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Oct 31, 2011 11:44 AM

"Less Sweet" / "More Pumpkin-y" Pumpkin Pie Recipe...

Hi Chowhounders, I'm looking for a pumpkin pie recipe that is less sweet (and hopefully tastes more like a natural pumpkin). I've tried researching it myself but I am not sure what search terms to use. I tried looking for agave sweetened, natural etc.

1. Anyone have a suggestion on what recipe search terms to use?

2. Anyone have a good recipe that is a lot less sweet? As a reference point: Marie Calendar's and Costo's pies are WAY too sweet and the $40 one from Urth is just a little bit too sweet.

I realize I can just decrease the sugar in most recipes that use canned purees but I am wondering what else is out there.


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  1. What if you roast the pumpkin to intensify the flavor? That'll also increase the sweetness so you can cut back on sugar. Something like this:

    I've made pumpkin pie and forgotten the sugar. The texture was fine, I ended up melting marshamallows on top and it was just sweet enough but not overly so. I'd play with the recipe, use about 1/2 c of brown sugar instead.

    1. If you just used canned pumpkin without adding all the sugar, you'll end up with a pie that is rather bland and high on the "ick" factor.

      To replicate pumpkin flavor without overt sweetness, try roasting and then pureeing kabocha squash and using that as your filling. Same color, but very similar to slightly sweet pumpkin without verging on too sugary.

      Also, cut back or replace all of the evaporated milk with some buttermilk.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        I use sugar pumpkin, whole milk, 2T molasses and 1/2 c brown sugar. It tastes like pumpkin.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Kabocha has good flavor even without seasoning, not even salt. Some complain, though, that it is dry, especially if roasted in large pieces. I like to steam it, and then puree it in a food mill.

          But what is a pumpkin flavor? People often complain about how bland their pumpkin or hard squash soup is. Soup needs plenty of salt, and spices like ginger help a lot. Similarly, a pie made with straight pumpkin puree (e.g. from a can) will be bland without seasoning. For many of us the real taste of pumpkin pie comes from the 'pumpkin pie' spices - cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. I also like to use molasses in a pumpkin bread, though I don't know how it would work in a pie.

          How about this approach:
          - start with a can of pumpkin puree (canners choose flavorful, sweet pumpkins)
          - before adding eggs, season it to taste
          - I'd start with half the sugar of typical recipe, and all the pumpkin spice mix. Then go from there, tasting and adding spice. Don't forget a pinch or more of salt.
          - once you like the taste of the puree add the other ingredients that will make the custard (eggs etc). You might even want the puree to be overseasoned, since the other ingredients will dilute it.
          - adding spice to the crust might help.

          1. re: paulj

            Via another thead, a NYT Kabocha pie

            Japanese often like to leave the skin on, or just remove it in strips. They like the added flavor, and don't mind (at least in many applications) the texture and color difference. I'm tempted to try a pie with the skin, just to see if it makes a difference in taste. It probably would mess with most American's expectations of what a pumpkin pie should look like.

            1. re: paulj

              Sweet potatoes are another option. Again I am partial to Japanese and Korean varieties, which have good flavor by themselves, but also work well sweetened.

          2. I like the Good Morning America winner from several years ago:
            It is a darker colored custard and gets its sweetness from a brown sugar-butter-pecan layer between the pie and crust.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jboeke

              isn't it very sweet? It has as much sugar as pumpkin.

              1. re: magiesmom

                I find the filling to be more spiced than sweet, but yes, the praline layer is sticky-sweet. The two compliment though, so I think you taste more pumpkin as it contrasts the praline sugar. Just my opinion!

            2. i make my own puree -- so i bake the pumpkin, then puree it, then i add a little bit of brown sugar and make a not particularly sweet pumpkin butter, really just pulling a lot of the excess moisture out and concentrating the flavor. i do a combo of brown and white sugar, vanilla, spices, and dairy depends upon my mood.