pumpkin custard: holiday pie, minus the crust

THE RECIPE’S A CINCH (and easier on the tummy already full from that big holiday meal): Take whatever pumpkin pie filling you like to make, but skip the crust, spooning the blended squash-eggs-dairy-sweetener-spices into ramekins instead, then bake.  The result: crustless individual pumpkin pies, or maybe pumpkin custard. Whatever you call it, I’ll happily eat it for dessert—and breakfast, too.

Again, use any pumpkin pie filling version you like—lighter and airier, such as a chiffon style with beaten egg whites folded into the mix and probably some gelatin, too, or more dense and humble (and lazy, admittedly) the way I make it, without much fuss. Rustic—that’s the word. Rustic, and less sweet, rich and sinful. Good for you, even. Really.

If you don’t have a favorite pie-filling recipe, try these guidelines but remember: Every variety of winter squash (a.k.a. pumpkin) is different in texture, moisture and sweetness, so you may have to adjust the flavorings accordingly. Most recipes call for unsweetened canned pumpkin, which is more consistent; I don’t use it, but instead have fun seeing what each garden beauty will turn into.

Play with different dairy ingredients and sweeteners to make it your own, and suit your dietary philosophy and palate. I like yogurt and maple syrup, creating a heavier, less-sweet, less calorie-laden version, but the traditional modern American pumpkin pie is probably lighter-textured, laced with cream and sugar.

my rustic pumpkin custard


  • 2 cups cooked, mashed winter squash (use a fine-grained and sweet variety such as ‘Hubbard,’ ‘Buttercup,’ above, or ‘Butternut;’ stringy, wet pumpkins such as jack-o-lanterns make terrible pie)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dark maple syrup or to taste (if using sugar, start with ½ cup and taste to adjust)
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of nutmeg and cloves
  • 1 cup whole-milk yogurt (I used goat), or up to 2 cups milk or half-and-half or a combination of milk and cream


  • Preheat oven to 365 degrees F.
  • Mash the cooked, cooled squash in a large bowl. (Note: You can steam the pumpkin first, or roast it, then scoop meat from the skin.)
  • Add the sweetener, spices and dairy, blend well by hand or with a mixer.
  • Taste and adjust sweetness and spices.
  • Beat eggs, and mix into the batter.
  • Scoop mix into oven-proof custard cups, enough to nearly fill each cup.
  • Set into a pan of water (seen below, ready to pop into the oven) and bake for 30-50 minutes (as below), until the custard is set and rises up (it will fall once cooled). A note on baking time: My latest batch, made from that ‘Buttercup’ up above with yogurt and maple syrup, took about 50 minutes; I have made lighter versions with milk and a different squash, like ‘Butternut,’ that cooked in 30.

Yield, 6 ramekins.


Feeling another inch of appetite room to spare? (Remember, you saved by leaving out the pie crust.) Serve each cup of deliciousness with a ginger snap jauntily stuck in the custard—a great combination.

Prefer sweet-potato to pumpkin? Swap out the squash for mashed, cooked sweet potatoes instead.

Want a savory side dish, and not a dessert? Change up the spices, and forget the sweetener. The eggs and dairy will allow the pumpkin to set up, anyhow; experiment.

Substitute ¼ cup dark rum for some of the milk/cream (so ¼ cup rum and 1½ cups half and half, for instance), and top with rum-laced whipped cream.

Toppings: whipped cream, of course, or vanilla ice cream (but not for breakfast, which is when I plan to have my next serving of pumpkin custard).

  1. Eva Munday says:

    I have make pumpkin soufflé with canned pumpkin once a week now for several years and eat some twice a day. My recipe is similar to the one for a pie filling but has less calories. I just use fat free milk, and follow the recipe on the can and put it in a casserole dish and bake without a crust. Covering the soufflé right after it comes out of the oven keeps the soufflé creamier. Cool and refrigerate.

    For breakfast I add yogurt, sweetener, flax and Kia seed, 1/3 cup of raw regular oats and homegrown blueberries and/or some sliced banana and eat away. For an evening snack I might just add some yogurt. For a special treat, I add some “Cool Whip” and mix and eat. I found this to be an easy way to add vegetables to my diet and to fill me up with something I won’t feel guilty eating. And by the way, my bad cholesterol level has gone down!

  2. Sheri says:

    I love custards! (Because I’m horrible at making crusts!) This reminds me a lot of a pumpkin butter I make. (Variation) Omit the 1/3 cup dark maple syrup and use Port Wine and serve (on the side) with a small wedge of extra sharp cheddar cheese.

  3. Judy says:

    That looks so delicious.. and sounds so easy! I will have to try it. I would bake, or roast a whole butternut squash, or buy a can of organic, unsweetened pumpkin/squash. I guess canned would be fine. Thank you, Margaret.

  4. Vickie says:

    Have you ever tried this with persimmon pulp? I have a persimmon tree and I’m always looking for more ways to use them. I figured a pie may not firm up enough.

    1. Joanne Minor-Casey says:

      I canned my persimmon pulp.
      Was easy to substitute in pumpkin recipes.
      One of my favorite recipes was a persimmon cake and also persimmon bars.

  5. Ginny says:

    …and now, Margaret, you must explain WHY I can’t have vanilla ice cream on pumpkin custard for my breakfast!? As they say, “life is short, eat dessert first” thing in the morning, lol. Sounds like a delicious recipe to try. Thanks.

  6. Gayle Chatfield says:

    Dairy-Free is possible too by using whole-fat coconut milk! Thoroughly mix that before adding to your recipe- it tends to separate in the can. And if you want it to slip easily out of the ramekins, spray with “Baker’s Joy” baking pan spray, it is the best for crustless pies, too.

  7. Nancy E. Sutton says:

    Lovely!! I’ll be using up my winter squash this way :) BTW, if you really want crust (but less, and not the soggy bottom) check out this

    And make your filling ‘stiff’ enough so the pastry won’t fall to the bottom. : ) Cheers!

  8. Diannne says:

    Thank you for the recipe Margaret. I’d seen it before but I needed a reminder. I have been using Tahitian or Greek Sweet Red Squash for my ‘pumpkin’ pie filling and just using the Libby recipe. Yours looks so much better with the maple syrup and yogurt. Although since they’ve redone the grading on the maple syrup it is difficult to find the luscious Grade B that I used to get. They wrongly assume everyone wants Grade A. Anyway, thanks again. I have a half dozen Tahitians curing in the garage just waiting for pies.

  9. Helen Malandrakis says:

    My pumpkin pie recipe makes much more filling than I need to fill the deep dish crust, so I have been doing this with my leftover filling for many years. We love it!

  10. Ellen says:

    This recipe seems healthy! But oh is it delicious! I’ve made this over and over using canned pumpkin. Sometimes I add bread cubes and raisins to the custard batter. Hubby loves it too. This is a keeper!

  11. Nancy Passow says:

    Brings back happy memories — my mom usually had leftover pie filling after putting together her pumpkin pies. The extra filling went into one or two small pyrex dishes and got baked along with the pies. It was always a treat to get one of the little dishes to eat rather than a slice of pie.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.