Paleo Pumpkin Sweet Potato Custard was the finishing touch to our Thanksgiving holiday meal, and it’s incredibly easy to make.
This was my husband’s first Thanksgiving in the US—he’s from Scotland—so I wanted to make a simple but delicious feast for us, including something a bit sweet for dessert. I don’t bake, though, so whatever I made had to be crustless and be mindful of his histamine intolerance; that meant avoiding eggs.
So, while this isn’t a true custard which contains milk or a dairy-free milk substitute plus eggs, it’s the closest thing I could replicate. The texture is creamy and soft like a custard, plus it’s got a boost of gut-healing gelatin.
Gather five small jelly jars or ramekins, about 1/4 cup in capacity. You can make these as large or small as you’d like, so use what you have on hand.
In a medium bowl, whisk the pumpkin, sweet potato, honey (optional if you’re limiting sugar, though this recipe isn’t very sweet), cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger until they’re well combined. Set aside.
In a small pot, heat the coconut milk on medium-high heat until it’s warmed through but not boiling. Turn off the heat. Slowly add the gelatin while whisking constantly. Make sure it’s dissolved and there are no lumps.
Now, slowly whisk the coconut milk / gelatin into the pumpkin and sweet potato mixture until well combined. Pour the mixture into the jelly jars or ramekins.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until firm. Store covered. Top with coconut whipped cream if you’re feeling sassy!
Change It Up
Use all pumpkin or all sweet potato instead of a mixture.
Making homemade gummies with fruit and high-quality gelatin is one alternative to making lots of bone broth / soup stock for its gelatin content.
These Strawberry Lemonade Gummies are a recipe I develop for BreakingMuscle.com. The combo of the berries and lemon give it a sweet-tart flavor that’s really refreshing. (This is the high-quality gelatin I use.)
Gelatin is not a good protein choice for post-workout recovery.
Now, let me note, gelatin is great for some things (click here to read), but I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately: bloggers recommending gelatin as the sole source of post-workout protein. This is not only misguided, it’s just straight up wrong. Yes, gelatin has amino acids, but when you look closely, there are some reasons it can’t substitute as a proper protein source for post-workout recovery.
What’s the Issue?
Gelatin is a type of protein obtained from animal connective tissue and is rich in collagen. You know how when you cook a chicken and refrigerate it in the pan and there are jiggly meat juices at the bottom? That’s because of gelatin.
It’s got lots of two amino acids—protein building blocks—called proline and glycine. Keep those two names in mind for a moment. These amino acids are considered non-essential which means our bodies can manufacture their own supply. Adding gelatin to your diet—be it through bone broth or gelatin supplements—can certainly have benefit to the digestive system and to your joints (click here to read more), but it’s relatively useless at building muscle tissue because it’s so low in branched chain amino acids.
And that is a problem.
Building Muscle is the Name of the Game
When you train, you incur microscopic damage to muscle tissue, and the goal of protein intake in your post-workout nutrition (and frankly, the rest of your diet) is to provide substrate to begin the rebuilding it. If you want to be fancy, this process is called muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
Here’s the rub: The high proline and glycine content found in gelatin are not helpful for MPS.
Rather, a special subcategory of amino acids called branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are the ones most important to MPS. Leucine, valine and isoleucine are the three BCAAs—so termed because of their non-linear structure, and they’re found in most abundance in animal protein sources. One other key: The BCAAs are essential which means they can’t be directly manufactured by the body, unlike proline and glycine.
Putting It All Together
To maximize muscle repair and growth—important processes for all athletes regardless of sport—adequate intake of nutrient-dense dietary protein from animal sources provides the best bank of the amino acids needed for these mechanisms.
Yes, you can get protein from plants but it’s far less dense and you’d have to eat far more food volume to get enough. Not to mention, plant sources of protein lack B vitamins and other critical nutrients that are readily available in animal sources.
Gelatin, while it is rich in amino acids, does not contain the ones needed to build and repair muscle, and athletes need to make wise choices in the post-workout window; eating gelatin instead of meat, eggs, seafood or even a supplement such as whey protein is not one of them.
Homemade Kombucha Gummies are a fun way to get more gelatin in your day-to-day nutrition. (Click to read more about the benefits of gelatin.) There are lots of different ways to make gummies, and the flavors you can dream up are pretty endless, but these gummies feature kombucha, a fermented tea that contains probiotics. (Click to read how to make homemade kombucha.) There is no added sugar in this recipe, so they won’t be super-sweet, and I prefer them that way because it means I won’t want to eat the whole batch at once. Plus, these are more of a way to get gelatin as a supplement rather than eating highly-sweetened treats.
You can use an kind of silicone mold to make these homemade kombucha gummies. I used Lego-shaped molds because, well, I’m sort of a Lego nerd! You can find all sorts of awesome silicone molds, such as hearts, gingerbread men and dinosaurs—but if you don’t have any, you can simply use a greased baking dish and cut squares once it’s hardened. It’ll be much firmer than traditional Jello.
I used two Lego molds for a total of about 20 gummies. As a supplement, the maker of the high-quality gelatin I like recommends a serving of 1 Tablespoon of gelatin a day which works out to about 5 gummies.
Set your molds out ahead of time on a sheet tray. If you don’t have molds, you can pour the mixture into a greased baking dish and cut squares after it’s set. Hint: Clear a space in your refrigerator for your molds.
If you’ve been watching the trends in the Paleo / real food world lately, you may have noticed that gelatin seems to be the Bulletproof® coffee of 2014. It’s showing up in all sorts of recipes and posts from gummies to coffee. (I guess we’ve recovered from the aspic monstrosities of decades past.) But is it really worth the hype and your money? We’ll take a look at what it is, the benefits and the foods you can find it in so you can decide for yourself.
What is gelatin?
Simply put, gelatin is a protein derived from collagen that is soluble in water. Collagen is a type of connective tissue found only in animals, and gelatin is obtained from cooking down this connective tissue. If you’ve ever roasted meat only to find jelly-like drippings at the bottom of the pan once it’s cooled, that’s gelatin. Purified gelatin—available in powdered or granulated form or in sheets—is made from commercially processing and purifying connective tissue.
All proteins are made up of amino acids, but the composition of gelatin is a bit different than the average because it contains high amounts of the non-essential amino acids glycine and proline relative to other proteins. (And that’s a good thing, because these amino acids are important building blocks for connective tissue.) Now, before you go thinking that you can use gelatin to replace your intake of animal muscle meat or eggs, remember that those foods are rich in essential amino acids that your body cannot manufacture. Therefore, I tend to think of gelatin as a supplement to a diet with good protein intake.
Research has shown gelatin can improve the quality of nails (source) and hair (source) as well as ease achy or arthritic joints (source). Gelatin is also renowned as a traditional food, and its reputation for soothing the digestive tract and, being relatively easy for the body to process, is highly revered as a dietary supplement.
What Forms Can You Find Gelatin In?
As a powdered supplement, gelatin is often found in two forms: purified regular gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen—also called collagen hydrolysate. The differences are described below. Purified gelatin must be allowed to “bloom” in warm water or other liquid before using in recipes. This allows the protein to rehydrate and associate with water molecules, dissolving it. Care must be taken not to boil the gelatin which causes the proteins to denature; the gelatin will not set. Also, certain fruits such as pineapple and kiwi contain proteolytic enzymes which denature the proteins as well. If you want to make something like fruit gummies (these from Meatified are so good), you must use a purified gelatin that is not hydrolyzed or it’ll never gel. (Where to find high quality purified gelatin from beef (kosher) or porcine sources).
Helpful hint: The longer firmed gelatin sits, the more rubbery it becomes—some of the water that keeps the colloid structure hydrated evaporates. Pretty sure it goes without saying around these parts, but the J-e-l-l-o of our youth, rammed with sugar and artificial flavors and colors, is NOT the ideal way to get more gelatin into your diet.
I like this source because the gelatin is from grass-fed cows. If you remember your biochemistry, you’ll know that the benefit of grass-fed animals is really in the fat profile, of which gelatin has none. So why buy grass-fed gelatin? Sustainability. If quality isn’t something that matters to you and cost is, there are other less expensive brands in most supermarkets. Helpful hint: 1 Tablespoon of gelatin will firm two cups (one pint) of liquid.
Hydrolyzed collagen (hydrolysis essentially means the breakdown of something into its component parts by adding water molecules back to the structure) will not gel…ever. So if you’re looking for gelatin to add to your morning coffee or some other application where gelling isn’t an issue, this might be for you. (Where to find high quality hydrolyzed collagen)
If taking gelatin or hydrolyzed collagen as a supplement, most companies recommend a dose of 1 Tablespoon per day. (Remember, I’m not a doctor.)
Some folks are uncomfortable using gelatin because, even when it’s high quality, it’s still a processed food. The gelatin must be extracted and purified from animal collagen, using chemical methods. If you’d rather not use purified gelatin, the good news is that you can still get it from one very simple and economical food: bone broth…a.k.a. soup stock.
Bone Broth: A Natural Source of Gelatin
If the idea of purified gelatin supplements skeebs you out, the good news is that you can still get gelatin in your diet in a natural and very economical way—by making soup stocks or bone broths. (If you’re like my uncle Eric, you can eat the cartilage off the end of chicken drumsticks. Not so much? Read on.)
Making broths or stocks will provide you with an economical source of gelatin—you’d normally toss the bones out—and involves no chemical treatment or purification. I personally like to use bones with a bit of meat on them, like the carcass of a chicken, because the flavor is better and it tends to yield more gelatin. Scrap cuts like chicken backs, leftovers like skin and even more “exotic” ingredients like feet are great at making gelatin-rich broth. More of a beef fan? Knuckle bones with some of the cartilage intact work well, but many people find beef broth to be a much stronger (read: not as tasty) flavor. Personal preference will dictate your choice.
If you make homemade broth, there are some best practices to follow to get it to gel when it cools. Click here to read how to make your broth gel. My favorite method for homemade broth is to throw the bones from 2 chickens in a crock pot, fill with water to cover the bones, add a splash of apple cider vinegar (this helps to draw out the bone minerals) and let it cook for 24 hours on low. No minding. No stirring.
I hope this post has answered your questions about whether adding a gelatin supplement to your diet—or just making bone broth more often—is right for you. Knowledge is power!
This dairy-free dark chocolate coconut pudding has four ingredients and is stupid-easy to make. Believe it!
I occasionally eat dark chocolate, and I try to stick to soy lecithin-free, very dark (85%+), high quality stuff when I can. I wanted to use dark chocolate in an ultra simple dessert and instead of opting for a mousse—which has eggs—I used gelatin to firm up this treat. Look for high quality gelatin. My favorites are this one and this one.
It’s not very sweet because I didn’t add anything extra besides what’s in the chocolate, and it’s very rich, so I served it in tiny espresso glasses for just a couple lush bites.
One of my favorite memories as a kid was making Jello and slurping up the nearly-set wiggly goodness, though I’m sure I just really liked the sweetness and artificial strawberry flavoring best. I’ve recently run across a few recipes for herbal tea gelatin cubes and decided to put my own spin on it. This recipe is made with an herbal tea similar to chai and a bit of coconut milk to make it creamy. You could easily use chai (though it’d be unlikely to be decaf) or just leave out the coconut milk and use any other herbal or decaf tea.