The only thing about autumn eating that I love more than pumpkin is pumpkin spice. I find it fascinating that this particular blend of spices really does only work in the presence of pumpkin. You could put cinnamon and cloves together; you could put cinnamon and nutmeg together; you could even put cinnamon and ginger together. But somehow putting cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg and ginger together on anything other than pumpkin just tastes… wrong.
Unfortunately, in my quest to spend the impending winter whittling away my existing fat stores, I needed to find a way to enjoy my favorite seasonal flavor responsibly. If you get a 12oz Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks (the smallest size available) it contains an impressive 38g of sugar. As delicious as it may be, it’s not so delicious that I’m going to risk diabetes for it. Considering I’ve had some good luck recently at faking other foods, I figured I could manage a guilt-free pumpkin dessert.
This recipe, while low carb, is not exactly what I would call clean eating. It still calls for some processed food, but I’m ok with that since it’s just an occasional treat and not a regular meal item. For people who are strictly paleo or generally anti-processed, I’d be curious to hear your input on how to sub out ingredients to make this all-natural.
For this flavor explosion, you will need:
- 15oz can of pumpkin (or about 1 3/4 cup homemade pumpkin puree)
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 4-serving box of instant sugar-free pudding mix (I prefer either cheesecake or butterscotch flavor)
- Vanilla extract (to taste)
- Your favorite pumpkin spice blend (I went with cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground nutmeg)
So, here’s the thing with me and spices – I don’t measure them. Ever. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I get a good feel for how much is needed and I trust my gut. For this recipe you could use pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice. I decided not to because I wanted to leave out the cloves from a cold dessert. A good rule of thumb for this particular mix is half as much ginger as cinnamon, then half as much nutmeg as ginger. I was a little heavy-handed with both the ginger and the nutmeg in my most recent batch, which gave it a very slightly spicy, savory kick. Still delicious.
Assembling it is fairly straightforward:
- Carefully mix together the pumpkin, vanilla, spices, and half of the coconut milk into a large bowl. Make sure the bowl is about twice as big as the volume of pumpkin, because you need room for the liquid to slosh around while you mix it in. I learned this lesson the messy way.
- Slowly stir in the pudding powder until it’s completely incorporated. Then, carefully stir in the rest of the coconut milk.
- If you have the willpower for portion control, leave the pudding in the large bowl. If you prefer to set yourself some boundaries, portion the pudding into 6 individual servings. Let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour before eating (overnight for best results).
The first time I ate this, I’m pretty sure my eyes rolled into the back of my head. It tastes like pumpkin pie filling, but without the lingering malaise that always seems to follow pie consumption. If you’re looking for a crust substitution, try topping it with some toasted almonds or pecans. This is also a great way to fancy it up for dinner guests, who will have no clue the pudding they’re scarfing down is basically a health food.