Sweet Corn Crème Brûlée

This humble, deceptively simple corn crème brûlée is a sweet and savory side that owes its genesis to Black and Indigenous history.
Sweet Corn Crème Brûlée
This vegan sweet corn crème brûlée continues the story of both Indigenous and Black American southern food traditions. | Lauren Paige for LIVEKINDLY

The Southern delicacy of corn pudding is a slightly sweet dish consisting of blended corn and cream that’s typically served as a savory side, despite its dessert-like name. Humble and unassuming, this dish shows its might with flavor, rather than a splashy presentation.

Although Black Americans in the South had been eating corn pudding in some form for generations, the first recipe wasn’t published until 1938 in Helen Bullock’s The Art of Williamsburg Cookery. However, the true origins of this dish can be traced back to an Indigenous recipe. 

Corn was a staple grain for the Indigenous people and because of their understanding and appreciation for this crop, they learned to use corn in hundreds of different ways. The original corn pudding was little more than fresh corn, water, and the cream from cobs cooked together to form a thick mush. The European colonist would then take this Indigenous corn dish and add eggs, milk, butter, and cream to resemble more of a custard or British pudding. 

In the centuries that followed, corn pudding remained a regular regional dish in the Southern colonial states. Since corn was in abundance to slaves, they became as creative with this vegetable as Indigenous cultures had. Applying the same cooking method to cornmeal, slaves made corn pone, which served as a base for other Southen staples like cornbread, corn fritters, and hush puppies.

Through the years, corn pudding has been adapted into many variations, from a savory version with onions and mushrooms, to a spicy rendition with jalapeño peppers or green chiles. However you prepare it, the classic flavor of simple sweet corn has remained the traditional Southern way. In my recipe, I use full-fat coconut milk and arrowroot powder, along with a vanilla bean and brown and white sugar, to create a simple but flavorful plant-based sweet corn crème brûlée that will be the sleeper hit of the holiday table.

Sweet Corn Crème Brûlée With Coconut Milk
The sweetness in this corn crème brûlée comes from the corn itself, as well as sugar and coconut milk. | Lauren Paige for LIVEKINDLY

Sweet Corn Crème Brûlée

By Lauren Paige

Ingredients

  • 1 cup corn kernels, drained
  • 2 cups full-fat coconut milk, cold
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 vanilla bean, scraped
  • pinch of salt
  • brown sugar, for caramelizing

Preparation

  1. 1
    Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. 2
    Pour the mixture into a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisking frequently, cook the mixture until it’s thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the mixture come to a boil, and turn down the heat if necessary.
  3. 3
    Whisk until the mixture has thickened into a smooth, creamy consistency, similar to pudding.
  4. 4
    Carefully spoon the custard into the ramekins and let cool and refrigerate to chill completely.
  5. 5
    Before serving, sprinkle each ramekin with the brown sugar and caramelize the tops with a crème brûlée iron or a blow-torch. If you don’t have a blow-torch, you can put the sugar-dusted creme brûlées under the broiler for about 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

More vegan soul food recipes

To cook more of my vegan soul food recipes, including vegan mustard-glazed ham with southern-style biscuits, vegan smothered pork chops with cauliflower mash, and my vegan version of turkey and cranberry sauce, read up on all the deliciousness here.

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