Sankaya: Thai Pumpkin Custard Recipe

This coconut custard is cooked directly inside a hollowed-out pumpkin, ready to serve and beautiful to display as soon as it sets.

Winter 2012/2013

  • Once the custard sets, this dessert is as easy as slicing the pumpkin and serving.
    Photo by Wendy Kiang-Spray

Yield: 6 servings

For more about Thai ingredients, see: Grow Your Own Thai Garden

This classic Thai dessert consists of a coconut custard cooked inside a whole pumpkin. Sliced into wedges to serve, it’s gorgeous on the plate, but no one will guess how easy it is to make. After a five minute preparation and 55-minute steaming time, the custard is just firm, the pumpkin tender, and the whole thing, skin and all, a delicious treat.


• 1 small dry pumpkin such as Thai pumpkin or Kabocha, about 2-3 pounds
• 3/4 cup coconut milk
• 5 eggs, at room temperature
• 1/3 cup white sugar or palm sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Use a cup to trace a circle around the top of the pumpkin. Carefully cut a lid off the top of the pumpkin and hollow out the inside with a spoon, much like preparing to carve a jack-o-lantern.

2. In a bowl, gently whisk the coconut milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla until combined. Pour through a mesh sieve into the pumpkin. Fill to about one inch from the top. Note: The filling will rise while steaming. 

3. Bring about 10 cups of water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer pot. Place the pumpkin in top steamer basket. The lid of the pumpkin can be cooked alongside as well, but do not cover the filled pumpkin with the lid. Place steamer basket on top of boiling water. Cover the pot and steam for 55 minutes. Do not lift the lid until the end of the cooking time. 

4. When done, insert a knife into the middle of the custard. Though the custard will continue to firm up as it cools, the center of the custard should not be runny at all. Allow to cool completely to room temperature, and then slice into wedges to serve.

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