How to Make a Pumpkin Pie from Scratch
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Pumpkin pie starts with a can, right? Not so fast! Learn how to make a pumpkin pie from scratch.
The second the leaves begin to turn and the temperature begins to drop, bakers head into the kitchen to make tasty fall treats. While favorites like apple crisp and gingersnaps are in heavy rotation, many bakers may not have learned how to make pumpkin pie from scratch. And we mean from scratch.
That means skipping the can of pumpkin (even though there’s nothing wrong with it!) and giving this field-to-table technique a whirl.
Why Make Pumpkin Pie from Scratch?
Yes, canned pumpkin is super convenient and tastes great, but half the fun of baking is trying something new. For many home bakers, learning how to make pumpkin pie from scratch is a totally new technique worth giving a go. It’ll also set your pie apart from everyone else’s.
Also, if you find your grocery store is out of canned pumpkin, knowing how to make your own canned pumpkin substitute is a handy trick.
You will notice there are some differences between pies made with canned pumpkin vs. fresh pumpkin. Pies made with fresh squash tend to have a slightly different texture because the pumpkin is so fresh. Also, it all depends on the pumpkin you pick, just like any recipe that relies upon fresh fruit and veggies.
The Best Pumpkins for Pumpkin Pie Filling
You can skip the traditional pumpkin patch when it comes to your pie. These field pumpkins are large and have stringy, watery flesh without much flavor. If it sounds as though they’re not great for baking—you’re right.
Instead, look for pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins. Pie pumpkins are smaller, with denser flesh and greater sweetness. To pick a good one, opt for a pumpkin that’s firm and free of any blemishes or soft spots. The pumpkins should be a rich orange color without any green.
How to Make Fresh Pumpkin Pie
- Dough for single-crust pie
- 1 medium pie pumpkin
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup 2% milk
- Whipped cream, optional
Tools You’ll Need
- Food processor: This countertop gadget is just the thing to make a super-smooth pumpkin puree super fast.
- Hand mixer: A hand mixer is invaluable for baking. Use it to blend the pie filling and to whip fresh whipped cream for serving.
- Pie pan: Pick a pretty pie plate to show off your homemade masterpiece.
Step 1: Prep the Pumpkin
Start by thoroughly washing and drying the pumpkin. Then, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the center—just like you would when carving a jack-o-lantern. Rinse the inside of the pumpkin and pat it dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Editor’s Tip: Don’t toss the seeds! You can roast pumpkin seeds for a crunchy snack.
Step 2: Cook the Pumpkin
Place the pumpkin cut side down in a microwave-safe dish. Add an inch of water and cover. Then pop this in the microwave on high and zap for 15 to 18 minutes. The flesh should be very tender.
If you’d rather use the oven to make pumpkin puree, you can roast the squash instead. Prep the as you would for the microwave but roast in a 375ºF oven for an hour or so.
Step 3: Puree the Pumpkin
After roasting, let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it comfortably. Give the inside a quick pass with a spoon to remove any remaining strings. Then scoop out the remaining flesh. The rind of the squash can be discarded.
The soft pumpkin can be mashed, but the easiest way to make pumpkin puree is by blending it in a food processor (you can also use a blender in a pinch) until it’s perfectly smooth. This will take about five minutes. Be sure to peek at how the mixture is doing every minute or so. The goal is a velvety smooth puree without lumps or strings.
Editor’s Tip: If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can absolutely use a traditional potato masher. The puree won’t be quite as smooth but the flavors will be there.
Step 4: Make the Pumpkin Pie Filling
Combine 1-3/4 cups of the pureed pumpkin with eggs, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and whisk until smooth. Then gradually whisk in the milk.
Step 5: Make the Pie Crust
Feel free to use premade pie crust for this dessert. You’re already making a filling from scratch! However, if you want to go for extra credit, you can make pie crust from scratch.
This butter pie pastry recipe is a classic for a reason: It’s super easy and it doesn’t require anything fancy to make. Start by cutting cold butter into the flour and salt. Make sure the butter is super cold. This is a pie-baking tip you’ll hear from everyone from Grandma to our Test Kitchen team.
Then add in ice cold water until the mixture forms a dough. It will be a touch crumbly but should hold together when you clutch it in your hand. Once combined, form the crust into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. It should sit in there for about 30 minutes to allow that butter to firm up again. Cold butter is what’s going to make the pie crust super flaky.
Step 5: Roll Out the Pie Crust
After chilling, it’s time to roll. Grab your favorite rolling pin and lightly dust your worktop with flour. Taking your time, roll out the pie crust until it’s large enough to nestle inside of your pie dish.
Then crimp the pie crust as you like. You can do a simple finish with a fork or your fingers. You can even use small cookie cutters to make cutouts to finish the edge.
Step 6: Fill and Bake
Finally, pour the pumpkin pie filling into the crust. Bake at 425º for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350º and bake 40 to 50 minutes longer.
If you notice the pie crust is browning a little too quickly, you can make a very easy pie crust shield with aluminum foil. This will allow the pie to bake fully while keeping the crust from burning.
After baking, remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack at room temperature. Serve with plenty of whipped cream or even ice cream!
Tips for Making Pumpkin Pie from Scratch
Can you make homemade pumpkin pie in advance?
You can make pumpkin pie up to two days ahead of time. Be sure to store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
Can you use pumpkin spice in this recipe?
If you’d rather use pumpkin spice here instead of the individual spices, that’s just fine! Use 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice in lieu of the blend listed in the recipe.
Also, you can modify the spices in this pie if you like. There are so many tasty holiday baking spices that are right at home in this recipe like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and star anise.
What do you do with leftover pumpkin puree?
When using a fresh pumpkin, you’ll often end up with some extra puree. Don’t toss it! Leftover pumpkin puree can be used in another recipe.
If you don’t have quite enough to make pumpkin bars or pumpkin bread, leftover pumpkin puree can be stirred into your morning oatmeal, smoothie or parfait. Pumpkin is also safe and healthy for dogs, per the American Kennel Club, so feel free to share with Fido.
How do you prevent pumpkin pie from cracking?
Just like cracked cheesecakes, bakers worry about cracked pumpkin pies. To prevent your pumpkin pie from cracking on top, do not overbake it; overbaked pies often crack on the surface. A fully baked pumpkin pie will have a slight wobble when you pull it out of the oven. It will firm up as it cools (just like cheesecake).
And what if your pie does crack? Cover it with fresh whipped cream, decorative pie crust cutouts or even sugared cranberries.
How do you store homemade pumpkin pie?
Pumpkin pie can be kept on the counter for an hour or so, otherwise, stash it in the refrigerator. Leftover pumpkin pie will be good for two to three days.
If you want to keep your pie for longer, the freezer is a good option. Whole pies or leftover slices should be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag (make sure the pie is cool first!) and then frozen. Be sure to eat frozen pumpkin pie within a month. When you are ready to enjoy, unwrap and let it defrost in the fridge.