This luscious Pumpkin Custard Pie is one of my family’s longtime holiday dessert traditions. It’s creamy yet light, and gently-spiced for the perfect end to a Thanksgiving feast.
Of all of the “must have on the Thanksgiving dessert table” pies, Pumpkin ranks right at the top in my family. I can’t think of one Thanksgiving in my lifetime when there wasn’t a Pumpkin Pie (or more than one) on the table. It’s an essential fall and Turkey Day treat.
This Pumpkin Custard Pie has been my family and friends’ favored recipe for years. A crisp, flaky all-butter crust meets a light-textured, creamy pumpkin filling, gently spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove.
This pie is easy to make (and make a day ahead), for stress-free holiday entertaining.
What’s the Difference Between Pumpkin Custard Pie and Pumpkin Pie?
This is one of those questions that has a million different answers, depending on who you ask. Technically, all Pumpkin Pie is Pumpkin Custard Pie. Pumpkin pie is, by definition, made of a custard-based filling.
So, why the distinction? For me, it’s a matter of texture.
Some pumpkin pies, like the traditional, evaporated milk-based recipe, have a compact, extremely smooth filling that cuts very cleanly. They’re velvety, nostalgic, and delicious.
Then, there are milk- or cream-based recipes. These pies are richer, though I find that the custard bakes up to be less dense, so the overall bite feels lighter. The filling doesn’t go as far as to have the texture of a pudding or chiffon, but I still wouldn’t mind eating it with a spoon.
This is what I think of as “Pumpkin Custard Pie,” and describes the recipe shared in this post. It’s silky, gently-spiced, and not too heavy at the end of a big holiday dinner.
How to Make Pumpkin Pie from Scratch
Pumpkin Pie is an easy pie to make at home, but there are a few essential tricks and techniques to making sure that your pie is at the top of its game.
Blind Bake Your Crust.
Par-baking the crust on a pre-heated baking sheet ensures that the dough has a chance to start baking through, especially on the bottom, before it meets the custardy filling. Result: crust that isn’t soggy.
Purée your pumpkin purée.
Some cans of pumpkin that are really smooth, while others can have quite a few stringy bits in them. I mix this filling in a food processor or blender so that it’s perfectly smooth. You can also use homemade pumpkin purée.
Take the pie out of the oven before you think it’s done.
No, really. A Pumpkin Pie is ready to leave the oven when the edges are set (you’ll see tiny cracks around the edges) and a circular area in the center is still jiggly. Gently shake the pan, and the center should move like Jell-O.
All pies continue to bake after you take them out of the oven from the pan’s residual heat. If you wait until a Pumpkin Pie is totally firmed up throughout, the eggs will have solidified too much and the pie will crack in the center as it cools.
Want to be sure your pumpkin custard pie is cooked? Take its temperature in the center. A thermometer should read 175 degrees F for the perfect pie. As you get more comfortable with taking the pie out at this stage, you’ll be able to judge it by eye.
Despite all of that…cracks sometimes happen. Don’t sweat it! In a cracked pumpkin pie emergency, you can disguise it with decorative pie crust cutouts or by piping the top with whipped cream. It’ll make a beautiful presentation and no one will be the wiser.
You’ve Made The Best Pumpkin Pie: Now, How to Serve It.
Once it’s cooled to room temperature, I store my Pumpkin Custard Pie in the refrigerator. It’s best served within a day or two, because the crust will start to get soggy the longer it sits with the custard.
For a pretty presentation, I like to line the edges of the cooled pie with pumpkin and leaf crust cutouts. For Pumpkin Pie, I bake these cutouts separately from the pie.
To make them, roll dough to 1/8-inch thick and use cookie cutters to cut out your shapes. Brush the cutouts with egg wash, sprinkle with granulated sugar, and bake them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 375 degrees F until golden. They only take about 10 minutes to bake and they give the pie a special, festive touch.
I like to serve slices of Pumpkin Custard Pie with a dollop of lightly-sweetened whipped cream (spike it with splash of bourbon, if you’d like). A light dusting of cinnamon over the whipped cream and a pie crust cutout on top makes the perfect finish!
Complete dessert with a glass of wine! Hugh Preece, Sommelier and Italian Wine Ambassador – Vinitaly Academy, suggests enjoying:
“Extraordinary rich bouquet with exceptional aromas obtained from the dried grapes, dried apricot, raisin, candied orange peel, honey, and sweet spice. The palate is very fresh and intense, with a nice acidic backbone that gives freshness and balances perfectly the sweetness, followed by a long and satisfying persistence.”
More Thanksgiving Pie Week Recipes
Pumpkin Custard Pie
This luscious Pumpkin Custard Pie is a beautiful addition to any fall or holiday dessert table. Make it a day ahead for easy entertaining.
- 1/2 recipe all-butter pie crust
- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (2 cups)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar , lightly packed
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Follow the instructions in the all-butter pie dough recipe to make a blind baked, single crust pie, in a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Reduce oven temperature from 375 to 350 degrees F and place a baking sheet on the rack.
In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, combine pumpkin puree, eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Blend until combined, about 5 seconds. Scrape the bowl or blender canister. Add milk and cream and blend (low speed, if using a blender) for an additional 5 seconds, until smooth.
Pour filling into the prepared crust. Place the pie plate on the heated baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the edges are puffed and set and the center jiggles. The center of the pie should register 175 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.
Let pie cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Pie will continue cooking and firming up as it cools. Refrigerate until chilled. Slice, and serve with lightly-sweetened whipped cream.
For decorating suggestions and tips and tricks for how to avoid a cracked pie, be sure to read through the blog post above!