The single most requested dessert at our Thanksgiving table is pumpkin pie. (The second being apple pie.)
In fact, pumpkin pie is so synonymous with the holidays that during this time you can find “pumpkin spiced” everything, from lattes to donuts.
Homemade vs Canned Pumpkin Pie
When making a pumpkin pie from scratch, you have a choice. You can either use pumpkin purée from a can, or make your own pumpkin purée by cooking a sugar pumpkin.
Canned pumpkin purée will give you a consistently good result in your pumpkin pie. Making your own purée by roasting a sugar pumpkin (or other flavorful winter squash like kabocha or butternut) can give you a deeper, more interesting flavor.
Which one tastes better? My friend Suzanne and I performed an experiment with her family to find out which pie tasted better, the one with canned pumpkin or the one made with puréed roasted sugar pumpkin.
Each of us received two slices, one from each pie, without knowing which was which. The winner?
The adults clearly preferred the pie made from roasted pumpkin—it had a richer flavor. One child preferred the pie made from the canned purée, the other two had no preference. Needless to say, everyone finished both of their slices, and the whipped cream too!
Pumpkin Pie Spices
When people think of Pumpkin Spice, they’re really thinking about the spices in a pumpkin pie, which are cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves and/or allspice. Cloves and allspice taste a lot alike, so typically you wouldn’t need both of them in your mix.
In our pumpkin pie recipe, we add a small amount of ground cardamom to our pumpkin spice mix. An 1/8 of a teaspoon isn’t much, but it’s enough to give the pie a sparkle it wouldn’t otherwise have.
How to Make Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie is one of those pies you can easily make a day or two ahead. You can make both the crust and the filling in advance and then bake them the day of. Or you can make the pie, loosely wrap it in plastic wrap and keep it chilled in the refrigerator for up to two days.
You can even easily freeze pumpkin pie, for storage up to a month. To freeze, let the pie cool completely to room temperature. Then wrap it with a few layers of plastic wrap, and then a layer or two of aluminum foil. Wrap it tightly so that the air touching the pie is minimal.
To defrost, let the pie defrost slowly, for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
More great pumpkin desserts
Updated November 6, 2018 : We spiffed up this post a little to make it sparkle! No changes to the recipe.
Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie Recipe
- 2 large eggs plus the yolk of a third egg
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest
- 2 cups of pumpkin pulp purée from a sugar pumpkin* OR 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée (can also use puréed cooked butternut squash)
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream or one 12 oz. can of evaporated milk
- 1 good crust (see pâte brisée recipe or our no-fail flaky pie crust recipe)
* To make pumpkin purée from scratch, cut a medium-small sugar pumpkin in half. Scrape out the insides (reserving the pumpkins seeds to roast) and discard. Line a baking sheet with Silpat or foil. Place the pumpkin halves cut side down on the lined baking sheet and bake at 350°F until a fork can easily pierce them, about an hour to an hour and a half. Remove from oven, let cool, scoop out the pulp.
Alternatively you can cut the pumpkin into sections and steam in a saucepan with a couple inches of water at the bottom, until soft (strain before using). If you want the purée to be extra smooth, press the pulp through a food mill or chinois.
1 Preheat your oven to 425°F.
2 Beat eggs, mix in sugars, salt, spices, lemon zest: Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Mix in the brown sugar, white sugar, salt, spices—cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, cardamom, and lemon zest.
3 Add pumpkin and cream: Mix in the pumpkin purée. Stir in the cream. Beat together until everything is well mixed.
4 Pour into pie shell and bake: Pour the filling into an uncooked chilled or frozen pie shell. Bake at a high temperature of 425°F for 15 minutes.
Then after 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 350°F. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes more. The pie is done when the center of the filling reaches 175°F (79°C) when measured with an instant read thermometer.
If you don’t have a thermometer, a knife tip inserted in the center comes should come out wet but relatively clean, and the center of the pie should still be a little bit jiggly.
(About half-way through the baking, you may want to put foil around the edges or use a pie protector to keep the crust from getting too browned.)
5 Cool on a rack: Cool the pumpkin pie on a wire rack for 2 hours. Note that the pumpkin pie will come out of the oven all puffed up (from the leavening of the eggs), and will deflate as it cools.
Serve with whipped cream.
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