Once upon a time, I was a vegan pastry chef. A restaurateur commissioned me to make a vegan cheesecake that customers would fall in love with. Up to that point, the only vegan cheesecake I’d tried was an unappetizing tofu-sugar brick that was nothing like the decadent version I made before going vegan, with rich cream cheese and velvety full fat yogurt as the base. I knew that if I could find a good vegan yogurt, I could make the best vegan cheesecake in Brooklyn. That is how Anita’s Yogurt was born.
This version is an adaptation of that recipe, substituting cashew cream for cream cheese, and incorporating pureed kubocha squash, which I prefer over pumpkin for its lower water content, sweeter flavor and deeper orange color. (Alternately, you can use canned pumpkin if you can’t find kubocha or don’t have time to prep the puree.) This cheesecake takes longer than a traditional cheesecake to bake, so be sure to use a water bath so the crust does not burn. But I promise you: it is well worth the wait and the extra work.
Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe:
For the Crust
10 oz. gingersnaps, pulsed in a food processor into fine crumbs (~2 cups)
pinch of salt
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup coconut oil
For the Filling
3 cups raw cashews, covered by an inch with water and soaked overnight
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup maple syrup
3 cups Anita’s coconut yogurt
2 cups kabocha squash puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup brown rice flour
Preheat oven to 350°F. Add the gingersnap crumbs, salt, orange zest, and coconut oil to a large bowl and use your hands to rub the oil into the mixture until combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.
Drain the cashews and add to a food processor or high-speed blender. Add the 1/4 cup water and maple syrup and blend until smooth. Move the sweet cashew cream to a large bowl and add the yogurt, squash, sugar, vanilla, and brown rice flour. Stir until smooth.
Place the springform pan on top of two large sheets of aluminum foil, pressing the foil into the sides to cover the bottom half of the pan. Place the foil-wrapped pan into a large baking dish. Pour the filling into the pan, smoothing the top with a spatula or spoon. Move the baking dish to the oven and pour room temperature water into the dish until it comes about 1 inch up the side of the springform pan.
Bake until the edges are set but the center still jiggles, about 2 hours, rotating the baking dish after an hour. Remove the cheesecake pan from the baking dish, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled.