Recipe: Spiced Kabocha (Japanese Squash) Pie

Sugar, spice, and pumpkin pies

By Amya Miller
October 21, 2019
Food & Drink

You’ll be reaching for more than one slice of this fall-flavored dessert.

If October had a color, it would be orange.  Jack-o’-lanterns and Halloween beg for it. Pumpkin pie is on the menu back home but here in Japan, whole pumpkins are too expensive to be used for anything.  Canned pumpkin—I kid you not—has not been on shelves anywhere this year and last. I’ve resorted to begging my husband to lug 30 cans in his suitcase with every trip back.  He loves me and agrees, bless that man.


Enter kabocha (かぼちゃ), the closest thing I’ve found to a pumpkin in Japan. I love this but it comes with a warning. A biggie.

It’s a beast to cut.  I mean it. I can do it but it takes me a good five minutes to get the knife through the flesh.  Use your biggest, best, sharpest, strongest butcher knife and be careful!  I usually have to whack it a few times to make enough of a wedge to actually cut it apart.  

The flesh of the kabocha is meaty and thick.  Cut it into big chunks and bake it in the oven 180C (or 350F) for 30 minutes or until soft.

While the kabocha is softening, start your pie crust.


For the crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup frozen butter (or lard or vegetable shortening)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4~5 tablespoon ice water

Take note.  The fat (butter/lard/shortening) must be frozen, and the ice water must contain ice.  Don’t cheat. The amount of ice water necessary changes according to the temperature and humidity inside and out.  The warmer and more humid it is, the less ice water you’ll need.

For the pie mixture

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can evaporated milk (I use the one with 380 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • dash of ground cloves
  • 2 cups softened and peeled kabocha

Recipe - Kabocha Pie


For the pie mixture

  1. Using a cheese grater, grate the frozen butter into small bits.  
  2. Add flour, sugar, and salt and toss lightly until half of the butter is covered. 
  3. Add ice water a bit at a time, and form dough into a ball.  The surface of the ball of dough should be smooth and you should be able to jam your finger into it and have it come out clean.  
  4. Keep adding flour until you get the right consistency.  
  5. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  6. In another bowl, combine the pie mixture ingredients together and mix until the consistency is smooth. 
  7. Blitz it in a blender if you need to dissolve the kabocha chunks.

For the pie crust

  1. Take the pie dough out of the fridge and place two sheets of parchment paper on the counter.  
  2. Add a bit more flour to the dough and make a large disc.  
  3. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top of the cooled dough and roll from the middle outward in all directions.  
  4. Once the dough is around 3 mm, remove the top sheet of the parchment paper and place a pie pan upside down onto the dough.  
  5. Place your hand underneath the parchment paper on the counter and shove it into the pie pan and flip over.  
  6. Drop the crust into the pie pan gently (don’t shove as this will shrink the crust) tapping it into place.  
  7. Cut the excess crust off, make your favorite design, and pour the pie mixture into the pie pan.

Bake in a 180C (or 350F) oven for around 35 minutes or until the center of the pie doesn’t jiggle.  Leave out overnight. Add a dollop (the bigger the better) just because.

This pie is slightly more grainy than pumpkin and it’s not as orange, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much it looks and tastes like home.  Happy October, everyone.


Using this recipe? Share your photos with us via Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #savvytokyorecipe

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