Pumpkin Pie Custards with Brulee Topping (vegan and gluten-free)

I have been teasing you, my patient readers, with these Pumpkin Pie Custards for two years.  I think that might be vegan foodie cruelty.  In my defense, I did get the recipe out in the spring when Let Them Eat Vegan was published.  But, who’s eating pumpkin then?  (‘fess up if it’s you!)

But, it’s time.  I’m long overdue sharing this most fabulous recipe with you.  This is one of my fave-fave-FAVE recipes!  I make it every year during the holidays and it is a complete show-shopping, crowd-pleasing, please-give-me-the-recipe” recipe.  You can make it without the brulee topping, but it really is quite extraordinary with it!

This dessert is absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving or any holiday celebration. Bookmark it and share it, it’s one you’ll come back to!

Pumpkin Pie Custards with Brulee Topping #vegan #glutenfree #wfpb #oilfree www.plantpoweredkitchen.com

Pumpkin Pie Custards with Brulee Topping gluten-free, soy-free, oil-free 

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These custards are magical—creamy, luscious, and like having a mini pumpkin pie (without the crust!) all to yourself! These are on our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas menus, definitely make them for your holiday celebrations — and with the brûlée topping!

2/3 cup pumpkin puree (pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling), packed (I use Farmer’s Market Organic brand)

½ cup raw cashews

1 ¼ cups plain unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond or soy preferred, but choices is yours)

½ cup unrefined sugar (ex: coconut sugar)

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 ¼ tsp agar powder

1 tsp arrowroot powder

1 tsp cinnamon

Few pinches freshly ground nutmeg

Pinch or two allspice

Pinch or two ground cloves

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

¼ tsp sea salt

Few teaspoons unrefined sugar for caramelized topping (optional, see note)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place 5 or 6 ramekins (This is the size/type I have, they are about 3 1/4″ in diameter, and 2″ deep, holding about 3/4 cup) in an 8 by 11-inch glass baking dish. Bring roughly 3 cups of water to a boil in a kettle.  Meanwhile, in a blender (I use my rambo blender (aka Blendtec), it really is worth investing in for exceptional plant-powered recipes), combine all the ingredients (except the sugar for topping) and puree until very, very smooth. (I use a Blendtec; if you don’t have a high-powered blender, you will need to blend for a longer time, and scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.)  Pour the boiled water into the baking dish to surround the ramekins (but don’t get any water in the ramekins). Then pour the pureed pumpkin mixture evenly into each ramekin. If using six ramekins (mine are 3 inches in diameter—from the inside—and almost 2 inches deep), they will be about two-thirds full; if using five, they will be just about completely full. Carefully place the baking dish into the oven. Bake for 32 to 34 minutes, until the custards are set around the edges but a touch looser in the center.  Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and let cool slightly until you can safely remove and transfer each custard to a cooling rack. Let cool a little more. The custards are best still a little warm, but can also be served chilled.

Make It More-ish! Turn these custards into Pumpkin Brûlée! Sprinkle 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon of unrefined sugar over the top, and then use either a small butane torch or oven broiler to caramelize it. If using the oven broiler: Set the oven to BROIL, and then place the individual ramekins under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes. Check after 3 minutes, and then again at the 4-minute mark. If not done, broil for another minute or so. If doing this brûlée finish, do it soon before serving, as the crunchy topping will soften if prepared too long in advance.

With Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, this dessert would be a perfect addition to your plant-powered menu.  I’ll have a few more ideas this week, stay tuned.

photo credit: Anna Pelzer

Have you ever had a pumpkin custard?  If you are in Canada, what is your plant-powered Thanksgiving menu?


  1. says

    Thanks for all you do, lady! I don’t even have kids and I can barely squeak out 2 posts a week, so you’re amazing!!! You’ve always been a blogging hero of mine :) Social media of course, can take up as little or as much time as you let it, but I see yours posts often and usually make my way here from your Facebook posts, so good job! This dessert looks amazing, by the way! Can’t wait to try it!

  2. hannah says

    Oh these look so lovely! I’m sooo glad I found your site (was sent here by my friend Emma from coconutandberries with HIGH recommendations!) Do these keep a few days in the fridge?

    • Dreena says

      Hi Hannah, welcome to my kitchen! 😀 I have baked these and then kept in the fridge for about 4 days. You can gently reheat and also do the brulee later too. Send my thanks back to Emma, she is a darling!

      • hannah says

        FINALLY getting round to making these! (disorganised and busy haha). We don’t really have canned pumpkin over here though, or pie pumpkin at all in fact – would you recommend something creamy like a kabocha or more watery like a butternut or acorn? And when making your own puree do you bake or steam the squash?
        thanks and i cant wait to try these at ling last! :)
        h x

  3. Laurel says

    I’ve made this recipe twice now, once in a 9″ tart shell with pressed in crumb crust and once in a greased cake pan and no crust. I just cut it into slices and have a quick meal no matter how busy I am. I’m making it again this weekend. 😉 thanks

  4. Alisha S. says

    Hi, Dreena,
    I made this recipe for pumpkin pie custards with brulee topping this past week for my family’s vegan Thanksgiving celebration. It was a HUGE hit! Everyone loved it, even the 5 who aren’t vegan and my husband’s little brother who is VERY picky. 😀 Thank you SO much for this fantastic recipe and for the great directions!
    I wasn’t able to find agar agar, so I used low-sugar fruit pectin, substituted 1-for-1 for the agar agar. I think next time I make this (there WILL be a next time – it was that good!) I will use more fruit pectin, as the custard didn’t set with the amount of pectin I used (or I didn’t bake it long enough… I only had 4 ramekins and was making a triple quantity, so I had to use larger Corningware dishes). It was still delicious in spite of being very soft (kind of like a thick pudding). Anyway, I used sucanat sugar in the custard and raw cane sugar for the brulee topping, and used my propane torch to brulee the sugar (I don’t have a brulee torch, and my Corningware dishes are not broiler-safe). The sucanat worked perfectly in this recipe and the propane torch worked just fine for doing the brulee topping.
    Anyway, thank you again SO much for this fantastic recipe! I think one of your books is next on my vegan-cookbook wishlist! I look forward to trying more recipes from your blog in the meantime. :)
    ~Alisha S.

    • Dreena says

      That’s awesome Alisha!! Thank you so much for the feedback, and sounds like you have some savvy recipe skills being able to modify some things and it still turning out wonderfully. :) You are most welcome, it delights me to read this kind of thing. Happy holidays! :)

  5. Kimberly says


    I have a child with a tree nut allergy, so I cannot use the cashews in this recipe. What is their function in the recipe and could I use pumpkin or some other seed instead?

    THank you for all your posts. You have made being vegan and proving that vegans actually eat more than salad so much easier!

    • Dreena says

      Thanks Kimberly. The cashews serve to thicken this custard, and also give some whole-foods fat for flavor/texture. I don’t have a substitute to suggest this time round, I’d have to test something out as I cannot imagine using a seed butter (too bitter), and not sure if another substitute like rolled oats would be able to pull off the overall flavor/texture. I’ll have other pumpkin recipes coming up – a pumpkin chia pudding this week (that is nut-free)!

  6. elaine says

    This looks SO good! I will definitely have to make some for AM Thanksgiving next month or even perhaps Christmas, hmm, perhaps even both! Thanks!

  7. Katrina says

    Hi Dreena, sorry this is such a delayed comment. I too am a busy working mom of two + one on the way and I totally understand! I do have to say that selfishly, I am disappointed that the plant-powered kids series will end. I was SO excited for that and really loved the posts you did do. So far, you are the only vegan mom cookbook author/blogger that I have been able to find. It seems the majority are single or married no kids. I live in Wisconsin (it’s practically sacrilege to not eat dairy or meat in this state) and there is just no support for vegan moms. So I have a suggestion or at least something I hope you might mull over. What about doing a plant-powered kids book? You could do all the aspects that you were planning to write about, add in a number of kid-friendly recipes, and voila! Best of both worlds! Well, anyway, a girl can dream! Thanks for everything you do! I really do appreciate it all!!! Xoxo

  8. says

    Hey beautiful–I’m a little late in the game here, but I just wanted to say I COMPLETELY understand. Being a mom is the most time consuming (& rewarding) job on earth. I’m finding that as my children get older, like you, that there is actually less “extra” time than I thought there would be.

    I love you, dear girl, & respect your decision to do what you know is best for you & your fam. Your work will go on, & really, just remember that some of the best blog’s out there only post a few times a month! I’ve chosen to blog daily, but I couldn’t blog daily if it were all recipes–I understand the time & work involved & we’re all just grateful for what you do. You are rock, lady! ox Janae

  9. Eve L. says

    Hi Dreena, You have always amazed me with how much time you’ve devoted to communicating with us all, and I’ve loved it since you’re such a neat person and I feel like we’re friends even though we haven’t met. But I absolutely can see why you need to cut back and I support that. You are a very prolific person and generate so much material, all of which is very precious to us all. But whether it’s once a week or 4 times a week, we are just grateful to have anything you give us, so THANK YOU for everything you do, and please take care of yourself! Hugs and gratitude from San Francisco. :)

    • Dreena says

      Eve, you are very kind to leave me this note. I value your sentiment and am grateful for this kind of support in the community and with my readers. Thank you so much, hugs in return. :) xo

  10. says

    Hi Dreena,

    I have your book “Let Them Eat Vegan” and love the recipes. I was wondering whether I could make the Pumpkin Pie custard as a pie filling instead? Do you think it would turn out okay as a pie?

    Thanks very much!

    • Dreena says

      Hi Darcie, yes I think you could. I haven’t tested it myself, but you might just need to bake a little longer (possibly close to 40 minutes) and, I’d also suggest making the measure for the cashews a little on the generous side of 1/2 cup – just to give that extra bit of body to the pie. It will look slightly loose after baking (the custards do too), but it does firm up with cooling. Good luck – would love to know if you go ahead with it and how it works!

  11. says

    holy moly Dreena, this dessert looks totally amazing. Your sweetie recipes are always my favorites. I made about 6 of your different cookie recipes at our wedding!! Also, I totally get it about the blogging and such. You gotta live your life! I usually only blog 1-2 times a week, except for mofo… which is a fun little project for me once a year. But I fully support you in doing other things – especially if it involves trying out new recipes! :)

  12. says

    Oh Dreena, I know so many of us understand! We need more hours in the day, don’t we? Speaking from the point of someone who went back to work after not intending to, I feel pulled in a million directions as do you. I commend you for reevaluating your priorities and taking a step back. Bravo! I did the same thing. I will finish my work at my boy’s school the end of this month and can’t wait! I love helping them out, but don’t have enough time for my family…sounds similar to what you are saying.

    Now, about the recipe…I am one of those who mostly only makes pumpkin recipes in the fall/winter time (bad me!!). I just made the pumpkin oat muffins this week to celebrate my middle son’s birthday at school. They were delicious! And pleased him, my most picky of eaters!!! Pumpkin pie is next on the agenda because that is my oldest’s favorite. Next I think it’s Mom’s turn to choose, and I’m choosing the brulee! :)

    You are the real deal, the try-to-do-it-all Mom who I aspire to be. I’m so happy for you to take this step back. And just in time for hockey season! I don’t know, my son plays soccer and we’ve attended more games in the pouring rain that I’d like this year and hockey is looking pretty good right about now. Rain is in the forecast again for Saturday! :(


  13. Ruth says

    No apologies necessary, Dreena! Family First!!

    Thanks for this very timely recipe; it will be perfect for Thanksgiving this Sunday!

  14. Rebecca Stucki says

    Yes, Dreena – please back away and do whatever you need to do for yourself! You’ve given us all so much already. I agree with Jane above who says she doesn’t even have time to read all your blogs thoroughly – neither do I (but maybe that’s because I’m busy trying to make all your recipes! :-)) I love it that I feel as if we know each other, even if we don’t “in real life” – you always make such an effort to respond to everyone. Hey, you don’t have to answer this one!! Much love!

  15. Jane says

    I’m with many of the posts above – keep writing the books and I will love your posts however often they come out! If I’m honest, I’m often too busy to read them properly, let alone try out the recipes so less is more as far as I’m concerned! Good luck and good feasting!
    ps my daughter has requested the triple layer choc cake for her birthday cake (not til november but she likes to think ahead !!!

  16. Becky says

    Thank you for this gorgeous recipe! Quick question- is the broiling time of up to 5 minutes in addition to the 32-34 minute cook time? Or, if you are choosing to broil, would you do it during the last 5 minutes of the 32-34 minute cook time? Thanks for the clarification! I can’t wait to try these!!

    • Dreena says

      Yes, Becky, in addition to the baking time. I give a range, b/c you may have them filled less/more. I usually find the 32 min mark just right. Then, broil until caramelized – or use a little torch… but do it just before serving or the topping softens up again with the moisture in the custards. Enjoy!

  17. Heather says

    Dreena, I understand the time suck of social media and some days I long for that old dial up connection. That and one computer for the whole family meant my days had a totally different rhythm. I am so glad to have found your cookbooks and whatever path you choose for the future, I’ll be following. :)

    • Dreena says

      Very kind, thank you Heather. Yes, haha, the good ol’ dial-up days… when it would take FOREVER to load a webpage, right? 😉 But, then, it was very simple to blog then too – I get an e-mail every week about a new social media platform… I read them and think “I don’t want another to learn/keep on top of”. It’s crazy! Thanks again.

  18. Lisa Tomlinson says

    Dreena I just want to say that while I don’t know you personally, only from your blogs, facebook & recipe books I think you are such a role model mom! And whatever is best for your family is best for all your fans/followers. You continue to show me how food is so important to our health, but so is taking the time to spend with and take of our families.

    Thank you for being so inpiring & such a good role model.

    • Dreena says

      That means a lot to know other mothers understand and respect/value the decision to pull back. Thank you Lisa. It’s hard for me because I love my work so much, I enjoy creating SO much, and get truly thrilled with a new successful recipe that I want to share it straight away! There is just so much time involved in getting it all together, so I’ll do what I can, a little less for now, not to burn out!

  19. Robin says

    Hello Dreena!!! I too haven’t been online much for many of the same reasons. My offer for you to come visit in me Florida is still always open. My problem for this recipe is my eight yr olds allergy to all nuts except almonds and macadamia nut. Is there a way to possible use a combination of those instead of the cashews? Coper loves pumpkin and would love to make this for him. As for kids you are right about this time thing……you blink and they go from stroller to 1st grade. I am happy and yet so sad it’s flying by. If you haven’t made it with the almonds and macadamia….I can always give it a whirl :)

    • Dreena says

      Hi Robin, haha, you might just find me on your doorstep when winter hits. 😉

      I haven’t tested it with almonds or mac nuts, but I think either could work. I think the mac nuts will be creamier/smoother than almonds, but I might actually try a combo of both – just roughly half and half… def give it a try!

  20. jody says

    1. i can NOT wait to make the pumpkin pie custards! i may even make them for thanksgiving (we’re hosting)!
    2. you need to do what’s best for you and your family! technology has always been touted as “making our lives easier” but that’s not always the case! the people who love you (whether they know you well or simply via your blog) will understand and appreciate what you give them (recipes, advice, etc).
    3. might your plant-powered kids series be the idea/start of a book? not to add more work to your plate, but i’d buy it! :)

    • Dreena says

      Thanks so much Jody – I hope you love them (and your guests). :) Yes, indeed, all of our new apps and technology has certainly complicated aspects of blogging – easier to network but so much more to keep on top of and very time consuming to have a presence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on that.

      You know, I had thoughts (and some initial plans) to do a children’s book. But, then I heard news that both Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik are doing vegan parenting/cookbooks. It is pointless to go up against the celebs, my hard work will just get overlooked – unfortunately. But, thanks for the support.

      • jody says

        hmmmm….really? both alicia silverstone AND mayim bialik? i have to say, i’d buy yours over theirs in a flash, partly because i love your writing style and partly because you’re NOT a celeb. but i do understand your reluctance at this time! perhaps once theirs come out, you’ll find there’s a gap you can fill….at a future date!

  21. Rebecca says

    Dreena, glad you are doing what’s best for you and your family. Social networking seems like a bottomless vortex — always more to do, to post, to contribute, etc. And then there’s always that big black hole of “people who are twits and who I’d like to ignore but I feel compelled to address so other readers aren’t mislead”.

    My New Year’s resolution for 2012 was “less blog, more ukulele”. Not that I’ve been ukulele-ing, but I’ve enjoyed feeling less obligated wwith respect to blogging. Refreshing! And better for the family, too. :) You’ve contributed greatly to our lives via your fab books — and although I follow your FB posts with great interests, less frequency won’t change my appreciation for your wonderful work.

    • Dreena says

      Yes, Rebecca this part of social media, responding to “people who are twits and who I’d like to ignore but I feel compelled to address so other readers aren’t mislead”… that becomes so consuming at times – and even stressful. I feel the way you do, that I’d like to fully ignore them, but I wonder if other people reading their misinformed comments will be swayed away from healthy vegan eating, etc.

      LOL, that is the most unique new year’s resolution ever!! Thank you for that perspective, and for understanding – I appreciate your feedback.

    • Dreena says

      Terrific – they are really a fab addition to a Thanksgiving meal, Marsha – I think you’ll enjoy them a lot. :)

  22. says

    Those are gorgeous pumpkin custards. I like pumpkin year round, but don’t really feel the strong desire to eat it until fall arrives.
    I will be sorry to see less of you here and on Twitter, but you have to do what is right for your family (and your sanity)…plus if it means another book then I am stoked!

    As a side note, I gave away a copy of LTEV as part of a Vegan Food Swap. The girl who I sent it to had several food restrictions and I thought your sensitivity in recipes to nut and gluten allergies would be perfect. She sent a message the other day saying how excited she was to receive your book and that she couldn’t wait to try some of the recipes out.

    Keep up the good work Dreena and I will be excited to read your posts no matter how many, or few, you have the chance to write.

    • Dreena says

      Well, thanks so much for your sincerity Rachel. And, what a great story sharing LTEV at a food swap! Hopefully she’ll give some recipes a whirl and jump on the vegan bandwagaon. :)

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