Here’s 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.
While most pumpkin pies start with the canned stuff, you can make an amazing pie from fresh pumpkin. Good to know, as canned pumpkin can be a little scarce these days. Follow along and we’ll show you how.
First, Why Make Pumpkin Pie from Fresh Pumpkin?
Some people believe using canned pumpkin is better than using fresh. It’s certainly easier, but in a side-by-side taste test of canned vs. fresh pumpkin pies, I’m one of those who could definitely taste the difference. I preferred the fresh. You may just find you prefer the taste, too.
There’s also an added wrinkle when using canned pumpkin: The label on the can that says “100% pure pumpkin” doesn’t actually always mean pumpkin. Most canned pumpkin contains a mixture of different winter squashes (including pumpkins). Does that matter? Not really. Pumpkin is just another type of winter squash, after all, and the taste is similar enough not to make a huge difference. But if you make your pie using fresh pumpkins, you can brag that your pie is actually pumpkin—no substitutions!
And lastly, when you buy canned pumpkin filling and make your pie using the recipe on the label, the pie will likely be good—but it will also taste exactly like everyone else’s. Where’s the fun in that?
The Best Pumpkins for Pumpkin Pie Filling
Pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins work best. Most of the pumpkins you see in stores around Halloween are commonly called “field pumpkins” and are best used for carving Jack O’Lanterns. Field pumpkins are larger, have stringier flesh, are a bit watery and are not as sweet. If it sounds as though they’re not great for baking—you’re right. Look a little further, past the seasonal display, for pie or sugar pumpkins. Pie pumpkins are smaller, with denser flesh and greater sweetness. Just right!
How to Make Fresh Pumpkin Pie
Taste of Home
This recipe comes to us from Christy Harp of Massillon, Ohio. She writes, “In my opinion, there’s no contest as to which homemade pumpkin pie is best. No matter how good your canned filling is, it will never match pumpkin pie from scratch.”
- 1 medium pie or sugar pumpkin
- Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
- 2 eggs
- 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
Step 1: Clean the Pumpkin
Start by thoroughly washing and drying the pumpkin. Then, using a heavy knife, cut the pumpkin in half, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and the stringy pulp from the center. Scrape the flesh as clean as you can, but don’t make yourself crazy—you can clean it up a bit more after it’s cooked. Rinse the pumpkin and pat it dry, inside and out, with a clean kitchen cloth or paper towels.
Test Kitchen tip: Be sure to save the seeds for a delicious roasted pumpkin seed snack.
Step 2: Cook the Pumpkin
There are three main cooking methods for pumpkin:
- Bake: Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on the pan and bake at 350° for 45-60 minutes.
- Microwave: Place pumpkin halves cut side down in a microwave-safe dish with about 1 inch of water. Microwave on high for 15-18 minutes.
- Slow cooker: Cut the pumpkin halves into quarters or even smaller as needed to fit in the slow cooker. Place the pieces in the cooker, cut side down. Add about an inch of water. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6 hours.
You’ll know the pumpkin is cooked when a fork inserted in the skin comes out easily; you do not want a hard or crunchy pumpkin! While the pumpkin is cooking, move ahead to step 3.
Step 3: Start the Pie Crust
Roll out a pie crust pastry to a disk then transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the pastry so it extends about a half-inch beyond the edge of the plate. Flute the edges for a decorative touch.
Test Kitchen tip: Want to avoid a soggy pie crust bottom? Try blind baking. After rolling out your crust and setting it in your pie plate, chill it for about 15-20 minutes. Next, cover it with parchment and fill the crust halfway with dried beans or pie weights. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the parchment and weights, prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, and bake for another 5-7 minutes without the weights. Cover the crust with aluminum foil if it’s getting too dark.
Step 4: Finish the Pumpkin Puree
Once your pumpkin is cooked, let it cool until you can handle it comfortably. Give it another quick pass with a spoon to remove any remaining strings, then dig in and scoop out all the flesh. You can simply mash it at this point, but an even better option is to put it in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth—this should take 5-7 minutes. Check the puree periodically; it’s done when there are no remaining lumps or strings.
Step 5: Make the Pie Filling
In a large bowl, combine the mashed pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in milk. Pour the finished mixture into the pie crust.
Step 6: Bake!
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 350° and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean about 40-50 minutes longer. Cover edges with foil during the last 30 minutes to prevent over-browning if necessary.
Once it’s finished, let the pie cool on a wire rack. For the finishing touch, add a thick piping of whipped cream around the edge of the pie. Enjoy!
Homemade Pie Crust Tips
If you’re opting for homemade pie crust, here are a few tips for success:
- Keep the ingredients cold. Especially if you’re using butter, make sure it’s right out of the fridge, and that the water is ice-cold. It helps to cut the butter into cubes, then return it to the fridge to chill before cutting it into the flour.
- Refrigerate the dough before rolling it out. Once you’ve mixed up the dough, shape it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Blind baking before filling the crust. Bling baking is a good idea when making a pumpkin pie from scratch because of the higher water content and looser texture; blind baking (or par-baking) will prevent your crust from getting soggy. You can use dried beans as pie weights—just be sure to reserve them for that use, and don’t try to use them in a recipe later. Alternatively, there are some great ceramic pie weights, weighted chains, or metallic plate-style weights that are all reusable.
What to Do With Leftover Puree
Leftover pumpkin puree can be put to good use. Once you’ve started making your own puree, you can keep it in your freezer to use in any other pumpkin recipe you like—it’s just as convenient as having a can in the pantry! Pumpkin butter, pumpkin spice oatmeal, pumpkin bread… there’s no limit. You can stir some into chili or a homemade chowder for extra body and a burst of sweetness.
Pro tip: One standard 15-ounce can of pumpkin is equal to 1¾ cups of homemade puree.
How to Store Pumpkin Puree
Once the puree is drained, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to six months.