Did you know that pumpkin, acorn squash, gourds, and even zucchini are all the same species of plant? The Cucurbita pepo species can yield a wide range of cultivars with wildly different traits.
In the same way that broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts are all the same plant (Brassical oleracea), the different cultivars of Cucurbita pepo share some traits, while they diverge with others.
Of course, pumpkins get to be quite large, which probably contributes to it’s popularity as an autumn harvest staple, with treats like pumpkin pie being central to our memories of the season.
Unfortunately, pumpkins aren’t as popular as other squashes here in Korea, and there’s no such thing as pureed pumpkin or pumpkin pie filling available on any shelf. But that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying one of my favourite fall flavours!
Luckily, some of the many other cultivars of summer squash, as well as some winter squashes (Cucurbita maxima), make perfect alternatives. Buttercup (not butternut) is a winter squash with a very similar flavour to pumpkin, but exceeds the rich smoothness of the Halloween icon. It’s the most easily available squash here in Korea, though it’s typically translated to “pumpkin” here.
Acorn squash is another great substitute, as it is also quite similar to pumpkin in texture and flavour. The only problem is that its ridge-shaped, which can make chopping and peeling a pain. Butternut has you covered though, as it’s much easier to process but also yields a similar end product as pumpkin.
As exciting as botany and nomenclature is, the point of this post is to share a delicious pumpkin cheesecake recipe, or squash if your stranded without the former, like I am. Since many of the micro-kitchens here in Korea are ovenless, I’ve chosen a no-bake recipe. And if you have an oven, it just frees up space for more goodies for your Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time: 1 hour + 3 hours
- 1½ cups crushed graham crackers or preferred cookie
- 4 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (optional – I usually omit for a healthier pie)
- 250g cream cheese
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 package gelatin + 1/2 cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
*If you don’t have all of these, it’s okay to omit. Cinnamon and ginger are the most important, and also the most accessible in Korea. The recipe will make more than is needed which can be stored in an airtight container for about a year.
- Mix crust ingredients thoroughly and press into a 9-inch round baking dish, or a 9×9 inch square dish. If you have an oven, you can bake it at 375F for about 7 minutes, but skip this step if you don’t have one. Chill crust in the fridge for at least 1 hour before filling.
- Beat cheese, pumpkin, sugar, spices, and pumpkin pie spice in large bowl with mixer until smooth. Dissolve gelatin into hot water and stir into pumpkin mixture.
- Spoon into prepared crust and even out with a rubber spatula.
- Place in fridge for at least three hours. Enjoy with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream!
What’s your favourite autumn treat?