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A Recipe for Better Pumpkin Pie

No soggy bottoms!

For those who pour their pumpkin pie into an unbaked pie shell and bake, take heart. A simple tweak or two to this method will guarantee a custardy, delicious pie with a crisp crust. Here’s how to make a better pumpkin pie.

whole baked pumpkin pie with slice missing

My Rules of Thanksgiving: 1) Sweet potato casserole requires marshmallows on top; 2) pumpkin pie must be served; and 3) the bottom of said pumpkin pie should not be soggy. This is a recipe for better pumpkin pie. One that is silky and rich, with a crisp crust on the bottom.

While point number one, above, might cause some debate, I bet you a turkey leg that most of American agree that either pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie is a mandatory Thanksgiving dessert. Here’s my best, perfected recipe.

You will also enjoy: How to Make a Perfect Pie Crust and Honey Maple Granola With Pumpkin Seeds

pumpkin pie ingredients in glass bowl

How to Bake a Better Pumpkin Pie (Hint: It’s the Crust!)

I came to love pumpkin pie a little later in life. Something about the cool, earth-toned plainness did not call to me the way warm, mile-high apple pie always did — and still does. But at some point in my late teens, probably because I was hungry and it was lying around on the counter after Thanksgiving, I gave pumpkin pie another taste, and was hooked. I loved the custardy softness scented with baking spices, and the mild sweetness of the pumpkin.

I loved everything about pumpkin pie, except for one thing: the crust.

The Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe has always been my go-to recipe. The problem is that Libby’s calls for pouring the custard directly into an unbaked pie shell. This often leads to a soggy, underbaked bottom crust.

Here’s what to do instead.

empty pie crust for pumpkin pie

Better Pumpkin Pie: Pro Tips

In pastry school, we learned in no uncertain terms that, sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, custard tarts and pies must be baked in a par-baked shell, and not a raw one. The reason is obvious: raw custard is a liquid. That liquid will soak into the raw crust and prevent it from even remotely browning.

Strangely, the pumpkin pie Bible (i.e., the original Libby’s canned pumpkin label*) says to pour the pie mix into a raw shell. I strongly suspect that the good folks at Libby’s are going for ease for harried cooks above all else.

*Non-sequitur: The label’s original 1950s recipe recently changed to incorporate and additional Nestlé product, sweetened condensed milk. Smart sales move, no? The results have been good thus far. 

But here’s the thing: It is no trouble at all to par bake the pie shell. Just do this:

  1. Roll the pie dough out and drape it into the pie tin. Trim the pie dough so that there is still a small lip over the rim of the dough.
  2. Dock the pie dough with a fork.
  3. Let the dough rest, covered, in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Brush it with egg wash, and
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Then, pour in the pie filling and bake the whole pie. Done. Pumpkin pie, but better.

Canned vs. Fresh-Roasted Pumpkin

I admire anyone who loves to roast their own pumpkin to make a homemade pumpkin purée. But I use canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin does a great job, tastes creamy and smooth, and will save you cutting, scooping, roasting, peeling, pureeing, draining . . . you get the idea.

This recipe serves anywhere between one and 8 people, depending on portion size. One whole pie is an acceptable portion size in my book!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dessert? Share in the comments, below.

slices of pumpkin pie on table with coffee and forks

slices of pumpkin pie on table with coffee and forks

Better Libby's Pumpkin Pie

Adapted from Libby's Original Pumpkin Pie recipe, this is a recipe for a better Libby's pumpkin pie thanks to some pro pie-baking techniques. Crisp bottom crust guaranteed.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Par-Baked Pie Shell30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 40 minutes
Course: Dessert
Keywords:: crisp pumpkin pie crust, libby's pumpkin pie recipe, pumpkin pie, thanksgiving desserts
Servings: 8 people
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Ingredients

Pie Shell

  • 1 single 9" pie dough, chilled (recipe below)
  • 1 egg, beaten

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

Instructions

For the Pie Dough

  • Lightly dust the countertop and pie dough on both sides with flour. Roll out the chilled pie dough to 1/8" thick. (The rolled dough should be about 10" to 11" in diameter.)
    PRO TIP: If the pie dough is very cold and will not roll easily, tenderize it by banging it solidly with the rolling pin.
  • Gently drape the pie dough into a 9" deep-dish pie shell. Trim the dough so that an even 1/4" lip hangs over the edge of the rim. Gather the pie dough scraps. Flatten into a round, and reserve, wrapped, in the refrigerator.
  • Loosely cover the pie dough with plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour, or overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the chilled pie dough from the fridge. Prick the base of the chilled pie dough with a fork all over.
    PRO TIP: Pricking the bottom of the pie dough with a fork (called "docking" the dough) helps air escape during baking, preventing large bubbles in the pastry.
  • With a pastry brush (or your fingers in a pinch), brush the surface of the pie shell with the beaten egg. Reserve the remaining egg for later.
  • Bake the pie shell on the center rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. It will still be pale, but partly cooked. It should have a dry appearance.
    While the pie shell is baking, roll out the round of pie dough scraps and cut into decorative circles, leaves, or other shapes using a paring knife or small cutters. Chill on a sheet pan.

For the Pumpkin Pie

  • Raise the oven temperature to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, two eggs, and pumpkin puree. Stir in the evaporated milk and mix until everything is emulsified.
    TIP: The pumpkin pie filling can be made while the crust is par-baking.
  • Pour the pumpkin filling into the par-baked pie shell. Decorate with the pie dough scrap shapes, and brush lightly with the remaining the egg wash to give it a nice gloss.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the pie does not jiggle in the center. Let cool fully before serving.
    Pumpkin pie can be made up to two days in advance of serving. Store, uncovered, in the refrigerator. Covering with plastic wrap will cause condensation to form on the top of the custard, which will not look as nice!

13 comments

  • Hi Lisa!
    Thanks so much for this recipe ! It is perfection !
    Happy Thanksgiving !

  • I would like to try the par-baking technique but I’m curious about the oven temp. Your instructions say to raise the oven temp to 350 for baking the pie with the filling, but what is the temp for par baking the crust? I couldn’t find it in the recipe. Thanks so much for the helpful pie tips!

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Lynn! Great catch! I realized that I accidentally deleted that (very important!) information when I edited something. The temperature for par-baking the pie shell should be 325 degrees F. I added it back into the directions. My apologies, and happy baking.

      • The crust was crisp and flaky. Just perfect.! I also used the same technique for my pecan pie recipe. The best ever! Thanks!

  • Hi
    I do not see what temp the crust should be baked at before raising temp to 350 with filling.

    Help!!!
    Deb

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Deb! Ack!! So sorry. I realized that I accidentally deleted that (very important!) information when I edited something. The temperature for par-baking the pie shell should be 325 degrees F. I added it back into the directions. My apologies, and happy baking.

  • I love the idea of par baking the crust but have concerns that it will slump/shrink. Generally when I blind bake a crust I fill it with dried beans. This recipe calls for egg wash and, therefore, no weights. And calls for the crust to be trimmed to a “small lip” yet the picture shows what looks to me like more than a small lip. So, my questions are can I crimp the edge as I would normally and how do I keep it from slumping down without weights.
    In closing I want to tell you that I love your recipes and your website is my favorite. Other bloggers fill their websites so full of advertisements it’s often hard to navigate through. Thank you so much for your informative and restful website.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Patti! That is such a very good observation. (I can tell I am talking to a savvy baker!) The photo was taken before I trimmed the pie dough edges, so it is in fact larger than it will be when baked. As for blind baking with beans, you are right that doing so generally helps with slumping. You can definitely do that: par-bake halfway with beans, then remove, egg wash, and finish par-baking until it looks dry. However, I wanted to make this as simple as possible. I find that chilling the dough for a long time relaxes the gluten enough where there is little shrinkage, and having the lip compensates for any amount of dough that falls down. Also, when the pie dough is filled with the pumpkin custard, you have the opportunity to decorate the edge with leaves, circles, etc. This will compensate for anything that looks less than perfection. I hope this helps, and thank you so very much for your kind words about the website! I do try to make it a nice experience for readers. I will probably run an ad or two in the future to make some money, but I have promised myself NO POP-UP ADS, EVER! I’d rather it look nice. Anyway, thank you again and a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Jean Kennell

    Just wondering…you said the new recipe called for sweetened condensed milk. Have you tried that recipe? I’m definitely going to par bake my crust this year….and I do roast my own pumpkin-it’s easy!

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Jean! I have not tried the new recipe yet, but am going to try this Thanksgiving (if not before) to compare the two. I love my evaporated milk version, I stick with that. But I’m looking forward to testing the new version. What kind of pumpkin do you roast? Do you have to put it through a food mill? I should try it. (Two pumpkin pie resolutions in one Thanksgiving!) Thanks for writing, and when I try the new Libby’s recipe, I’ll let you know!

  • 5 stars
    Good tip! I always hated the soggy bottom of a pumpkin pie. This tasted great. My crust sunk a little, but I think it’s because I didn’t chill it long enough.

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