What is Pumpkin Pie?

Nutmeg is often used to season pumpkin pie.
Cloves are often used to season pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin pie is typically seasoned with cinnamon.
Pumpkins for making pie.
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  • Written By: Chris Kohatsu
  • Edited By: Jay Garcia
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2014
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Without Thanksgiving, there is no pumpkin pie, and without pumpkin pie, there is no Thanksgiving. Such is the nature of holiday food traditions. Pumpkin pie is a dessert associated with the autumn season and mainly served during the Thanksgiving holiday. Some pumpkin pies have the consistency of pudding, while others are cake-like. There are thousands of recipes and variations of pumpkin pie, but almost all will agree it is to be served with a Thanksgiving meal. Some people enjoy pumpkin pie so much, they will also serve it during Christmas.

When the original settlers arrived in America, they were fascinated with the Native American use of pumpkin for food. These settlers soon developed their own recipes using gourds and squashes. Shortly after, a pumpkin dessert was created. The first recipes called for a pumpkin to be filled with milk and pumpkin flesh, and cooked for hours over a fire. When spices were available, they were added to the pumpkin milk mixture.

Decades later, pumpkin farmers would dry, roast, and can pumpkin flesh, as it would provide nourishment during long winter seasons. Preserved pumpkin was used in breads, sauces, puddings, and eventually, as pie filling. As pumpkin pie grew in popularity, so too, did demand for preserved pumpkin. In 1929, Libby’s Canned Pumpkin arrived in grocery stores, and pumpkin pie soon became a common dessert with Thanksgiving dinner. An estimated 50 million pumpkin pies are served each year during Thanksgiving.


Recipes for pumpkin pie have been simplified over time, and some recipes can be made in as little as fifteen minutes. It is expected that even the most novice cook will be able to create a pumpkin pie. After all, pre-made pie shells are available in both the frozen and ready-bake variety, and spices, such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg have been combined to form fool-proof pumpkin pie spice. Finally, a can of evaporated milk and two eggs will complete a basic pie filling. Just combine the ingredients, then pour into the pie shell and bake at 425 degrees F (218 degrees C) for approximately an hour.

For those that would like to try making a true pumpkin pie from scratch, most recipes will call for the use of calabaza or sugar pumpkins. To roast pumpkin, cut open the pumpkins and scrape out the seeds. Split the pumpkin into wedges, and sprinkle with oil, sugar and spices. Roast at 425 degrees F (218 degrees C) for about an hour. Remove the pumpkin flesh from its skin and allow it to cool to room temperature.


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