Asian Recipes/ Baking/ Dessert/ Pumpkin/ Recipes

Pumpkin Coconut Custard – Southeast Asian Dessert

19/10/2020

Pumpkin Coconut Custard is pure sweet comfort food, Southeast Asian style. Soft pumpkin is filled with creamy coconut custard then baked into sweet dessert perfection – all with everyday, easy to find ingredients.

Slice of pumpkin with coconut custard in the middle.

Why We Love This

We love how soft, sweet and tender the pumpkin goes after steaming, the perfect partner to the creamy coconut custard.

While you usually wouldn’t think to put custard IN a pumpkin, it tastes quite similar to the classic American Pumpkin Pie (especially when you use coconut milk like we do!). In fact, if you added pumpkin spices into the custard mix, I bet that would taste divine!

Single slice of coconut custard stuffed pumpkin.

What is Pumpkin Coconut Custard? 

This sweet dessert uses a whole Kabocha pumpkin which is hollowed out, filled with a creamy coconut custard mix and steamed to perfection.

It’s popular across Southeast Asia, throughout Laos (sangkhaya maryu), Thailand (sangkaya fak thong) and Cambodia (sankhya lapov). You’ll usually find it at market stalls and in the family home as a favourite sweet treat.

Where We Learnt This Recipe:

This little Asian dessert recipe came into our lives in a city called Pakse, in southern Laos.

We were doing what we do best: Following our noses around every corner. Wandering laneways, dodging scooters, and scouring the town for unexpected foodie discoveries.

And then we found the Pumpkin Coconut Custard Man.

Or rather, we found Pumpkin Man’s stall outside his home, laid out with slices of baked pumpkins filled with coconut infused custard (the flavour of which we figured out later through sophisticated taste-testing methods).

It took us a few goes to get his attention, engrossed as he was in a Lao drama on his TV. But we managed to draw him outside and let him know we just HAD to try his delicious looking dessert.

One bite of that softly sweet stuffed pumpkin and we were hooked.

What You’ll Need

This is super easy to make at home, and the best part is you won’t have to hunt for any hard-to-find ingredients.

  • Small Pumpkin – Not too big, yet deep enough to hold a decent amount of coconut custard. We used Japanese pumpkins (Kabocha) which is the traditional variety of pumpkin for this recipe. You can also use other kinds of pumpkins, squash or gourd depending on what you have available in your area. 
  • Coconut cream – Coconut cream is a thicker, more concentrated version of coconut milk. If you only have coconut milk, add an extra dash of normal milk for creaminess. You can also pop a couple of cans of coconut milk in the fridge, then once the ‘fats’ set, scoop out and use the solids, leaving the coconut water behind.
  • Sugar – Different sugars may lead to different colour custard. Use white sugar for bright custard, brown sugar for a deeper colour. Palm sugar (gula melaka) is used in the traditional version and will lead to a darker custard with a caramelised flavour.
Ingredients laid out for Pumpkin Coconut Custard

How to make steamed pumpkin with custard filling:

  1. Preheat your oven to 150˚C (300˚F). Trace a hexagon on top of the pumpkin, and slice into it with a sharp knife to create a lid. Prise out with a butter knife and slice off the seeds from the lid. Using a spoon, scoop and remove the seeds and soft flesh from the inside of the pumpkin. Pop the hollow pumpkin in a Dutch oven.
  2. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, vanilla essence and salt. Whisk until evenly mixed, then pour in the coconut cream and whisk again until well combined (around a minute or two).
  3. Pour the custard mixture into your pumpkin. Add the hot water into your Dutch oven (aim for 2cm / 1 inch if you can). This will steam the pumpkin as it bakes. Place the pumpkin lid either back on the pumpkin, to the side in the Dutch oven or leave it off altogether.
  4. Put on the Dutch oven lid and pop it in the oven for an hour and a half. After times up, use a clean knife and pierce the middle of the custard. If it comes out clean, your custard is set!
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down to room temperature before slicing and serving [Important!]. Note: The custard may still be a little soft when you first finish cooking, but it will set once it cools down.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Hot Water – This is key! It makes sure your coconut custard cooks and steams to perfection while it bakes. Without the water, your pumpkin won’t get that lovely soft melty texture that makes this dish so scrumptious.
  • Pumpkin Size – Make sure to choose the smallest pumpkin (or two if they’re really small). If it’s too big, the custard won’t set and all you’ll get is a runny mess.
  • Preparing the Pumpkin – Clean the outside of the pumpkin before cooking and always use a sharp knife to cut through it.
  • Handle with Care – When removing from the Dutch oven, the pumpkin will be soft and tender, easy to split or break apart.

FAQs

My pumpkin split, is that okay?

It’s okay (and normal) if the skin splits towards the end of cooking. You can still cut it into nice neat slices for serving. If you’re worried, you can always tie a piece of kitchen string around the outside of the pumpkin before cooking to hold it together.

The custard is bubbly and looks like it has two layers – egg and coconut, is that normal?

Bubbles and separation can occur if the custard has heated too quickly. Aside from looks, this should taste just as good!

My custard hasn’t set.

Totally fine and salvageable at this point! We need to get your pumpkin steaming. If you’re trying one method (eg Dutch Oven) you could try switching it to another method (baking tray or stovetop steamer) to help to finish it off or just keep cooking it for longer until set (especially for bigger pumpkins).

Can I use a slow cooker to make this?

We think this would work, but this method is currently untested. Follow the instructions in the recipe, then instead of a Dutch Oven, pop the pumpkin in your slow cooker. Add in the hot water and put the slow cooker on high. Check the custard every couple of hours until the custard passes the ‘clean knife’ test. If you try this method, let us know in the comments how long it took, and we’ll update the recipe!

Variations & Substitutes

  • Tiny Pumpkins – Great idea to use for single serving portions.
  • Cook Custard Separately – You can steam the custard separately in a bowl if you prefer not to cook it in the pumpkin. Serve over sticky rice steamed in coconut cream with a little sugar and salt just like in our mango and coconut rice.
  • Keep the Seeds – Wash, dry and toast the pumpkin seeds separately in olive oil, salt & pepper for a tasty snack.
  • Alternative Methods – If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can steam it on the stove or cover the pumpkin in foil on a baking tray. 
  • Garnish Ideas –
    – Top with pumpkin spice or maple syrup.  
    – Top slices with shaved fresh young coconut (or desiccated coconut) + gula melaka syrup and toasted sesame seeds. 
    – Top with the creamy white coconut sauce from our che ba mau Vietnamese dessert.
Steamed pumpkin with a coconut custard filling, ready to eat!

For more pumpkin goodness, try these next.

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and star rating below!

Pumpkin filled with coconut custard on a white plate.

Pumpkin Coconut Custard – Southeast Asian Dessert

Pumpkin Coconut Custard is pure sweet comfort food, Southeast Asian style. Soft pumpkin is filled with creamy coconut custard then baked into sweet dessert perfection – all with everyday, easy to find ingredients.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Lao
Servings: 10 slices
Calories: 1895kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $5

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 150˚C (300˚F). Trace a hexagon on top of the pumpkin, and slice into it with a sharp knife to create a lid. Prise out with a butter knife and slice off the seeds from the lid. Using a spoon, scoop and remove the seeds and soft flesh from the inside of the pumpkin. Pop the hollow pumpkin in a Dutch oven.
  • Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, vanilla essence and salt. Whisk until evenly mixed, then pour in the coconut cream and whisk again until well combined (around a minute or two).
  • Pour the custard mixture into your pumpkin. Add the hot water into your Dutch oven (aim for 2cm / 1 inch if you can). This will steam the pumpkin as it bakes. Place the pumpkin lid either back on the pumpkin, to the side in the Dutch oven or leave it off altogether.
  • Put on the Dutch oven lid and pop it in the oven for an hour and a half. After times up, use a clean knife and pierce the middle of the custard. If it comes out clean, your custard is set!
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool down to room temperature before slicing and serving [Important!]. Note: The custard may still be a little soft when you first finish cooking, but it will set once it cools down.

Recipe Notes

  • Small Pumpkin – Not too big, yet deep enough to hold a decent amount of coconut custard. We used Japanese pumpkins (Kabocha) which is the traditional variety of pumpkin for this recipe. You can also use other kinds of pumpkins, squash or gourd depending on what you have available in your area.
  • Coconut cream – Coconut cream is a thicker, more concentrated version of coconut milk. If you only have coconut milk, add an extra dash of normal milk for creaminess. You can also pop a couple of cans of coconut milk in the fridge, then once the ‘fats’ set, scoop out and use the solids, leaving the coconut water behind.
  • Sugar – Different sugars may lead to different colour custard. Use white sugar for bright custard, brown sugar for a deeper colour. Palm sugar (gula melaka) is used in the traditional version and will lead to a darker custard with a caramelised flavour.
  • Hot Water – This is key! It makes sure your coconut custard cooks and steams to perfection while it bakes. Without the water, your pumpkin won’t get that lovely soft melty texture that makes this dish so scrumptious.
  • Pumpkin Size – Make sure to choose the smallest pumpkin (or two if they’re really small). If it’s too big, the custard won’t set and all you’ll get is a runny mess.
  • Preparing the Pumpkin – Clean the outside of the pumpkin before cooking and always use a sharp knife to cut through it.
  • Handle with Care – When removing from the Dutch oven, the pumpkin will be soft and tender, easy to split or break apart.
  • Keep the Seeds – Wash, dry and toast the pumpkin seeds separately in olive oil, salt & pepper for a tasty snack.
  • Alternative Cooking Methods – If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you can steam it on the stove or cover the pumpkin in foil on a baking tray.
  • Garnish Ideas –
    – Top with pumpkin spice or maple syrup.
    – Top slices with shaved fresh young coconut (or desiccated coconut) + gula melaka syrup and toasted sesame seeds.
    – Top with the creamy white coconut sauce from our che ba mau Vietnamese dessert.

Nutrition

Calories: 1895kcal | Carbohydrates: 208g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 112g | Saturated Fat: 89g | Cholesterol: 655mg | Sodium: 1445mg | Potassium: 5744mg | Fiber: 13g | Sugar: 139g | Vitamin A: 116727IU | Vitamin C: 130mg | Calcium: 414mg | Iron: 20mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Pumpkin Coconut Custard - Southeast Asian Dessert

22 Comments

  • Reply
    Julia
    18/05/2019 at 6:08 pm

    Hey, Do u think this can made in a slow cooker?

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/05/2019 at 7:36 pm

      That is a great question – I’ve never tried so I’m not sure. I wonder if you’d need some water in the bottom to help steam the pumpkin. If you do experiment with it – let us know how it goes. 🙂

    • Reply
      Jean
      30/09/2020 at 12:35 am

      did you try it in the slow cooker Julia?

      • Reply
        Wandercooks
        30/09/2020 at 10:12 am

        Hey Jean! Great question. While we’re not sure how Julia’s turned out, I think it will work. I’d definitely pop a little water in the bottom to help steam, but make sure to elevate the pumpkin out of the water. Follow the steps as above, then when it gets to the steaming section – follow this video and instructions on cooking a whole pumpkin in the slow cooker. Let us know how it goes, and we’ll update the recipe. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sara
    05/11/2016 at 11:34 pm

    5 stars
    Do you think acorn squash May work? Maybe sílice the bottom so it stands up? I think that ‘s the closest to those Small pumpkins.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      08/11/2016 at 11:08 am

      Hey Sara, definitely worth a shot! If you try it, let us know how you go! 🙂

  • Reply
    Chara
    08/10/2016 at 6:15 am

    Hail from Colorado – Coconut Cream?? What is that? Where does one find it? We have coconut milk in cans here and coconut water but NOT cream. This looks amazing and I want to try it BUT I need to figure out the cream thing… Ideas?

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      13/10/2016 at 3:32 pm

      Hey Chara, thanks for stopping by! Coconut cream is thicker and richer than coconut milk, and it’s made by simmering four parts shredded coconut in one part water. If you’re keen to find out more, The Kitchn did a great article on the differences between coconut milk and cream. In terms of how to get some, maybe try checking out an Asian grocery if you have one nearby, or the Asian section in your local supermarket, or you could look online for coconut cream from places like Amazon (note that last one’s an affiliate link). 🙂

  • Reply
    Victoria
    14/06/2016 at 10:43 pm

    5 stars
    This is something i am totally gonna have to make for my friends next time they come over! Last time i made anything with Pumpkin it was a Pumpkin Gruyere soup, and i put a little too much ginger in it, lol.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      15/06/2016 at 11:35 am

      Well I definitely won’t be telling you about that time I made Chilli Beef Stirfry with waaaaaaayyyy too much chilli. That thing was nuclear. 😛 Hope you enjoy the Lao Pumpkin! 🙂 x

  • Reply
    GiGi Eats
    08/06/2016 at 12:57 pm

    OOOOO MYYYY GOOOSHHHHH!! THIS THIS looks like HEAVEN!! IN A GOURD!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      08/06/2016 at 1:34 pm

      Hahaha! Best. Comment. Ever!!! 😀 xx

  • Reply
    April
    06/06/2016 at 10:56 am

    I don’t think it sounds like a strange mix. It reminds me of ingredients for pumpkin pie. I think this recipe sounds amazing. Gorgeous pictures too!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/06/2016 at 11:51 am

      Oh true, I never thought of that! Pumpkin pie isn’t very common here in Australia but we’ve always been curious to give it a go. We’ll be sure to share the recipe with you if we do!

  • Reply
    Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious
    06/06/2016 at 10:48 am

    Such a sophisticated presentation! Love every single bit of this.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/06/2016 at 11:50 am

      Thanks Dorothy, we had a lot of fun cooking and photographing this one!

  • Reply
    Matt @ Plating Pixels
    06/06/2016 at 10:30 am

    Love this unique recipe and totally have to find some pumpkins like that! Your photos are gorgeous too!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/06/2016 at 11:49 am

      Thanks Matt, we used Jap pumpkins which are common in Australia but you could definitely experiment with other types to find which cooks and tastes best. All you need to do is make sure they’ve got a decent hollow inside to hold all your tasty coconut custard!

  • Reply
    michele
    06/06/2016 at 10:24 am

    This sounds absolutely divine! I love things that come out of nowhere and just scream… this is delicious! Its really warm here right now, but honestly I don’t care. Im going to heat up the old oven and make this pronto! Thanks for blowing off the pesto, this sounds sooooo yummy!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/06/2016 at 11:48 am

      Hahah no problemo Michele, we’re glad we blew off the pesto too. 😛 Don’t forget to serve this dessert cold for extra tasty summertime deliciousness.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    06/06/2016 at 9:46 am

    5 stars
    Oh my word! Coconut is one of my favorite flavors…I just love it! This custard sounds like something I need to try soon and I have a feeling that I’ll just love every single bit of it! 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/06/2016 at 11:47 am

      Thanks Sarah! Hope you enjoy!

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