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Traditional Pumpkin Pie with Real Pumpkin

  • g

I've done a quick search without much luck. Anyone ever have a go at making pumpkin pie with real pumpkin?

If you think I'm crazy and won't come up with anything better than what comes from a can of Libby's, let me know!

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  1. You are crazy :-) You can't come up with better than Libby from the can. I've tried organic canned pumpkin as well.....at the end of the day, it's not very high-brow or sexy, but Libby's canned pumpkin is the best.

    1. I always use real pumpkin. It's a small project to prepare the puree, but you can do a whole whack of it at once and freeze it in recipe-size containers. I think it's lighter and fresher tasting than canned, but maybe in a side-by-side tasting the difference wouldn't be all that apparent. My choice to use an actual pumpkin is mostly because I can't resist those lovely round pumpkins at the market and refuse to buy a can of something that I can otherwise prepare.

      Here is my method:
      Start with a small "pie or sugar" pumpkin. Usually about the side of a soccer ball or smaller. Cut in half and remove seeds. Place cut-side-down on baking sheet and pour in a small amount of water - just a film on the bottom of the sheet. Bake at 400o for about 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft enough to dent when you touch it. Turn the pumpkin halves over and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes to dry out the flesh slightly. Remove pulp and puree in a processor or with a food mill. Now here's the important part: spoon pulp into a coffee filter or a paper-lined strainer set over a bowl. Let drain for at least an hour or so to remove excess liquid. (I use the liquid in soup, so it's not wasted.). Use pulp in your favourite recipe and freeze whatever you're not using right away. It's a bit of a job, but not really time consuming. You'll get maybe two pies from one pumpkin.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Nyleve

        This is the sort of enthusiastic response I was looking for in order to convince me that it's worth the time. The couple things I've read haven't mentioned the straining of the pulp, but this seems like a key step.

        Any thoughts on seasoning the pumpkin as it roasts with some nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice etc. in order to get a little more depth of flavor out of the pumpkin puree?

        1. re: gregb

          I would leave the pumpkin completely unseasoned when preparing the puree. You'll be adding plenty of spices to the pie or whatever you're making - so don't worry about the flavour. Also it allows you to use the pumpkin puree for all sorts of different recipes - pies, muffins, breads, ravioli, soup. If you spice it up you're limiting your options.

          And YES the draining is really key. Canned puree is much thicker so it's important to remove some of the excess liquid in order to use homemade puree in place of canned.

          1. re: Nyleve

            If I'm remembering correctly, Rose Levy's recipe has you cook the filling (pumpkin, sugar, spices) to evaporate some of the moisture-- another option to draining. But then, of course, it has to be cooled somewhat before adding the eggs.

      2. Fresh pumpkin is better in my experience. The difference, I'll grant, is subtle. But fresh pumpkin is slightly more earthy. It has a "meaty" flavor that I personally really like, though it may not be for everyone. I always oven-roast my pumpkin before purreeing (rather than boiling). I swear by Rose Levy Barenbaum's recipe in the Pie and Pastry Bible. It's delicious every time. And the layer of crushed gingersnaps between the filling and the crust is genius. Happy baking!

        1. I'm an obsessive do-it-from-scratcher. I make all the bread and broth for my dressing, and I even candied my own ginger a couple of years ago for the cranberry sauce.

          I've done my own pumpkin twice. I won't bother with it again. I couldn't get the texture as smooth or creamy as canned, and I didn't detect a whit of difference in the flavor either when I used it for pie or for ravioli.

          However, I'm also a big proponent of rolling up your sleeves and going for it! What could go wrong?

          2 Replies
          1. re: dmd_kc

            Should you get the urge to try again, definitely try Rose Levy's recipe (Pie and Pastry Bible). The texture is better (smoother and lighter) than the Libby's version. Totally worth it.

            1. re: Procrastibaker

              Weird--in this recipe on Epicurious that says it's from Pie and Pastry bible, Levy says that she actually prefers canned pumpkin. The recipe sounds delicious, canned or fresh, but did Levy change her mind somewhere along the lines? Or, are you saying you've tried her recipe both ways --fresh and from canned-- and you're just personally noticed that the fresh is better for this recipe?


              I may have to try this once the pie I made this year is gone. :



          2. In my experience, it's definitely possible to get a sweeter and "richer" puree when roasting one yourself-- but it all depends on the pumpkin, and frequently you won't come out ahead. Even from the same batch/field, some pumpkins are just sweeter than others. When I was a kid, we always got pumpkins and squash straight from the garden, where they were grown slowly and in small numbers, and on average, they were definitely better than what you got from the store. Nowadays, I find that a fairly high proportion of the pumpkins and squash I buy from the store, or even the farmer's market, are relatively bland, and the results are disappointing after the work of roasting them. (This is especially noticeable for acorn squash, but also other squash)

            Canned pumpkin avoids the highs and lows of the pumpkin lottery by combining big batches, in which you get a mix of the good ones and the duds all mixed together. It's not gonna be as great as having one great one, but it will probably be at least as good as a mediocre or bad one.

            If I'm really in the mood for home-roasted, I typically hedge my bets: I buy a couple, and taste the first one after I've roasted it. If it's bland or stringy, I roast the second. (Or I roast several at a time) I use the sweeter ones for pie and the blander ones for jook, rolls, or soup.

            That said, another way to guarantee good results from home-roasted pumpkin is to go with kabocha, which will definitely give you a deeper color and creamier flesh than the sugar pumpkins one typically finds in the grocery store!

            1. You're not crazy! Take a small sugar pumpkin; slice it in half (stem to bottom) with a good, sharp knife; clean out the goop & seeds. Place it cut side down in a foil-lined casserole dish and add about a 1/2 cup of water to dish. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 45 mins. to an hour. After it's cooled enough to handle, the pumpkin cleans out beautifully with just a regular spoon. The color is gorgeous, and it makes a delicious pumpkin pie with your favorite recipe. Just use a measuring cup for whatever amount your recipe calls for. If it calls for a 16 oz. can, use 2 packed cups, etc. I did this yesterday. Enjoy! (The hardest part of this is splitting the pumpkin open, but it is worth it.)

              1. I've been trying to make the best possible pumpkin ice cream for thanksgiving this year... Having roasted a number of sugar pumpkins and used them, as well as canned pumpkin puree, to practice...My opinion is that the fresh baked is better. I have been baking them in the oven and then sauteing the mashed pumpkin with sugar on the stove to get rid of the water before using the puree in the ice cream base...

                1. I use fresh pumpkin, greg (well-when I'm making pumpkin pie, that is--I just as often make squash pie, but from scratch as well).

                  I start with sugar pumpkins and use the same general roasting procedure that others have mentioned here. I do NOT season the pumpkin slices at this point, because I always end up with more puree than I need for a pie. By not seasoning it at this point, I'm free to use the extra puree (which I freeze) in whatever recipe comes up that's of interest.

                  I do not own a food processor, so when the pumpkin pieces are good and tender and cooled, the skin then comes off with very little effort and I scrape them through a *heavy-duty* sieve (and it is heavy-duty) or one of my stainless steel collander-sieves. I usually use a wooden spoon for this. Takes a little elbow-grease, but it works well and I end up with very little waste.

                  Just my opinion, but I prefer the richness of the flavor after roasting and the texture to that of canned puree. But of course any of our diverse opinions re that can only be matters of personal preference--and it's not like I'd *turn down* a slice of pie made from canned puree. :-D

                  1. In response to "Janet from Richmond"; I can only hope that you're joking. In response to "Procrastibaker" I agree that its better, but don't agree with the "difference is subtle." I made pumpkin pie from scratch last year, and my wife made it this year. The difference, especially this year, was light years. The color, freshness, depth of flavor and ESPECIALLY the texture are incomparable--the difference between eating a slice of Cabot aged cheddar and a slice of individually wrapped American "cheese."

                    As to recipes, my wife this year tried the one on this site under the "you're doing it all wrong" video series. She modified the recipe somewhat based on what she had on hand, so I can't tell you exactly what she did, but the key is, abandon the ubiquitous "pumpkin pie spice." She made up her own blend of spices that included but was not limited to--juniper berries, black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and coriander. Additionally, she added some brown sugar and replaced the sweetened condensed milk with heavy cream. It was fantastic.

                    The roasting itself is easy. Slice in half, scoop out seeds, place face-down on a baking sheet, and roast at 425 until its really, really soft. Optionally, I sprinkle the flesh with some dry sherry before roasting. I do this with butternut squash as well and it really contributes to the flavor. Draining to get rid of the excess moisture is important, then simply blend it until its very very smooth.

                    1. I make Pumpkin pie / cheesecake, etc from scratch always... except years ago I gave up on pumpkin and started using Butternut squash or sometimes Acorn squash.