Looking for a creamy, flavorful pumpkin pie that’s sure to impress your friends and family? We tested 12 popular pies in search of the best pumpkin pie recipe!
Every year without fail, I find myself googling “best pumpkin pie recipe.” With this experiment, we set out to answer the question once and for all. To settle this question, I made 12 popular pumpkin pie recipes in one day. I asked more than 20 tasters to rank their favorites, and though “favorite” is subjective, we had a one winner rise to the top! Let’s dive in.
Methodology: how we baked all 12 pumpkin pies
The recipe selection was less formal than the best pumpkin bread bake off or the chocolate chip cookie bake off. I basically selected recipes that I wanted to try and added two of the winners from this epic pumpkin pie bake off.
- All 12 pies were baked the day of the tasting
- Most crusts were made 1-3 days beforehand and refrigerated; two crusts (Flour and BraveTart) were pre-baked the night before)
- I made 8 of the pies, and three superstar friends helped me out with the other 4.
- Each taster ranked each overall pie, its filling and its crust separately on a scale from 1-10. They also answered the question “would you want to eat this again?”
Best Pumpkin Pie Results
As with most bake offs, I think most of these recipes are delicious and worth making! It simply depends on your preference for the spice mix, texture and crust consistency.
I honestly think that every single pie would be very well-received as a standalone pie at a gathering. Even the lowest-ranked pie was superior to any storebought pie. The goal of these bake offs is always to find the most crowd-pleasing pies AND to help you find your ideal pie based on the descriptions. For reference, my ideal pumpkin pie has a mild spice level with a creamy, thick filling in a medium thick, very flaky crust.
While I do think the top recipes are well-deserved, I encourage you to read through the entire post to find your ultimate pumpkin pie!
Note: if you’re looking for a super spicy pumpkin pie, none of these pies really fit the bill. One taster was a spicy pumpkin pie lover who thought they were all far too mild. If that sounds like you, you might want to adapt the filling to include more spices.
|Overall||Crust||Filling||Would eat again?|
|Four & Twenty Blackbirds||5.97||6.52||5.85||67%|
|Joy the Baker||5.52||5.48||5.24||52%|
Analysis: Best Pumpkin Pie Crust
Interestingly, the top rated crusts were all 100% butter crusts, and the recipes are honestly almost identical. However, Serious Eats had a few more tablespoons of butter and a tad more sugar compared to similar all-butter recipes. Clearly, people love all-butter crusts (though all-butter doughs can be hard to hold crimps as well).
It also shows that the crust can really depend on how you roll it. You can over-roll identical dough recipes to be either chewy or incredibly flaky. My best advice is to work it as little and as quickly as possible. I loved the pops of salt in the Serious Eats crust, but wished it had been as thick as Modern Honey. I’d try rolling it thicker next time.
First: Modern Honey (6.7)
Second: Four & Twenty (6.5)
Third: Serious Eats (6.5)
(Closely followed by Flour, Henry Pie and SBA)
Analysis: Best Pumpkin Pie Filling
These scores pretty closely mirror the top 3 overall pies. One taster noted that “it was hard to rate the crust when I didn’t like the filling.” So really, the filling makes the pie. It was gratifying to see that all the work that went into reducing the pumpkin puree for Flour’s filling and making my own condensed milk for BraveTart’s custard didn’t go to waste.
The interesting thing about the top 3 (and even top 6) scores, however, are how different they are:
- Flour (and the Henry Pie and Sally’s) are very traditional custards
- Modern Honey and Serious Eats both incorporate cream cheese
- Modern Honey and BraveTart both have very thick textures similar to sweet potato casserole
Conclusion: your perfect pie depends greatly on your personal preference for texture, sweetness level, amount of effort, etc.
First: Flour (6.9)
Second: Modern Honey (6.8)
Third: BraveTart (6.5)
(Closely followed by Serious Eats, Henry Pie, SBA).
Analysis: Best Overall Pumpkin Pies
Modern Honey (7.03 overall / 75% would eat again)
Modern Honey’s pumpkin pie wowed tasters with a distinctly caramelized, sugary surface, buttery crust, and thick, almost cheesecake-like texture. This was one of two pies that incorporated cream cheese in the filling. However, Modern Honey differed from Serious Eats with powdered sugar and twice the amount of butter. As you can see below, Serious Eats had a much smoother texture. I think the added cornstarch from the powdered sugar lent Modern Honey a thicker texture that many tasters loved. I’m not even a huge cheesecake fan, but this was the pie that I kept coming back to.
Make this if: You’re into a more hefty, cheesecake-like texture with a caramelized top and thicker, buttery crust. It’s easy to make, though it does have a long bake time.
Flour Bakery’s Super Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie (7.0 overall / 75% would eat again)
This recipe comes from James Beard award-winning owner behind Boston-based Flour Bakery, Joanne Chang. The combination butter-shortening crust yielded a gorgeously flaky crust! Meanwhile, the filling incorporates a cooked-down pumpkin puree paste for a super shiny, silky filling. Most tasters loved the well-balanced flavor of the filling, the custardy texture and the thin, crisp crust. This pie also tied for first place in this epic pumpkin pie bake off!
The downside? It’s a TON OF WORK. Reducing the pumpkin takes around 45 minutes, pre-baking the crust takes 50 minutes, and baking the pie takes another hour. My recommendation: bake the crust and cook down the pumpkin the night before, and tackle the rest the day of. PS: this was the only recipe that called for brushing the crust with an egg white before filling. The bottom crust remained super flaky 2 days later!
PPS. I’ve made this pie at least 5 times since (it’s that good). My only change? I like to 1.5x the crust recipe for a slightly thicker crust!
Make this if: You want a show-stopping pumpkin pie with a super-silky filling, a thin and flaky crust, and don’t mind a labor-intensive recipe.
BraveTart (6.89 overall / 63% would eat again)
Stella Parks of BraveTart was the source for this pumpkin-less pumpkin pie. This pie was unique for its use of freshly roasted butternut squash instead of canned pumpkin. (Which, for the record, is generally made up of a squash that is part of the butternut family). Although this pie was highly rated, BraveTart proved more divisive than Flour’s pie with only a 64% would-eat-again rating. Tasters praised it for the mild, sweet, thick filling with notes of caramel. Several complained that the filling was too mild or too sweet and that the very thin crust was overcooked. (This was likely baker’s error. I’d recommend covering the crust with foil during the second baking!)
After it sat overnight, I noticed that the filling thickened significantly. Imagine a sweet potato casserole-ish, stick-to-your-mouth texture with more pronounced milky-sweet notes of the homemade condensed milk. Like Flour’s recipe, this is a lot of effort. The homemade condensed milk took about an hour longer than stated to reduce all the way on an electric stove! It also requires a fully blind-baked crust and roasting your own butternut squash. Still, if you have the time and love a thick, richly textured pie, this pie is well worth it. I’m excited to try one of the infusing options Stella lists for the homemade condensed milk in the future. (Chai spice! Ginger rosemary!).
Make this if: You love multi-step baking projects and are looking for a very rich and sweet pie.
Sally’s Baking Addiction (6.5 overall / 74% would eat again)
Sally is renowned for her rigorously-tested baking recipes, and it showed in this crowd-pleasing pie. Most tasters liked the mild spice mix (including special ingredient black pepper!) and the crumbly, almost shortbread-like crust. Some tasters loved the extremely light, mousse-like texture while others found it too soft or “smooshy.”
Sally’s crust is a combination butter-shortening crust with almost a 2:1 ratio of shortening to butter. I expected to prefer the 2:1 butter to shortening crust ratios, but Sally’s turned out to be one of my favorite crusts. She recommends making the filling the night before to let the flavors meld. This is a great tip that can be applied to any pie.
Make this if: You love a light and fluffy custard, a shortbread-like crust, and plenty of detailed instructions.
Serious Eats (6.4 overall / 68% would eat again)
Besides Modern Honey, this was the only other cream cheese pie in the mix. The “Extra-Smooth Pumpkin Pie” promises that less liquid in the filling will help to prevent a soggy bottom crust. It also uses a unique easy pie dough technique. Kenji goes into some interesting crust science that explains why adding flour in two stages is essential. The resulting super flaky, thick, picturesque crust with perfect hits of salt was one of my favorites.
Unlike Modern Honey’s craggier texture, the filling was incredibly smooth and creamy thanks to the optional straining. The filling has a delightfully balanced, tangy, “cinnamon toast” esque flavor. Some tasters found this pie too bland for their taste, with a mushy rather than creamy texture. (I don’t personally agree with this assessment.)
Make this if: You want the tang of cheesecake (not just for cheesecake lovers!) but the smooth texture of pumpkin pie with a really delicious, salty crust.
Henry Pie (6.2 overall / 57% would eat again)
This is my friend Jacqueline’s family pie! This unique crust uses just 1/4 cup of vegetable oil (no butter/shortening!). The filling comes from the Butter Baked Goods cookbook. Surprisingly, some tasters loved the crumbly, salty, semi-thin crust texture. Most also liked the smooth, well-spiced filling, though some noted it was too sweet. (To me, it was an average filling. Not bad, not exciting.).
In terms of ease, this is one of the easiest pies to make. I highly recommend this if you don’t want to deal with the hassles of a butter crust.
Make this if: You want a quick, low-hassle crust (no dealing with butter or shortening) and you like sweet pumpkin custards. This is probably the best taste payoff for the least effort.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds (6.0 overall / 67% would eat again)
I was excited about this recipe, which hails from the pie goddesses at Four & Twenty Blackbirds bakeshop in New York. With a beautifully uncracked, deeply orange filling and a truly delicious all-butter crust, this pie had notes of caramel and butterscotch that some loved. Many praised the “good pumpkin flavor” and “great crust.” Although it requires a lot of ingredients (cc: molasses, carrot juice), the recipe wasn’t quite as involved as Flour or Bravetart. It does, however, require you to make a brown butter-based butterscotch sauce that gets whisked into the pumpkin mixture. I noticed these notes deepening as the pie sat. But I also wonder if cooking the butterscotch further could help heighten the flavor faster. It also requires straining the filling through a fine mesh sieve for a flawlessly uniform filling.
Interestingly, some tasters noted a custardy, flan-like texture, while other tasters simply thought this pie was undercooked. PS. The linked recipe doesn’t specify par-baking details, so I followed these crust instructions. (Essentially, bake at 425 with pie weights for 15-20 minutes until pale but just starting to brown).
Make this if: You love a soft, flavorful pumpkin pie texture and are a brown butter and crust fiend.
All Recipes (5.9 overall / 64% would eat again)
All Recipes was one of the most photogenic pies with a crust that held its crimp through baking and didn’t crack at all. This recipe pretty much pegged what I think of as classic pumpkin pie texture.
Heavy on the yolks and condensed milk, the filling is mild–almost too much so for most tasters. Most tasters thought the crust didn’t really taste like anything, although most loved the flakiness of the crust. One taster called this a “solid traditional pie,” and I generally agree. It’s not the most exciting, but it’s pretty and easy to make (no blind baking!).
Make this if: You want a solid, mild, easy-to-make traditional pie with a beautiful crust.
Cook’s Illustrated (5.54 overall / 52% would eat again)
Aside from Four and Twenty Blackbirds and Serious Eats, this was the only other pie that called for straining the filling. Accordingly, the beautifully colored custard was silky smooth and particularly moist. Although the filling called for fresh ginger, the flavor didn’t really come through–and neither did a lot of other flavors. (For example I’m not convined the candied yams added anything). Many tasters found the pie bland and, hilariously, suspected it was a healthy pie due to the creaminess and bland flavor. (“Tofu?” questioned one taster). Several did praise the buttery crust! (Fun fact: the vodka crust was actually developed by Kenji before he went to Serious Eats. I still slightly prefer his easy pie dough).
This pie actually bears a lot of similarities to Flour’s pie. They both cook the filling before baking and the crusts are very similar. This one uses just a tad more salt, sugar, shortening and adds vodka. If you’re wondering about the large cracks, this is likely due to overbaking–yet the filling didn’t taste overbaked!
Make this if: You’re a Cook’s Illustrated junkie and want a beautifully moist, vibrantly hued pie. (I would recommend increasing the spices.)
Joy the Baker (5.51 overall / 52% would eat again)
Joy’s pie stood out for its buttermilk crust. The filling was similar to Sally’s Baking Addiction, but with less sugar and heavy cream. This was the closest to a “spicy pie” thanks to a heavy dose of cinnamon, ginger and fresh grated nutmeg.
Ultimately, the crust looked beautiful and was flaky and easy to work with. Unfortunately, it didn’t carry that much flavor, and I personally didn’t enjoy the strong ginger and nutmeg overtones.
Make this if: You love ginger and nutmeg a whole lot and want an easy-to-work crust.
King Arthur Flour’s Golden Pie (4.9 overall / 29% would eat again)*
This pie tied with Flour’s pie for first place in that pumpkin pie bake off! The unusual whole grain crust uses oat flour and whole wheat flour. An even more unique filling is sweetened entirely by honey! Unfortunately, this pie became a victim to my baking errors. I ran out of honey and subbed maple syrup for half, and my whole wheat flour may have been stale. The custard tasted weirdly watery and soggy when I first tasted it, but tasted much better once it sat overnight.
On the plus side, the crust was a dream to work with (hence the fancier crimp). The downside? It burned very easily despite being covered with foil the entire time. I think this pie could have fared better had I used fresh whole wheat flour. However, I’m not convinced that the all-honey custard would have won over the majority of the tasters.
Make this if: You love the flavor of honey and whole grain crusts.
*It appears King Arthur has removed this recipe from their site. But if you’re curious, you can find the recipe in their whole grain baking cookbook.
Libby’s (4.7 overall / 27% would eat again)
We paired the classic Libby’s filling with Crisco’s all-shortening pie crust. Since Libby didn’t specify a pie crust recipe, I was curious to pit an all-shortening crust against the all-butter crusts! This is the only pie I’d made before. It’s a super easy pie to make, and hits all the right notes in terms of a classic pumpkin pie texture. However, most found the spice mix too mild. And although the crust looked beautifully flaky, it tasted like a storebought crust. That is, it didn’t really didn’t taste like anything.
I wouldn’t make the crust again (would use any other all butter or combo crust). I also wouldn’t use the filling again unless I was in a rush and had an inspired idea for a better spice mix.
Make this if: Your alternative is a storebought pie.
FAQ: How to bake the best pumpkin pie
In case you are not a pie expert like me, here are some techniques I learned that will hopefully help you too!
After testing multiple different methods, I found Flour Bakery’s method to be the simplest. Fold the pie dough loosely into quarters and transfer the dough from the counter to the pie dish where you’ll unfold and crimp the pie. It works brilliantly as long as you work fast (dusting the surface with flour also helps). This is how I will transfer pie dough from now on!
Look for the pumpkin pie jiggle. To me, the distinction is this: if there are alarmingly large ripples (like water underneath a layer of ice), keep baking. If it’s just wobbly in the center but the edges are set, take it out. The pie will continue to set as it cools!
My favorite way is to form a V with my forefinger and thumb with one hand–use a finger to push the dough into the V and you have a crimp! In my opinion, the simplest way to crimp a pie dough is to use a fork to flatten the edge onto the pie dish (this is purely decorative with a pumpkin pie). These videos are helpful if you’d like a visual.
The most popular pie weight alternatives include dried foods like dried beans, uncooked rice, popcorn kernels or coins. I’m not a huge fan of using coins for sanitary reasons. I’m also not a fan of using the dried food items since you won’t be able to consume them afterwards.
My favorite alternative is using granulated sugar! This is a great no-waste alternative because you can use the roasted sugar just like regular sugar in another recipe. Let the warm sugar cool completely before storing it in an airtight container for later!
I didn’t notice a big difference between crusts that were blind baked during the tasting. BUT the blind baked (i.e. twice-baked) crusts were much more susceptible to burning, so I’d recommend covering the crust with foil or a pie guard even if the recipe doesn’t specify. Also, when I tasted leftover pie two days later, I noticed that the Flour crust (the only one brushed with egg white to prevent crust sogginess) was significantly flakier.
We made all the pies the day of because I thought fresh pie would be superior. However, I actually liked some of the pies better after an overnight rest in the fridge. Cold custard takes on a fudgier texture and the rest gives the flavors more time to mingle and meld. You can also get a head start on melding flavors by mixing the filling the night before baking.
Glass pans are best for baking because they distribute heat evenly and you can easily see through the bottom to check whether your crust is browning. Placing your pie on a preheated baking sheet can also help prevent a soggy crust. Aluminum pie pans are less desirable because their thin walls can’t conduct as much heat and thus it will take longer for a pie to bake.
Erika’s picks: My personal dream pie would be the Serious Eats pie crust with Modern Honey’s filling.
HOWEVER: if I was making a pie for…
…a traditional family gathering and had a lot of time, I’d make the Flour pie.
…a traditional family gathering and didn’t have a lot of time, I’d go with Sally’s Baking Addiction or Modern Honey or Serious Eats.
…a traditional family gathering and had even less time, I’d do Henry Pie or All Recipes, depending on the ingredients on hand.
…a trendy foodie Friendsgiving, I’d make the BraveTart or Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie.