THE BLOG
11/21/2016 03:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Raw Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake That Even Your Mother-in-Law Could Love

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Since Thanksgiving is almost here and the holidays are bountiful with recipes for feasting, we are all wondering about how to eat healthy and enjoy the pleasure of eating good food at the same time. That is why I am so excited to share this raw vegan pumpkin cheesecake recipe with you.

I'm very into eating plant-based foods, and it's encouraging to see an upswing trend on traditional recipes going toward vegan. This does not mean you need to go completely vegan, as many people enjoy raw vegan desserts and savory recipes without committing to a 100% vegan lifestyle. Also, no one will mind if you present this raw vegan pumpkin cheesecake as a dessert for a potluck dinner. I'd recommend this for a more health-conscious Thanksgiving dessert. You may surprise people with how good a raw vegan dessert actually is (including your mother-in-law). My daughters-- both dessert lovers-- loved this pumpkin cheesecake. Yes, it passed the dessert taste test: even my teenage son inhaled his cheesecake slice and asked for more. My youngest daughter commented that it reminded her of ice cream cake.

You will also be pleased on how easy it is to make, even though it looks decadent and complicated. Basic pastry skills, a food processor and a love of pumpkin cheesecake are the only requirements. Oh, and the one very important thing about this dessert: it must be kept cold. It becomes smushy at room temperature, so please keep in freezer and/or refrigerate prior to serving.

If any of your friends and family are allergic to nuts and/or coconut, please let them know before giving them a slice. We do not want to ruin the holidays for anyone. Here's how to make this raw vegan holiday dessert:

The base of the crust is simply dates and pecans with a little vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. The cheesecake is made with cashews, pumpkin purée, coconut meat, pumpkin pie spice and sweetened with maple syrup. All you need is a food processor, one 8" springform pan, and the following ingredients:

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE
serves 6-8

Ingredients:

Crust

2 1/2 cups pecans
1 cup packed Medjool dates, pitted
3 tbl vanilla extract
1/2 tbl pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg)
pinch sea salt

Cheesecake

1 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight -or- soaked in hot water for 1 hour
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 lemon, juiced (2 tbl)
1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin purée
1 fresh coconut, scraped meat only
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tbl pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
1/2 cup soaked raw cashews
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon

Optional Toppings:

warm sea salt caramel
white chocolate shavings

Directions:

Cover cashews with boiling hot water. Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 hour. Then drain thoroughly and set aside.

To make the crust: Add dates to food processor and blend until small bits remain, or it forms a ball. Remove and set aside.

Add pecans and sea salt to food processor to pulse blend into a coarse meal. Add dates into the pecan mixture, along with vanilla and pumpkin pie spice. Blend together until a rough dough forms. It will be sticky. If it is crumbly, add more dates. If too sticky, add more pecans. Set aside.

Line one 8″ springform cake pan with parchment paper. (If using muffin tins you can cut parchment paper into circles to cover the muffin tin bases: cut out two long strips of parchment paper per muffin in an "X" shape at the base and then cover with the parchment circle so you can get your mini cheesecakes out of the muffin tin. You can also use muffin/cupcake liners. Follow recipe and divide into muffin tins.)

Put the crust mixture into the springform pan and press down with palm and fingers to evenly spread. Press down to form the crust. Place the crust in freezer as you make the cheesecake filling.

To make the cheesecake: Drain the soaked cashews and add to blender with all of the filling ingredients. Purée until very smooth, about 2 minutes. If your filling is too thick (the cashews expand and make a creamy texture) and clogging your blender blade, add some liquid: maybe some coconut milk you've set aside for the whipped coconut cream topping, a spoonful of lemon juice, a little more maple syrup, and/or a dash more vanilla extract. Balance out the texture to liquify slightly and smooth out your cheesecake base. Taste and adjust flavors as needed. You'll want the consistency to be much like puréed sweet potatoes, not too runny, but enough to stand up in a peak. Taste your mixture to see if you need any sweetener or possibly more pumpkin pie spice.

Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the cheesecake filling into the crust. Tap gently to release any air bubbles.

To create a marbled cheesecake: make the coconut whipped cream (just blend the ingredients in food processor until creamy) and dot the surface all over with the whipped cream blend, then drag a toothpick or knife through the pumpkin and cream surface until you have marbled the cheesecake entirely.

To make the frilly cream edging you see in the photo: Fill up a pastry bag with the coconut whipped cream. Solidify the cream in the freezer, then decorate the edges of the cheesecake. *There are also vegan "whipped cream" squirt cans on the market shelves in case you don't possess pastry chef skills. So you'll need a cake decorating set and pastry bag for this method, or a store-bought can of vegan whipped cream. Your choice.

If not decorating the cheesecake, don't worry. Either way, just cover it loosely with a sheet of parchment paper --without touching the surface of the cheesecake-- and freeze until firm.

Serve with a touch of coconut whipped cream or caramel drizzled on top. Store leftovers in the freezer for one week. Let thaw at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes before serving for best texture--- I like mine served very very cold, almost like an ice cream cheesecake. You can be a little naughty and drizzle on some caramel or sprinkle on some white chocolate shavings if you like. No one will judge, including mom. Enjoy!