Pumpkin Pie




About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

Pumpkin pie is the king of Thanksgiving and Christmas desserts, and this recipe will easily get even your most over-stuffed guests thinking about a second slice.

This pie is adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe (Nov. & Dec. 2008, #95), and contains a couple of secret ingredients that are delicious and will ensure requests for your tricks. In the crust: vodka; in the filling: candied yams, maple syrup, and a little bit of apple cider.

Since no one can tell the difference between fresh and canned pumpkin in a pie, this recipe uses canned pumpkins, and other ingredients you are sure to find at any grocery store.

This is an award winning pie! It won the Instructables intra-company Thanksgiving bake-off, taking home Best Pie in Show!

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Step 1: The Pie Agenda

Here's the overview and schedule of baking this awesome pie:

Mix up crust ingredients
Wrap up and chill crust for 45 minutes
Mix up and cook filling ingredients on stove top
Strain filling
Roll out pie dough, and place in pie pan, chill for 15 minutes
Continue straining filling, if necessary
Cook pie crust for 10 minutes with weights, 5-10 minutes without
Pour filling into crust
Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, 300 F until done
Cool for approximately 2 hours

Step 2: Pie Crust Ingredients

Getting the liquid balance in pie dough can be tricky. This pie crust recipe uses vodka to attain the proper liquid balance for mixing and rolling out the dough, but since vodka is about 40% alcohol, almost have of that liquid quickly evaporates when the crust is baked. A reasonable to good quality vodka will not impart any flavor (or alcohol for that matter) on the finished crust.

Here are some other pie crusts if you don't have vodka on hand:
A Quick Pie Crust
How to Make a Pie Crust

3/4 cup + 1/2 cup flour = 1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
-- mix these together first --
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
-- next add these --
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut apart in a bunch of small pieces
1/4 cup vegetable shortening - non-hydrogenated palm oil if you can find it; Crisco or crisco-like shortening if you can't
-- next add this --
remaining 1/2 cup flour
-- finally these --
2 tablespoons cold vodka
2 tablespoons water

Step 3: Mix Together Pie Crust Ingredients

Mix together 3/4 cup flour, salt, and sugar. I used a food processor. Add the butter and shortening and mix until it looks like the 7th and 8th pictures; this took around 15 seconds. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour and mix until it's fully incorporated, which you can see in the 9th and 10th pictures. This took just a few quick pulses. Finally, add the vodka and water, and mix together with a spatula.

Step 4: Chill the Pie Crust

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 45 minutes. You are chilling the butter and shortening to make the dough easier to work with when rolling it out.

Step 5: Roll Out the Pie Crust Dough

Roll out the dough. I used a silpat coated with some flour. Once the dough was the proper thickness and area, I put the pie plate upside-down on the dough, and used the silpat to turn the dough over and place it into the pie pan. Work the dough into the pan, and tuck the edges under, and flute them. Chill the dough again. I left it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Step 6: Cook the Pie Crust

Preheat an over to 400 F. Line the crust with aluminum foil and weight it down. The object is to keep the crust from slumping and bulking in the center, and it's possible you won't even need to do this. I took this as an opportunity to bake $10 worth of accumulated change, and then run around the house yelling "hot change, hot change!"

Bake the pie crust for around 10 minutes, or until the dough doesn't stick to the foil, and then remove the foil and weights. Bake another 5-10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Step 7: Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients

-- mix these together --
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-- mix these together --
1 can of 100% pumpkin puree
1 can of sweet potatoes -- these will probably be called candied yams
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons apple cider
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
about a quarter of nutmeg nut micro-ground, or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (once you start using fresh ground nutmeg, you won't want to use pre-ground)
1 teaspoon salt

Step 8: Mix, Cook, and Strain the Pumpkin Pie Filling

Mix together the heavy cream, milk, eggs and egg yolks, and vanilla. Save the vanilla for last, and watch how it mixes and flows into the white liquid.

I looked, but couldn't find canned sweet potatoes without added sugar, so I drained and rinsed the candied sweet potatoes. After removing the corn syrup, I was left with about a cup of sweet potatoes. Mix these together in a sauce pan with the pumpkin puree, sugar, maple syrup, ground cinnamon, salt, and fresh apple cider. We were juicing apples while I was putting this pie together, so it was only natural that I would add some cider, but you could skip this. Grate in ginger and nutmeg. Simmer at low heat until some of the moisture is driven off, and everything is mixed together. Smash the sweet potatoes, and make sure the mixture is homogeneous. Cook and stir continuously until the mixture will stick together in a big lump without flowing back to level. It's really obvious when this happens, and might take longer or shorter than it did for me, depending on how much moisture you start with.

After cooking for around 15 minutes, take the pot off of the heat, and mix in the cream mixture. Again, mix until homogeneous, then strain the mixture. The straining is laborious and annoying, but trust me, it's worth it. Yell continuously about how no one has ever made a pie as smooth as the one you're making.

In the second pie I made, I blended the mixture and then ran it through a strainer. There was no appreciable difference.

Thanksgiving 2009 Update:
I had extra roasted sweet potatoes from a sweet potato casserole dish, and decided to use fresh rather than canned sweet potatoes this year.  After draining the liquid, I found 250 g of cooked sweet potatoes in a 15 ounce can of candied yams, and so substituted the same mass of scooped-out sweet potato flesh roasted at 400°F until total tender.  It's hard to do a direct comparison because I didn't have one pie with canned and one pie with fresh, but I felt that using fresh sweet potatoes contributed a brighter flavor.

Also, after mixing the cooked-down pumpkin and sweet potato with the dairy and eggs, I blended it until smooth with an immersion blender (specifically the KitchenAid KHB100) and did not strain.  The mixture was totally smooth, and the blender whipped in a bit of air.

Step 9: Cook and Cool the Pumpkin Pie

Once the filling is strained, and the crust is golden brown, whisk the filling, pour it into the crust. You're whisking in some air so the filling turns out light and airy, and not super dense once baked. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 300°F and cook for an additional 20-45 minutes. The theory here is to speed up the cooking time without curdling the filling. You could cook the pie at 300°F, but it would probably take 2 hours.

Cook's Illustrated says to cook the pie until the center is 175°F. When mine reached this temperature, a tooth pick still didn't come out of the pie cleanly, but I went with it anyway and took it out of the oven. The pie cooled for about 2 hours. The center was just barely cooked, and cutting a clean slice was a challenge. Next time, I'll probably cook the pie until a tooth pick comes out clean -- maybe 5-10 minutes additional time at 300°F after the center reaches 175°F.

Thanksgiving 2009 Update:

Since last year, I started using a Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer instead of the dial thermometer shown in the images.  So this Thanksgiving, when the pies reached a center temperature of 175°F, I took them out, despite my note above.  Once cooled, they were perfectly cooked.  I suspect the dial thermometer wasn't properly calibrated, and I had slightly undercooked the pie.

Step 10: Eat the Pumpkin Pie

Even after all my yelling about how this was going to be the best pie anyone ever ate, and the smoothest pie ever baked, the tasters grudgingly admitted that the pie was one of the best they've tried. Then, they all snuck second slices!

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76 Discussions

Chell Shocked

2 years ago

I can't wait to make this. But, I HATE Maple, do you think any substitutions would work or I could omit it completely? I make deep dish pies (as per my collection of pans), Is this a recipe you can make doubled or did you do two batches for your 4 pies. I make homemade noodles and if you try to double the recipe they fail every time.


3 years ago

Great Instructable! But I disagree with one thing you said, "no one can tell the difference between fresh and canned pumpkin in a pie". I've loved pumpkin pie all my life and have enjoyed many variations of it through the years. But once I tried it made from actual pumpkins, canned couldn't compare at all. It not only tastes heavenly, but also fills your home with a rich scent of fall while it's baking. The secret is to use a type of pumpkin grown specifically for cooking. Happy Halloween!


Reply 4 years ago

From the instructions: "Getting the liquid balance in pie dough can be tricky. This pie crust recipe uses vodka to attain the proper liquid balance for mixing and rolling out the dough, but since vodka is about 40% alcohol, almost have of that liquid quickly evaporates when the crust is baked. A reasonable to good quality vodka will not impart any flavor (or alcohol for that matter) on the finished crust."


5 years ago

7th year making these! My filling always seems to be a bit more liquid than Eric's, but they always bake up fine. This year I did 400F/10min and 300F/35 min. Next year I plan to cook my own sweet potatoes as the only canned ones I can find are in corn sugar syrup and I'd like to avoid that next time. Might do pumpkin, too. I'm thinking I'll have to spend less time heating the mixture to drive off moisture (the one part I don't enjoy). Or maybe I'll see if I can find dehydrated maple syrup?


5 years ago on Introduction

Exquisite defenition of Pumpkin Pie. Your recipe has inspired my wife to begin baking three of 'em right now. We are not brought up to such baking, (We're from Lebanon), however we have good taste(buds) and we appreciate such art work as your's.
Excellent recipe.


9 years ago on Introduction

for those of us in countries without access to canned pumpkin, assuming I can replace canned pumpkin with fresh pumpkin, how much does a can of pumpkin weigh?

1 reply

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

3 cups of cooked puree (by volume) makes 2 pies. You can also use butternut squash and it taste about the same. I've read that canned pumpkin is actually a butternut/pumpkin hybrid and not a traditional pumpkin variety.


6 years ago on Introduction

6th year in a row making these about to commence! Can't wait to taste the finished product!


6 years ago on Step 10

The edge of the crust will come out less burnt if you place aluminum foil over the edge for the first half of the baking time. The pie looks great, never tried it with vodka. I will try that with the next pie. Don


9 years ago on Step 6

you can also use dried beans to weigh down the pie crust, i would recommend that instead of heating up a bunch of change :p

4 replies

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

I have used the same beans over and over again. I keep them in a plastic bag and store them with my pie baking supply. Works great.


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

 I thought the change was a brilliant and original idea; better than wasting good beans!  It's not very eco-friendly to waste food, emystrange!


Reply 9 years ago on Step 6

im just saying there are other options, some of us dont have $10 in change laying around like that :P


Reply 9 years ago on Step 6

I suppose it's possible to just eat the beans, but I wouldn't want to spoil my appetite for the pie...


6 years ago on Introduction

the updates are a nice touch! and whipping before pouring in the shell is something I need to try now.

I make mine with a can of coconut milk instead of evap milk or cream and I like the texture of that a lot better, plus it means my lactose intolerant friends and family can have some. Do you think curdling would be an issue if there's no milk in? I've still always done the 400/300 stages, but 350/375 for the whole time would sure be nice.


6 years ago on Introduction

I think we have the same set of mixing bowls. Thanks for the very thorough instructable.


7 years ago on Introduction

I know it's Thanksgiving when I'm making this pie. 5th year in a row. Smells so good!


8 years ago on Introduction

Im making this over in germany for my host parents from scratch. looks amazing :) lets see how it goes in metric :D


8 years ago on Introduction

How well does this pie recipe compare to the pumpkin pies from Costco?