Making Pumpkin Pie

That’s how I like a slice of pumpkin pie: well lathered in semi-whipped cream. Pumpkin is my favorite pie by a Kentucky mile. The fact that it’s relatively low in calories and packed with nourishment only makes it easier for me to rationalize a second or third piece.

Pumpkin has always been one of the easier pies to make: roll the shell, mix the filling, pour the filling and bake. Here I’m complicating matters a bit, but the payoff is big, so please indulge me.

Hm. Ever notice how I like to simplify the complicated and complicate the simple? Something I’m just starting to learn about myself. But let’s continue. Begin by gathering your ingredients.

Prepare your pie dough , roll it and rest it. When that’s done you should have something that looks like this:

When you’re ready to pre-bake, preheat your oven to 375. Then gently press some tin foil into the dough-lined pie pan. This is where one of those extra-wide rolls of foil really comes in handy. Make sure to gently curl it around the rim to protect the edges of the crust.

Now pour in whatever sort of weights you want. I use loose change myself. I keep a few pounds of it, which I’ve soaked in a mild bleach solution, in a special jar by the stove.

While the crust is baking get your filling together. Combine the pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices in the bowl of a food processor and give it a spin for about 45 seconds. This really creates a silky texture.

Scrape the mixture into a saucepan…

…pour in the milk and cream…

…and whisk the whole thing together. Like that groovy Trudeau whisk? I never thought I’d fall in love with a silicone whisk, but now I can’t put it down. And in answer to your question, yes, they sent me that as a gift. But I really do like it!

Put the filling on the stove over medium-high heat. In a few minutes it’ll start bubbling like volcano lava. Whisk it for about 30 seconds and remove it from the heat lest it cover your stove top with goo. When the crust has baked about 25 minutes, remove it from the oven and gently lift out the foil and the change (the edges of the foil will cool almost instantly). Return the shell to the oven to bake another 5-7 minutes until it’s just barely browned (it may puff up a little, don’t worry, it’ll settle back down).

After about four minutes, return the filling to the heat. When the finished shell comes out of the oven, set it on the stove top. The filling should be bubbling again. Turn off the heat, add the eggs…

…and whisk it good.

Promptly pour the filling to the shell. What’s the deal about a hot filling and a hot crust? Because that speeds the setting of the eggs — if all goes perfectly it starts to happen right when the filling and shell come into contact — and that helps keep moisture from soaking into the bottom crust. But I digress.

You may have some left. Part of the reason is because there’s air in the filling from all the processing. Usually the filling in the shell will settle after about ten minutes. At that point you can reach into the oven an pour some of this on. Or not. It’s up to you. Apply a crust protector to the pie and bake about another 20-25 minutes unit the filling doesn’t slosh but jiggles when you jostle the pan.

Why do I love crust protectors?

Because they prevent crusts — especially pre-baked crusts — from over-baking. See?

Let the pie cool for at least an hour before slicing and serving. Warm pumpkin pie is one of those little slices of heaven we all hear so much about. But I love it cold as well. After an overnight rest the flavors mellow to perfection. You can store the finished pie at room temperature for a day or so, in the refrigerator after that.

BURNT CARAMEL PUMPKIN PIE VARIATION: To add some real interest to your pumpkin pie, swap out dark caramel for most of the light brown sugar. Cut the light brown sugar to 1/4 cup, adding it to the canned pumpkin as normal. Next, make a batch of dark caramel sauce using 3/4 cup white sugar plus the cream and the milk from the recipe. Then simply add that to the filling at the point you’d normally put in the cream and milk. Proceed as normal from there.

32 thoughts on “Making Pumpkin Pie”

  1. I have gone through quite a few recipes for the perfect pumpkin pie in the last three years. I made two of these babies yesterday, they are wonderful (yesterday warm and this morning cold, for breakfast!) I did the food processor method and finally got a crust to turn out too! (I had tried the rolling pin way before on an apple pie, and it was good, but I think my sloppy filling ruined the extra work.) I added a 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg cause I had too, but I love how much ginger you put in it, very well spiced. I love your recipes, keep up the great work!

  2. I am so making this for Xmas. I live in a house with 2 crazy people who don’t like pumpkin pie – it’s ridiculous. I have to wait till there are enough people around that, despite the fussy ones, there are enough of us to eat the whole thing.

  3. This looks amazing! Can you write a few words about the pan you used? You mentioned earlier that it’s better to use a deeper pan, which I was anxiously (no, not really) waiting to see in this post. But – alas! – it is invisible under the pie crust and tin foil. 🙂

    1. Hey Jessica!

      My pie plate isn’t anything special, however it is ceramic and fairly deep. It says “Boston Warehouse” on the bottom, but I can’t say I remember where I got it. I know I didn’t pay $45 for it, which is the price of some of those crazy-expensive Emile Henri pie pans. In general I’d say go ceramic if you can, but shop around and see what you can find. Name brand baking forms are always a killer, and In my opinion are rarely worth it. Shop skeptically, with value in mind.

      – Joe

  4. Your quips about the silicone whisk cracked me up!! You’re the first blogger/vlogger that i have heard admit any sort of bias when they get get stuff from companies. 🙂 props. and props for the pie too!! it looks absolutely gorgeous, and the recipe sounds stellar, as always. I’m planning on making a pumpkin torte and a cake for Thanksgiving, but i’d love to try this pie to eat as a pre-thanksgiving dessert in the weeks before. 🙂

  5. Joe: Last Thanksgiving, I made a pumpkin pie using your recipe for the shell. It came out well, but as you admitted last year, the recipe is complicated. For me, coordinating a complex recipe with other holiday obligations takes the fun out of baking. I think this year I will settle for second best and use a simpler recipe. Can you recommend a recipe that is simpler than yours but still acceptable? Thanks!

  6. Isn’t pumpkin pie just great this time of year Joe! I love
    the way it makes the house smell all cinnaminny. It
    always helps me get into the mood for Thanksgiving
    and Christmas. One of the things that makes it easier
    to transition into winter for me is pumpkin. Thanks
    for doing it now. Don’t forget to roast the seeds with
    a little seasoning of your choice. Love the whisk,
    remember my motto, “If It’s free, it’s for me!” Have
    a nice weekend!

    1. Hey HB! Just because they’re both based on fruits that ripen in the Autumn, also known as the “Fall” in this part of the world. Good to hear from you!

      – Joe

  7. I’m a big fan of whipped cream on most things, but on pumpkin pie I prefer yoghurt. Something about the tartness of it goes so well with the spices. I’m going to have to try this pie in 6 months or so when it’s autumn here.

  8. Except of course I’ll use cooked buttercup squash. Canned pumpkin is a very strange concept.

  9. The pie looks amazing! I am tempted to lose the crust and make just the filling like a stand alone mousse over some shortbread cookies. Just being difficult as usual 😀

    Great job.

    1. That’s how Simmons first prepared her “pompkin”…as a pudding. It should work very well!

      – Joe

      1. In your recipe you fight soggy crustitis by pre-baking the crust and by pre-heating the filling. Why not take both to the limit: cook the filling completely as a pudding on top of the stove, and fully bake the crust, then pour the pudding into the crust?

        1. Ah, excellent question. The problem is that this is a “still” custard and not a stirred one. Cooking it all the way though on the stove top would be an effective way to stop weeping or cracking, but the end result would be a shell filled with a semi-runny pumpkin pudding. Not a bad thing I’m sure, but it wouldn’t slice like a pie, nor look quite like one either.

          Thanks Dan!

          – Joe

          1. Well, I modified it to be a stirred pudding and I’m here to report a success, at least by my standards. A family member is allergic to eggs, so I replaced the eggs in the filling with cornstarch, butter, and extra milk and cooked the mixture on the top of the stove until it was firming up. I baked the empty crust until it was fully cooked and browned, and then added the cooked filling. Over the next 24 hours, the filling remained smooth and firm and the crust remained crisp. Maybe a side-by-side taste test with an egg-containing filling would have revealed a deficiency, but at the end of the Thanksgiving meal it tasted fine to me.

  10. I gotta admit it, Jos, but this pie crust using cream cheese grosses me out. I kinda view the other stuff with a skeptical eye too. My grandma made the best pie crusts with just flour, lard, salt, and water. I think this pie crust business comes down to technique over additives.

    1. Ha! No worries, GK! You can use whatever pie crust recipe you like! I confess I’m not normally a fan of cream cheese, but it works great in this pie crust. I should put up a more conventional crust recipe one of these days, since I get a fair amount of requests. Thanks for the email!

      – Joe

  11. Love the whisk. Metal whisks give me shivers when I scrape them on pots. I’ve never thought of using coins as weights. I’ve always just used dry chickpeas and beans.

    1. Yeah, it’s a really cool thing, that whisk. I just let it sit there for a couple of months, then one day when my other two were in the dishwasher I picked it up. I’ve scarcely put it down. I thought it would be sluggish, things would stick to it…but nope. It works great. The things Canadians can do nowadays!

      – Joe

      1. joe:
        turned out? are you kidding? you almost took over my thanksgiving!
        you’ve heard my background before. i’m a former professional chef. i worked 2 solid days in putting together an awesome dinner.
        ok, they kinda expect it by now. but what takes the cake (pun intended) for the day? when my wife, the non-chef, non-baker makes your pumpkin pie. yeah.
        thanks, dude. now she’s making your pumpkin bread!
        and, hey, i’ve got a good (overdue) story about your mom’s banana bread. do you want to post it here, or just know about it by e-mail? (
        happy thanksgiving!

        1. Thanks so much for the note, Pat! I’m sorry for you, but glad the missus got her well-deserved moment in the sun. So glad to hear you had such an outstanding Thanksgiving. And of course I want to hear the banana bread story. Wanna send me a comment on the banana bread post that’s up there right now? That’s where it belongs for sure.

          Cheers and thanks again,

          – Joe

  12. Belated Happy Thanksgiving, Joe
    I agree with previous commenters that this is the best pumpkin pie ever! I made it on Thanksgiving and when we ate the last piece Sunday (there are only 2 of us) the crust was just as crisp as it was on day one. There was no weeping whatsoever!

    Obviously “pie is done when knife inserted one inch from center comes out clean” is why my pies were always over baked. Knowing it is done when “the filling doesn’t slosh but jiggles when you jostle the pan” was exactly the graphic I needed to know what to look for.

    I only varied from your directions in that I simply could not bring myself to pour the eggs into the hot mixture so I tempered them first. When I was young and first started baking, I accidentally made scrambled egg/lemon merengue pie filling and I’ve been cautious ever since.

    Thanks again for all of your wonderful recipes and histories.

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