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Pumpkin or Calabaza Flan 3 Ways: 2 Classic & Dairy-free

pumpkin flan

One year for Thanksgiving, instead of her traditional flan, Mami made a delicious, super-creamy pumpkin flan. We loved it.

For this Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, I thought it would be fun to take her traditional version and experiment with how to make it healthier. That’s my favorite thing to do: flip recipes. My plan was to make a dairy-free version of mom’s pumpkin flan for our healthy-eating family and friends.

I actually have never made her flan before because by the time I offer to help Mami and join her in the kitchen, it would always be done! But when I asked her to make it this year so I could make a second version—my mom said that she would give me the recipe so I could do it. She was like: “Tu lo haces y yo te doy la receta.” LOL. Typical mom, right?

Surprise! I ended up making the pumpkin flan early in November to experiment for the holidays. The good news is that it came out absolutely delicious. The-not-so-great news is that the cooking process was a bit messy (as you know, it was my first time making Mami’s flan). 🍮😅

I kept some parts of Rosa, my mother’s, recipe (mostly the rum!), and then I made my own adjustments and additions, including making my version dairy free.

Naihomy and her mom eating flan de calabaza
Naihomy and her mom, Rosa, sampling Naihomy’s version of flan de calabaza.

Here are my flips: Traditional flan is made with evaporated milk and/or condensed milk. All the evaporated milks I saw in the supermarket have carrageenan, and that ingredient is not good for us, so I didn’t want to use it. I also didn’t want to use condensed milk because of the sugar overload. I ended up making my own evaporated milk with cashew milk (you can just as well use almond milk, if you prefer).

For the caramelo, I did not want to use sugar. I don’t like using refined sugars in my cooking and baking. Instead, I made the caramelo with 100% maple syrup. The original recipe calls for butter: I switched it for ghee—clarified butter with the milk solids taken out—because it is healthier. (Regular butter can be used, too, if you prefer). (Note: ghee fans can find another Latinx, healthied-up traditional recipe here: Veronica’s Almost-Vegan Taco Bowl With Jackfruit, Mushroom and Cilantro-Lime Rice.)

So here you go! Pumpkin flan, two and a half ways—because my mom updated her Puerto Rican friend Edith’s pumpkin flan, too! Happy, healthy holidays to you and yours from Mami and me. Below, you’ll find the traditional version first. It’s delightfully succinct and totally delicious. And then you’ll see my slightly more detailed, updated version: dairy free and more saludable. Either way you make your calabaza flan this year, buen provecho, from my family to yours!

Flan de calabaza original recipe
A handwritten recipe for Puerto Rican-style flan de calabaza shared with Naihomy’s mom by a dear Puerto Rican friend, Edith.

Flan de Calabaza 1
Rosa’s Friend Edith’s Traditional Puerto Rican Flan de Calabaza (Pumpkin Flan)

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

The Flan:
2 lbs pumpkin, peeled
5 eggs
1 can coconut milk
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 can evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract (or to taste)

The Caramel:
1/2 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS
1. Set oven to 350°.
2. Boil the peeled pumpkin until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain well. Mash pumpkin.
3. Caramelize the sugar in the flan mold—either on stovetop or in oven, as called for in Marisa’s Always Requested Flan. Once lightly golden, set aside and let cool.
4. Meanwhile, melt the butter on low heat in a saucepan on the stop.
5. Beat all the eggs lightly (stop before they become foamy)
6. In a mixer, blend the pumpkin, sugar, flour, butter, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla and salt.
7. When the sugar in the caramel is cool, top with the pumpkin flan blended mixture.
8. Place mold into a baño de Maria in a 350° oven for one hour. (You can also make this flan stovetop.)

Pumpkin flan de calabaza
This second pumpkin flan updates the first recipe. It is richer, adding more yolks, vanilla, condensed milk and rum.

Flan de Calabaza 2
Rosa’s Dominican Updates to Her Friend Edith’s Puerto Rican Flan

Note: Naihomy’s mom made a handful of updates to Edith’s calabaza flan, above, with her own Dominican flan-inspired tweaks. All other ingredients and directions remain the same from Edith’s recipe.

Serves 12

INGREDIENTS

Substitute:
18 egg yolks (for 5 eggs)
2 tsp vanilla (for 1 tsp. vanilla)

Add:
3 cans condensed milk
2 cans evaporated milk
2 to 3 Tbsp rum

Flan de Calabaza 2: Naihomy’s Dairy-free Flip to Her Mom Rosa’s Pumpkin Flan

Naihomy’s Dairy-free, Good-for-You Flan de Calabaza

3 from 2 votes
Recipe by Naihomy Jerez Cuisine: Dominican
Servings

12

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

10

minutes

Traditiona

Ingredients

  • 32 oz 32 kabocha pumpkin puree

  • 3 cups 3 unsweetened cashew milk, vanilla flavor

  • 2/3 cup 2/3 maple syrup, 100% pure (1/3 cup in each, if using two molds)

  • 5 5 eggs

  • 1/2 cup 1/2 ghee (you can use butter, if you prefer)

  • 3/4 cup 3/4 raw sugar

  • 1 can 1 unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (13 oz.)

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 whole wheat flour

  • 1 tsp 1 vanilla extract

  • 1 tsp 1 salt

  • 1/2 tsp 1/2 cinnamon

  • 1/4 tsp 1/4 nutmeg

  • 2 Tbsp 2 dark rum

Directions

  • Prep
  • Preheat oven to 350° and place a saucepan on the stovetop. Set pan on medium high heat and bring 3 cups of cashew milk to a boil to make evaporated milk. Boil until about half the milk has evaporated and you are left with approximately 12 oz.
  • Wash, de-seed and cut the kabocha pumpkin. Steam or boil it with the skin on, until soft. Peel off skin and set pumpkin aside. (If boiled, drain to remove excess water.)
  • Mix
  • Pour maple syrup in the mold where you will bake the flan. Heat the maple syrup-filled mold over the stove over medium heat. It will start to bubble and soon start to evaporate. After about 5 minutes, you will notice the syrup becoming extra sticky/ thick. With a protective glove, swirl the pan so the syrup touches all sides of the mold. When it starts to stick, remove from heat. Swish gently to coat the syrup on all sides and set to the side to cool. (Do this for both pans if using two).
  • Mash pumpkin with a fork until it is pureed. In a large bowl, crack the eggs and gently mix with a fork so that they are thoroughly mixed.
  • To the eggs, add sugar, ghee, coconut milk, cooled cashew-evaporated milk, whole wheat flour, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and dark rum. Gently blend with a hand mixer or by hand with a fork or whisk.
  • Add pumpkin puree. Mix until smooth.
  • Bake
  • The flan needs to be cooked in a water bath or baño Maria: place molds in a baking pan large enough to fit both. Add water to surround the flan molds, halfway up their sides (I used something as simple as a disposable aluminum pan).
    Add the flan mixture into each pan, splitting in half if you are using two. Place into the preheated 350° degree oven for 1 hour.
  • In 1 hour, stick a butter knife in the middle of the flan. If the knife emerges clean or with very little flan attached, then it is done. If there is a lot of flan stuck to it, leave it in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, and do the knife test again.
  • When done, take the flan out of the oven and let cool and set. It is best to leave it for a few hours, you can even put it in the fridge when cool to set even faster).
  • To take the flan out of the plan, run a butter knife all around the edge of the pan to detach the flan. Place your serving plate (which should be larger than the pan) over the mold, so that it completely covers it. In one quick motion: Flip the pan onto the plate, with one hand on each side for balance. Let the flan and syrup gently slip on the plate. Scrape any remaining caramelized syrup from the mold with a spatula and gently swirl onto the pumpkin flan. You’re done! Serve chilled or at least cooler than room temperature.

Notes

  • Kabocha pumpkin is used in many Dominican dishes like sancocho and beans. You can find it in cans or make your own.
  • As an alternative to the unsweeted, vanilla-flavored cashew milk, you can use unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond milk.
A kabucha pumpkin: ready for flan de calabaza action.
Flan de Calabaza
First, boil or steam the pumpkin so that it’s tender enough to be mashed.
Caramelizing flan
Instead of sugar, Naihomy caramelizes maple syrup for her flan caramelo.
Bano Maria for Pumpkin flan
Putting the flan molds in a baño Maria helps ensure the custard cooks gently and throughout.
Pumpkin flan done!
Ready to eat! Gózatelo. This flan is delicioso y nutritivo for you and your familia and friends this holiday season.
Naihomy and her mom eating flan de calabeza
Naihomy’s flan de calabaza is deemed to be “muy rico,” by Rosa, her mom.
pumpkin flan

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Suggestions and questions from our readers

  1. Hi, my name is Rosario and am borderline diabetic. I have a sweet tooth and so does my oldest son. I have to be very careful with my sugar levels and worry about my son too.
    I would like to know if you have sugar free and simple recipes?

    1. Hola Rosario and y muchas gracias for this great question. The answer is yes. We celebrate both traditional abuela cooking and healthy new ways to enjoy our favorite platos típicos. On our site, check out Naihomy’s Lentil Soup Saludable and her healthied-up version of Flan de Calabaza. Also look for Veronica’s Almost-Vegan Taco Bowl and her delicious vegetarian pozole. Your timing is great! At this very moment, we are planning a new section of “authentic and healthy” traditional recipes. The moment we launch, we’ll contact you directly. Do you or your son have any favorite dishes or desserts you’d like us to start with, Rosario?