Is Canned Pumpkin or Fresh Better for Pies?

Ever wonder if a fresh pumpkin pie is worth the extra work? We tested one side-by-side with a pie made with canned pumpkin puree to determine which is really best.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Making pumpkin pie for the holidays? You’re faced with two primary options: canned pumpkin or fresh. If you’re like me, you opt for the canned variety every time. It’s simple, it comes in exactly the right proportion for so many pumpkin recipes and it saves a lot of work. But on the other hand, making everything from scratch always seems to taste so much better.

It was finally time to settle the debate I have with myself every November: Is canned pumpkin or fresh pumpkin better, and which makes a better pie?

Fresh Pumpkin Puree vs. Canned Pumpkin

Two small bowls filled with different kinds of pumpkin with text and an arrow labeling the bowl on the left as "fresh pumpkin" and the bowl on the right as "canned pumpkin"Brianna Griepentrog/Taste of Home

Before I dive into how fresh and canned options taste, let’s sort out how they are similar and different.

Is pumpkin puree the same as canned pumpkin?

First and foremost: what is pumpkin puree? Canned pumpkin and pumpkin puree are the same thing. These terms are often used interchangeably in recipes, though you may also see the term solid-pack pumpkin. All these terms mean 100% steamed and pureed pumpkin—no extras, no add-ins—not even in the canned variety.

But how are fresh and canned pumpkin different?

Fresh pumpkin is made with a sugar pie or baking pumpkin—not the kind of pumpkin you’d use for a jack-o-lantern. These pumpkins are smaller with sweeter flesh.

To make pumpkin puree, the foundation for most pumpkin recipes, you roast the pumpkin and then puree it in a blender or food processor. With this method, you control the texture of the pumpkin. Also, bear in mind that fresh pumpkin can create varying results depending on the pumpkin you choose; there can be different water and sugar content in every pumpkin, which can affect the flavor and texture.

Canned pumpkin is made of steamed, pureed pumpkin or a blend of pumpkin and other squashes. Because it’s produced en masse, the texture, consistency and flavor tend to be universal.

Also, check these Pumpkin Dessert Recipes to use up those cans of pumpkin.

Testing Fresh Pumpkin Puree vs. Canned Pumpkin in Pies

To test fresh pumpkin puree against canned pumpkin, the Taste of Home Test Kitchen whipped up two pies using this highly-rated classic pumpkin pie recipe. I had a handful of pumpkin enthusiasts join me for a pie tasting.

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

a slice of pumpkin pie on a plate with a fork, a small pumpkin and a pie dish with a pumpkin pie with a missing sliceBrianna Griepentrog/Taste of Home

The fresh pumpkin pie definitely looked different than the pumpkin pies you usually see on the Thanksgiving treat table. It had a duller hue than the average pie and wasn’t quite as visually appealing.

Slicing into this pie, though, was a real dream. I was able to pull out a perfect slice on the first try (a real feat). But the true test, of course, was the flavor. A bite of this pie was noticeably different than your standard holiday dessert. First off, the texture was much different. While the pumpkin was pureed, it did still retain some squash texture. A few of my colleagues likened it to apple sauce, and they weren’t wrong. For some, this extra bite was a pro; for others, a distraction.

As for the flavor, it was distinctively different. The spices really popped against the fresh pumpkin. The spice fans on the testing panel really appreciated this extra oomph of warmth. This being said, the pumpkin flavor itself wasn’t very pronounced. This option is likely better for folks that prefer more pumpkin spice than pumpkin.

Score: 8.5/10

Canned Pumpkin Pie

a can of libby's pumpkin, a pumpkin pie in pie dish with a slice missing, and a slice of pie on a white plate with a forkBrianna Griepentrog/Taste of Home

This is what a classic pumpkin pie looks like: a gorgeous deep orange. Compared side by side with its fresh counterpart, everyone preferred the appearance of this pie.

But how did it taste? Just right. This pie was absolutely silky. It was creamier and sweeter—and no, no extra cream or sugar was added. The canned pumpkin also provided a more pronounced pumpkin flavor. The pumpkin pie spice mix—cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and clove—all came through but were much more balanced in this version of the pie. This perfect balance between pumpkin and spice as well as the smooth texture made this a winner in the side-by-side test. Next, learn how to make Libby’s pumpkin pie.

Score: 9.5/10

What’s Better: Fresh or Canned Pumpkin?

two different pumpkin pies in pie dishes with slices missing and two smaller plates with a slice of pumpkin pieBrianna Griepentrog/Taste of Home

While the two pies both got good marks, the canned pumpkin did win out. The canned option had a more powerful pumpkin flavor and a silkier texture. While some of my colleagues preferred the apple sauce-like texture of the fresh, I can’t say all that extra work of cleaning, roasting and pureeing a whole pumpkin is worth it, especially during a busy holiday season. In fact, even if I couldn’t find canned pumpkin, I might use one of these simple pumpkin swaps before thinking about roasting a pumpkin myself.

If you’re a serious baker or really love pumpkin, trying your hand at a fresh version of this classic pie is a fun challenge, though I’d recommend sticking with the canned stuff in the long run. For most pumpkin desserts, canned will do just fine—and it’ll save you a lot of time!

And if you really love a good baking challenge, join our baking community, Bakeable, where we release new baking challenges every month.

Our Favorite Pumpkin Recipes Ever
1 / 1

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.