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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell
Recipe Review

We Tested 4 Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipes and Found a Clear Winner

updated Dec 11, 2019
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Of all the traditional pies that make their appearance on the Thanksgiving table, pumpkin pie is my very favorite. In fact, I adore it so much that I make it every year to bring to my in-laws’ house, even if I’m the only one who eats it (it’s not a part of their usual dessert lineup). To me, the meal just isn’t complete without it.

I have yet to find my ultimate pumpkin pie recipe, however, which means that every year right around this time, I start searching the internet and digging through cookbooks for a new version to attempt for Thanksgiving. This year, to save myself (and you all!) the annual rigmarole, I battled off some of the most well-loved pumpkin pie recipes in search of the very best — the one to end my search once and for all.

To determine which ones to battle, I hunted down both the most tried-and-true recipes and the ones that stood out among the myriad pumpkin pie recipes that exist. You can’t really talk about pumpkin pie without mentioning the recipe on the back of every can of Libby’s pumpkin purée, so that was a shoo-in. Then I selected three more (very popular) pies that provided their own unique twist while still staying true to what I consider traditional.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Meet Our 4 Pumpkin Pie Contenders

Here’s how they ranked, from my least favorite to most. And, spoiler alert: I did indeed find my perfect pie.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

1. The Classic, No-Frills Pie: Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie

Really, there was nothing wrong with this tried-and-true pie, but when compared to the others I tested, it just felt average. Ultimately, the canned taste of evaporated milk and the store-bought crust left something to be desired. If I needed a quick pumpkin pie fix, I’d have no problem turning to this recipe, but otherwise, I’d look elsewhere.

Rating: 6.5/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

2. The Most Dressed Up: Ina Garten’s Ultimate Pumpkin Pie

I was really rooting for Ina’s pumpkin pie, but in the end, the flavors just weren’t my favorite. Her filling is heavy on orange zest and dark rum, which I felt masked the warm baking spices. The texture was great — nice and creamy without being too rich — but if I made it again, I’d lower the amount of citrus and booze.

Rating: 7/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

3. The Extra-Spicy Pie: Alton Brown’s Pumpkin Pie

If you love ginger, you’ll love Alton’s version that features a gingersnap crust. I was a fan, especially since the crust was further enhanced with ground ginger, but I could see it being too much for some. I also found the filling to be a bit denser than I am used to and potentially too heavy after a big meal.

Rating: 8/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

4. The Very Best Pumpkin Pie: Julia Child’s Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pumpkin Pie

If you’re looking for a classic pumpkin pie that takes things one step further while still respecting tradition, Julia’s is it. The filling is enhanced with molasses and bourbon, giving it complexity and depth, and whipped egg whites ensure it’s indeed fluffy: It’s light and almost soufflé-like.

Rating: 9/10