Kabocha Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie with a Crème Fraîche Swirl {Gluten-Free}

Ultra creamy and gently spiced, this gluten-free pumpkin pie recipe gets its cheesecake-like tanginess from a generous dose of buttermilk and crème fraîche all wrapped up in a flaky crust.

*Many thanks to Ana of Fluxi On Tour for sponsoring The Bojon Gourmet this month! Head over to her blog for pretty pictures, recipes and travel tips.*

Last week, Phi, Nik and I hosted a pumpkin-themed dinner through Feastly. Each of the 9 courses we served featured winter squash in all its glory. The evening began with two mega loaves of pumpkin challah thickly sliced and served alongside Nik’s fabulous pumpkin butter and pretty pumpkin pickles, and it culminated with a masterpiece of a pumpkin chai latte made by Phi and topped with thick whipped cream. There was pumpkin spaetzle, shaved pumpkin salad, Tartine’s cocoa rye gougères filled with pumpkin chèvre mousse (recipe coming soon!), and a pumpkin buttermilk sherbet topped with pumpkin seed granola. And for breakfast the next day, pumpkin challah french toast from the leftovers.

Luckily I can never get enough pumpkin everything in my face; the meal only deepened my love of winter squash prepared every which way. And it made me crave pie.

(Ok, I always crave pie.)

Lately I’ve been making this twist on two of my favorite pies. The first is a super-creamy pumpkin pie that I adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. (If you’re looking for a kick-ass classic pie, look no further – this is the best I’ve had.) The second is this Meyer Lemon Buttermilk Pie, a thick custard kissed with vanilla bean and thickened with cream, a bit of flour, and just enough eggs and yolks to give it a soft set.

With the help of roasted kabocha squash puree and a bit of finagling, this version has the silky smooth texture of both pies, with tanginess from the buttermilk and crème fraîche that smacks of cheesecake. Earthy kabocha mixes with gentle spices – bright fresh ginger and nutmeg, and a backbone of cinnamon and allspice – to give it that classic pumpkin pie vibe. Blonde maple sugar keeps it naturally sweetened and preserves its bright hue, and vanilla bean seeds make everything feel a little bit decadent.

Kabocha squash, sometimes called kabocha pumpkins, are ideal for baking as the flesh is dense, low in fibers, and consistently sweet. The Sunshine variety has a deep reddish-orange hue and makes for a superb and pretty pie. Real pumpkins are actually not so hot for cooking as they tend to be stringy and fibrous, and I’ve read that the “pumpkin” in canned pumpkin puree is actually a variety of butternut. So there you have it. That being said, I’m fairly certain you could use canned pumpkin or butternut puree in its place if you didn’t have a kabocha handy; all the large winter squash are fairly interchangeable.

A couple of simple yet key steps make this pie a knockout: draining the kabocha puree on paper towels to oust excess water helps to thicken the pie and give it a dense, custardy texture. And straining the filling prior to baking removes any stray fibers, keeping it silky smooth.

I’ve really dialed in my gluten-free pie crust and this version was perhaps the best yet, flaky and tender as a whole wheat crust. Since I had buttermilk on hand for the pie, I used it in the dough in place of vinegar. The acids help to tenderize the dough, while the milk proteins add strength. The fraisage method and a puff pastry-esque turn add extra flake and make the dough easier to handle. I’ve updated my gluten-free pie dough recipe with some new photos showing these steps.

While most pumpkin pies pair well with a plume of whipped cream to help round out the flavors of vegetable and spice, this one is rich and creamy enough to stand on its own. I hope you enjoy this pie as much as we have.

In light of the pumpkin mania that strikes in November, I thought it would be fun to gather my favorite desserts from the past 5 years of Bojon into one place. Wishing everyone a very pumpkiny fall.

Creamy Pumpkin Pie

Kinda Raw Marbled Pumpkin Tart {Grain-Free + Vegan}

Warm Pumpkin Pudding Cakes with Crème Anglaise

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies {Gluten-Free}

Pumpkin Cream Tart with a Gluten-Free Press-in Oat Crust

Roasted Pumpkin Ice Cream

Spiced Pumpkin Flan

Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares with Gingersnap Crust

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Kabocha Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie with a Crème Fraîche Swirl {Gluten-Free}

Makes 1 (9″) pie, about 10 servings

A few notes on substitutions: If gluten isn’t an issue, make this with a wheat-based crust (this one is my favorite) and use all-purpose flour in place of the sweet rice flour in the filling. In place of maple sugar, you could try this with 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/3 cup maple syrup. Feel free to trade in 1/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger if you don’t have fresh, or a teaspoon of vanilla extract, or a bit of vanilla bean paste, if you don’t have a bean. You can make your own crème fraîche by stirring together 1 cup heavy cream and 1 tablespoon buttermilk, letting the mixture sit at room temperature until thickened, 24 hours, stirring once or twice. Alternatively, use sour cream in its place. I think kefir would make a good buttermilk substitute if you couldn’t find buttermilk. Pies such as these really shine when made with fresh squash puree, however canned pumpkin or butternut squash will probably work in a pinch. Kabochas are particularly dense-fleshed and sweet, but feel free to try different varieties of winter squash here such as butternut, red kuri, or hokkaido. To make your own squash puree, preheat the oven to 350ºF and position a rack in the center. Cut a large (2-3 pound) squash (I used the red-orange Sunshine variety but any type will do) into halves or quarters. Rub a rimmed baking sheet with light olive oil and place the squash cut-side down, leaving the seeds and strings in for now (they’re easier to remove once the squash is cooked). Roast the squash until very tender and collapsing a bit, 45-60 minutes. Let cool, scrape out and discard the seeds and strings, and scoop the flesh out of the skin and into a food processor. Blend until very smooth, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Measure out what you need for the pie, and save the rest for another use. All ounce measurements are by weight.

For the pie:
1 (9″) par-baked pie crust (my favorite is this Flaky All-Butter Gluten-Free Pie Dough made with the buttermilk variation)
1 1/2 cups (12.25 ounces / 350 grams) kabocha squash puree
3/4 cup (4 ounces / 110 grams) maple sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons (.5 ounces / 15 grams) sweet white rice flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon packed finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup (4 ounces / 115 grams) crème fraîche or sour cream, plus 2 more tablespoons for swirling on top
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces / 285 grams) well-shaken buttermilk

Prepare things:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. Place the par-baked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet optionally lined with parchment paper for easy clean-up. When you’re nearly finished making the filling, heat the pie shell in the oven for 5-10 minutes to get it really hot; this helps keep the dough crisp in the face of wet filling.

Meanwhile, drain the kabocha squash puree by spreading it into a 1/4″ thick layer on top of four paper towels. Top with four more paper towels and let stand 15 minutes; excess moisture will drain out of the squash.

Make the filling:
Place the maple sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a large bowl and rub the vanilla seeds into the sugar. Whisk in the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Whisk in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Peel the top layer of paper towels off of the kabocha puree, then lift up the bottom layers and let the puree peel off and into the bowl. Whisk in the kabocha puree until smooth. Whisk in the grated ginger and crème fraîche, and lastly the buttermilk. Whisk smooth, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve and into a bowl or measuring cup, pressing on the solids to extract all the good stuff.

Pour the filling into the hot pie crust. Dollop small dots of crème fraîche gently all over the top of the filling, placing it carefully so that it floats. Run a chopstick or skewer through the topping to swirl the crème fraîche.
Bake the pie at 325º until the edges are set and gently puffed and the inner 4 inches of pie wobble like jello, 50-60 minutes.

Let the pie cool completely, at least 2-4 hours. It will keep at cool room temperature for up to a day, or refrigerated for up to 5 days (though the crust will be crispest on the day of baking). Serve chilled or at room temperature.

51 thoughts on “Kabocha Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie with a Crème Fraîche Swirl {Gluten-Free}”

  1. That swirl on top! This pie should be on the cover of a magazine, Alanna! I love the idea of mixing creme fraiche and buttermilk into a pumpkin pie – it sounds like such a deliciously tart contrast to the sweet pie. Also – HEY CATAMUS!!

  2. I am so happy to NOT miss out on the pumpkin party even when I am still so far away from home. I can't wait to be home soon to follow your blog, Phi & Nik closely as I did before my hiatus.

    Love Love Love all your shots, Alanna. And love this pie so much I want to stuff my face with it when I am back home in SF.

  3. This is so beautiful! I can never resist a good swirl and you do it so well. I love your use of the creme fraiche and buttermilk in the filling, that tartness sounds perfect with the richness of the pumpkin.

  4. Thank you so much for the shout out lady! :) And this pie! Can we please meet up and you let me try something! :) Looks so delicious and btw I have never tried pumpkin pie!

  5. I've just started experimenting with gluten free crusts (after three years without pie – I know…) and I can't wait to give this one a try. Pumpkin pie isn't very popular here in Australia, but I am a huge fan, and after reading your delicious description of this pie I'm sure my family will be craving pumpkin pie (and eating it) very soon!

  6. OMG that looks incredible! Drooling over your photography–it is just so perfect in every way. I've not yet tried kabocha but it sounds like a very interesting squash. Guessing that Whole Foods or some similar place would have it? Anyway, it sounds delicious!

    1. Hi June Baby. I should think Whole Foods would have kabochas. I get them at the farmer's market and at our co-op (rainbow grocery in San Francisco). Thanks so much for the super kind words!!

  7. Alanna, this POST! Those photos are beyond belief (I feel like I say this every time but every time I mean it!) and this pie could not possibly sound more delicious. I had my first introduction to kabocha this season and now I want to put it in everything — I need to make this pie ASAP! And I can't end this without saying — your food writing is absolutely, positively inspiring. Such lovely, poetic words and so vividly descriptive. Thank you so much for sharing what you do.

    1. Cynthia! I totally took inspiration from your pappardelle pictures for this shoot. :D I'm so inspired by your photos and styling always. They slay me! You would totally dig this pie.

  8. OMG Alanna this pie is so gorgeous!!! I've been dying to try your gluten-free pie crust, but I have to admit that the fraisage method is a little intimidating. I have vowed to get on it someday soon, though.

    Also, I can't believe you/Phi/Nik hosted another Feastly!! You guys are so awesome! Will you by any chance be hosting another one in the second half of December/beginning of Jan? I'm back home from mid-Dec to Jan 11-ish and would be dorkishly excited to meet all of you talented bloggers!!!

    1. You are so sweet! And let's definitely hang out when you're in town – I'm dorkishly excited to meet you, too! You can totally skip the fraisage method and just do the folds and turns, and you'll still have a killer pie dough. Let's bake together when you're here!

  9. Be honest, I really like this pie more than your recent post, the walnut pie. I like creamy, soft and sweet pie. of course, this is personal preference. If want some extra texture, maybe just sprinkle a little bit of pumpkin seeds or chopped cashew nut. :)

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