A secret ingredient leads to a rich and creamy plant-based pumpkin pie that also happens to be healthy and easy to make.
A lot of really delicious baked goods rely on eggs and dairy fat, which is a challenge for vegans with a sweet tooth. Thankfully, the world of plant-based baking has opened up enormously, and all kinds of brilliant solutions have been created for getting around the eggs-butter-milk-cream thing.
One trick is to simply swap out animal products with vegan versions – but those can be pretty highly processed, so I am always inspired to find more a more wholesome kind of alchemy to conjure up vegan desserts that are rich and decadent.
For a vegan pumpkin pie, my default would usually be to use full-fat coconut milk, but I saw a recipe in The New York Times that called for aquafaba and thought, ugh, of course! Aquafaba, more humbly known as the liquid from cooked chickpeas, is a bit of a miracle ingredient. It is basically something that would otherwise go down the drain, but in fact is a magician when it comes to thickening and binding. One can even make lovely vegan meringues from it, it's wild ... but would it work in pumpkin pie, I wondered? And especially in such a ridiculously easy recipe? The answer is yes yes yes – and thus, the recipe below was inspired. It is rich without being cloying; it's creamy, flavorful, and doesn't feel sinful to eat.
Like many a pumpkin pie recipe, you add all the ingredients in a blender, blend for three minutes, then put it in a pie shell and bake. It needs at least three hours in the refrigerator after it cools, or else it will look a bit like the one pictured above, which I cut while still warm and the crumbly custard hadn't set to its later full creamy glory. But once it's set, it is as creamy as any non-vegan pie I have ever had.
Notes on pumpkin puréeThe recipe calls for three cups, which is about one and a half 15-ounce cans. You can also use fresh pumpkin, or better yet, butternut squash. My general rule of thumb is for roughly two cups of puree, use a three-pound squash – so calculate from there.
Notes on aquafabaI have used the cooking water (not soaking water) from chickpeas in aquafaba applications before, but since I usually season my chickpeas while cooking, the leftover liquid is really only suitable for savory dishes. For this, I drained one (BPA-free!) can of chickpeas, which yielded a bit more than the required half a cup. (Then use the chickpeas in one these 20 uses for chickpeas.)
Vegan pumpkin pie
- 3 cups pumpkin purée
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup aquafaba
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or equivalent in cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a bit of ground cloves, depending on taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 (9-inch) vegan pie crust (unbaked, chilled)
1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Add filling ingredients to a blender and blend on medium for about 3 minutes; it should expand in volume by 20 to 25 percent.
2. Add filling to cold pie crust, bake for 60 to 70 minutes – the crack should have some cracks and the center should have a bit of wobble to it
3. Let cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator for around 3 hours to set.
As The Times notes, because this pie doe not contain eggs or dairy, once it has set in the fridge, it can sit out overnight. After that, it can stay covered in the refrigerator for a week.