An Exceptional Kabocha Squash Custard (Gluten Free)

Every time I make my pumpkin pie, which, in our household, is not reserved for the holiday season that is fast approaching, I end up with enough extra pie filling for one little ramekin.

Kabocha Squash Custards in white ramekins | Foodal

And when the two dishes come out of the oven, the pie plate and the ramekin, both of them sitting atop the stove to rest, Tim and I cannot help ourselves from digging into that mini custard, the two of us with spoons, blowing away steam and reveling in the hot and caramelized comfort.

Top down view of Kabocha squash custard in a white ramekin bowl being held by a human hand.

So about a month ago or so, it occurred to us: Forget the pie.

Why not pour all the filling into ramekins?

That’s how these kabocha squash custards were born.

Here is what you need to do to start: Get yourself a kabocha squash.

Kabocha squash sliced open showing the insides.

Do you guys already know about kabocha squash? This squatty gourd, also called Japanese pumpkin, came into our lives this fall, as one of the heavier ingredients in a weekly CSA box.

At first, it seemed a clone of butternut or acorn squash – slightly different in appearance with a gnarled stem and bumpy exterior, but overall the same, at least in terms of use.

But then, one day, after roasting it and puréeing the insides, I took a spoonful of the thick, whipped mixture to my mouth and shrieked.

Tim! You have to taste this!

You guys. Think butternut squash but thicker and sweeter, velvety in texture, practically a mousse once blended, all on its own. One bite in my mouth, and I’m telling you, it was the first time in my life where I thought baby food – you know, the kind where you just blend a cooked vegetable into mush – sounded like better cuisine than my own.

Kabocha is to squash what LOST was to TV.
What sunlight is to afternoons.
What October is to the calendar.

In other words, kabocha squash is not just another squash but the best squash, the one I always reach for first when I’m at the store.

Oblique view of pureed kabocha squash in a mason jar.

To prove my point, I offer Exhibit A: me, standing in the kitchen a few weeks ago, waving my arms in the air with a dinner guest, my eyes wide and eyebrows high, talking quickly and excitedly about the Dessert That Is Pure Kabocha Squash.

It doesn’t need sugar, I kept saying to him. It’s perfect on its own! Get yourself a kabocha squash!

Top down view of a white ceramic bowl full of squash puree being held by human hands.

Then, there is the fact that we’ve made these squash custards four times in the last month, for a dinner party, for a pre-St.-Louis-road-trip breakfast, for an everyday snack.

The recipe makes five to six (five is ideal; six is slightly pushing it but possible), and Tim and I, on our own, have no trouble polishing them all off, in one day.

True, for a recipe like these custards, you could use pureéd sweet potatoes or butternut squash or acorn squash or pie pumpkin in lieu of the kabocha squash purée, but, in response to that, it should be said: it was kabocha squash that, once blended into these custards, had Tim looking me straight in the eye at our dining table, swearing, and I quote, “This is what my dreams are made of.”

Do you want a fall treat that's tasty and healthy? Try this Kabocha squash custard recipe now!

Something magical happens to these custards in the oven: the filling cooks and the edges caramelize, creating a dark, sticky ridge around the soft and sweet insides. We especially like them warm, whether topped by homemade ice cream or whipped cream, but they’re also lovely cold, straight out of the fridge.

A ramekin bowl full of Kabocha squash custard on a dark wooden background.

And while normally, this is the point in the post where I’d have something nice and neat to wrap up the paragraphs with, today I’m just going to end with (1) Make These and (2) Tell Me about It, because, listen, it’s almost Thanksgiving and tomorrow’s the weekend and, no kidding, we love these custards almost as much as we love hearing from all of you.

Kabocha Squash Custards (Gluten-Free)
Serves five or six servings

As stated above, you can easily substitute any squash, pumpkin or even sweet potato purée in place of the kabocha here, even though you know which one we’re partial to.

If you go with fresh pumpkin purée from a traditional pumpkin (i.e., not a pie pumpkin), be sure to drain the excess water from the purée first; we learned the hard way that, with too much water content, this recipe will not work.

Also, on the arrowroot powder: Feel free to substitute flour here, whether spelt or all-purpose or something else. You could even try almond flour, though we haven’t been able to do so with perfect results.

2 eggs
1 cup unrefined natural cane sugar (Sucanat), coconut sugar, or granulated sugar
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (or, if you don’t need to be gluten-free, flour)
2 cups kabocha squash puree (or other winter squash)*
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
12 ounces (i.e., 1 1/2 cups) heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat the two eggs lightly. Add all the rest of the ingredients but the cream; mix; add the cream and combine until well mixed.

Distribute the mixture evenly among five or six ramekins. Bake for 10 minutes at 450F. Lower oven temp to 350F and bake 40 to 50 minutes more. Custards are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Top with whipped cream and nuts, or ice cream, or eat plain. Best while still warm.

*Kabocha squash puree: Preheat oven to 375F. Slice the squash in half, remove seeds and rub with coconut oil. Place, cut-side down, on a baking sheet to roast. Should be done in 35 to 45 minutes or, when a fork pierces the flesh easily. Let cool, scoop out insides and blend in a food processor. Depending on size of squash, you should have between two and four cups as a result.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home,, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

36 thoughts on “An Exceptional Kabocha Squash Custard (Gluten Free)”

  1. These look nothing less than divine. I’ve yet to taste a kabocha squash, so I believe I’ll be looking for one this weekend at the market! Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe.

  2. These sound, and look, great. We can’t always find the range of squashes that you get in the US but I’ll be keeping an eye out for kabocha now.

  3. I just bought a kobocha squash this morning and it’s my first time making it. Mine is dark green, do you know if it’s different from the orange variety? These custards look heavenly!!

  4. Okay, I have never heard of this kobocha squash stuff, but I am going to head to my New Seasons– the best grocery ever!– and I know they will have them. And I will buy one and make ^this and tell you how I wish you were here to eat it with us.

    Beautiful post! You liked LOST? Oh no! I thought we were friends! :

  5. This looks fantastic and a simple way to serve a simply divine thanksgiving dessert without gluten. I cook for a couple that is dieting and I think they will love this sweet treat. Thank you.

  6. Your excitement is contagious! I want to wave my hands in the kitchen in excitement for this squash too!! And I am a huge sucker for custards so… I am sold indeed. 🙂

  7. Over the summer I signed up for Door-to-Door Organics (I think I heard about it from your blog). Part of the reason was to be more adventerous trying “new to us” produce. So far we’ve tried kale and bok choy. It’s nice we get to sub items, like squash. I’ll keep this recipe in mind next time squash comes up in the rotation. 🙂

  8. I felt that I most certainly should comment on our post today, mostly because, indeed, I did say: “This is what my dreams are made of.”

    When the custards get a little bit caramelized… yeah, uh huh. yep. That is all I have to say about that. I have been known to eat one after the other, no topping needed.

  9. These look gorgeous. I’m a big fan of pumpkin pie and pumpkin custards, and I imagine the satiny texture of kabocha would be perfect here. I live in a part of the world that is surprisingly (and frustratingly) void of winter squash. I can find butternut and some pumpkins, and carnival squash is sold by florists as a decoration, but I’ve never seen even an acorn squash let alone kabocha. I’ll have to make this with pumpkin for now, and hang on for kabocha when I’m back in Canada for the holidays in December. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. I had an orange kobacha and kept thinking I had the wrong thing but that’s what the label said. I made a yummy soup, but now I wish I would have just eaten it by itself. Love your pictures and enthusiasm over this dessert. I’m sure it’s as good as it looks.

  11. This sounds amazing. And, while I’ve never tried this miracle squash, you’ve convinced me to hunt one down. Also, I totally love the photo of your shoes. It’s just perfect.

    • Thanks so much, Sarah! I bought them on Etsy and think they’re the cutest…. wish they were the comfortablest, too, but… : )

  12. I really like the idea of these – we’ve got a new fruit & vegetable shop that’s just opened up round the corner so I’m going to test them on their winter squashes this week to see if I can find a kabocha squash and recreate this!

    PS I’m with Sarah on your shoes, so adorable!

  13. Hooray for kabocha squash … I usually do savory things with them, but I’m into this sweeter idea very much. Hope you guys had a nice weekend. It rained here (shocker). xx , m

  14. I have a confession: I can’t stand pumpkin pie! But I love kabocha squash so. And I keep admiring your photos, and imagining baked kabocha squash with sugar and spices and topped with ice cream and I’m beginning to think my world just may change…

    • What! In that case, I would especially love to hear your thoughts on this if you try it. Let me know if it’s different enough to win you over! : )

  15. OK, you have me convinced. These look marvelous! We’ve never cooked with kabocha squash, but now we’ve got me intruiged! It’s on our list.

  16. I have been salivating over this recipe for three weeks. Finally made them today. I totally agree with your husband, Tim. They are the stuff of dreams!! Anyone who loves dessert will absolutely love these.

  17. Thanks for the recipe! Question — we’re on a low-sugar diet. If we have a very very sweet Kabocha (tastes as sweet as pie by itself), can the sugar be omitted?

    • Hi Irina, We haven’t tested this, and a whole cup of any ingredient would be a lot to omit from a recipe without making other adjustments. But I have heard of custard recipes that are made with sugar substitutes like stevia before, as well as recipes similar to this one that use less granulated sugar or an alternative like maple syrup. Since this is a baked dessert, the lack of sugar may effect its ability to caramelize on top, but it contains eggs and other thickeners so the texture should still hold up. If you experiment with this yourself, please let us know how it turns out!


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