Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin pie is a dessert pie with a spiced, pumpkin-based custard filling. The pumpkin and pumpkin pie are both a symbol of harvest time,[1][2] and pumpkin pie is generally eaten during the fall and early winter. In the United States and Canada it is usually prepared for Thanksgiving,[3] Christmas, and other occasions when pumpkin is in season.

Pumpkin pie
Place of originCanada, United States, United Kingdom
Main ingredientsPie shell, pumpkin, eggs, condensed milk, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger

The pie's filling ranges in color from orange to brown and is baked in a single pie shell, usually without a top crust. The pie is generally flavored with a spice mixture known as pumpkin pie spice, which is made using spices such as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. The pie is usually prepared with canned pumpkin, but fresh-cooked pumpkin can be used.


Pumpkin pie filling being prepared

Pies made from pumpkins typically use pie pumpkins, also known as sugar pumpkins, which measure about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimetres) in diameter, approximately the size of a large grapefruit.[4] They are considerably smaller than the typically larger varieties used to carve jack o'lanterns, contain significantly less pulp, and have a less stringy texture.[4] The flesh is cooked until soft and puréed before being blended with the other ingredients.

The pulp is mixed with eggs, evaporated or sweetened condensed milk, sugar, and a spice mixture called pumpkin pie spice. This typically includes cinnamon, powdered ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Allspice is also commonly used and can replace the clove and nutmeg, as its flavor is similar to both combined.[5] Cardamom and vanilla are also sometimes used as batter spices. The pie is then baked in a pie shell and sometimes topped with whipped cream.[6] Similar pies are made with butternut squash or sweet potato fillings.[7]

The pie is often made from canned pumpkin,[8] which is prepared mainly from varieties of Cucurbita pepo and Cucurbita maxima.[9] Packaged pumpkin pie filling with spices included is also used. A December 1988 report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that canned pumpkin products sometimes have sweet squash mixed in with the pumpkin "to obtain the same texture that is well-liked by consumers."[9][10]

Many modern companies produce seasonal pumpkin-pie-flavored products such as candy, cheesecake, coffee, ice cream, french toast, waffles and pancakes, and many breweries produce a seasonal pumpkin ale or beer; these are generally not flavored with pumpkins, but rather pumpkin pie spices. Commercially made pumpkin pie mix is made from Cucurbita pepo, Cucurbita maxima and Cucurbita moschata.[11][12][13][14] (Libby's pumpkin pie mix uses the Select Dickinson Pumpkin variety of C. moschata for its canned pumpkins.)


A slice of homemade pumpkin pie with whipped cream

The pumpkin is native to North America. The pumpkin was an early export to France; from there it was introduced to Tudor England, and the flesh of the "pompion" was quickly accepted as pie filling. During the seventeenth century, pumpkin pie recipes could be found in English cookbooks, such as Hannah Woolley's The Gentlewoman's Companion (1675).[15][16] Pumpkin "pies" made by early American colonists were more likely to be a savory soup made and served in a pumpkin[17] than a sweet custard in a crust. Pumpkins were also stewed and made into ale by colonists.[5] An early appearance of a more modern, custard-like pumpkin pie was in American Cookery, a cookbook published in 1796.[18] It used a sweet custard filling in a pie crust, with spices similar to the ones used today.

It was not until the early nineteenth century that the recipes appeared in Canadian[19] and American cookbooks[15] or that pumpkin pie became a common addition to the Thanksgiving dinner.[15] The Pilgrims brought the pumpkin pie back to New England,[20] while the English method of cooking the pumpkin took a different course. In the 19th century, the English pumpkin pie was prepared by stuffing the pumpkin with apples, spices, and sugar and then baking it whole.[21][22] In the United States after the Civil War, the pumpkin pie was resisted in Southern states as a symbol of Yankee culture imposed on the South, where there was no tradition of eating pumpkin pie.[23] Many Southern cooks instead made sweet potato pie, or added bourbon and pecans to give the pumpkin pie a Southern touch.[23]

Today, throughout much of Canada and the United States, it is traditional to serve pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner.[24][25]

Pumpkin pies were discouraged from Thanksgiving dinners in the United States in 1947 as part of a voluntary egg rationing campaign promoted by the Truman Administration, mainly because of the eggs used in the recipe.[26][27] This was a part of President Truman's Citizen's Food Committee task force, designed to ration food consumption in the United States in hopes to provide more foreign food assistance to Europe post World War II.[27][lower-alpha 1] Part of the campaign included an "Egg-less & Poultry-less Thursday", which began in October 1947, and with Thanksgiving Day always occurring on a Thursday, there was a considerable backlash among American consumers against this.[27] Truman was true to his word, and no pumpkin pie was served at the White House for Thanksgiving in 1947.[lower-alpha 2]


  • Lydia Maria Child's Thanksgiving poem "Over the River and Through the Wood" (1844) references pumpkin pie in one of its verses: "Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? / Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!"
  • Mathew Franklin Whittier, signing as "A Yankee," wrote in his poem "Song of the Pumpkin" (1846):[29]

Ah! on Thanksday, when from East and from West,

From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,

What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?


  • Oscar Ferdinand Telgmann and George Frederick Cameron wrote the song "Farewell O Fragrant Pumpkin Pie" in the opera Leo, the Royal Cadet (1889):[30]

Farewell, O fragrant pumpkin pie!
Dyspeptic pork, adieu!
Though to the college halls I hie.
On field of battle though I die, my latest sob, my latest sigh
shall wafted be to you!
And thou, O doughnut rare and rich and fried divinely brown!
Thy form shall fill a noble niche in memory's chamber whilst I pitch
my tent beside the river which rolls on through Kingston town.
And my Love—my little Nell,
the apple of my eye to thee how can I say farewell?
I love thee more than I can tell;

I love thee more than anything—but—pie!

  • The Christmas-themed song "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" makes a reference to homemade pumpkin pie being looked forward to by a man returning to his family's home in Pennsylvania.
  • The popular Christmas song "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" contains the lyric, "Later we'll have some pumpkin pie/And we'll do some caroling".
  • "Sleigh Ride", another popular Christmas song, also mentions sitting around a fire after being out in the snow and eating pumpkin pie.


The world's largest pumpkin pie was made in New Bremen, Ohio, at the New Bremen Pumpkinfest on September 25, 2010.[31][32] The pie consisted of 550 kilograms (1,212 pounds) of canned pumpkin, 410 litres (109 US gallons) of evaporated milk, 2,796 eggs, 3.2 kg (7 lb) of salt, 6.6 kg (14+12 lb) of cinnamon, and 238 kg (525 lb) of sugar.[31] The final pie weighed 1,678 kg (3,699 lb) and measured 6 m (20 ft) in diameter.[31]

See also


  1. "Eggless and Poultryless Thursdays, Meatless Tuesdays and a rather more vague Wasteless Everyday were the inventions of the Citizens Food Committee, the president’s new foreign-aid task force. Charged with conserving 100 million bushels of grain for redistribution in war-ravaged Europe, the committee had concluded that the most efficient solution lay in reducing the consumption of meat and eggs."[26]
  2. "However, the National Egg Board and National Poultry Board lobbied Truman to stop promoting his plan, and he eventually relented. While forgiving turkey, eggs remained banned on Thursdays for the rest of the year, so there was no pumpkin pie served at the White House that year."[28]


  1. Damerow, G. (2012). The Perfect Pumpkin: Growing/Cooking/Carving. Storey Publishing, LLC. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-60342-741-8. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  2. Ott, C.; Cronon, W. (2012). Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books. University of Washington Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-295-80444-6. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  3. Rombauer, I. S and M.R. Becker. 1980. The Joy of Cooking. Bobs-Merrill Company, New York City.
  4. Daley, R. (2001). In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker's Companion. Artisan. p. 331. ISBN 978-1-57965-208-1. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  5. Terrell, Ellen (2017-11-20). "A Brief History of Pumpkin Pie in America | Inside Adams: Science, Technology & Business". blogs.loc.gov. Retrieved 2022-04-05.
  6. Galarza, Daniela (November 9, 2021). "These mini pumpkin pies taste like fall, thanks to a trio of spices". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 28, 2022.
  7. Denenberg, Zoe (November 7, 2019). "We Tasted 5 Grocery Store Pumpkin Purees, But Libby's Still Captured Our Hearts". Southern Living. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  8. "CPG Sec 585.725 "Pumpkin"". U.S. Food and Drug Administration. February 10, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  9. Gonzalez, Ana (September 10, 2021). "Does canned pumpkin contain real pumpkin? We went to the grocery store to find out". KPRC. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  10. Richardson, R. W. "Squash and Pumpkin" (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Plant Germplasm System. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  11. Stephens, James M. "Pumpkin — Cucurbita spp". University of Florida. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  12. Baggett, J. R. "Attempts to Cross Cucurbita moschata (Duch.) Poir. 'Butternut' and C. pepo L. 'Delicata'". North Carolina State University. Archived from the original on September 6, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  13. Victor E. Boswell and Else Bostelmann. "Our Vegetable Travelers." The National Geographic Magazine. 96.2: August 1949.
  14. Andrew F. Smith, "Pumpkins", The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003. Saint Mary's College of California. December 21, 2011.
  15. Woolley, Hannah, The Gentlewoman's Companion ..., 3rd ed. (London, England: Edward Thomas, 1682), "Pumpion pye", pp. 220–221.
  16. "American Classic IX: Pumpkin Pie". Good Eats.
  17. Amelia Simmons (2011-05-16), American Cookery, retrieved 2022-04-05
  18. Traill, C.P. (1855). The Canadian Settler's Guide. Toronto: The Old Countryman Office. p. 128. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  19. Colquhoun, Kate (December 24, 2007). "A Dessert With a Past". The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
  20. Reports on the herbaceous plants and on the quadrupeds of Massachusetts, 1840
  21. "How did the squash get its name?". Library of Congress. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  22. Knoebel, Ariel (November 21, 2017). "How Pumpkin Pie Sparked a 19th-Century Culture War". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  23. Snell, Rachel (October 7, 2014). "As North American as Pumpkin Pie: Cookbooks and the Development of National Cuisine in North America, 1796-1854 – Cuizine". Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures / Cuizine: revue des cultures culinaires au Canada. 5 (2). ISSN 1918-5480. Retrieved March 28, 2022.
  24. Ott, C.; Cronon, W. (2012). Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books. University of Washington Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-295-80444-6. Retrieved March 28, 2022.
  25. Humes, Michele (November 23, 2009). "The Way We Ate: The Year Harry Truman Passed on Pumpkin Pie". Diner's Journal. The New York Times. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  26. "Thanksgiving, Truman and turkey: Here's how Americans almost had a turkey-free holiday". fox61.com. November 28, 2019. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  27. "Turkey became the Thanksgiving tradition". HHJ Online. Retrieved March 31, 2022.
  28. The Boston "Chronotype," Oct. 1, 1846 edition
  29. "Leo, the Royal cadet [microform]: Cameron, George Frederick, 1854-1885: Free Download & Streaming: Internet Archive". Kingston, Ontario: s.n. March 10, 2001. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  30. "2010 World Record Pumpkin Pie". Pumpkin Nook. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  31. "Largest pie, pumpkin". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
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