Pumpkin Pie

Libby’s Just Changed Their Pumpkin Pie Recipe for the First Time in 69 Years

Here’s what’s different about it.

November  5, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

Picture a classic Thanksgiving meal, all set for dinner with candles aglow. Center stage, a glistening roast turkey. A bowl of jiggly cranberry sauce crowds the extra space next to a pitcher of gravy, a deep dish of pillowy mashed potatoes, and a platter of stuffing, crowned with crispy cubes of butter-soaked bread. Competing for your attention are the scents of onion and sage, and the comforting, yeasty fragrance of just-baked dinner rolls.

But you’re not really here for any of that. You—like many people on Thanksgiving—are waiting for the main event: the pumpkin pie.

One of the most fiercely beloved traditions of a Thanksgiving meal, pumpkin pie has become a symbol of the holiday: a dessert recipe most bakers trot out solely for this one day and largely ignore the rest of the year. Unlike apple or pecan pie—both common Thanksgiving desserts that remain popular throughout the year—pumpkin pie is inextricably intertwined with Thanksgiving.

Of course, plenty of cooks will outsource dessert, delegating the task to guests or a bakery. But if there’s one day of the year when non-bakers will attempt a from-scratch recipe, it’s Thanksgiving. And if you’re baking a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, there’s a good chance you’re using the recipe from the back of the Libby’s pumpkin puree can.

A nostalgic can for many on Thanksgiving. Photo by Libby's

The recipe dates back to the 1950s, when it first appeared on the can’s label. That single recipe has made its way into a vast number of kitchens: Libby’s (owned by Nestlé) makes up nearly 90 percent of the market for canned pumpkin in the United States. And nearly all of that is sold within a four-month window between October and March. This is, in short, firmly a Thanksgiving-centric product.

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Top Comment:
“Still, the basic recipe from Libby's can is there, and the custard is so perfect, that I indeed make the custard without the crust several times a year. I buy about 6 extra cans of pumpkin during the holiday season when it is inexpensive, and use it up over the course of the coming year--including Christmas-- for pumpkin custard. Sooo good. And open to a little more variation on the spices. But still basically the same. ”
— judy
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Perhaps you can remember making the Libby’s recipe yourself, or you can picture a family member or friend consulting the back of the can. I’d wager that the handwritten recipe in many family cookbooks is actually the Libby’s one—just like on Friends, when Phoebe’s grandmother’s “famous” chocolate chip cookies turned out to be from the back of the Tollhouse bag.

Not that there’s anything wrong with following recipes like these. They work. The Libby’s recipe, in particular, yields a stunning pie with a silken, creamy pumpkin custard that jiggles just enough but rarely ever cracks on top. It isn’t too thick or rich, nor is it too soft or thin. It’s certainly sweet, but not so sweet that you don’t taste the pumpkin and the spice.

And about that spice: It’s subtle. A 5-year-old with a picky palate won’t be thrown off by the level of spices, which include ground ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. This is a comforting pie, designed to please everyone at the Thanksgiving table. The bakers in Nestlé’s test kitchen developed this recipe to sell canned pumpkin, and it does just that.

So given the popularity of the decades-old recipe, you’d imagine the company would stick with proven success.

But this year, for the first time since the product debuted, the recipe has changed! If you buy a can of Libby’s pumpkin puree and flip to the back of the label, you’ll find a recipe for “New-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie.”

So what’s new?

The old recipe uses granulated sugar and evaporated milk for sweetness, whereas the new recipe skips the sugar altogether and uses a combination of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, but dials back the amount of evaporated milk to compensate for the increased liquid content from the condensed milk. The new pie is baked slightly longer (10 additional minutes), an important adjustment that ensures the filling is still creamy and set, despite more liquid.

Everything else stays exactly the same, with one notable exception: The new recipe has double the amount of cloves (1/2 teaspoon compared to 1/4 teaspoon), which is a surprisingly noticeable and welcome change. You can’t pinpoint the clove flavor exactly, but in a side-by-side comparison, my taste testers found that the spices sung more in the new version. They stand out more against the backdrop of pumpkin and sugar.

Devoted fans of the original recipe may stay loyal to it, steadfastly refusing to alter any Thanksgiving traditions. But if you’re willing to stray ever so slightly from the classic recipe, try the “new-fashioned” version. It’s as familiar and as comforting as the original, but—I’ll go right out and say it—even better.

Do you make the pumpkin pie from the back of the Libby's can? Let us know in the comments below.
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I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.

66 Comments

dgrant589 November 21, 2019
I would like to throw in a little note to say that canned pumpkin is not specifically pumpkin squash. The truth is so called canned pumpkin is actually all types orange colored squash processed together.. the reason why it's called Pumpkin on the can is a marketing ploy to get you to buy it when the holidays are in season.
 
Sally J. November 17, 2019
I use the recipe on the old Del Monte can. Alas, I can no longer find Del Monte pumpkin, which I still think is a better product than Libby’s. The recipe makes a smooth but spicy pie....family fav for years (since my gramma recommended it in the 50’s when I baked my first one when I was 6)!
 
Beanwean November 16, 2019
Yes to Libby's pumpkin, but never the recipe on the can. Since 1968 or so, my mother always made the pumpkin pie in "American Cooking" from the Time Life Foods of the World series. It calls for applejack whiskey, but not so much to overwhelm. I have adapted the recipe a bit over the years, upping the spices (nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger) and swapping out the regular pie crust for a crumb crust made from gingersnaps. I can't imagine Thanksgiving without it!
 
Gail M. November 16, 2019
I have used the Libby can recipe for over 50 years and long ago added more cloves and a bit more cinnamon. This pie is one of the most requested from family. I do look forward to trying the new recipe.
 
trvlnsandy November 16, 2019
This makes it sound like the old recipe is gone and the company is just trying to get you to buy other products. Just picked up a can yesterday and they have both - traditional and new. No telling how long they'll include both on the label, but......
 
Gracegirl November 16, 2019
Bless Libby canned pumpkin!
Our traditional pumpkin pie..was pumpkin chiffon..!!
Much made..very much loved..
thruout our family Thanksgivings and Christmases!!!
 
d W. November 15, 2019
I stopped using "the recipe" when I stopped using Nestle products. I found that other brands of pumpkin differ somewhat but there is one that is a store-brand that I like. I make more of a custard type pie similar to the kind my mother made. I can't use her recipe because I no longer have 12" deep Pyrex pie plates like she used. I like different spices and ratios, too. I came up with a keeper a few years ago. I add toasted pecans to the top of it and it is a real hit.
 
Gracegirl November 16, 2019
Uummmmnumm!!!!
If ure still baking this pie..& Ned the “ 12 inchers “..... you might want to check out the neighborhood thrift stores...as many people are downsizing..donating
precious pieces..like those you mentioned that sooo many of us have used over the decades..😀
 
Lauren B. November 16, 2019
LOOK! You can get one on Etsy but there is only one so you have to hurry!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/736770482/vintage-pyrex-212-oven-glass-12-pizza? 🙂ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=pyrex+12+inch+plate&ref=sr_gallery-1-1
 
d W. November 16, 2019
Thank you. It said it was a pizza plate but I couldn't get a very good look at it so I bought it in case I could use it for a pie plate. Would be nice to make a real pie again in a deep pie plate like the old days. I appreciate your help. I keep looking for them.
 
Lauren B. November 17, 2019
Yipes! I hope it is what you want! Good luck! 😋
 
Emily T. November 15, 2019
I’m pissed! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it says the eternal traditionalist. Even though I substitute nutmeg for cloves lol.
 
Maureen W. November 15, 2019
I so agree. I have made my pumpkin pies from the old recipe for 62 year. It was perfect, I really don’t like the idea of using condensed mile.
 
Maureen W. November 15, 2019
Milk not miles
 
Denise November 14, 2019
I’ll continue to use the Libby’s recipe with evaporated milk since I can control the sugar. But I like to separate the eggs and whip the whites to soft peaks (with some of the sugar added) to yield a more mousse-like custard. I also substitute real maple syrup for some of the sugar, which is a mixture of white and brown. A great pie!
 
Emily T. November 15, 2019
I’ll try that whipping whites idea! Brilliant⭐️
 
d W. November 15, 2019
I do that, too, with the whites. I use only brown sugar in mine. Yours sounds really yummy.
 
Parvin November 14, 2019
They did it to sell a can of sweetened condensed milk. That's the only reason. Especially with milk sales of every kind dropping. No other reason. No you'll end up with 2 partial cans and $3 less in your pocket.
 
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Posie (. November 14, 2019
I agree that it was probably the impetus for the change—but I’ll note here for anyone reading that if you do try it and have leftover condensed milk (or if you ever have extra condensed milk!) to try adding it to a pound cake recipe. Dial back the sugar a bit to compensate but it yields the nicest crumb I’ve ever baked in a pound cake!
 
Maureen K. November 14, 2019
thats not true it taste so much better with condensed milk
 
d W. November 15, 2019
Nestles is very much all about the money. I have found many other products that I like. I am on a limited income and have to watch the pennies but have not had to cut the quality.
 
Sherry P. November 13, 2019
For the Libby Pumpkin pie recipe, I always used more spices than it said and I never used as much evaporated milk either. That seemed to make it richer tasting.
 
Dawn D. November 13, 2019
Please do make both! I'd love to hear a side-by-side taste comparison!
 
Maureen W. November 15, 2019
Good idea
 
Matt H. November 13, 2019
I tell people every year that it’s my “Aunt Libby’s” secret recipe. It never disappoints. I might make one of each version this year for academic purposes...
 
Lana S. November 12, 2019
Hello! I just made one today. Actually I used one can of sweetened condensed milk, 1 Tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice and 2 eggs. No sugar, and no evaporated milk. It was wonderful!!
 
Maureen K. November 14, 2019
Thanks I agree
 
maggie November 15, 2019
I make mine the same way. It is the hit of the party every year! I also add a pinch cloves, makes a little deeper spice flavor.
 
Michele W. November 12, 2019
Welll the traditional has been a stable for me since my mom made it. And her mom...and my Great Granny as well. Hmmm might consider the new version.....but can state that the amount of spices I have used is always more then what was on the label. Cinnamon/ Nutmeg/Ginger/Cloves - all we’re added in. The more spice the better is the pumpkin pie for me!! One year...grandkids helped make the pies. The sugar was actually left out on accident and the pie tasted just fine!! It’s one of our treasures we now talk about each holiday season. So that’s priceless!! Guess my oldest grand girl was just ahead of the times!!
 
Allison November 12, 2019
The change ups the carb/sugar content considerably - by roughly 60 grams of carbohydrate per the whole pie, or 7g - 10g for 1/8 - 1/6 of the pie. Sweetened condensed milk has 220 grams of carbohydrate per can (as called for in the new recipe); 3/4 cup of sugar, as the original called for, has about 150.
 
Mellie November 12, 2019
I would love to know what the difference is in sugar content switching to some sweetened condensed milk??? Does anyone know?
 
Lynnie November 11, 2019
I have been baking and cooking most all of my many decades along with my family. My mama would make what she called “pumpkin custard” any time of the year she felt like it, and that is basically the Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe baked with no crust in a casserole dish or custard cups (in a water bath). With any twaeks we felt like making.

So now, moment of truth: I pretty much don’t bother baking pumpkin pie now ... since I can just roll over to Costco and buy an excellent ginormous pumpkin pie with mostly organic ingredients for just $5.99 (may have gone up $1 this year). If I’m going to invest energy+time+$$ in baking, I opt for other projects like variants on pecan pie or pumpkin cheesecake (using fresh pumpkin from special pumpkin varietals that way beat out anything in a can ... roast it in early Nov. and freeze portions.) Still use that Libby pie recipe for “pumpkin custard” - also pisted on Libby’s own website as “crustless pumpkin pie” (tip: double the recipe for best rsults... and adjust spices/sweeteners/creamy stuff to personal pref; hard to mess this up!)
 
jody D. November 14, 2019
The Costco pie is the best "authentic" tasting pumpkin pie...IMHO
 
Pat B. November 11, 2019
I just bought Libbys pumpkin and there is no "new fashioned" recipe on the label.
 
Lynnie November 11, 2019
Hmmmm.... could well be old stock that still has a good shelf life “use by” date ...
 
Miss_Karen November 10, 2019
If it's not broken, don't fix it! I agree with the person who said that they would have partial cans left over. Not very economical if you ask me. I have used the Libby's recipe many times. However, my usual tweak is a hazelnut crust & strusel topping with crystallized ginger.