Since you usually only eat pumpkin pie in the fall, you want it to be the best pie you can possibly bake. Our pumpkin pie recipe covers all the bases.
This recipe takes you deep into pumpkin pie: what kind of pumpkin to use to shortcuts, topping suggestions, even how to make ahead of time. Since we all know how busy holiday cooking can be, it’s nice to have some recipes at hand that are a guaranteed cinch.
Our pumpkin pie recipe makes two pies. You can easily cut the recipe in half if you only want one, but you’re probably going to want both!
Should you blind bake pumpkin pie crust?
There is a lot of debate about whether you need to bake a custard pie crust ahead of time. No need to blind bake the crust for this pumpkin pie recipe. The pie bakes long enough that the crust will cook thoroughly during baking. If you want to blind bake the pie crust anyway (and many do), it’s as easy as, well, pie.
Fresh pumpkin or canned pumpkin in pumpkin pie?
We can all agree that any pumpkin pie, whether made with canned pumpkin or fresh pumpkin, is a great pie. It’s personal preference, but our Test Kitchen recommends using canned pumpkin because it saves time and is a consistent product. Homemade pumpkin puree can vary depending on how you cooked it, how much moisture you cooked out, and even what kind of pumpkin you used. That said, if you do want to make pumpkin puree, you’ll need about 3-1/2 cups of cooked, mashed pumpkin to replace the canned version for this recipe. Or you can make this fresh pumpkin pie instead.
An important note: Make sure you don’t buy pumpkin pie filling for this recipe instead of canned pumpkin. They’re not interchangeable! Pumpkin pie filling already has sugar and spices added, whereas solid-pack pumpkin is all pumpkin.
Pumpkin Pie Ingredients
- Pie dough: This recipe calls for a pie crust made with shortening, but you can also use a classic butter pie crust if you’d like. Store-bought frozen or refrigerated pie crust works, too.
- Pumpkin: Make sure to use canned solid-pack pumpkin and not pumpkin pie filling, which contains sugar and spices. You can also use fresh pumpkin puree. Here’s the Test Kitchen’s picks for best canned pumpkin.
- Eggs: Since this is a custard pie, eggs are important to making the pumpkin pie. This recipe uses three eggs, which results in a richer, more custardy pie.
- Evaporated milk: We use evaporated milk for pumpkin pie because a lot of the water is removed from the milk, which helps create a thick, creamy texture without adding sweetness. If you don’t have it on hand, there are substitutes for evaporated milk, including cream, half-and-half, or a combination of the two. You can also use other kinds of dairy milk. You can use sweetened condensed milk for pumpkin pie, but you’ll need to omit the sugar.
- Sugar: This recipe for pumpkin pie uses light brown sugar, which, thanks to the molasses in brown sugar, adds a bit of depth and richness to the pumpkin. You can also use dark brown sugar; since there’s minimal difference between light and dark brown sugar, you can use them interchangeably. You can also use granulated sugar or maple syrup, or simply adjust the amount of sugar used according to your taste.
- Spices: Many pumpkin pie recipes features a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. If you want to get crazy, try adding a pinch of cracked black pepper, too. Black pepper in pie helps boost the spiciness of the other spices. Should you use a pumpkin pie spice blend instead? That’s perfectly fine! If you want to substitute pumpkin pie spice for individual spices, use an amount of spice blend that equals the total amount of individual spices used. You can even make your own homemade pumpkin pie spice.
Step 1: Prep the pie dough
First, preheat the oven to 450°F, and set the rack in the bottom third of the oven. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Using a fork, cut in the shortening until the dough is crumbly. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork, until the dough holds together and forms a ball. Divide the dough in half, and reserve.
Editor’s Tip: The crust always seems like the most intimidating part of the pie, but we’ve got all sorts of secrets for perfect homemade pie crust.
Step 2: Roll out the crust
On a floured surface, roll out each portion of dough to fit a 9-inch pie plate. Place each crust in a plate, and trim to 1/2 inch beyond the edge of the plate. Crimp or flute the pastry edges as desired. Save any trimmed pastry scraps and pop them into the fridge. You’ll use these for pie decorations later.
Editor’s tip: If you want to make sure the pie crust stays even more structurally sound while it bakes, chill the rolled out dough in the pie plate for 10 to 15 minutes so the fat an harden a bit while you make your pumpkin pie filling.
Step 3: Prepare the pumpkin filling
In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, cloves, nutmeg and ginger, and beat until just combined. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk. Once the filling is smooth, pour the mixture equally into your unbaked pie crusts.
Step 4: Bake the pumpkin pies
Bake the pies for 10 minutes. Reduce oven setting to 350°, and continue baking the pies until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This should take about 40 to 45 minutes. The internal temperature of pumpkin pie should be around 150°. Cool pies on wire racks for one hour, and then refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.
Test Kitchen Tip: Another way to tell when your pumpkin pie is done? Use the cheesecake doneness test. Tap the side of the pie pan with a spoon, and see if the pie filling wobbles just slightly. If it jiggles too much, it needs more time!
Step 5: Make and bake pie decorations (optional)
If desired, use the leftover pie dough to make pumpkin pie decorations, like pumpkins, leaves and vines. Make some or all of them, whatever peaks your pie fancy. You can buy or make extra pie dough for decorations, too. Preheat the oven to 400° to bake all of the extras, and be sure to cool them all on a wire rack before placing on your pie.
To make mini pumpkins: Roll a small amount of pie dough into a ball, and score the sides with the blunt side of a knife to create ridges. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with your fingers, and insert a whole clove to make the stem. Refrigerate the pumpkins until firm, then brush with beaten egg, and bake until light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
To make twirling vines: Roll out the refrigerated pie dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut narrow strips of dough in various lengths. Lay the strips on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and twist into coils. Refrigerate the coils until firm, then brush with beaten egg, and bake until light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
To make leaves: Roll the pie dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using mini leaf-shaped cookie cutters, cut the dough into pieces about 1-inch in size. You can even use a sharp knife to score leaf veins on cutouts and create visual dimension on your garnish. Refrigerate the leaves until firm, then brush with beaten egg, and bake until light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
Step 7: Garnish and enjoy
Garnish the baked pie with the leaf cutouts. Top each slice with a healthy dollop of homemade whipped cream.
Pumpkin Pie Variations
Make other pretty decorations: We made leaves, vines and pumpkins, but you can also cut out letters that spell “thankful” or “give thanks.”
Play with your toppings: Instead of serving each slice with a dollop of whipped cream, pipe the cream onto the pie in a pretty pattern or design. Up the sweetness factor by serving with a scoop of ice cream, whether it’s vanilla, butter pecan, maple or cinnamon.
Other variations: Make mini pumpkin tartlets with your trusty muffin tin or grab-and-go pumpkin pie bars. For guests with dietary restrictions, make a gluten-free pumpkin pie or dairy-free pumpkin pie by picking up a few extra ingredients to replace the eggs, butter and milk. And there’s always no-crust pumpkin pie!
How to Store Pumpkin Pie
Since it’s an egg custard, pumpkin pie should be refrigerated. If you’re not eating it right away, let the pie completely cool, then cover it and store in the refrigerator. It should last for three to four days.
How to Freeze Pumpkin Pie
You can also freeze a fully baked pumpkin pie. Allow it to cool completely, then cover with wrap and a layer of aluminum foil. Pumpkin pie can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. Make sure to thaw the frozen pie in the refrigerator overnight before serving.
Pumpkin Pie Tips
What’s the difference between evaporated milk and condensed milk in pumpkin pie?
Evaporated milk and condensed milk are very different products and not interchangeable in recipes. While both can be used for pumpkin pie, evaporated milk has gone through a cooking process to remove water content. The liquid is creamier and thicker than whole milk, which is why it’s perfect for pumpkin pie. It makes the pie creamier without adding extra sugar. Condensed milk has also been cooked down to remove water, but a lot of sugar is added. It’s super thick and sweet, and can also add a lushness to pumpkin pie. You’ll need to omit any extra sugar to the pumpkin mixture if using condensed milk; otherwise, it will be way too sweet.
Why did my pumpkin pie crack?
Your pie may have cracked on top because it spent too much time in the oven, or you cooled it down too quickly by popping it in the fridge after taking it out of the oven. Make sure you follow the recipe when it comes to bake times so you don’t overbake it. And let the pie cool at room temperature on a wire rack before refrigerating it.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your pumpkin pie will still crack. That’s OK! It’s still delicious. You can hide the crack with whipped cream; sprinkle the pie with confectioner’s sugar; add nuts or cookie crumbles to the top; or strategically place those pie crust cutouts.
How do you keep a pumpkin pie from getting a soggy bottom?
There are a lot of ways to prevent a soggy pie crust, including choosing the right pie plate, baking in the lower third of the oven, and blind baking.
Why is my pumpkin pie not creamy?
A pumpkin pie that’s firm and grainy spent too much time in the oven. Overbaking can cause the solid proteins in the eggs to clump together, which could result in a grainy texture. Err on the lower side of bake times, and check for doneness by inserting a knife in the center of the pie. If it comes out clean, the pie is done. You can also temp the pie: The internal temperature of pumpkin pie should be around 150°.
Can you make pumpkin pie ahead of time?
If you want to save yourself some time on Thanksgiving—or any fall gathering—make this pumpkin pie recipe a month ahead of time, let it cool, and pop it into the freezer. Thaw it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. You can also prepare the pie crust and filling the day before baking, store them separately in the refrigerator, and then bake the pie when you’re ready.