The story behind Indian pudding is a little bit of a history lesson. When the early colonists came to America, they brought with them many traditions. One of them was their love for “hasty pudding”. It was simply made by cooking wheat flour in boiling water or milk until a porridge-like consistency was reached. It was a kitchen staple because it required ingredients that were always on hand.
Well, that is until the early colonists came to America. Hasty pudding became known as Indian pudding, which is now a well known New England dessert. Wheat flour was not readily available so they used cornmeal, which was referred to as “Indian flour.” They learned to cultivate this from the Indigenous people in America. Then they used readily available sweeteners such as molasses or maple syrup, and added spices such as cinnamon and ginger. Sometimes eggs and butter was used to create smoothness. Nuts or raisins were commonly used for texture. The cornmeal absorbs more liquid the longer it cooks and then a custard-like consistency is reached. It is often served with ice cream or whipped cream.
To make this dessert a little more festive and seasonal, I decided to add in some butternut squash. What a great flavor addition! If you stay free and clear of corn in your diet, not a problem. I have included an adaption for using almond flour. You will find those notes at the bottom of the recipe. Choose whichever type of milk is your favorite. I used two cans of light coconut milk which equates to 3 cups. I also used “brown coconut sugar” which is supposedly an equal replacement for using brown cane sugar. Swerve also makes a brown sugar replacement which would be another good option here if you are following a low-carb diet.
This recipe is a classic and makes a fabulous dessert for the holidays. Adding a scoop of vegan/dairy-free vanilla ice cream, some coconut whipped topping, and sprinkling it with some roasted nuts & seeds puts the finishing touches on this New England tradition!
3 cups plant based milk (I used 2 cans light coconut milk)
2 cups butternut squash purée (baked from scratch or canned)
2/3 cup cornmeal (see notes below to use almond flour)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 Tbs cashew butter (or almond butter)
1/3 cup brown coconut sugar (regular coconut sugar works too)
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1) If you are roasting your own squash, prepare that first, then purée the squash. You will need 2 cups.
2) Preheat oven to 275°F and grease a 2-qt casserole dish. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Slowly whisk in the milk and vanilla over medium heat. Stir frequently for about 10-15 minutes. You want to prevent the cornmeal from collecting at the bottom of the saucepan. When the mixture thickens, remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the cashew butter, butternut squash, brown coconut sugar, and molasses.
3) Pour the mixture into your casserole dish and bake for 90 minutes. You will notice the middle starts to set when the pudding is done. This could take an additional 15 minutes as oven temperature can vary.
4) Allow the pudding to cool for about 30 minutes. Further setting will take place.
5) Scoop out the pudding into serving bowls and top with some vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle pepitas and chopped pecans on top if desired. Coconut whipped cream is also fabulous on top! Approximately 6 servings.
*Note: If you want to use almond flour instead of cornmeal, you will use 1 cup of almond flour and 2 tablespoons of arrowroot or tapioca starch. This mixture takes a little more time to thicken on the stove. Bake on 275°F for about 1 hour 45 minutes. The pudding will still seem jiggly when you pull it from the oven but as it cools, it firms up. While cooling, if you notice some of the natural oils from the almond flour have come to the surface of the pudding, gently dab the oil up with a paper towel.