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I’m skeptical about pumpkin pie. It’s one of the few desserts I don’t like and it’s hard to make it right. I’ve had pumpkin pies that don’t taste like pumpkin and tried some with watery fillings or dry crusts. For a simple dessert, there’s a lot to get right.

Last fall I came across this recipe for vegan pumpkin pie and was skeptical. If you can’t make a dessert taste good with tons of butter, sugar and whipped cream, how could a vegan version be any better? I was so skeptical that I had to try it out for myself just to double, triple check that I hated pumpkin pie. Not only did it change my entire outlook on pumpkin pie, but the memory of eating that pie is one of the only things I can remember about last fall. What was I doing at work or my free time? No idea. This pie? I remember.

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I’ve made it twice this week for different occasions and loved the additions of shredded coconut into the crust and using coconut whipped cream as a topping. Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing. Because it’s a rustic version of the original, you have a little bit more wiggle room if the crust crumbles when you cut into it or it doesn’t look perfect, a great thing for pumpkin pie novices (ahem). Matthew tried to get me to swap out the Christmas spices for black pepper, but that just goes to show that chefs don’t always know what they are talking about…at least when it comes to pumpkin pie. Why mess with perfection?

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Vegan Coconut Pumpkin Pie
{gluten-free, vegan}

1 cup rolled oats, processed into a fine flour
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, processed into tiny pieces
2 cups pecans
2 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1 tablespoon Earth Balance (or regular butter if you wish), melted

2 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk (I spooned the top layer off from a can)
1 tablespoon Earth Balance (or butter), softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons arrow root powder or corn starch
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Grease a 9-inch pie pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor,  grind the oats into a fine flour, then dump into a mixing bowl and set aside. Do the same thing with the coconut flakes and add to the bowl. Next, add the pecans to the food processor and process until it starts to clump as the oils release. You should be able to form it into a ball. Be careful of over processing! Add to the same mixing bowl with the oats and coconut.

Melt the butter and brown rice syrup in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add to the mixing bowl along with all other ingredients. Mix very well, using your hands at the end to squeeze the dough together to combine ingredients thoroughly.

Spoon the dough into your prepared pie pan. Press down firmly with your fingers to form a crust, working from the inside out. Prick base with a fork about a dozen times, then prebake for 10-12 minutes. Remove and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling, whisk together the maple syrup and corn starch in a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk very well. If you like your pie filling on the sweet side, now is the time to add a bit more sugar.

Finally, spoon the filling into your prebaked crust and bake for 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees. Check after 30-35 minutes, and if the crust is starting to brown, cover just the crust with tinfoil.

Let the pie cool to room temperature for one hour, then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. Do not skip this step! Keep chilled and serve with a dollop of vegan whipped cream or a small handful of coconut flakes. Or both!

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