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 ⅛-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:
Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria DOC ‘Ben Ryé’, Sicily, Italy
“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
- ½ recipe all-butter pie crust (click red text for link)
- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (2 cups)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup light brown sugar , lightly packed
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ½ 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 only the center jiggles when the pie is nudged. (Note that baking time can vary by the particular pie plate you're using.)
- Let pie cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Pie will continue cooking and firming up as it cools. Refrigerate until well chilled. Slice, and serve with lightly-sweetened whipped cream.
Joanne M. says
Does this have to be refrigerated? Running out of fridge space.
Amanda Biddle says
Yes, this pie should be refrigerated.
I popped 2 in the oven the other day and thought I had posted here but cant find it. In any event, THIS IS IT!! I have searched for a pumpkin pie recipe that was as silky and light as I remember Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie being when I was a kid…before they were bought out by whomever and the recipe was changed.
I was so hoping this would be it and by gosh, it is! Thanks so much for coming up with the best pumpkin pie recipe ever! I have tried them all over the past 45 yrs and YOU NAILED IT.
Amanda Biddle says
I’m so glad that you’ve enjoyed the recipe as much as we do! :) It’s funny, my mom and I were just talking the other day about the Mrs. Smith’s Pumpkin Custard Pie. Before we started making our own, that’s the one mom used to buy, and it was always delicious. I haven’t seen it in the stores for years. I’m glad to be able to create a similar texture and flavor from scratch!
I can’t find pumpkin purée. Is canned pumpkin the same thing?
Amanda Biddle says
Hi Stephanie, yes canned pumpkin (such as Libby’s) is the same. Just make sure it’s plain and not the spiced “pumpkin pie filling.”
Denna Smith says
Loved this recipe. I used all half and half for the liquid. Definitely my go to for Thanksgiving!
Shannon kievit says
Awesome recipe thank you.
This was my first pie ever and I was very happy with the result. I used the kitchen aid pie crust recipe and par baked before filling. I made the filling exactly as in the recipe except I added a small dash of pepper. It was excellent. I grew up on Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin custard pie and this texture was very similar but the flavor was much better. No more freezer pies for us. I’m making another for Christmas.
I absolutely agree. I also grew up on Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin custard pie and never liked homemade pumpkin pie. This recipe is really good. I followed recipe and will not buy Mrs. Smith’s again.
Linda Knauer says
Can your filling be baked in custard cups as well?
For those who don’t like crust?
Striped Spatula Team says
We haven’t tested this particular pie filling baked without the crust, so we can’t advise with certainty on how it would perform.
I just cooked a few in little custard cups took them out 15 minutes earlier then the pie and it turned out really good, just as good as the pie but without the crust. My husband loved them.
Amanda Biddle says
Thank you for trying the filling in custard cups and letting us know how it turned out! I’m so glad you and your husband enjoyed. Happy Thanksgiving!
James Rice says
My mom always had extra filling and would cook it in a custard cup(s). Those were the first to come out of the oven (they cook faster). Did the same with this recipe and it’s great!
My husband’s favorite pie is pumpkin, and I’ve never made it from scratch! I love that you used cream instead of evaporated milk, and personally I love the lighter texture in a pumpkin pie. And omg – those leaf decorations are ADORABLE!!!
Ok…so I have 3 pies are my MOST favourite of all. PUMPKIN is on that list. I could eat this pie ALL YEAR LONG. I can eat it without any whip cream, and although I always LOVE pie crust…the filling in this pie ROCKS!! What a great Thanksgiving dessert.
Kelli Avila says
What a fantastic and informative post! And pie looks absolutely delicious!