Pumpkin has been a much beloved staple of the autumn season for centuries. It represents the harvest, abundance (to the point of a famous fairy tale, Cinderella, using it as her carriage taking her to a better life), and all things hygge. While in the United States we may have confined pumpkin dishes to mean just sweet drinks and pastries, there are so many ways to use the pumpkin that people enjoy around the world.
Because of the pandemic, travel may be difficult, but cooking can offer a window into a variety of cultures and regions. Making these pumpkin dishes can also serve as a beautiful way to connect with the season itself, making it a grounding activity as well. All of these dishes can easily be made vegan, as many already happen to be vegetarian. Here are just a few popular pumpkin dishes from around the world—veganized!
Pumpkin Pie, United States
It would be impossible to talk about pumpkin dishes without mentioning this one. This simple dish dates back to the Renaissance in England, so when colonizers sailed over to North America, they were already familiar with the fruit native to this area of the world. They baked the pies with rosemary, apples, milk, and no crust. Today however, traditional pumpkin pies tend to be very sugary, simple, and in the company of a very flakey crust. To make this vegan, cream together pumpkin purée, coconut cream, sugar and autumn spices, and cornstarch. Pour it onto a pie crust (to veganize pie crust recipes, simply substitute the butter for vegan butter) prepared in a tin, and bake! It’s easy, festive, and allows pumpkin to be the star of the show!
Pampoen Koekies, South Africa
These are essentially sugary pumpkin fritters that are enjoyed as breakfast pastries or dessert! It is topped with sugar or powdered sugar, making them so delicate and delicious! To make the batter vegan, simple sub in the beaten eggs for Just Egg or adding a little baking powder before frying!
Nan Gua Bing, China
This dish translates to “steamed pumpkin cakes,” and can be served sweet or savory. They look like flattened dumplings, and are often coated in sesame seeds, and stuffed with a red bean paste. Most recipes happen to be vegan, but if you want a savory cake that is generally topped with like meat, replace the meat for marinated diced mushrooms, “Bacun” crumble, or impossible grounds with scallions!
Pumpkin Curry, Thailand
Pumpkins grow really well in this region of the world, which is why this dish is so popular there. The beautiful, vibrant orange color of the curry makes this a great meal to make to celebrate Samhain, Halloween, and other autumn festivals. It’s generally naturally vegan, as it’s made with ingredients like coconut milk, red curry paste, pumpkin pieces, vegetable stock, brown sugar and spices. Many recipes also call for fish sauce, which can be substituted for soy sauce or another salty sauce you enjoy! It’s generally served over rice! It’s filling, and a very hearty meal for those cold months.
This festive holiday dish is prepared by gutting a pumpkin and filling it up with rice, nuts, and various dried fruits. It’s as beautiful as it is tasty.
Hobajuk is a pumpkin porridge that happens to be vegan! It’s thick, creamy, and flavorful, and topped with rice cake balls.
Crema de Auyama, Dominican Republic
This is a creamy pumpkin soup, traditionally made with animal products like dairy butter, chicken stock, sour cream, and dairy milk. To make it vegan, simply swap out the dairy products for plant dairy products, and the chicken stock for either vegetable stock or vegan chicken stock—it tastes identical.
Challaw Kadu, Afghanistan
After lightly frying pumpkin pieces, cook them in spices and either tomato sauce or water to make this dish. Traditionally it’s served with rice and yogurt, with mint on top. Simply swap the yogurt for vegan yogurt or tahini and it’s a perfectly vegan harvest meal.
Calabaza en Tacha, Mexico
“Candied Pumpkins” are a popular dessert in Mexico, and are so simple to make. Traditionally made with pumpkins that have thicker skin to act as an anchor for the pumpkin meat, the wedges are simmered in orange juice, orange zest, and cinnamon. Add piloncillo, a less processed sugar popular to the region, for a sweeter and more authentic touch.
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Photo: Emily Iris Degn