I believe in pumpkin pie. Not just as a low-carb savior of holiday sweets, but as an everyday treat. So much so that for my birthday one year I made eight pumpkin pies and invited friends over to eat them, certain they’d only make a dent in the supply. I thus gave myself an excuse to enjoy the leftovers for days on end, morning and night, sometimes with pure whipped cream (so naturally sweet, no need for sugar) and often with strong coffee. As a hearty and naturally sweet squash, it’s understandable why this native of North America migrated so quickly to Europe at the beginning of the Renaissance for inclusion in a myriad of sweet, as well as savory, dishes. And who knew that pumpkin pie, which became a staple at Thanksgivings in the early 1800s, was rejected, along with the holiday itself (made official in 1863) by southerners as symbol of Yankee culture?! So we get to enjoy it with the additional benefit of its historical representation of unity and freedom.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I realized I wouldn’t need to ditch pie as part low-carb diet, so much as rework it. Once you take away the traditional white flour crust and all that sugar most folks add, pumpkin pie—essentially pudding-like given its ingredients, consistency and lack of top crust—offers up all the nutritional goodness of pumpkin (beta-carotene, fiber,potassium, vitamin E ,thiamine, niacin, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamins A, C and B6, riboflavin, potassium, copper and manganese) in a form that makes low-sugar lifestyles feel decadent. And what a great alternative to have around during the holidays when you’re most likely to be surrounded by sugar.
Whether you are dedicated enough to use fresh pumpkin, or prefer the ease of a canned pumpkin, it’s so easy to replace any dairy sugars your recipe calls for with cream, half and half or coconut milk and your favorite sugar substitute: I’ve found most blends that use low glycemic sugar alcohols and/or sugar-free plant and fruit based sweeteners work well with the spices that really give the pumpkin its familiar “pie” profile. I also recently tried making one with Amy’s Best “Trio Sweet” mix of chicory, stevia and monk fruit which is a great option for anyone who is sensitive to sugar alcohols, though depending on your tastebuds—I like my pie on the spicier side and mildly sweet—you may want to deviate from the suggested sugar equivalent as it really delivers on sweetness.
Made this way, an entire quarter of your pie would contain roughly 8.5 carbs (add another 5 for coconut milk). 3.5 grams of natural sugar (add up to 2 grams for coconut milk), 3-4 grams of natural fiber! Not only are those numbers astoundingly good but they give plenty of room to throw in a low-carb crust made of nuts and/or alternative flours. Experimenting with such crusts in still on my list of things to do but I’ve gotten so used to the pie on its own (and I am not much of a baker, as much as a concoction maker), that I haven’t bothered. In fact, if a hankering for pumpkin pie hits me when I’m short on time, I’ve been known to microwave a bowl of its ingredients (usually adding extra egg for a soufflé/baked effect), and eating this straight up and warm with a spoonful of cream poured over. Not only is this fix quick but, if results of a decade-old study have any bearing on human blood sugar, serving pumpkin pie ‘guts’ as a side dish might help us all keep prediabetes in check. Pass the pie, please!