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Thai Pumpkin Custard | Sankaya | สังขยาฟักทอง

Thai Pumpkin Custard | Sankaya | สังขยาฟักทองThanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year.  I love the festivities, all of the delicious home-cooked food, the lounging around the house interrupted by wonderfully-long walks outside…  It’s also one of the few times a year that you can indulge in all kinds of pumpkin desserts without thinking twice.  I can’t get enough of them — pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins — there’s just something about pumpkin that makes me really happy.  The boyfriend, however, wouldn’t feel deprived in life if he never ate pumpkin again.

So I knew I was taking a risk when I made this Thai pumpkin custard.  But I was hoping that because it was Thai, he would be more willing to taste and appreciate the pumpkin than he would otherwise…  

Thai Pumpkin Custard | Sankaya | สังขยาฟักทองIn Thailand, a pumpkin that’s commonly used in cooking is the kabocha squash.  It has a hard green outer shell that can be challenging to cut through, but once you do, you’re rewarded with a smooth, delicate orange flesh.  Kabocha squashes come in various sizes, but I’ve found for this recipe, the smaller ones are better.  The pumpkins pictured above are about 14″ in circumference and can fit in my hands. 

Thai Pumpkin Custard | Sankaya | สังขยาฟักทองThe recipe for this pumpkin custard is quite easy.  You simply mix your palm sugar shavings with coconut milk, eggs, salt, and vanilla to make the custard.  Then you cut the top off of the kabocha squash, pour the custard mixture inside, and steam the entire pumpkin filled with custard.  When it’s done, the custard will have set inside the pumpkin and the pumpkin itself will be perfectly cooked.  Really neat, huh?

I cut the whole pumpkin into 6 generous slices and served it while it was still somewhat warm.  With each bite, you get a taste of pumpkin alongside the wonderful coconut custard.  It’s almost like a pumpkin pie, deconstructed.  I loved my portion and would make this dessert again in a heartbeat!  I think the boyfriend, however, still needs some convincing on the pumpkin front…  

Thai Pumpkin Custard | Sankaya | สังขยาฟักทอง


Thai Pumpkin Custard | Sankaya | สังขยาฟักทอง

Makes 6 servings

Thai Pumpkin Custard | Sankaya | สังขยาฟักทอง


  • One small (~14" circumference) kabocha squash
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Wash your pumpkin thoroughly. Cut a circular opening in the top. It may help to use a glass or small bowl to mark the circle and then use a very sharp knife to cut it out. Scoop out all of the pumpkin insides and rinse to ensure it's clean and smooth inside.
  2. Mix the palm sugar, coconut milk, salt, and vanilla extract over medium heat until the palm sugar dissolves. Take off the heat and cool back to room temperature.
  3. Add your eggs to the the coconut milk mixture and mix well to form the custard.
  4. Pour the custard into your hollowed out pumpkin, just to the bottom of the circular opening. Place in a steamer and let steam for 45 minutes untouched. Once it's done, allow to cool a bit before touching. Slice into individual pieces and enjoy!
  5. **If you have additional custard left over (and I usually do), pour into a shallow dish, top with slices of pumpkin, and steam alongside the whole pumpkin custard. Once it's done, slice into 1"x2" pieces for a little bit of a different pumpkin custard dessert. It's more custard-y and less pumpkin-y, but also absolutely delicious!

Recipe adapted from Temple of Thai

21 comments… add one
  • Cwang June 20, 2017, 1:45 pm

    Hi there, for some reason my custard came out watery, this is third time.
    The custard did’nt form, its watery….am i missing something here?
    Please help!!

    • kathi December 6, 2017, 6:48 pm

      Did you use coconut milk out of a can or from a box from the dairy case?

      The coconut “milk substitute” sold from the dairy case is not “coconut milk”

      Also, what size were your eggs?

  • Rowan March 11, 2017, 4:41 am

    I’ve been trying to cook this recipe and slight variations on it, for years now and I have never succeeded. Either the custard is runny in the middle, or the pumpkin splits while cooking and the custard makes a huge mess. Has anyone had these problems and overcome them? Can someone help me?

    • June April 16, 2018, 4:17 am

      I failed twice, then I changed one thing: Do not put the cut off top back on the pumpkin when you steam it. Leave it open. That was it, the custard set up fine subsequent times :)

  • Andrew February 1, 2016, 7:20 pm

    My custard won’t set and I’m not sure why

    • Rachel February 23, 2016, 10:43 pm

      Sorry to hear that Andrew… Let me know if you’d like help troubleshooting it.

  • mike November 28, 2015, 3:03 am

    Well, I just finished eating my custard over the last few days…here’s the report:
    pulling the pumpkin when the internal custard temp reached 75C (170F). was perfect. it was firm but not overcooked and sliced very nicely. Keep in mind, I cooled my pumpkin all the way to room temp before slicing. I’m not sure it would have been as firm while still warm. just a thought. If I were going to serve it warm, I’d probably consider going to 174 or 175, but no higher as residual heat from the pumpkin will keep the temp rising a few more degrees.

    My version of your recipe was:

    An 8″ diameter japanese pumpkin – very close to the kubocha squash you use in the USA
    4 duck eggs (probably liquid equivalent to at least 5 chicken eggs)
    250ml (1 cup) Chao Koh coconut milk. I used the higher fat version 180kcal per serving. I’ve learned to check labels as there’s different ‘strengths’ out there
    130g (5oz weight) palm sugar – I will probably go to 150g (almost 6 oz)next time
    1/4tsp salt

    then followed your instructions with the notes below added

    After I gutted and cleaned my pumpkin, I rinsed it out thoroughly and allowed to drip dry for about an hour. I heard somewhere that doing so helps ensure the custard sticks inside. You didn’t mention having any issues, so it’s probably an old wives’ tale. But my custard did adhere nicely to the pumpkin allowing for really pretty slices.

    I used 4 stalks of pandanus leaves and food processed them with the coconut milk, then strained twice through a fine strainer before using the coconut milk. Frankly, I’d either double the pandanus leaves or leave them out all together (and go with the vanilla). 4 leaves just didn’t do enough. The taste/smell was just lost in all the other flavors.

    I also strained my raw custard through a fine strainer as duck eggs often leave egg white clumps no matter how hard you beat them. Frankly, it helps ensure a smoother custard in general, so I’d probably do it with chicken eggs too (a habit I acquired when I was making loads of homemade ice cream)

    It was creamy, smooth, just sweet enough while the pumpkin added a nice counterpoint in every spoonful, My brother prefers things sweeter than me, so we just laid some sweetened thick coconut cream over his slice (in a way, sort of a Thai whipped cream)

    So again, thanks for getting me motivated to take on a dessert I’ve loved since childhood. I was really easy and REALLY delicious

    • Rachel November 29, 2015, 5:33 pm

      Hi Mike, Thanks for such a detailed report! I’m happy to have these notes, and I’m sure others trying to make this pumpkin custard will be too! We might need to collaborate on some recipe testing in the future :)

  • mike November 25, 2015, 10:38 am

    this is an old thread but I’m making this today (in Thailand). My pumpkin is cooling down as I write this and it looks great. I have a question though…do you have an internal temperature reading for the custard when it’s done? I’m an engineer by trade and prefer to ‘cook by the numbers’, when possible. As my dish was steaming, I started looking for general guidelines and have gotten the following: the eggs in the custard begin solidifying at about 68-70 Celsius (just under 160F) and shouldn’t exceed 80 or 82 C (about 175 or so). The eggs will sort of curdle and your custard will get pretty ‘eggy’ tasting if they do. I know this from making ice cream using a cooked custard base. I’ve taken mine out at 75C. It looks solid enough but I won’t know until I slice it.

    Lastly, what recipe doesn’t get tinkered with? And in my case, I used duck eggs as they’re readily available and are richer than chicken eggs. I also substituted pandanus leaves (infused them into the coconut milk) for vanilla. I suppose it’s more authentic – but then again, I’m here in Thailand where vanilla is the more exotic condiment. Also vanilla is not something I keep in my kitchen here.

    I’ll let you know the results of the taste test

    thanks for inspiring me to actually do this dessert

    • Rachel November 25, 2015, 4:55 pm

      Duck eggs and pandan leaves sound like perfect substitutions! I’m also curious about the internal temperature of the custard… Let me know how it turns out.

  • amy November 18, 2015, 2:49 am

    will the pumpkin still taste fresh if i make it the night before? what do i do with leftover pumpkin can i refrigerator it?

    • Rachel November 18, 2015, 4:04 am

      Hi Amy, yes, the pumpkin should still taste pretty good if made ahead of time and refrigerated. I tend to snack on this dessert for days after making it :)

  • Kay November 20, 2014, 4:09 am

    Hi Rachel,

    I steamed this recipe a couple of nights ago using honey instead of palm sugar (what we had on hand) and it turned out great except– the custard didn’t cook nearly as fast as the pumpkin did. Granted, I was using a makeshift steamer, but the one detail I haven’t been able to figure out, is whether or not the top of the pumpkin is left off or on during the steaming process? Mine was left on, and I feel like it may have contributed to a not-done custard when the squash was cooked through.

    Best wishes,

    • Rachel November 26, 2014, 1:46 am

      Hi Kay,
      I usually steam my pumpkin with the top off, and just placed to the side of the pumpkin in the steamer. I wonder if the consistency of the honey versus palm sugar could have also contributed to the custard taking longer to cook?

  • Robyn October 1, 2012, 2:55 am

    Hi Rachel – In New Zealand I don’t think we can buy blocks of palm sugar. Can granulated sugar be used? If so, what kind? There is a wide range of sugar from white, brown, raw, muscovado, demerera. Look forward to trying some of your recipes, especially the grilled bananas!


    • Rachel October 1, 2012, 4:05 am

      Hi Robyn, I’ve seen brown sugar used as a substitute for palm sugar, but haven’t tried it in these recipes. Best of luck!

  • Rachel November 21, 2011, 10:08 pm

    Hi Joli – I’m a fan of just about anything stewed in coconut milk :) Kabocha pumpkin pie sounds fantastic!

  • Rachel November 21, 2011, 10:06 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan! Glad you guys liked it!

  • Joli November 21, 2011, 9:02 pm

    This looks great! I love thai food! Have you tried Kabocha stewed in coconut milk? Decidedly not good for you and oh so delicious! Tasty at breakfast over some kasha ;)
    I’ll be making a Gluten free Kobucha pumpkin pie for thanksgiving this year! I can’t wait. Combining cultures is fun.

  • JonathanN November 21, 2011, 8:29 am

    Great recipe ! I made it for my wife! It`s delicious!!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Melanie November 20, 2011, 1:45 pm

    I am drooling over this wonderful-looking dessert!! I am totally a supporter of your love for all things pumpkin, and I agree, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to indulge that affair :) Here in Japan, they also use kabocha, but luckily I found a can of pumpkin puree so I can make my beloved pumpkin pie! I will definitely stay tuned here for more delicious Thai recipes!

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