Win Thanksgiving With This Homemade Pumpkin Pie Recipe

There’s no shame in store-bought pie, but, this year, try your hand at this easy recipe.

homemade pumpkin pie
Photo by Cole Saladino for Thrillist

It is safe to assume that you have, at some point in life, purchased a store-bought pumpkin pie, in all its gooey, occasionally dewy-from-precipitating-in-plastic glory. If you're anything like me, you took that pre-baked seasonal sludge out of its container and paraded it on some charming ceramic dish of your own to pass as semi-homemade. There's no shame here. As an advocate of the "work smarter not harder" mentality, the grocery store pumpkin pies serve their purpose.

That said, there's something very rewarding about a homemade pumpkin pie. And so, I asked Callista Mei, host of her own baking show and brand of the same name, Six Sweet Under and head baker at Magnolia Bakery in Los Angeles, if she might share her recipe. It does not disappoint. I’m here to tell you that this might be one of the easiest baking recipes to execute, so you can stop telling pie lies on Thanksgiving and put a little heart into your dessert this year. 

You do need either a handheld or stand mixer, because this includes a boozy whipped cream. As someone who has previously committed to a recipe unknowingly needing a mixer and almost reached an early death from whipping three cups of egg whites by hand, I am warning you here and now: you will not want to do this portion of the recipe manually. I whipped the cream first, simply because I prefer it chilled and it can hang out in the fridge while I accomplish other tasks. If the cream appears to be too firm after fridge time, fold in a splash of leftover whipping cream or whole milk to soften. Or don’t do it as a first step, this is your world.

This recipe also calls for brandy. I accidentally grabbed a bottle of cognac from my grandparents’ cabinet, so now I have cognac chantilly cream. They are quite nearly the same; cognac is brandy made in the Cognac region of France, so apparently now my pie has a French accent. 
 
What makes this pie stand out is its graham cracker crust. The recipe calls for a food processor but you can just as well blitz the crackers with a rolling pin and a heavy hand. With two ingredients and a 15-minute bake time, it’s already very quick and easy to love.

The filling feels very familiar, with pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract to keep you cozy. After two slices and some reflection, I feel that this recipe could benefit from a little at-home pumpkin spice remix. A teaspoon or two of ground ginger, cardamom, or five-spice blend would fall nicely into place here.

If you’re a real go-getter, you can swap the canned pumpkin puree for the whole, bonafide fruit, seeds et al. What makes a good pie pumpkin is weight and sugar content, so get yourself a one-pound pumpkin or Kabocha squash. Jenna Fuscher, pastry chef at Los Angeles’ Gjusta Bakery suggests this method for the more committed. Should you choose that mission, cover your pumpkin in olive oil and roast whole at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until soft and skin can be pierced with a fork (about 30-40 minutes). Let cool, then remove skin and seeds. Brown four ounces of butter, and then blend the roasted pumpkin with an immersion blender.

I don’t have an immersion blender, I have a can opener. If you’re like me, the canned puree listed below still turns into a delicious pie, just as Callista says. 
 
Callista also says the pie should cool for at least three hours. Something to keep in mind, if you’re on a holiday schedule. I cheated and let it sit for one hour, then put it in the fridge for 30 minutes. It set up nicely and cooled down enough to decorate with the cream. I dotted the pie with a piping bag, which you can easily mimic by cutting a small hole in the bottom of a Ziplock bag. If you’re a minimalist, the cream can be served on the side.

To make a recipe testing story short, this pie is incredible. The brandy (cognac) chantilly has a nice way of cutting the sweetness, but the booze is subtle. Its filling is smooth and rich, with a touch of baked, buttery crunch from the cracker crust.

If you’ve been wounded one too many times by the promise of a user-friendly baking recipe and ended up with an unexpectedly and heavily involved dish, this is not that moment. On my honor, this pie is very approachable and delivers the goods. You’ll get way more "oohs" and "ahs" for it than you would for a last-minute market run. Enjoy the praise, chef.

Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Graham Crust & Brandy Chantilly Cream

Ingredients:

Crust:

Pie Filling:

Brandy Chantilly Cream:

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp brandy

Directions:

Crust:

  • Blend graham crackers in food processor until a fine crumb
  • Mix with melted butter and press evenly into a 9 inch pie dish
  • Bake at 350 for 15 minutes; set aside 

Filling:

  • Mix all ingredients together until well incorporated and smooth
  • Carefully pour into prepared crust
  • Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 60-75 minutes or until the filling looks set and slightly jiggly in the center
  • Allow to cool completely (about 3 hours) 

Brandy Chantilly:

  • Pour heavy cream into a clean, chilled bowl, whip on high until slightly thickened
  • Turn down the speed to low and add powdered sugar; when combined, turn speed back up to high
  • When soft peaks form, add brandy and whip until medium peaks
  • Serve with pie

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Greer Glassman is a Thrillist contributor.