save this step until the last minute.

To make coconut whipped cream: Put a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. The next day, open it up and scrape off the top layer (it will be a thick cream) and put it in a bowl. Save the water at the bottom for a smoothie. Use a whisk to whip the cream; add honey or maple syrup if desired. Serve with pie!

Recipe created by Alyssa Galvin.
Reference for nutritional information:

Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.