If you want to serve something traditional yet distinctive for Thanksgiving dessert, try this spiced chai pumpkin meringue pie. This recipe combines my tried-and-true flaky pie crust, smooth pumpkin pie filling, and a sweet meringue topping, and is flavored throughout with warming chai spices.
This is pumpkin pie with a twist!
You all know how much I love this great pumpkin pie recipe. It’s a reader favorite too, especially for Thanksgiving. But this year I felt like doing things a little differently—spicing things up a bit. Chai spicing them up, if you will. If you’ve ever had trouble deciding whether to order a pumpkin spice latte or a chai latte, this pie is for you!
Why You’ll Love This Spiced Chai Pumpkin Meringue Pie
- This is a spice-forward pumpkin pie, with aromatic chai spices in both the filling & the meringue.
- Smooth, creamy pumpkin filling sits atop a buttery, flaky pie crust.
- Sweet meringue topping tastes like toasted marshmallows.
- A wonderful combination of sweet + spicy!
- Pumpkin pie freezes well, so you can make it ahead and then add the topping before serving.
You Need a Par-Baked Pie Crust
Like my traditional pumpkin pie recipe, today’s spiced chai pumpkin meringue pie includes partially blind-baking the pie crust, which means that we are pre-baking the crust before adding the filling. Do you know how to blind bake pie crust? Let’s review:
- Make pie dough ahead of time, then refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to make the pie. Pie crust must chill for at least 2 hours before rolling out. You can use either my favorite pie crust or my all butter pie crust recipe. I prefer the shortening/butter blend in my pie crust because the shortening promises that prized flaky texture.
- Roll the dough out, then fit into a 9-inch pie dish. Crimp or flute the edges. My trick to beautiful edges: don’t trim the excess pie dough. See step 2 in the printable recipe below.
- Brush the edges with egg wash: Since you need so many egg whites for the meringue topping, go ahead and use one of the yolks for your egg wash. An egg wash is typically a whole egg mixed with some milk, but here you can just use one of the leftover egg yolks and mix that with milk.
- Chill the shaped pie crust for at least 30 minutes. This prevents shrinking. Remember that pie dough must be cold when it hits the oven. You can chill the shaped crust before or after you fill with pie weights (next step).
- Fill with pie weights. As the pie dough bakes, its fat will melt. The melting fat causes the pie crust to shrink down the sides of the pie dish. To prevent the pie dough from completely losing its shape, weigh it down with pie weights. Carefully line the pie dough with parchment paper first, then pour in pie weights or even dry beans. (Note: 2 packs of these pie weights are needed.)
- Bake until the edges are relatively set, about 10 minutes.
- Remove pie weights + parchment paper, then dock the crust, add a little egg wash around the edges, and bake for a little longer.
Let me show you this process in a few photos. Here is the pie dough shaped into the pie dish. You can crimp the edges with a fork or you can flute them. Now, add some parchment paper and pie weights:
Bake the crust with the weights for only about 10 minutes, to help set its shape. Then remove the pie weights and dock the crust with a fork.
FAQ: What Does “Dock the Crust” Mean? Because it’s covered with weights, the bottom of the pie crust doesn’t really cook. That’s an easy fix. Once the edges of the crust have lightly browned, carefully remove the parchment paper + weights, then let the crust cook a little longer on its own. But before you return the pie crust to the oven, use a fork to prick holes all over the bottom of the pie crust. This allows steam to escape and prevents the crust from puffing up too much. Pricking holes in the crust is also called “docking” the pie crust.
Brush an egg wash all around the edges before returning the pie crust to the oven for about 7–8 more minutes, without the weights AND without the filling.
FAQ: What Is an Egg Wash? An egg wash is what gives the pie crust its golden sheen. Pie crust looks very dull without it. To make an egg wash, simply beat an egg with a Tablespoon of milk. Because we need so many egg whites for the meringue topping, you can just use an egg yolk + milk for the egg wash for this pie, instead of cracking another whole egg.
Now that you have the crust ready to go, let’s move on to the filling. First, make the spice mix.
Grab These Spices for the Chai Spice Mix
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground ginger
- Ground cardamom
- Ground allspice
- Ground cloves (or substitute nutmeg, if preferred)
This spice blend is similar to pumpkin pie spice, but the addition of herbal cardamom changes the flavor profile with its aromatic warmth. I love using fragrant chai spices in baked goods, like chai spiced cinnamon swirl Bundt cake, apple pie with chai spices, and chai latte cupcakes.
Other Ingredients in the Filling
- Pumpkin Puree: Canned pumpkin is best for this pie, but if you want to use puree from fresh pumpkin, lightly blot out some moisture before using. Bake time may be longer.
- Eggs: Eggs set up the pumpkin pie filling. They give the filling its rich, luxurious texture.
- Brown Sugar: The molasses in brown sugar adds a depth of flavor to the filling.
- Cornstarch: A starch thickener is one of the most important ingredients in a creamy pie filling, such as this coconut cream pie, to really help set up the pie. Makes it a little sturdier and firm, while keeping everything smooth.
- Salt: Flavor enhancer, a key ingredient.
- Heavy Cream: Heavy cream makes pumpkin pie creamy and silky smooth.
- Whole Milk: Do not substitute a lower-fat milk—the fat in whole milk is needed.
Here are the ingredients you need, plus egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar for the meringue topping.
Whisk the filling ingredients together, and then pour into the warm par-baked crust. The pie takes about 55–60 minutes in the oven.
Chai pumpkin pie! But let’s not stop there…
Chai Spice Meringue Topping
I generally make 2 types of meringue toppings for pies. The first is a really fluffy topping that I use on lemon meringue pie. The second one, which is what we’re making for this spiced chai pumpkin meringue pie, is more of a billowy, soft and creamy topping. It’s basically Swiss meringue buttercream, only without the butter. And it tastes like melted marshmallows!
I use this topping often and have an entire separate post about how to make homemade marshmallow meringue; it’s actually what I use as the topping for brownie baked Alaska. I slightly reduced the quantities in today’s version so it yields less, and I also reduced the sugar and left out the vanilla so you can really taste the chai spices.
You need room-temperature egg whites, sugar, a little cream of tartar, some of the remaining chai spice mix, your stove, and a mixer. Cream of tartar is a non-negotiable because the egg whites won’t set up very well without it. And since you’ll have cream of tartar, a batch of quick-and-easy snickerdoodles on the side is always a good idea. 😉
Gently cook the 3 ingredients together in a double boiler OR in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture has thinned out. The mixture will be thick and tacky at first, then thin out and appear frothy on top. (As you can see above, left.) As noted in the printable recipe below, you can use your finger to test for doneness or an instant read thermometer. Transfer mixture to your mixer, add some more of your chai spice mix, and beat until stiff peaks form, pictured above on the right.
3 Helpful Tips for the Meringue Topping:
- You need to separate your eggs because meringue is made from egg whites. Use 1 of the leftover yolks for your egg wash on the crust.
- Room-temperature egg whites whip faster, and into a greater volume, than cold egg whites. So make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before starting the meringue.
- Toasting is optional, but you get the added bonus of a caramelized sugar/toasted marshmallow flavor on top of your pie. You can use a kitchen torch. I rarely use mine, but when I need it, I’m very thankful I have one. It’s needed for treats like crème brûlée, s’mores brownie cupcakes, and, of course, meringue-topped pies. Instead of a torch, you can use your oven. Preheat to 450°F (232°C), and bake until the meringue begins to brown, usually about 2–3 minutes—keep a close eye on it. You could also use the broiler, but I find this method quickly burns the exposed crust, so I generally don’t recommend it unless you cover just the crust with some aluminum foil.
If you want to skip the meringue topping, you can serve this pie plain or topped with whipped cream. (Feel free to add some of the chai spice mix, to taste, to the whipped cream ingredients before you start whipping it.)
This recipe is part of Sally’s Pie Week, an annual tradition where I share a handful of new recipes that fit into the pie/crisp/tart category. Never miss a new recipe by subscribing on the pie week page! Other pie recipes include my favorite apple pie, chocolate chess pie, and this easy cobbler recipe.
Warming chai spices infuse both the pumpkin filling and meringue topping with impeccable flavor in this spiced chai pumpkin meringue pie. Par-baking the pie crust is an important step, as the crust takes longer than the filling to properly bake through.
Chai Spice Mix
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves*
- 1 unbaked pie crust (what I used) or all butter pie crust*
- egg wash: 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk
- one 15-ounce can (about 2 cups; 425g) pumpkin puree*
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon (8g) cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons chai spice mix (above)
- 2/3 cup (160ml) heavy cream*
- 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk*
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon chai spice mix, or to taste (above)
- At least 2 hours ahead, make the pie dough: Make the pie crust through step 5 according to my directions and video tutorial in my pie crust recipe. Make pie dough in advance because it needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before rolling out (step 3). The recipe makes 2 crusts, and you only need 1 for this pie, so save the other for another pie.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Roll out the chilled pie crust: Remove 1 disc of pie dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle. Make sure to turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls. Carefully place the dough into a 9-inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it’s tightly pressed into the pie dish. Fold any dough overhang back into the dish to form a thick rim around the edges. Crimp the edges with a fork or flute the edges with your fingers.
- Par-bake the crust: Line the pie crust with parchment paper. Crunching up the parchment paper is helpful so that you can easily shape it into the crust. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. (Note that you will need at least 2 standard sets of pie weights to fit.) Make sure the weights/beans are evenly distributed around the pie dish. Par-bake the crust for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment paper/pie weights. Brush edges lightly with egg wash. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork to create steam vents and return crust (without weights) to the oven for 7–8 more minutes or until the bottom is *just* starting to brown. (Review this how to par-bake pie crust page if you need extra help with this par-baking step.)
- Make the pumpkin pie filling: Whisk the pumpkin, 2 eggs, and brown sugar together until combined. Add the cornstarch, salt, 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of the chai spice mix, heavy cream, and milk. Vigorously whisk until everything is combined. (You’ll have plenty of chai spice mix, so if you want to increase to 2 and 3/4 teaspoons, you can; the extra-deep flavor is delicious.)
- Pour pumpkin pie filling into the warm crust. Bake the pie until the center is almost set, about 55–60 minutes. A small part of the center will be a bit wobbly—that’s OK. After 25 minutes of baking, be sure to cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil or use a pie crust shield to prevent the edges from getting too brown. (See this post on the best tools for baking pies for how to make a pie crust shield out of foil.) Start checking for doneness at minute 50.
- Once done, transfer the pie to a wire rack and allow to cool completely at room temperature for at least 3 hours before adding the meringue topping. Pie can be made through this step up to 1 day in advance; cover and keep at room temperature before adding the topping.
- Make the marshmallow meringue: Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl. Set bowl over a saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water. Do not let it touch the water. (You can use a double boiler if you have one.) Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture has thinned out, about 4 minutes. The mixture’s temperature taken with an instant read thermometer should be 160°F (71°C). If it’s not, keep cooking and whisking until thinned out and temperature is warm enough. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon chai spice mix, and then, using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat on high speed for 5 minutes or until stiff glossy peaks form. Taste, and whip in a little more chai spice mix if you have any left/if desired.
- Spread meringue on top of cooled pie, or pipe with large star piping tip such as Wilton 1M. Serve immediately or store at room temperature or in the refrigerator, uncovered, for up to 8 hours before serving. If desired, toast the marshmallow topping with a kitchen torch just before serving. If you want to use the oven to toast instead, see detailed recipe Note.
- Cover and store leftovers at room temperature for 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can make the pie through step 7 up to 1 day in advance; cover and keep at room temperature before adding the topping. Baked and cooled pie freezes well, without the meringue topping, for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, and then continue with step 8. You can make the pie crust dough ahead of time as well; it has to chill for at least 2 hours, but it keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and the freezer for up to 3 months, so make it in advance and it will save you time on the day you actually make this pie. If frozen, thaw pie crust dough in the refrigerator overnight before rolling out. The filling can be made the night before as well. In fact, I prefer it that way. It gives the spices, pumpkin, and brown sugar flavors a chance to infuse and blend. Cover and refrigerate overnight. No need to bring to room temperature before pouring into the warm pie crust and baking.
- Special Tools: Pie Weights | Pastry Brush | Pie Crust Shield | Egg Separator | Pie Dish | Electric Mixer (Stand Mixer or Handheld) | Disposable Piping Bags or Reusable Piping Bags | Wilton 1M Piping Tip | Kitchen Torch
- Pie Crust: Both linked pie crust recipes make 2 crusts. You only need 1 crust for this pie, so freeze the second half for another pie. If using store-bought pie dough, you still need to pre-bake it. If needed, you can use a graham cracker crust or gingersnap crust instead of traditional pie crust. Pre-bake the crumb crust at 350°F (177°C) for 10 minutes. No need for pie weights if using a crumb crust.
- Chai Spice Mix: You can substitute nutmeg for the cloves, if preferred.
- Pumpkin: Canned pumpkin is best in this pumpkin pie recipe. Make sure it’s labeled “pumpkin puree” and not “pumpkin pie filling.” If using fresh pumpkin puree, lightly blot it before adding to remove some moisture. The bake time may be longer.
- Heavy Cream & Milk: Do not substitute a lower-fat milk—the fat in whole milk is needed. Feel free to use 1 cup of half-and-half instead of heavy cream + whole milk.
- Topping: If you want to skip the meringue topping, you can serve this pie plain or topped with whipped cream. (Feel free to add some of the chai spice mix, to taste, to the whipped cream ingredients before you start whipping it.)
- Toasting topping in the oven: Instead of a torch, you can use your oven. Preheat to 450°F (232°C), and bake until the meringue begins to brown, usually about 2–3 minutes—keep a close eye on it. You could also use the broiler, but I find this method quickly burns the exposed crust, so I generally don’t recommend it unless you cover just the crust with some aluminum foil.
Keywords: spiced chai pumpkin meringue pie