No-Pie Pumpkin Pie

November 24, 2014

Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich is going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.

Today: Enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie -- minus the crust.

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Pumpkin pie? I think people like the idea of pumpkin pie more than the pie itself. I think what people really like is pumpkin pie filling, because the crust on a pumpkin pie is almost always soggy. I’m not saying pumpkin pie can’t be done well, but it rarely is, and Thanksgiving is no time to try to perfect a new skill.

With everything we have to eat for Thanksgiving, who needs extra pastry, anyway? My mother figured this out over 50 years ago and I’ve simply picked up her torch.  

My family’s Thanksgiving always included “pumpkin pudding.” I wish I could say that the pudding starts with a freshly baked pumpkin, lovingly mashed and blended with fresh cream, eggs, spices. In reality, it was (and still is!) canned pumpkin purée and evaporated milk, mixed with spices exactly as directed in the recipe on the can of pumpkin, but baked in a dish instead of a crust. I can say that we have never stooped to buying cans of that already-spiced pumpkin pie filling instead of straight pumpkin purée -- because we do have our standards (and our spice drawer). The pudding is served chilled, scooped from the dish and topped with whipped cream. Real whipped cream. The whole business is divine. People ask for the recipe. 

I have notes for various baking dishes (see baking notes below) that I have used over the years, telling me how many recipes fit in it and about how long it takes to bake, including an emphatic note one year to NOT bake the stuff in that really large ceramic dish because it will crack -- the pudding, not the dish -- in an ugly way. A good thing to know is that you can fill a baking dish deeper than a pie crust, but it’s best not to exceed a depth of about 1 1/2 inches. Baking times vary with depth, size, and type of baking dish so you just have to watch and check. I used to dither each year about whether to start baking at 425° F, as directed on the can, and then turn down to 350° F for the rest of the time, or just do it all at 350° F. I decided that the higher temperature was meant to get a fast start and prevent a soggy (ha!) crust, so I bake the pudding at 350° F from start to finish. One year, my attempt to bake even more gently, in a water bath, resulted in the following note to self: “Your know-it-all attempt to improve on mom’s method made the pudding less wonderfully creamy and flavorful. Go figure!”

More: See Food52's guide to all things Thanksgiving.

The pudding can and should be baked the day before Thanksgiving -- both texture and flavor are enhanced with a night in the fridge. I make a lot of pudding, as my mother always did, because we are devoted to leftovers. We eat pumpkin pudding with a side of Bea's No-Peel Apple Crisp for as many days and meals as it lasts, starting the day after Thanksgiving. It would not be possible to eat so much, especially with whipped cream, if both the pumpkin and the apple had crusts. So, you see, ditching the crust it quite brilliant -- it’s not just an emergency, last minute, no-time-to-make-a-crust kind of crisis thing, but a good plan to have from the start. 

P.S. At 91, my mother still prefers leftover Pumpkin Pudding and apple crisp to all of the other leftovers.

Baking notes:

A triple recipe for filling (three regular 14-ounce cans or one large 28-ounce plus 1 regular can of pumpkin purée) will fill two 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dishes. Baking time will be somewhere between 55 and 65 minutes at 350° F -- use the knife test for doneness. 

Pumpkin Pudding (a.k.a. No-Pie Pumpkin Pie)

From the Libby's can 

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
One 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
Whipped cream for serving

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Get excited about Alice's new book Flavor Flours: nearly 125 recipes -- from Double Oatmeal Cookies to Buckwheat Gingerbread -- made with wheat flour alternatives like rice flour, oat flour, corn flour, sorghum flour, and teff (not only because they're gluten-free, but for an extra dimension of flavor, too).  

Photos by Bobbi Lin


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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sherry E
    Sherry E
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  • Milky
  • Raylene Toolin
    Raylene Toolin
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Sherry E. November 13, 2017
what happens if no sugar or sweetener added? I find pumpkin puree "sweet" and wish to try this using Greek yogurt versus other liquid...any comments from anyone on my thoughts??? I have a friend should she see this comment of mine will know this is me, never following the recipe!!!
nikita May 8, 2016
My family and I have enjoyed pumpkin pie without the crust for awhile now. Never much cared for the (usu. soggy) crust. Has anyone tried beating the so-called pie with a mixer to see what the result might be?
Ellen November 21, 2015
I came here because I bought pre-formed pie crusts in a tin (to take to a church potluck) and that always leaves me with extra filling, but not enough for a whole 'nother pie. So I was looking for something to make with the excess filling. I'm going to bake this pudding in ramekins! By the way, I wouldn't be too snobbish about pureed canned pumpkin. One year I went to all the trouble of roasting, scooping and pureeing pumpin. Guess what? It didn't taste any different than the ones with the canned stuff. So I've never looked back.
Milky November 10, 2015
This looks awesome! I will try it!!!
Raylene T. December 21, 2014
If you spray the pie pan with cooking oil, it can be cut and served like a pie, instead of using a spoon. Learned that it my sons school when he was in 1st grade.
rachel December 4, 2014
i also bake it in a glass cake pan so it all fits and sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar
rachel December 4, 2014
i use a can of full fat coconut milk in place of evaporated milk luv it for breakfast
Grandi November 29, 2014
Discovered no-crust pumpkin pie when I made my first: there was more filling than would fit in the pie crust, so baked it in a small dish alongside. I do the same every year and save the "pudding" portion for myself, as a crust does not improve on the wonderousness of pumpkin in any noticeable way.
Amanda November 27, 2014
Can't it be made in a regular glass pie plate?
Catherine November 25, 2014
I've successfully used coconut milk, and a combination of coconut cream + almond milk in the past for dairy-free pumpkin pie. With the caveat of my never making this particular recipe before, you should be able to swap the milks successfully.
jane V. November 24, 2014
Any tips for making this dairy free--with coconut milk?