Vegan egg tarts with a buttery Hong Kong style shortcrust pastry and silky vegan custard. You can make this popular traditional Chinese dessert at home!
What do Chinese egg tarts taste like?
Compared to conventional (Western or British) custard tarts, Chinese egg tarts are:
- Light, delicate and not as sweet
- Very silky
- Not as wobbly and definitely not gelatinous
Chinese egg tarts are one of the most popular traditional Chinese desserts. They are enjoyed all year round but especially on Chinese New Year. Egg tarts often accompany other treats at yum cha and in Chinese bakeries.
Traditionally, egg tarts are made with lard and a ton of eggs so are definitely not vegan.
This recipe is authentic... but just vegan
I wanted to make vegan egg custard tarts which were as authentic as possible so I adapted a recipe which was passed down to my mother.
The original recipe is MUCH better than the ones you get from Chinese bakery, such as Maxim's. The home-made tarts are more buttery, full of flavour and aromatic. My mum and all her Chinese mother friends thought so too (the ultimate test)!
To keep the authenticity of this popular Chinese dessert, I used proper substitutions of the original ingredients.
I replaced conventional butter with vegan block butter, milk powder with coconut milk powder etc. To make up for the lack of egg, I changed the ratios in the recipe and added a few ingredients!
Ingredients for the Hong Kong style shortcrust pastry
Some Hong Kong style egg custard tarts have a shortcrust pastry similar to British custard tarts. Other egg tarts use a Chinese laminated pastry which is more time-consuming (and I personally never liked).
Traditionally the pastry for egg tarts is made with lard so aren't even vegetarian friendly! These days, bakeries use lard, shortening or butter (probably lard or shortening to due cost effectiveness).
When you make egg tarts at home using butter, they will always be more rich than the ones you get in your bakery.
To make the buttery shortcrust, you will need:
- Plain flour
- Vegan butter. I'd strongly recommend BLOCK butter instead of the spreadable type. Block butter makes a crisper pastry! However, if you really can't get vegan block butter, spreadable will work.
- Powdered sugar as it dissolves more easily than granulated sugar.
- Optional: coconut milk powder. Adding milk powder gives these pastries a 'Chinese bakery smell' and depth of flavour.
- Optional: vanilla extract for flavour.
How to make shortcrust pastry
Making the Chinese style shortcrust pastry is the same as making conventional pastry!
Simply pop all the ingredients in a food processor. Add a teaspoon of water, soy milk or evaporated milk (which you'll also need for the custard) and pulse until combined.
Do NOT skip the teaspoon of water/milk. It is needed to hydrate the flour and sugar and to bind them together. Once, I skipped it and my pastry was very crumbly!
If your pastry is very soft, chill it until it firms up.
On a floured surface, roll out your pastry to a little less than 5 mm (¼ inch) thick. I found that made a good pastry to custard ratio :). Use a cookie cutter slightly larger than your egg tart tins and cut out some rounds of pastry!
Transfer each pastry round to a greased tart tin and press it against the bottom and sides. I won't lie - shaping each vegan egg tart is the most tedious step in this recipe. However, it will be worth it!
Should I blind bake the pastry shells?
With traditional Chinese egg tarts, a raw pastry shell is filled with raw custard then baked in the oven. However, vegan custard doesn't bake as easily so we need to bake the tart shells beforehand!
It's not 100% necessary to blind bake your vegan egg tart shells. However, I strongly recommend it. I always take shortcuts with baking but this is something I wouldn't skip!
As you can see below, when the pastry is not blind baked the pastry puffs up. The pastry can expand to double its size and overpower the custard filling.
When the pastry is blind baked, it stays compact, firm and maintains its shape.
Tricks to blind bake these vegan egg tart shells
Larger pastry shells for tarts/pies can be blind baked by topping it with baking paper and pie weights. However, these egg tarts are small and fiddly so I wanted to figure an easier way!
Here a few tricks for blind baking these small pastry shells:
- Place a smaller or similar sized mini egg tart tin on top. If it's the right size, it'll give your pastry shells a beautiful crimp pattern! (left picture)
- Place a small cupcake tin on top of your egg tart shells. The indent from the cupcake tin will prevent your pastry from puffing up. (right picture)
- I've also heard that you can scrunch baking paper or aluminium foil into a ball and place it in your pastry shells. But that could be wasteful!
Ingredients for the vegan egg custard
This Chinese dessert has a SILKY smooth custard which melts in your mouth. To make the custard, we need a few ingredients:
- Soy milk, as it's the creamiest of all non-dairy milks.
- Evaporated coconut milk to create a silky custard texture (traditionally, dairy evaporated milk is used). I used Nature's Charm evaporated milk but if you have soy (or other) evaporated milk, it'll also work. Note this is NOT the same as sweetened condensed milk.
- Sugar because it's a dessert.
- Custard powder to add colour, flavour and to thicken. Also helps as an egg replacer.
- Agar powder to further set the vegan egg custard. Egg tarts tend to have a silky and less wobbly texture compared to Western custard tarts and agar helps with exactly that.
- Optional: turmeric powder for extra colour (not pictured).
- Optional: black salt for that unique egg-like flavour (not pictured).
Making vegan egg custard
First, I'd recommend mixing your custard powder with a few tablespoons of soy milk. Custard powder can clump up easily but this can be prevented by mixing it beforehand! Then simply add all the custard ingredients to a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat.
Bring the custard to a gentle boil for about 5 minutes. It should thicken ever so slightly! This means the custard powder and agar is activated and will help everything set :).
If your custard is perfectly smooth, good on you! Or you can sieve your custard to:
- remove lumps of custard powder
- remove the little bubbles!
Either way, pour your hot custard into a jug with a pouring spout. Pour your custard in your baked tart shells then chill the vegan egg tarts for a 2-3 hours or until set.
Removing the tarts from the shells and serving
If you greased your egg tart tins properly, your vegan egg tarts will pop right out. If not, you may need to stick a knife or skewer in the sides to coax it out.
These egg tarts can be kept at room temperature for a few hours. The pastry and custard may become a little softer but will still be pleasant to eat!
If you want to see any particular vegan Chinese dessert recipes, let me know in the comments below :).
For other vegan tart recipes, see:
Vegan Egg Tarts (Hong-Kong style)
Chinese-style shortcrust pastry
- 1 ¾ cups (220g) all-purpose plain flour, plus extra for rolling
- ⅔ cup (150g) vegan block butter, chilled, plus extra for greasing the tins (note 1)
- ⅓ cup (35g) powdered sugar / icing sugar
- 1 tablespoon (10g) coconut milk powder, or extra flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon evaporated coconut milk, or soy milk or water
Vegan Egg Custard
- 3 ½ tablespoons (25g) vegan-friendly custard powder, (note 2)
- 2 ¼ cups (565g) unsweetened soy milk
- ¾ cup (190g) evaporated coconut milk, or more soy milk but the evaporated milk makes the egg tarts silkier!
- ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar, or a little more to taste
- ¾ teaspoon agar powder
- Pinch of black salt (kala namak), for the eggy flavour, to taste
- Pinch of turmeric, to colour (note 3)
- I'd strongly recommend using grams (and teaspoons for the smaller amounts) rather than cups for this recipe (especially for the custard)!
Making the pastry:
- Use a pastry brush to liberally grease your small tart tins with melted butter.
- Add all the pastry ingredients to a food processor and pulse until just combined. If your pastry is too soft to be rolled out, place it in an airtight container and chill it in the fridge for about 1 hour.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out your pastry to about 5 mm thick (a little less than ¼ inch). Using a circular cookie cutter slightly larger than your tart tins (my cutter was 9 cm or 3.5 inches wide), cut rounds out from the pastry.
- Transfer the pastry rounds to your tart tins and press the pastry against the bottom and sides. If there are any holes, patch them up with more pastry.
- To prepare for blind baking, place similar or smaller sized tart or cupcake tins on top. See the blog post for a visual guide on blind baking hacks! Chill the pastry shells in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Baking the pastry shells:
- When you're ready to bake the shells, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). When the oven is ready, bake the shells for around 15 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden brown.
- Set aside to cool. Remove the blind baking tins when the tarts are completely cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge until needed.
Making the vegan egg custard:
- In a small bowl, combine the custard powder and a few tablespoons of soy milk until there are no lumps.
- Add all the custard ingredients to a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk consistently while the custard heats up. Gently boil the custard for about 3-5 minutes then remove from the heat.
- Your custard may have little clumps or bubbles throughout. If so, place a sieve over a wide pouring jug and carefully pour the hot custard in the sieve. The leftover custard should be smooth and free from bubbles.
- Place all your baked tart shells (while they're still in their tins) on a large tray or in a container. Gently pour the custard into each tart shell. Allow them to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes then transfer them to the fridge for 1-2 hours or until set. The tarts will also set at room temperature but the fridge speeds up the process.
- The tarts are set if you can insert a toothpick in the middle and the toothpick stands by itself. The tarts are ready to serve! The tarts can be kept at room temperature for a few hours before serving. Alternatively, store the egg tarts in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Lard and shortening are used in traditional egg tarts so I'd highly recommend vegan block butter. If you don't have access to vegan block butter, vegan spreadable butter (margarine) will also work. Just add a few more tablespoons of flour to make your dough firmer.
- I'm based in Australia and used 'Foster Clarks' custard powder which is a mainstream supermarket brand and accidentally vegan. This has the same ingredients as other mainstream brands around the world such as Bird's Custard Powder so I assume they work exactly the same!
- If you add your turmeric at the beginning, the colour will intensify when it's heated up! I'd recommend only a very small pinch of turmeric to start and add more if desired.
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