Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Nov 21, 2010 04:43 PM

Costco Pumpkin Pie Why?

What is the deal with Costco's Pumpkin pies?

I keep trying to make a really good pie from scratch including pie crust but I always get compared to Costco. Friends and in-laws swear it’s the best pie they have ever tasted. Crust certainly is not, but I give trying to win the home made argument. Anyone know what spices they put in their pies?

I can gather so far is they really bump up the spices, like double normal recipe. Yet one friend commented how theirs are not over spiced like other places. I am guessing processed food like that is probably out of a can and people are mostly responding to the flavor of the spices and not texture of the filling or the quality of the crust.

Any suggestion? Copycat recipes?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Is it possible they have the research and resources to develop a pumpkin pie for the masses?
    Everyone I know seems to like it.

    There will always be Costco pumpkin pie snobs....The ones that buy the $25 pumpkin pies here in Los Angeles.

    1. I am a big fan of the Costco pumpkin pies, and really all of their baked goods.

      But when you say ... "I am guessing processed food like that is probably out of a can and people are mostly responding to the flavor of the spices and not texture of the filling or the quality of the crust." ... do you realize that the best pumpkin pies (in most people's opinions, mine included) are from canned pumpkins, and not fresh roasting pumpkins?

      What's that old saying? If you can't beat them, join them?

      11 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        Or make a pie that Costco doesn't make.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Libby's a subsidiary of Nestlé has an 80%-90% market share of the canned pumpkin market. Chances are pretty good most people are using the same canned mix.

          You said you were going to make the pie from know the jack-o-lantern pumpkins aren't the pumpkins to use for pumpkin pie?

          1. re: monku

            you know the jack-o-lantern pumpkins aren't the pumpkins to use for pumpkin pie?

            Yes, of course I know that.

            Carving pumpkins are too stringy, and have no taste. If you are going to use fresh pumpkins, you must find the smaller "roasting" pumpkins.

              1. re: monku

                It's so hard to find decent, much less good, roasting pumpkins.

                If the OP intends on going the fresh route, better to use kabocha squash (or Japanese winter squash), which in both texture and taste is very similar to pumpkin, with a bit of a sweet potato flair. Very very good squash for making pies.

              2. re: ipsedixit

                I disagree wholeheartedly about Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins being no good for pies. That is all I use, and I have even converted a couple of "I hate pumpkin pie" people. Every year I get raves about the pies that I make. I did 6 this past week. I use the standby Eagle brand recipe , but my spice mix is cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom.

                The crust was Mom's favorite, the Spry water whip crust. 3/4 c shortening, 1 tbs milk, 1tsp salt, and 1/2 c boiling water, and 2c flour. I whip everything except the water, and flour till it looks like whipped cream, then add the water , and again whip till it looks like whipped cream. Add the flour, and bump the mixer just enough to cut the mix together. Makes 2 crusts.

                One of the main compliments I get is that my pies is that they have some texture, and are not smooth like baby food. To prep the pumpkin I cut it into strips, cut the skin off, then cube it up as it goes into the pot. Add a quart, or two of water, and simmer till soft. Mash with a potato masher, and it is good to go. When I get ready to use the cooked pumpkin I drain it first of any excess water before measuring it out. This helps with the cooking times.

                Use canned if ya want, but I won't be changing anytime soon, as I would have a bunch of people mad at me if I did.

                1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                  Doctor, I hope with your fondness for experimentation, that you give this one a try, too.

                  We had 3 pumpkin pies at our celebration -- 2 made with "cinderella pumpkins" -- the ones the French call potiron. The third pie was made with a jack-o'lantern pumpkin.

                  The difference was palpable -- the three recipes were very similar, but the jack-o'lantern pumpkin was grainy and the flavor very bland. The potiron pies were a nice color, velvety smooth and with a distinctly "pumpkin-y" flavor -- huge difference, and based on the state of the pie plates, hugely preferred.

                  If you get raves with your recipe, I'd chalk it up to the recipe itself -- and if you were to try pie pumpkins, I'm guessing you'd make eyes roll back in their heads in ecstasy.

              3. re: monku

                I think I read 90% of all pumpkin pies in America are Libby's. So given that, I think even if I went that route, it would still not taste like Costco. I dont know what thier recipe is.

              4. re: ipsedixit

                I agree with ipse- and have made a policy to buy a pumpkin pie at Costco whenever they have them for the duration of the season. I would do the same for their cherry pies if they didn't quit making them after a year or two. Go ahead and be a pie snob if it makes you vfeel better, but i'm not into baking, will likely never be good with crusts, and I can always put somethng extra on top of a Costco pumpkin pie if the flavor is a little mild for my taste. Usually it's not.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  But what if at some point Costco stops offering pumpkin pies? Or if they change the recipe, maybe using cheaper ingredients? Those are a couple of reasons to try and duplicate it.

                2. A friend and I used to make something like 25 pumpkin pies each holiday season, starting with real pumpkins that I roasted in my oven. We set up an assembly line with Kitchen Aid mixers, Cuisinart food processors, blenders etc. We used to do it at her parent's two-family brownstone so that we would have access to two kitchens with double wall ovens. It was a lot of fun, and they tasted great, but the product could never stand up to a great pie from a bakery in terms of texture. There is virtually nothing that you can do to get the pumpkin puree as smooth unless you strain it at some point. The crusts were certainly better than commercial pies, but we found the commercial pies bland and literally doubled or tripled the pre-ground spices called for in the recipe, and the pies were not too spicy at all. This was according to our friends and families, who were certainly comfortable enough with us to offer suggestions while we were baking. In those days, your cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg were all pre-ground in a can, so they were probably not as potent as what you can get today. No Cassia cinnamon in those days.

                  As for the Costco mystique, I think it is to some degree the taste and texture, but there is something gratifying about buying a giant pie at a reasonable price, which conveniently just happens to be sitting there waiting for you when you are picking up one of their rotisserie chickens. I wouldn't call them the gold standard, but they are very good. Still, nothing resembled the texture and taste of those old home made ones. Keep trying and good luck.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: RGC1982

                    hats off to you!
                    This is exactly why people don't make pumpkin pie from scratch... it's an assembly line, scalable process.

                    1. re: RGC1982

                      Yes, I even buy real cinnamon that you can only get at a specialty spice merchant. So based on comments here is my new guess.

                      Triple all the spices
                      Bump up the salt
                      Bump up the sugar
                      Use Libby's for the filling

                      I guess what I am getting at is something I read somewhere that American taste buds are dulled by fast food and processed food loaded with salt and sugar. The masses have become so used to that ration to cover up bad food, that even good food tastes bland if not kicked up with salt and sugar.

                      I do think there is also an added mystique of cheap, easy and massive amounts that add to the Costco thing.

                      Maybe this should be on Myth Busters. Anyone up to the challenge of making your own bumped up version and switching it out on a Costco snob to see if its still their favorite?

                      1. re: kjonyou

                        People like to throw the word "processed" around.
                        Libby's pumpkin pie filling can says "100% Pumpkin", Ingredient: Pumpkin (nothing else).
                        You said you use "real cinnamon", does Costco not use "real" cinnamon? there imitation cinnamon?

                        I assume they would have to "bump" up the ingredients because the Costco pumpkin pie is maybe twice as big as a home made sized pie. Do you not use sugar or salt when making your pumpkin pie?

                        From your comments it doesn't sound like you've ever tasted a Costco pumpkin pie.

                        1. re: monku

                          Most of the spice that is sold as 'ground cinnamon' in the U.S. Is actually cassia and not true cinnamon.

                          1. re: John E.

                            Thank you, John E. There is "real cinnamon" and the cinnamon we know in America. They are not at all the same, and you'd NEVER want the real thing in your pumpkin pie.

                          2. re: monku

                            Actually I have, all the time because as I said, other people who get into the holidays brag about buying a Costco Pie, which is odd since I dont brag about buying Costco toilet paper.

                            1. re: kjonyou

                              sniff. nobody brags about what toilet paper they buy.
                              I brag about Costco olives, because they're fantastic!

                      2. I have no idea why people like the costco pies so much. I've only tried one once and wasn't blown away. I did notice, however, that it was far sweeter than the pies we make from scratch.

                        As with anything pre-made, I'm Guessing that the salt and sugar are used less sparingly than when made at home.

                        And, as I've made this mistake when I was a kid, don't use anything other than a pie pumpkin when trying to please the masses. Buy a small pumpkin that is called a "pie pumpkin" and see if that helps. I do like to try other pumpkins but found the jack-o-lanterns to be "bleh" and kind of savory.

                        We use individual spices, never "pie spice" and we only use fresh, organic spices. Okay, when we can't afford organic we just buy regular fresh spices but not the ones in the jars that could be from any decade! We get our spices from Vitamin Cottage in bulk and in small amounts so they don't sit in the cabinet foreverrrrrr. Also, don't store your spices in the sunlight.

                        I do think there are a great many folks who actually prefer the pre-made taste to the home-made taste; I am not one of them. Okay, I AM one of them when it comes to hummus. But, that is only because they salt it an a way I would never do at home...mmmm.

                        I also think that it is a bit odd that someone would tell you your pie is not as good as a store bought pie. That would have hurt my tender feelings if it was me :( Maybe they don't want homemade...

                        1. According to this article from a couple years ago, it sounds like Costco makes their pumpkin pies like folks do at home except on a larger scale.