This vegan pumpkin pie is part of my Waitress project, where I cook through all the delicious, decadent and often eccentric pies Jenna dreams up.
DISCLAIMER – The ‘naughty’ in the title is because the movie Waitress refers to this pie as ‘naughty’. I do not agree with the moralising language that tends to get associated with food (‘eat clean’ ‘guilt free’ – ring a bell?), but have stuck with the title ‘naughty’ since it stays true to the movie. But please, please, don’t think of food as good or bad, naughty or nice. Food is food. And food (most of it anyway) is too delicious to feel guilty about. Especially this vegan pumpkin pie.
We live in a time of pie. From the good ol’ apple pie – the emblem of all things American – to the whimsical, kooky crack pie. All hail Christina Tulsi.
While pumpkin pie is an often polarising dessert (Pumpkin? In a dessert?!), there is something striking about this iconic thanksgiving treat.
A slice of pumpkin pie is an exquisite thing – if made the right way, the pumpkin custard is soothing, silky and almost quivering, but neat enough to slice through. A beautiful contrast to the tender, flaky crust. I always blind bake my pie crust, as I find that this consistently gives me that gorgeous distinction – velvet custard, crisp crust.
If you are making this pie in the Autumn, which I presume is the proper American thing to do, make use of the glut of winter squash and pumpkin that flood the farmer’s markets and supermarket aisles. But since I am not American, and since Tesco had a sale on canned pumpkin, here we are – in the peak of spring, sinking our forks into this silky, autumnal vegan pumpkin pie.
For the brave souls who are going the can-free route (you are an inspiration to us all) – choose a culinary pumpkin as they make the most soothing and velvety filling for you pie. Slice it down the middle with a large knife – it will need to be sharp, too, since pumpkins are notoriously difficult to cut through – and pierce each piece lightly. Roast them, discard the seeds, then scoop up the deep honey-coloured flesh. Puree it, then either use cheesecloth to squeeze out as much clear liquid as you can, or set it in a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer over a bowl for the excess water to trickle out – for at least 4 hours. Butternut squash, the pumpkin’s more slender cousin, also works.
If all of this sounds far too arduous for something can you can easily scoop out of a can – I agree. Canned pumpkin puree is a magical, beautiful thing. For those of us who live in the UK, stores like Waitrose or Tesco have them in the American food section. You will save yourself a lot of pain, elbow grease, washing up, and the need to google ‘where to buy cheesecloth’.
And while we are on the topic of shortcuts, if you prefer to buy premade shortcrust for this vegan pumpkin pie – be my guest. I love making my own because I find cutting cold blocks of vegan butter into coarse little crumbs insanely therapeutic. I also have very very cold hands (I blame my poor circulation) which is handy *wink* for pastry making, but less so when you’re trying to take someone’s pulse. Patients hate cold hands.
What makes this vegan pumpkin pie naughty? If you’ve watched Waitress, this naughty pumpkin pie is what Jenna whips up for her doctor (the same doctor she is having an affair with – I know!), but later finds out he is out of town with his wife (double gasp). I added a good glug of cognac to the filling, and topped the pie with frosted walnuts and pepitas. While both are optional and the pie is mighty fine without them – if you’re trying to impress someone (not necessarily the doctor who you are sleeping with), whip out those frosted walnuts. Uh huh.
If we can learn to love the earthy splendours of a carrot cake, and fold beetroot puree into our brownie batter (don’t knock it until you try it), we can accept this unnervingly vegetal pumpkin pie into the ranks as a great dessert.
Other recipes from the Waitress Project
- 1¼ cup plain flour
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ½ cup vegan butter, cubed and chilled
- 3 tbsp ice cold water
- 1 tbsp dark rum/cognac, or more cold water
- 1 15oz (425g) can pumpkin puree
- ¾ cup full fat coconut milk
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar (add ¼ cup if you have a sweet tooth)
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ¼ tsp vanilla powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ginger powder
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 tbsp rum/cognac
- 1 cup walnuts
- ¼ cup pepitas
- ½ cup aquafaba
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- If using a premade pie crust, or storebought shortcrust, skip this step. To make the pastry, cut the cold butter into the flour with a pastry blender, fork or food processor. You can also use your hands to rub the butter in and break it up. When the butter has formed small pea-sized crumbs, slowly pour the the ice-cold water and rum in, a spoonful at a time, until a shaggy dough is formed which holds its shape when you press it (if necessary, add a teeny bit of extra water but try to use as little additional water as possible). Form a ball, wrap in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 175C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 9-inch loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 15 mins. Line the pastry with baking parchment and baking beans, then bake for 15 mins.
- Make the filling by blending the pumpkin, coconut milk, brown sugar, cornstarch, syrup, vanilla, spices, salt and rum into a smooth, thick paste. Remove the weights from the pie shell, and pour in the filling. Use a spatula to smooth out the pumpkin filling. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the filling has set. Be sure to check after 40 minutes of baking and cover the crust edges with foil if they are getting dark.
- Let the pie come to room temperature before letting it chill in the fridge. Letting it cool before refrigerating ensures the filling does not crack or weep. Chill it for 4 hours to overnight.
- About 1 hour before serving, pour the walnuts and pepitas in a bowl and preheat the oven to 200C. In a separate bowl, whisk up the aquafaba and add in the sugar, a spoonful at a time, until stiff peaks form. Place about 1 cup of the meringue into the bowl with the nuts, along with the cinnamon and salt. Mix this up so the nuts are coated then bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Let the nuts cool.
- Serve the pie with the nuts on top, with dollops of the leftover aquafaba meringue.