This is my go-to pumpkin pie. It has evolved little by little over years and I’m here to tell you it is in a good place. The creamy pumpkin custard is accented with a beautiful homemade five spice blend and baked in a super flaky, all-butter pie crust. There are a couple other special winks, secrets, and details I’ll share below along with a roadmap to a great pie.
The Details That Make this Pumpkin Pie Special
This pie has many of the hallmarks of a traditional pumpkin pie (flaky pie crust, warming spices, pumpkin custard), along with the following little tweaks to make the pie extra special.
- Coconut Milk: While many traditional pumpkin pie recipes use cream, half-and-half, or canned evaporated milk, I like to use full-fat coconut milk. Pumpkin and coconut milk are made for each other. Along with the spice blend, so rich and good.
- Toasted Nut Layer: For this pie, a simple slather of pureed walnut or hazelnuts is spread across the pie crust before filling and baking. In addition to adding another layer of flavor, it also helps to keep the crust from getting soggy. It’s optional but I rarely bake this pie without it.
- Citrus-flecked Pie Crust: Incorporate the zest of an orange into your pie dough here. The orange along with the pumpkin, blend of five spices, and coconut milk is really nice.
If you want a more traditional pumpkin pie, swap in heavy cream for the coconut milk. Skip the smear of hazelnuts, and keep your pie crust straight.
How To Make a Homemade Pumpkin Pie: Step By Step
Here are the broad strokes it takes to bake a proper pumpkin pie.
- Roll out pie dough.
- Freeze pie crust for 20 minutes.
- Pre-bake pie crust.
- Make pumpkin pie filling.
- Assemble pie.
- Bake pie and cool.
What temperature do you bake pumpkin pie?
And how to avoid cracks.
You see people baking pumpkin pies any where from 325°F to 425°F. I’m a fan of the low end of that spectrum. Baking pumpkin pie at a relatively low temperature, 325°F is one factor that can help avoid dreaded cracking later on.
By baking the pie low and slow, you end up with a silky, creamy pumpkin custard (see above). Another tip, allow your pie to cool slowly. And if you do end up with a crack, a strategic dollop of whipped cream always helps!
Pumpkin Pie: Canned pumpkin versus fresh pumpkin – which is better?
I used to be squarely in the make your own pumpkin puree camp. But honestly, you can make really great pumpkin pie filling using canned pumpkin. If you’re using canned pumpkin be sure it is 100% pure pumpkin with no added spices or sugar. Libby’s brand 100% pure pumpkin is a fan favorite, but I’ve also had a lot of success using Farmer’s Market brand, they have an organic pumpkin puree that works (and tastes) great.
To make your own roasted pumpkin puree start with a 3 pound sugar pie pumpkin, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a bit of salt. Carefully cut your pumpkin into four wedges, remove seeds and stem, and rub the wedges generously with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and roast in a 400°F oven under very tender, about an hour. Scoop the flesh out of the skins and puree with a hand blender or mash well by hand.
You can also substitute roasted sweet potatoes or other roasted winter squash in place of the pumpkin as a variation. And you can use the filling in tarts, or for individual pies/tarts as well.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend
This pie uses a five spice blend. It is a bit more assertive than your typical pumpkin pie spice blend. It’s not shy with the cinnamon, and has a good amount of ginger, cloves, and allspice along with freshly grated nutmeg. A couple tips on this front, if you can get your hands on Vietnamese cinnamon, I love it as part of this blend. It’s a little hotter, edgier and assertive. And once you freshly grate nutmeg (use a microplane) you’ll never go back. If you only grind one spice in this blend yourself, let it be the nutmeg.
Do you really need to pre-bake the crust for pumpkin pie?
Pre-baking the crust for this pie makes enough of a difference to be worth it. I’ve tested baking it both ways, and at a range of temperatures. The pumpkin pies made with pre-baked crusts generally had better structure, especially on the bottom. The timing on the overall pie ends up being better as well. The pumpkin custard sets up just about the same time your crust gets nice and golden. So yes, for this pie, I recommend a pre-baked crust. Have a look at how golden and beautiful the crust turns out below.
Lastly, my tip on the whipped cream front is to avoid over-whipping it. Floppy peaks is what to aim for. Sweeten it to your liking and spike it, if you like, with a little something boozy towards the end of the whipping process.