Comforting baked mini pumpkins filled with a savoury mix of shiitake, silken tofu, leek and edamame makes the perfect side dish for the cooler months.
Why You’ll Love This Side Dish
Warm, cosy and comforting. All the feelings that exude from this baked pumpkin side dish.
Soft, sweet baked miniature pumpkin flesh melded with a savoury kombu tsuyu broth and earthy shiitake mushrooms, silken tofu, leeks and edamame beans all floating inside. The flavours are delicately Japanese, with umami sweetness all rolled into one.
And when you serve these miniature parcels on the table, I guarantee you will get the “oh wow, so pretty” reactions.
This is a recipe where you can show off your culinary efforts without too much effort.
Can You Eat Miniature Pumpkins?
Many people think of miniature pumpkins as only suitable for decoration. They are, in fact, edible and great to add to your pumpkin cooking repertoire.
Very much the same as bigger pumpkins, mini pumpkins are just smaller in size, generally weighing under 1 kg (2 lbs). The mini pumpkins I used in this recipe were about 10 cm in diameter and 6 cm in height. They all fit in the palm of my hand.
Different Varieties of Miniature Pumpkins
There are many different varieties of mini pumpkins available. And I find them all so pretty! The varieties I used are dumpling pumpkins – Night Bron, White Bron, Jessica and Flare.
After baking, the flesh was sweet and soft. However, it was not so soft that it completely disintegrated.
How to Cook Miniature Pumpkins
There is a good ratio between seed and flesh for each pumpkin and the perfect size for individual servings.
I find mini pumpkins are great in the oven. Either stuffed mini pumpkins with a savoury filling or slow bake as is. Once cooked, you can eat the whole pumpkin, skin and all.
What is Kombu Tsuyu?
In this recipe, I have taken a Japanese twist by using kombu tsuyu as a broth base.
For those who are not sure, let’s break this ingredient down. What is kombu tsuyu?
Kombu is edible kelp/seaweed. It is a quintessential Japanese ingredient. Harvested in cold waters and then dried. You don’t usually eat it as they are as it takes a very long time to digest.
Kombu is known predominantly for its umami flavours. The most common way to use kombu is to both mix it in water and make Japanese stock, dashi.
Ok, what is tsuyu then? Well, tsuyu is like the next step after making dashi. Sometimes called mentsuyu, it is made with sake, mirin, soy sauce, kombu and dried bonito flavours. I find the flavours deliciously savoury but not overpowering either.
For convenience, I have a large bottle of concentrated kombu tsuyu in my pantry to make quick udon noodle soup dinners or whip up dipping sauces for cold noodles and tempura any time of the week. I just add water and dilute the intensity of flavour according to my taste.
Flavour/Texture: The soft texture of the baked miniature pumpkin was divine. The braised leek and tofu add to the dish’s overall silky texture but all balanced with bites of earthy shiitake and pops of edamame.
I had this recipe alongside a bowl of steamed rice, and together it was brilliant. The sweet pumpkin flesh is offset by the savoury kombu tsuyu broth and the ingredients inside all soaking in both flavours.
Ease: It may seem like a complicated recipe, but in fact, it is not. I left the mini pumpkins baking in the oven and then added the remaining ingredients to a kombu tsuyu broth to simmer along. Once baked, I just had to scoop the broth inside the pumpkin, and you’re done!
Time: This recipe will take a little more time as we are baking whole pumpkins, but I guarantee it is worth the time. Plus you can prepare the other ingredients whilst they are baking and do other things too! It will take about 50 minutes.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make Baked Miniature Pumpkins with Shitake:
Miniature pumpkins: You will find mini pumpkins popping up at your local greengrocer around mid-Autumn months. Choose 4 similar in size, so they cook evenly, but they don’t have to be the same colour. If anything, variation creates more interest with different colours/patterns.
Leek: This recipe needs a small leek as we want the slices to fit in the miniature pumpkin and not overwhelm it.
Edamame: You can buy edamame beans in their pods or already shelled. For this recipe, it is much easier to buy already shelled edamame beans. Typically found in the frozen cabinet at larger Asian grocery stores.
For the leftover edamame you can make Edamame Pasta Salad with Asparagus or Forbidden Rice Salad and Miso Baked Salmon
Shiitake mushroom: You can use dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms for this recipe. I got hold of fresh ones on the day and used the leftover shiitake in the package in a stir fry the next day.
If you are not planning to cook with shiitake later in the week, soaking 3 dried shiitake mushrooms might be better.
Silken tofu: Soft and wobbly, silken tofu is one of the most delicate of the different tofu varieties. It will break apart easily if handled roughly.
Kombu Tsuyu: I used concentrated kombu tsuyu to make my tsuyu broth. You can purchase this at larger Asian grocery stores. A great pantry staple if you like udon or soba noodle soups.
Chilli Pepper / Shichimi Togarashi: To spice up the dish, I added a dash of Japanese red chilli pepper blend, also known as Shichimi Togarashi.
It combines seven main ingredients – ground red chilli pepper, Japanese pepper, roasted orange peel, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, seaweed and poppy seeds. You can find shichimi at most large supermarkets or Asian grocery stores.
Variations and Substitutions
Vegetarian option: The kombu tsuyu I used is not vegetarian as it has bonito/fish extract. For a vegetarian option, look for a vegan tsuyu base. This would contain shiitake and kombu/kelp instead of bonito flakes.
Substitute shiitake: If you can’t find fresh shiitake and don’t have dried shiitake readily available, replace them in the recipe with your favourite mushroom. I would suggest Swiss brown, white button, or baby oyster mushrooms.
Alternative tofu: You can swap silken tofu with regular tofu as well.
Step by step instructions for how to make Baked Miniature Pumpkins with Shitake.
Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F.
Slice miniature pumpkin tops off.
Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibre inside the miniature pumpkins.
Place the lid back on top of miniature pumpkins.
Brush each miniature pumpkin with olive oil on the outside.
Add a cup of boiling water to the oven tray and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender.
Wrap each one tightly in foil and place in an oven tray next to each other.
Wash and trim the bottom of the leek.
Slice white part of the leek on a diagonal angle into 1 cm thickness.
Wash and slice shiitake mushrooms into thin slices. If you use dried shiitake mushrooms, you will need to soak them in water until they are soft and then slice.
Cut silken tofu into 1 cm cubes.
In a medium sized pot, add 1 cup of kombu tsuyu and 3 cups of water.
Add shiitake mushrooms to kombu tsuyu and bring to a boil. Cook shiitake mushrooms for about 3-4 minutes until they start to soften.
Reduce to low heat and add silken tofu, leeks and edamame beans. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the leek softens. Silken tofu and edamame beans do not take long to cook.
Turn off heat and set aside for assembly.
Once mini pumpkins are ready, remove from the oven and foil.
Take the lid off and gently fill the inside of the baked miniature pumpkins with shiitake, tofu, leek and edamame broth. Continue to fill all miniature pumpkins.
Sprinkle a dash of shichimi togarashi over the top before serving.
You can plate miniature pumpkins individually or group together on a larger platter to share.
Great Mains for This Side Dish
Here are some great ideas for main dishes to have with this Baked Miniature Pumpkins with Shitake.
For a heartier meal on those cold winter nights, this slow cooker lamb stew is a winner and while that’s doing all the hard work in the slow cooker, the pumpkins are nicely baking away in the oven!
Frequently Asked Questions
You will find shiitake mushrooms most commonly dried but increasingly now in Australia, fresh shiitake mushrooms are available. I find the fresh shiitake mushrooms more delicate and less woody than the dried shiitake. Dried shiitake has a stronger, earthier flavour.
I prefer fresh shiitake, but I always keep dried shiitake in the pantry as you never know when you need them!
Both fresh and dried shiitake will be available in large supermarkets or Asian grocery stores.
Good quality dried shiitake mushrooms can get expensive—the plumper, rounder and good looking the dried shiitake, the steeper in price.
I usually buy mid-range as I often slice them up, so they don’t need to look pretty. Dried shiitake have a long shelf life, so you can store the larger packs to provide more value.
The best way to soak shiitake is a long soak. Cover mushrooms with water and give them a few hours to rehydrate. Or, to speed things up, use boiling hot water.
If you like shiitake, try our Lotus Root Salad with Pickled Shiitake.
For this recipe, you generally won’t need a whole block of silken tofu. You can use the remaining block in other recipes like steam tofu with garlic and spring onions or add to noodle soup recipes.
Silken tofu is often used as a replacement for dairy products in vegan desserts. Try blending it for vegan cheesecake or chocolate puddings.
I had never baked miniature pumpkins before and was excited by the results. I am such a comfort food girl, and this recipe seriously felt like getting a warm hug. If you enjoyed this recipe, you should also try our Whole Roasted Heirloom Pumpkin.
So next time when you see miniature pumpkins at the local greengrocer, don’t always think of Halloween or Autumn decorations. Try this recipe and make the most of these beautiful mini packages.
More Fancy Side Dishes
Baked Miniature Pumpkins with Shitake
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F.
- Slice miniature pumpkin tops off. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibre inside the miniature pumpkins. Place the lid back on top of the miniature pumpkins.
- Brush each miniature pumpkin with olive oil on the outside. Wrap each miniature pumpkin tightly in foil and place in an oven tray next to each other. Add a cup of boiling water to the oven tray and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until tender.
- Wash and slice shiitake mushrooms into thin slices. If you use dried shiitake mushrooms, you will need to soak them in water until they are soft and then slice.
- Cut silken tofu into 1 cm cubes.
- In a medium sized pot, add 1 cup of kombu tsuyu and 3 cups of water. Add shiitake mushrooms to kombu tsuyu and bring to a boil. Cook shiitake mushrooms for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Reduce to low heat and add silken tofu, leeks and edamame beans. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the leek softens. Silken tofu and edamame beans do not take long to cook. Turn off heat and set aside for assembly.
- Once miniature pumpkins are ready, remove from the oven and foil. Take the lid off and gently fill the inside of the baked miniature pumpkins with shiitake, tofu, leek and edamame broth. Continue to fill all miniature pumpkins. Sprinkle a dash of shichimi togarashi over the top.
- Serve hot.
- For a vegetarian option, use a vegan tsuyu base as traditional tsuyu is made with bonito flakes. The vegan version would be made with shiitake and kombu to recreate the umami flavours.
- If you can’t find fresh shiitake and don’t have dried shiitake readily available, replace them in the recipe with your favourite mushroom. Swiss brown, white button, or baby oyster mushrooms would work well.
- You can swap silken tofu with regular tofu as well.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
Don’t want to miss out on a recipe? Feed your FOMO and we’ll deliver it into your inbox!
Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you.