Pumpkin Pie VS Pumpkin Pie

There are certain things in life that are not worth the effort.

Making your own spring rolls complete with skins from scratch? Not worth the effort.

Rotating your own car tires?   Not worth the effort.

Saving a few bucks by cutting your own hair with your kitchen scissors? Not worth the effort.

On the other hand, cutting your own steaks from a roast is completely worth the effort. Ditto for actually reading your camera’s manual to figure out how to use it and making your own BBQ sauce.

The problem is you have to undergo a few experiments and a few wasted days in order to figure out what’s worth the effort and what isn’t. It took me several nights out on the lawn with a sprinkler and a flashlight to come to grips with the fact that it’s not worth the effort. Now I just pay the $2 and buy a container of worms for fishing.

So for the longest time I’ve been wondering whether baking a pumpkin pie from scratch, complete with baking the actual pumpkin was worth it.   Did it really produce a pie that was far superior to one made with canned pumpkin?    I’d made and eaten both, but I’d never tried them side by side.

So last week I cooked 2 pumpkin pies.

One I made by baking a sugar pumpkin, hand grinding the cinnamon, and making the crust from scratch.

Pumpkin Pie Made with Real Pumpkin

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The other I made by using a can of pumpkin glop and a frozen crust.

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Pumpkin Pie with Canned Pumpkin

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And then I took to the streets (my mom’s street, my sister’s street, my niece’s street …. ) to find out which pie tasted the best.

Was all the work of a scratch pumpkin pie really worth it?  Or is buying a can of pumpkin and a frozen crust just as good?  My hope was that the canned pumpkin glop and frozen crust would end up being as good, just for the sheer hilarity of it.  And of course the convenience.

So … after asking 10 people, including:

My mom

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My niece

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My boyfriend

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One of my sisters

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… the results were indisputable.

After tasting both pumpkin pies ….

9 out of 10 preferred …

Real Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie!

The one hold out was my sister.  She actually preferred the canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie.  She even tried it twice to make sure.

Everyone else, hands down, preferred the home made pumpkin pie.  They liked the texture, the colour and the crust better.

So … if given the choice over the next little while between spending time making a real pumpkin pie and  squishing worms in the grass with your thumb.  Go for the pie.  It’s worth the effort.

** Re: comments.  Are you kidding me people??   What do I have to do????  Cut myself and bleed pumpkin?

Yes.  If you want, you can used canned pumpkin.  But no, it will not taste as good as using a pumpkin you baked yourself.

If you must choose between either making the crust or making the pumpkin filling from scratch, make the pumpkin filling!**


74 Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Hi!

    Just used the Real Pumpkin Pie recipe to make my puree, thanks! I was hoping you could point me in the direction of your homemade crust recipe?

    Thank you,
    Sarah

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sarah! I haven’t posted it it! I actually use Ashley English’s pie crust recipe and she just happens to have published it on Design*Sponge so you can find it there. 🙂 I often use half butter and half lard. ~ karen!

  2. Jack Barr says:

    Right, Karen! Agreed! It’s worth the effort to make pumpkin pie from scratch….. even the crust: what’s so difficult about making one’s own crust?
    We (my wife and I) process several pumpkins each Fall- enough for pies and muffins for the coming year; just drain well. I repeat, DRAIN WELL, place in plastic bags (we reuse individual milk bags), enough for an individual pie, and freeze.
    All pumpkins are NOT the same! Jack-O-Lantern types are not good pie pumpkins. The small (sometimes called sugar pumpkins are better. They look great: dark burnt orange skin, sprinkled with cinnamony, nutmegy spots, but the best pie pumpkins are commonly called (among other colloquial names) New York Cheese Cake pumpkins. Their skin resembles that of butternut squash, the meat a deep orange, texture and flavour is excellent. Another very good pie pumpkin is a French variety, its skin a zombie gray colour… but the taste is excellent. Both are grown by some Mennonites in southern Ontario.

  3. Azure says:

    it’s actually not that hard to do my father and I make pumpkin filling and the crust from scratch each year. we always do ot the day before. usually we cut up the pumpkin and put it in a roaster with some water and bake at 350 for about an hour or until we can peirce it with a fork easily. then scoop out the insides. in that hour while we wait we make our crusts. the only time consuming thing I find is when we have to bake. the recipe we use makes at least 7 pies and we can only fit 3 at a time in the oven. but it’s never stopped is and when we give the extras to our friends and family they love it way better than others.

  4. Patricia says:

    I just found this post and your pumpkin pie recipe. I am making a from scratch pumpkin pie for the first time (and with my 7 year old daughter) for Thanksgiving this year since we’ve ended up with 4 pie pumpkins since Halloween and I hate to see them just rot. Thanks for the tips!

    • Karen says:

      You’re welcome Patricia. Don’t forget to strain the cooked pumpkin! People seem to want to skip that part, lol, but it’s very important. Have a great Thanksgiving! ~ karen

  5. Rebecca says:

    My dad gave me a sugar pumpkin this year (he grows them in his garden) and it’s my responsibility to bring the pies to Thanksgiving. I’m curious if the draining through a cheesecloth is necessary?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rebecca! The draining really is necessary. Otherwise the pumpkin will be too watery and your filling won’t set. You’ll be amazed at how much liquid comes out. It’s not a big deal to do, but it makes a big difference in the pie. ~ karen!

  6. Aly Bennett says:

    I really like your blog and your pumpkin pie directions (with picture…soooo helpful!). I have a homeade crust for apple pie but I was wondering if you had a recipe for YOUR homeade pumpkin pie CRUST. If so, please share!!!

    Thanks so much,
    Aly

    • Karen says:

      I’m going to be sharing that recipe in the near future so I don’t wanna give it way now. If it’s an emergency and you need it immediately email me and I’ll send it to you and only you! Otherwise … in the next few weeks it’ll be up. 🙂 karen! karen@theartofdoingstuff.com

  7. Bernie says:

    I am obviously late to the pumpkin party but just had to add that there must be pumpkins grown esp. for cooking and ones grown more for looking at. My
    “from scratch” pie was most likely inadvertantly made from the later because it was aweful! pale, watery and tasteless,not even a homemade crust and real whipping cream could save it.and ps Karen you are still making me laugh out loud,even tho hubby is not here to enjoy 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Bernie – Yes … pie pumpkins are the small ones, about the size of a large cantelope. Grocery stores often carry them in the fall as do garden centres. They’re normally in a great big wooden crate. Glad you’re still laughing! ~ karen

  8. Angie says:

    Hi there Karen from sunny wintery SA.
    All kinds of pumpkins, butternuts and squash are ripening over here and so my thoughts turn to pumpkin pie SA style – I’ve tried yours and gotta say I still don’t like American Pumpkin pie – no matter where or how the pumpkin is prepared. I guess it’s just not a taste I go for.
    My kinda pumpkin pie uses raw uncooked pumpkin and is just divine. Can’t get enough of the stuff. I dare you to try this recipe for something completely different – yet it’s also pumpkin pie 🙂 go on – DO! It’s the EASIEST thing – and you HAVE to use home prepared pumpkin 🙂

    Really delicious Pumpkin Pie (South African Style)
    Cream together: 125g margarine/butter, 200ml sugar and 3 eggs
    add: 250ml cake flour, 15ml baking powder and a pinch salt
    Fold in 750 ml grated raw pumpkin and 5mls vanilla (mixture will look curdled) and spread in a pie dish.
    Top with brown sugar mixed with a little grating of nutmeg and lots of ground cinnamon and bake at 160 C (med oven) for 40 mins. Serve hot or cold, with or without cream or ice-cream.
    YUM YUM YUM!!!

  9. Becky says:

    I had to make this pumpkin pie from scratch. I am a pumpkin pie fanatic. It was by far, much much MUCH better than the canned version. I got many kudos and even a “it tastes like my grandmas pies.” I had enough filling for 3 pies instead of 2, so I used a store bought crust for the third and it was actually still very good. I totally agree, Karen, it’s much easier than I thought to cook the pumpkins. Now that I’ve made it, I will continue with fresh pumpkins (at 97 cents at Wally world how can you not?) henceforth. Viva la pumpkins!

  10. Whitney says:

    My mother, who has never celebrated Halloween, very considerately bought me a sugar pumpkin. Only this one comes with a face and coloured paint. So instead of carving it, I can paint it! Then I have a fully functioning pumpkin at my convenience with which to make a real pumpkin, pumpkin pie! I thought that was the most exciting part.

  11. Diana @ frontyardfoodie says:

    This is good news as I fully plan on making one from scratch this year. I have to figure out how to make it vegan though which might be tricky…..or impossible

  12. Girl I have missed visiting your corner of the world 🙂 New job, crazy hours! Great pumpkin pie test…YUM!! Hilarious “RE:”. Happy Belated Thanksgiving.

    • Karen says:

      Aw… thanks! I hope you’re loving your job. What kind of crazy job is this that you can’t sit around and read my blog all day?

  13. Carrie says:

    I always make my pumpkin pie filling from scratch, and can’t tell you how many people have raved about it being the best pumpkin pie they’ve ever tasted. So no argument from me! However, I find that a good butternut or acorn squash makes a better “pumpkin” pie, and you can find them in the store outside of thanksgiving season.

  14. Kendra Bester says:

    I just made “real pumpkin, pumpkin pie” this weekend and it wasn’t that good. I thought the texture was too like the actually inside of a pumpkin.

    If you have a good recipe for pumpkin pie I would have to hear!

    Cheers
    Kendra

    http://youngdiy.blogspot.com/

  15. Alisha says:

    My mother cans her own pumpkin pie filling. I don’t think she’s ever bought canned. I don’t know which tastes better, because … well, ew … but I know the puree is cannable! FYI

  16. Melissa says:

    Oh, and weird thing about fresh pies, when you freeze your own homemade pumpkin pies, they thaw out tasting like store bought. Not horrible, just meh. I think that’s strange.

  17. Melissa says:

    When I first moved to Ontario I loved the whole “buy a pumpkin for eating” thing. Seriously – we didn’t do that in Northern B.C. So, I bought lots and froze the puree and used it for everything and thought I was being a great Ontarioite (Ontarian? Ontarioer?). Anyway, I obviously made pie with it and we loved it inordinately. THEN my mom mentioned I had made a pumpkin pie FROM SCRATCH and her friend outright called her a liar. “NO ONE makes pumpkin pie from scratch.” She said firmly. So I found out I was wierd, but my pie still tasted better, so I was okay with it. But you, Karen, have provided me with sweet vindication and I am thankful. Keep preaching to the unbelievers – real pumpkin all the way.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Melissa! I don’t really care if people use canned. I just want to let people know that if they choose to use real pumpkin it will be MUCH better. Much better. Better by much. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      Oh! And good to know the puree freezes well! Thx. ~ karen

  18. Alliey says:

    I am the snobbiest cook I know. I eschew shortcuts for so many kitchen tasks, but… not this one. I have thought about baking my own pumpkin for filling but the time constraints of the holiday keep me from making the leap. But I still make an incredibly awesome pie. I am a weirdo, so I make my own crust for all five or so pies I usually bake (I make ’em a day or two ahead and pop ’em in the freezer). For the pumpkin pie, I use a recipe from Paula Deen that calls for cream cheese, which makes it rich and gives it great texture. I grind my own spices, and I put about twice as much as called for. I add a bit of dark rum in addition to the vanilla extract. The real trick though is to grate fresh ginger (and plenty of it) rather than using ground. I do this with my oatmeal cookies too and it makes all the difference.

  19. Michelle says:

    Maybe we should be called ‘the people who don’t actually do the rad stuff Karen does’.. there has got to be a catchy short form of that.

    I LOVE pumpkin pie and I am so pregnant right now that my husband may have to make this for me tonight at 1am just to keep me from poking him every 30 seconds and asking him if I look fat. Does that sound like I might be planning ahead? cause I’d like to be able to plead innocent later on…

    Mmmmm maple whip cream and sugar pumpkin pie…

  20. Lesley H says:

    Ok, so I think it’s fair to say we all learned something here. If you’re going to compromise on the Thanksgiving spread, let it be the cranberry sauce NOT the pie! Got it. ha ha ha

    Now for goodness sake when do we get the chopping block end table tutorial? Do you think you can squeeze it in before you’re featured on some other designer show/magazine 🙂

  21. Janelle says:

    This is hilarious! You keep pitching fresh pumpkins, but nobody’s catching them!

  22. Adrienne Audrey says:

    What about growing your own pumpkins to use for the pumpkin pie? Would that be worth it? Probably not but thats my plan for next year 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Well now you’re just showing off! 🙂 I’ve grown my own pumpkins before. They take a LOT of space. I don’t have that space right now, but I’d LOVE to grow my own pie pumpkins. I’m jealous! ~ karen

  23. Danielle says:

    I couldn’t wait for this post! Of course now this means that the one pie that literally took 30 seconds to make I’m going to have to actually put some effort into. Thanks Karen. You’re a reaaaaal lifesaver. What’s next? You’re going to tell me to cook my own turkey? 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hee! Like I’ve told other people, if you’re going to compromise … I’d compromise by using a frozen crust. The filling from the cooked pumpkin is what makes the pie. ~ karen

  24. amy says:

    best recipe EVER for pumpkin pie uses canned pumpkin, but it is cooked till glossy and dark with brown sugar and spices, etc, and then ladled into the homemade, partially baked crust FIRST and then baked till set. A Ton of work, but worth it, and you can get away with the canned stuff (plain, not pie filling). It’s from Cook’s Illustrated. Yum.

    • Karen says:

      Amy! Cooks Illustrated is one of my favourite cookbooks. But they’re wrong. Make that EXACT recipe with a home baked pumpkin instead of the canned and you’ll see. You will never EVER use canned pumpkin again.

  25. Patti says:

    Shh! My boyfriend changes his own oil, and I appreciate the effort he’s making to save money..

    And then he buys remote controlled helicopters with it. Lovely.

    I don’t really like pie, but I like this post.

  26. Langela says:

    Can you can your own pumpkin pie filling? Would it remain better tasting?

  27. Alisha says:

    I make a point of reading your blog every day because it puts a lopsided stupid smile on my face. BUT sometimes I can’t resist reading comments from other readers because really … they’re pretty *ahem* entertaining. I’m not going to lie though, I despise Pumpkin Pie. (I had a bad childhood experience with the flu, Thanksgiving dinner and Pumpkin Pie) But you make it look good and easy!

  28. Elizabeth says:

    Rad! I’ll be making a real pumpkin pumpkin pie for American Thanksgiving, in November (Thanksgiving in October?!, that’s weird ;)).

  29. BIG EATER says:

    I looked and looked in my camera manual and I can’t find instructions for making my own BBQ sauce.

  30. Pete says:

    I prefer using apples instead of pumpkin in my pumpkin pies…

  31. Natalie says:

    Hahaha that’s hilarious that everyone wants to cheat and use the canned pumpkin in the homemade crust 🙂 tee hee

  32. Rebecca says:

    By the way, I figured out the cost of making your pie and using the crisco box recipe for the crust. I included all ingredients except salt and spices (because seriously, unless you’re making 200 pies, those don’t matter) and the grand total was $5.75. Yep, I’m a nerd, but I wanted to know how much I was saving. Soooo, you can buy one of those preservative-laden grocery store ones for less, but not the high-end bakery type. Round these parts those go for $12-$16.

  33. Nichola says:

    I actually did the same test last week, baked two pumpkin pies one from scratch and one from a can, and came to the same conclusion…the one from scratch was preferred. And you know, I was actually surprised by how easy it was to make it from scratch! Now obviously it was a little more time consuming than just whipping out my trusty can opener but oh so worth it.

  34. Wendi says:

    That would be a sweet potato pie then. When I make sweet potato pie, I use sweet potatoes. When I make pumpkin pies I use pie pumpkins and I have to agree, Karen. Changing your own oil doesn’t actually even save you very much money (and I even find it fun) so isn’t worth it but yes, baking your pie pumpkins at home always wins you fans. Always. Then you have to make more room at Thanksgiving…so…still worth it? 😉

  35. Carol says:

    How about a compromise,,,,,canned pumpkin in a homemade pie crust? Afterall,,,,,its really about the whip cream isn’t it! ; )

    • Tina says:

      You would not say that if you had had the WHOLE pumpkin pumkin pie! I will settle for Pilsbury ready made crust though but not not canned pumpkin!

  36. Alexandra Dare says:

    Okay, but WHAT IF you used canned pumpkin with a homemade crust? Do you think the results would have been different? I bet organic canned pumpkin would taste pretty good in a pie too 🙂

    Although, I must admit, your REAL pumpkin pie looks far superior to the other one. I would have loved to have a bite of that 🙂

    -Alexandra Dare
    http://lafemmenotoire.com

    • Ana says:

      There’s nothing more organic than using the real thing! : )

      I agree real pumpkin makes a far better pumpkin pie, although sometimes I just have a craving for cheap pumpkin pie from the corner store and a dollop of ice cream, preferably crammed into my mouth at lightning speeds.

  37. Kevin Lepard says:

    Was this a double blind test? (Ok, just kidding, but valid question. My wife used to swear she could tell the difference between brands of skim milk, but double blind testing proved she really couldn’t so now we can buy the cheaper milk.)

    • Karen says:

      Actually, Kevin! It was a double blind test! They got to see the pies and judge them based on looks. Then I had them close their eyes and fed them a piece of each. They had no idea which one they were eating. Sheesh. You think I’m an amateur at this or something? 😉 ~ karen

  38. Jen A says:

    I think your sister just wanted more pie.

  39. marilyn says:

    hey karen maybe next year you can have a cranberry sauce VS cranberry sauce. ( she said completely tongue in cheek) …just sayin

  40. Theresa says:

    I’m going for the middle on this one canned pumkin but homemade crust. I’ve never done the from scratch thing. How do you know what kind of pumkin to buy?

    • Karen says:

      NO! NO, no, no, no, no!!! You cannot use canned pumpkin. That was the whole point of this! It’s the *pumpkin* that makes the huge difference. If you’re going to only do one thing, cook the pumpkin and use a frozen crust. Pleaseeeeeee. 🙂 ~karen

      • Ree says:

        Keep at them, Karen!

        Hang in there! Never give up! Never give in!

        NO CANNED PUMPKIN!!!

        Never. Not ever. No.

        You are talking PUMPKIN Pie here…. not PIE!

        Go ahead and use canned apples and frozen crust for apple pie…

        But for Pumpkin Pie … Fresh, handmade is BEST!

  41. Caroline says:

    well I know the crust is better homemade than the frozen crap. Frozen pie crust should be ILLEGAL. I always get a hankering for pie and then am so disappointed with fake crust.

    I’m more concerned about the insides, though–my mom makes the best pie in the world and I showed her your entry how to use actual pumpkins. Is the insides really worth it??

  42. magali says:

    i think i will compromise. real pumpkin, pumpkin pie in a frozen crust.

  43. mimi says:

    Don’t hit me over the head with a pumpkin, but I was wondering about hame-made crust with canned pumpkin? Or even, did they indicate which part tasted better?
    I’ve never seen canned pumpkin here, so no option, though I’ve only ever made p pie once!

    • Karen says:

      Mimi – No. No, no, no. No. Nuh. If you’re going to compromise, compromise by using frozen crust but cooking the pumpkin. It’s the pumpkin that makes the difference. The canned has a gloppy texture and unnatural colour. – karen!

  44. Emy says:

    my my own survey: real sweet potatoes make the best pumpkin pie.

  45. Shannon says:

    I have only made pumpkin pie once..due to the fact such things are viewed as quite bizarre & foreign here in Australia. It didn’t go to well, it was not a tasty experiment (I suspect this is my fault, not the pies fault) I think I got a bad recipe.

    I did eat some tasty pumpkin pie in my travels though. Maybe I should give the homemade pumpkin pie another go?

    Also not worth the effort, double podding required of fresh broadbeans (maybe you call them fava beans there?) I usually just give up & head for the freezer for some frozen peas.

  46. Laura says:

    next try adding molasses to your recipe

  47. What a fun contest. I’d like to try the Real Pumpkin Pie. Looks tasty!

  48. I’m so relieved! Though canned pumpkin and frozen pie crust would be far easier, the real one must be far superior!

    • Linda says:

      I make it from the can but use home made crust no one then can tell the difference from fresh pumpkin. The difference is in the crust

      • Karen says:

        Ohhhhhh no it’s not. I, and anyone who has made or tasted a real pumpkin pie will testify to that. Huge difference. Give it a shot. All you have to do is bake a sugar pumpkin. Crust is important, but canned doesn’t compare in the slightest to real pumpkin. ~ karen!

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