Pumpkin pie – from scratch or from a can

It’s pumpkin pie season! For those of you who love pumpkin pie and are wondering how to make it (should you make the crust from scratch? should you use pumpkin pie filling or pumpkin puree or should you just buy it already made?) I have a series of pumpkin pie taste tests that I’ve done.

This post explores whether you should use fresh pumpkin and puree it yourself to make the filling or if you’re better off buying canned pumpkin at the grocery store.

Pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin

I bought a pie pumpkin from the farmer’s market and decided to make a pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin. First, you have to choose the right pumpkin – smaller pumpkins (called sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins) are used for making pumpkin pie. You don’t want to use a large pumpkin that you would carve into a jack o lantern as they aren’t as sweet. Pie pumpkins range anywhere from $0.99 to $3 depending on where you shop. A colleague of mine lives in farm country and can find them for $0.97. I live in downtown Toronto and bought one for $3 at the farmer’s market. (ouch!) But I hear that there are No Frills stores in Toronto that also sell them for $0.99.

The hardest part for me was taking the time to either roast the pumpkin in the oven or zap it in the microwave. You basically need to cook it until it’s soft enough to scoop out the flesh. Then you have to blend. It’s definitely more work than buying a can of pureed pumpkin but at $2.99/can vs. $0.99 for an entire pumpkin you’re really paying for convenience.

Which pie tastes better?

My taste testers tried both pies and they were able to identify which one was made with fresh pumpkin because the color looked more natural (it was a lighter orange, almost yellow colour) versus a dark, bright orange color. Taste wise, the fresh pumpkin pie has a slightly milder taste with a slightly lighter custardy texture which wasn’t a thick as the canned pumpkin. But both pies tasted very similar. In fact, it would be very hard to taste the difference if they weren’t side by side.

But the biggest difference was the colour. The pie made with fresh pumpkin had a much lighter hue. It was a yellowy beige colour similar to sugar pie. The pie made with canned pumpkin had a dark orange hue, similar to the pies that I often see sold in grocery stores.

Both pies were acceptable but people did prefer the pie made with fresh pumpkin slightly more. Which I am happy to hear because it took more effort to roast and puree a fresh pumpkin. If you don’t have a blender and are short on time, canned pumpkin is totally acceptable (and it a lot simpler if you only need to make one pie). A pumpkin pie made with fresh pumpkin would be a nice option if you already plan on roasting a number of things throughout the day and can pop in the pumpkin and the pie to bake off along with the rest of the things. Or if you’re making a lot of pies (it will be significantly cheaper than buying canned pureed pumpkin or if you plan on making other recipes that call for pumpkin. One pie pumpkin will yield quite a bit.

The bottom line

If you’re just making a single pumpkin pie, canned pumpkin is a totally acceptable option (and is a lot faster and easier). But if you’re making more than one (or have other recipes that call for pumpkin) use fresh pumpkin and make sure you have a good blender.