Did you know that testing the perfect pumpkin pie recipe is a lot more challenging than one would assume!? Fresh pumpkin, canned pumpkin, ginger, no ginger, brown sugar, white sugar, cornstarch, flour, no cornstarch, no flour…?
But I finally I cracked the pumpkin pie code. I grew up in a house of pumpkin pie lovers and absolutely no Thanksgiving was complete without a nap and a massive slice of pumpkin pie. What I’m trying to say is, my pumpkin pie standards are high for this classic Thanksgiving dessert.
Let’s start with the pie crust. Every pumpkin pie has to start with a stellar pie crust. My homemade pie crust uses a mix of shortening and butter so you get the most buttery tasting, tender, flaky (so flaky) pie crust. It’s easy to make. And I have a video tutorial and step-by-step photos in my pie crust recipe.
If you skip the leaf decorations on top, you’ll have a 2nd pie crust you can use to make leftover turkey pot pie or mini pecan pies! Or if you like extra thick pie crust, use some of your 2nd pie crust to make a decorative crimped or fluted edge. My how to crimp and flute pie crust tutorial will walk you through all the steps.
Fresh or Canned Pumpkin in Pumpkin Pie?
I tested this recipe with both and I truly liked the pie using canned pumpkin better. The canned pumpkin pumpkin pie (say that 3 times fast) was a little more sturdy when baked for the same amount of time. The pie baked with fresh pumpkin puree tasted grainy and a little… herbaceous? I prefer using fresh pumpkin puree in savory recipes, not desserts. This is your call, you can use either fresh or canned pumpkin.
Other Ingredients in Pumpkin Pie
- Eggs. Eggs set up the pumpkin pie filling. They give the filling its rich, luxurious texture.
- Heavy cream. Heavy cream makes pumpkin pie silky smooth. It’s thick, creamy, and absolutely heavenly in this pumpkin pie recipe. I use 1 cup of heavy cream and 1/4 cup of milk. I found that 1 and 1/4 cups of heavy cream (or more) was simply too much. Too thick, too gloppy! You can also use the heavy cream to make homemade whipped cream for the topping.
- Cornstarch. A starch thickener is one of the most important ingredients in a pie filling. I use a touch of cornstarch in my pumpkin pie because it helps set up the pie. Makes it a little sturdier and firm, while keeping everything smooth.
My Secret Ingredient
This sounds so incredibly weird, but I add freshly ground black pepper to my pumpkin pie filling. It’s bizarre, I know. But I’m being serious. I got this tip from the genius kitchen crew over at King Arthur Baking. And I am forever grateful. Because this little addition turns your pumpkin pie into the BEST pumpkin pie. No one will know it’s there except for you. And they will all be wondering what makes this spiced pie so good… it’s a pinch of pepper.
I actually add it to my homemade pumpkin pie spice blend, too! Feel free to replace the ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper below with my homemade spice. (Keep the cinnamon in the filling though!)
How to Avoid Cracks in Pumpkin Pie
Silky yet thick, this pumpkin pie cuts beautifully as long as it is baked for the right amount of time. The bake time is about 55-60 minutes. At this time, the center of the pumpkin pie will be slightly wobbly. It will set as it cools. Careful not to overcook; overcooking it will cause the filling to crack.
P.S.: For some fun twists on this classic, try this recipe as mini pumpkin pies, with a crunch topping on pecan praline pumpkin pie, or with extra spices in chai pumpkin meringue pie. You can also make a pumpkin cheesecake pie!
So from my kitchen to yours, enjoy The Great Pumpkin Pie Recipe. And if you’re looking for more inspiration for your dessert table, here are all of our favorite Thanksgiving pies and a list of 30+ pumpkin dessert recipes.Print
Bursting with flavor, this pumpkin pie recipe is my very favorite. It’s rich, smooth, and tastes incredible on my homemade pie crust and served with whipped cream. The pie crust leaves are purely for decor, you can leave those off of the pie and only make 1 pie crust. You can also leave off the sugared cranberries.
- 1 cup (100g) fresh cranberries (do not use frozen)
- 3/4 cup (180ml) water
- 1 and 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar, divided
- Homemade Pie Dough (full recipe makes 2 crusts: 1 for bottom, 1 for leaf decor)
- egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk
- one 15-ounce can (425g) pumpkin puree*
- 3 large eggs
- 1 and 1/4 cups (250g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon (8g) cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger*
- 1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg*
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves*
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (60ml) milk
- If garnishing with sugared cranberries, make those first: If you want to decorate the pie with sugared cranberries, start them the night before because they need to sit for several hours. Place cranberries in a large heatproof bowl. Set aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the water and 3/4 cup (150g) of sugar to a simmer, whisking until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pour the sugar syrup over the cranberries and stir. Cover the bowl and set aside for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cranberries from the sugar syrup and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Allow to dry, uncovered, for 1 hour. Pour remaining 1/2 cup (100g) sugar into a large bowl. Toss the cranberries in the sugar, coating them all the way around. Place on a parchment paper- or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet and let them dry uncovered for at least 1 hour at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For more uses, see how to make sugared cranberries.
- Make the pie crust through step 5 according to my directions and video tutorial in my pie crust recipe. Or use your favorite pie dough or store-bought.
- 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 9×2-inch deep dish pie dish (this is the one I use; it is 1.75-inches deep). 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. Review my how to crimp and flute pie crust tutorial if you need extra help with this step. Brush edges lightly with egg wash mixture.
- 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. 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, 3 eggs, and brown sugar together until combined. Add the cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, heavy cream, and milk. Vigorously whisk until everything is combined.
- Pour pumpkin pie filling into the warm crust. Only fill the crust about 3/4 of the way up. (If using a deep dish pie dish as instructed, you should only have a little filling leftover. Use extra to make mini pies with leftover pie dough scraps if you’d like.) Bake the pie until the center is almost set, about 55-60 minutes give or take. A small part of the center will be 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. Check for doneness at minute 50, and then 55, and then 60, etc.
- Once done, transfer the pie to a wire rack and allow to cool completely for at least 3 hours before garnishing and serving.
- Decorate with sugared cranberries and pie crust leaves (see note). You’ll definitely have leftover cranberries… they’re tasty for snacking. Serve pie with whipped cream if desired.
- Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Pumpkin pie freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving. Pie crust dough freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using. If decorating your pie with sugared cranberries, start them the night before. You’ll also begin the pie crust the night before as well (the dough needs at least 2 hours to chill; overnight is best). 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. It’s awesome. Cover and refrigerate overnight. No need to bring to room temperature before baking.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Glass Mixing Bowls | Saucepan | Baking Sheet | Silicone Baking Mat or Parchment Paper | Rolling Pin | 9-inch Pie Dish | Pastry Brush | Pie Weights | Whisk | Pie Crust Shield | Cooling Rack | Fall Cookie Cutters
- Cranberries: Use fresh cranberries, not frozen. The sugar syrup doesn’t coat evenly on the frozen berries, leaving you with rather ugly and some very plain shriveled cranberries.
- Pumpkin: Canned pumpkin is best in this pumpkin pie recipe. I use and recommend Libby’s brand. If using fresh pumpkin puree, lightly blot it before adding to remove some moisture. The bake time may be longer.
- Spices: Instead of ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper, you can use 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. Be sure to still add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
- Pie Crust: No matter if you’re using homemade crust or store-bought crust, pre-bake the crust. (Step 5.) You can use graham cracker crust if you’d like, but the slices may get a little messy. Pre-bake for 10 minutes just as you do with regular pie crust in this recipe. No need to use pie weights if using a cookie crust.
- Pie Crust Leaves: On a floured work surface, roll out one of the balls of chilled dough (keep the other one in the refrigerator). Roll out into any shape you really want (doesn’t matter) and 1/8 inch thickness. Using leaf cookie cutters, cut into shapes. Brush each lightly with the beaten egg + milk mixture. Cut leaf veins into leaves using a sharp knife, if desired. Place onto a parchment paper or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet and bake at 350°F (177°C) for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside to cool before decorating pie.
- Mini Pumpkin Pies: Many have asked about a mini version. Here are my mini pumpkin pies. They’re pretty easy—no blind baking the crust!
Keywords: pumpkin pie
Pie Crust Leaves
My pie crust recipe makes enough for two crusts. So with the extra dough, you can make adorable leaves for decoration on your pumpkin pie. Or any pie, really. I’ve seen the pie crust leaves baked directly on top of the rim of the pie—and I tried that—but was not thrilled with the results. Too much uneven baking. The underside of the leaves weren’t really cooked through and the tops got a little burnt (even through my pie shield). So, to make things easier, just bake the pie crust leaves separately and place them on top of your pie before serving. You can also sprinkle them with a little cinnamon-sugar right before baking. I was going to do that, but I forgot.
My leaf cookie cutters (affiliate link) don’t have “veins” so I made leaf veins myself using a sharp paring knife. It’s tedious, but if you want authentic looking leaves you can go ahead. Don’t worry if your veins aren’t perfect. That’s a weird sentence.
My directions for the leaves are in the print-out recipe above.