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Fresh Pumpkin Pie vs. Canned Pumpkin Pie: Is it Worth the Time?

By Christina Ossa

Volume 1 Issue 3

December 16, 2020

Fresh Pumpkin Pie vs. Canned Pumpkin Pie: Is it Worth the Time?

Original photo by Christina Ossa

When it comes to the holidays, it can be confusing what to or how to bake, what recipes to use, and how much time to devote to your desserts, so the process can get complicated. It’s also very tempting to just ask Mom to bake something or buy something for the holiday dessert, but this year you should try something new. Even if you’ve never baked before or aren’t interested in baking, you should at least give it an attempt.

This year, you should try to bake a pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkins. Now, I know this could sound like plenty of work, but the outcome is worth the effort you put into it. This pie is strong in its spice flavor, yet it has a sweet touch to it. The texture also is like pudding, and if you’re feeling up to it, making the crust gives it such a different dimension of flavor. The crust tastes like a shortbread cookie, and it’s sweet and flaky like one too. But, like all amazing desserts, this pie will take its fair share of time and effort. If you’re a baking fanatic like me, or even just a casual baker on the side, you’ll definitely enjoy the process. Also, if it’s too much work to make the crust, then just cut that step out because as good as it is, a downfall is that it’s also a tedious process to roll out and form the dough. If you are going for a pre-made pie crust, however, I recommend the crust from the brand Pillsbury. Also, I made my sweetened condensed milk from scratch, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to because it was a long process to make it. But the difference between canned and fresh ingredients is huge, and you’d be surprised by the difference in flavor. Homemade condensed milk and pumpkin puree is a lot better than canned in my opinion; there aren’t any preservatives plus you get a richer, more homogenous, sweet flavor to your pie.

I’d say start either the morning of or one to a couple of days before making the pie itself and take about two hours to prepare the puree and condensed milk if you’re planning on making them. Also, you need to buy SUGAR pumpkins for this recipe, but you’re probably wondering: what’s a sugar pumpkin? Well to answer that, it’s a pumpkin that’s a lot richer and sweeter than the pumpkins you would carve for Halloween. If you’re going to make the puree, you need to buy sugar pumpkins, but that’s where it could get tricky to make this pie. During my own experience, I went hunting for sugar pumpkins and I couldn’t seem to find them anywhere. But, while you can’t find them at your local supermarket, a more fresh supermarket like Trader Joe’s (which is where I eventually bought mine from) or Whole Foods suffices. Also, if you live near a local farmer’s market or feel like driving out to one then they’ll likely have fresh sugar pumpkins depending on the orchard. Making the puree itself can be tedious though, and you’ll need either a blender or food processor to puree the pumpkin flesh. But the outcome is worth it, and once my puree was done, it tasted like butternut squash but much sweeter.

The filling for your pie is the most important part, and just before you add the eggs I recommend that you do a taste-testing so that you can tell whether your filling needs more spice, sugar, or dairy. The filling for the pie is one of my favorite parts of this recipe because you’re halfway done, and once I saw all of my ingredients together, I got this sense of accomplishment. It feels nice to know that you’re contributing to a special dinner, and it gives a warm feeling of sorts to bake a pie during the cold, windy weather.

After my pies were out of the oven, I put them to chill for a day since I made them the day before Thanksgiving. Letting them chill deepened the flavor of the pie and allowed the filling to settle. The overall result was amazing on our Thanksgiving table. I can assure you that if you want to wow your family or anyone you’re spending the holidays this year with, you should definitely give your best shot at making the fresh ingredients. Compared to the pie I made with canned pumpkin puree and condensed milk, my fresh ingredient pie was so much more flavorful and rich. Usually, I would sense a strange after-taste when I use canned pumpkin, but that taste was gone in the pie with the fresh pumpkin. The pie with the fresh sweetened condensed milk was also much sweeter and more complex in flavor than the pie with canned condensed milk. In almost all areas of the canned put up against the fresh pie, the fresh pie won out. While there’s no doubt it will take a lot more time to make a pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkins, as I continue saying, you should put in the time and effort to make it this way. Not only does it taste better, but looking at my pies once I was done made me feel like I did something important, something meaningful. It was also a good pastime to make these pies since with COVID-19 and the pandemic that’s hit our world it seems we need many meaningful activities to pass the time. So use your extra time during this holiday-pandemic to bake a pie for your family. I’m sure everyone will be wowed no matter your skill level with baking and you’ll feel accomplished yourself.


Pumpkin Puree:

-2-3 Sugar Pumpkins (Depending on size)            -Food processor/blender

Homemade sweetened condensed milk:

-3 cups whole milk                                                    -½ cup heavy cream

-1 cup granulated sugar


-2 cups all-purpose flour                                          -2 tbsp granulated sugar

-Pinch (about ½ tsp) kosher/fine salt                     -2 egg yolks

-4 tbsp ice water

Pumpkin Pie:

-15 oz Pumpkin Puree (canned/homemade)      -1 cup/can sweetened condensed milk

-½ cup heavy cream                                              - ½ cup whole milk

-½ cup dark brown sugar                                     - ½ cup granulated sugar

-1 tbsp molasses                                                     -½ tsp nutmeg

-1 tsp cinnamon                                                      - ½ tsp ginger

-¼ tsp cloves                                                           -⅛ tsp allspice

-½ tsp salt (fine or kosher works)                        - 3 eggs

-2 egg yolks


Pumpkin Puree:

-Preheat your oven to 400°F

-Wash off your pumpkins with any type of soap, thoroughly

-Grab a sharp and easy to handle knife and cut your pumpkins in half

-Scoop out the seeds and guts from the pumpkins with a spoon

-Grab a baking sheet/tin that’s oven-safe and oil it and the pumpkins, generously

-Put the pumpkin tray into the oven for 40-45 minutes or until tender enough to poke through with a fork

-Peel the pumpkin skin off the flesh of the pumpkin

-Blend the pumpkin flesh in a blender or food processor until the consistency is soft and drippy

-Store and chill for later use in a glass/plastic container

Sweetened Condensed Milk:

-Pour all of the ingredients into a saucepan

-Put the heat on medium-high and lower to medium or medium-low when the mixture begins to boil

-Whisk every 1-2 minutes until the consistency becomes thick and sticky like canned sweetened condensed milk

-Once done, store and chill in a glass/plastic container until you’re ready to use it


-First add the dry ingredients, whisking the flour, sugar, and salt together

-Make sure your butter is COLD or frozen and chop it into cubes

-Combine the butter with your dry mixture and rub the butter into your flour mixture with your fingertips (the coldest part of your hand)

-Once well-combined, whisk two eggs in a bowl and mix it with ice water

-Pour about a tablespoon at a time into your dough and combine it with a fork until it forms clumps in your hand when you squeeze a piece of the dough

-Turn this mixture into a ball and put saran wrap over it and let it chill for 2-3 hours (or until hardened)

-Once hardened, flour a counter/surface and a rolling pin and roll out your dough to ¼ in thick

-Lightly fold your dough over 4 times and place the tip lined in the middle of your pie pan

-Unfold the dough and make sure it’s lined up with the pie pan correctly

-Optional: once lined up, make a design of your choice for the edges of the pie shell

-Once done, put in the fridge to chill until your filling is ready


-Preheat oven to 400°F

-Pour in the puree, condensed milk, heavy cream, and whole milk into a large bowl and whisk until well incorporated

-Add your spices, molasses, salt, and sugars

-Taste mixture with a spoon before adding eggs to add anything more (if needed)

-Separate two egg yolks and whites, use only the yolks

-Whisk in the whole eggs and yolks into the mixture

-Pour the mixture into your chilled pie dish and put the dish onto a baking sheet to avoid spillage or oil seeping from the pan

-Put into the oven at 400°F for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350°F for 30-35 minutes

-Chill the pie overnight or for a day until you’re ready to serve it

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