Chai Masala Pumpkin Pie

November 10, 2014
8 Ratings
Photo by Nikole Herriott
  • Makes a 9-inch pie
Author Notes

I prefer a pumpkin pie that is subtle in its spice and sugar; with a creamy and tender filling, against a crust that has both flake and crunch. I’m lucky to have a friend in Nikole Herriott (of Herriott Grace), who likes that kind of pie as much as I do, so we paired her photographs with my recipe for one of our favorite versions.

We used the pastry dough from my upcoming cookbook, and a filling inspired by the spices used in Indian spiced tea, masala chai. The combination is only a bit of a departure from traditional pumpkin pie, but enough of a change to count. Adding crème fraîche to the roasted pumpkin keeps things velvety, and straightens up the sweetness.

I usually serve pumpkin pie with some whipped cream that's folded through with just enough maple syrup to take off its edge, but If in the mood for true gilding, I’ll serve it with a Black Tea Caramel (recipe on my site as of 17 November) -- heady with Darjeeling and cardamom, it completes the whole masala chai thing the pie has started.

Homemade pumpkin purée, actually one made with hubbard squash, is our preference. (For the amount needed here, two should suffice.) But homemade purées can be wetter than store-bought. The 15 ounces should be just shy of 2 cups. If your weight measure is more than this volume, either place the purée in a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter and drain, or cook it longer when heating, until it's thick -- it might take 10 minutes or more.

If there is any concern about the amount of filling -- if it’s creeping up to the point where it might overflow -- bake any extra in a buttered ramekin alongside the pie. As soon as it swells in the center, it’s done, and then there’s the bonus of a cook’s (or in this case, baker’s) treat. —Tara O'Brady

What You'll Need
  • Butter, for greasing the pan
  • Pie dough, enough for a single-crust 9-inch pie, plus extra if making the braid
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 15 ounces pumpkin purée (see note)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, light or dark, packed
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (I prefer grade B)
  • 1/2 teaspoon medium-grain kosher salt
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  1. Butter a 9-inch pie tin and set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough to a 12-inch round. Fit the dough into the prepared pie tin, tightly into the corners and with the edges evenly overhanging the sides. Fold the excess dough under the rim, to make a nicely raised edge (there is a a lot of filling later, so a bit of height on the crust is needed). Crimp or decorate as desired. To make the braid as pictured, roll extra dough (about 1/4 of a recipe for a single-crust pie dough) to 1/8-inch thick rectangle. Cut into long 1/8-inch strips and braid in groups of 3. Wet the bottom crust with with water or an wash made with an egg beaten with a tablespoon of water, then gently place braid on top, carefully pressing to secure. Use as many braids as needed to cover the edge, joining the ends. Pop the pastry into the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat an oven to 425° F / 220° C, with a rack in the lower third.
  4. Place the cold pastry shell on a rimmed baking sheet. Prick the pastry all over with the tines of a fork, then line the shell with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights or dried beans and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove the pastry from the oven (still on its baking sheet) and let cool on a wire rack.
  5. Scoop the crème fraîche into the bowl of a food processor that has the metal blade in place. Add the cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, and pepper. Run the machine for 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl once. Combine the pumpkin purée, heavy cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is sputtering and thickened, with a glossy sheen, 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Pour the pumpkin into the spiced crème fraîche and run the machine until blended, maybe 1 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl, process again for 2 minutes. Take off the lid and let the filling cool down a bit -- about 10 minutes -- the bowl should feel warm, not hot. Replace the lid and fire up the motor again. Add the eggs, one at a time, through the feed tube, stopping and clearing the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat until well blended. Remove the bowl from the machine and carefully knock it against a counter to release any trapped air. Let settle for a minute.
  7. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° F / 175° C. Pour the filling into the par-baked pastry (see note above about avoiding overfilling), then bake until the filling is puffed at the center and with only the slightest wobble, 45 to 50 minutes.
  8. Transfer from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack (without the sheet tray). Chill or serve at room temperature with softly whipped cream and Black Tea Caramel.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kerry Lao
    Kerry Lao
  • Janet Yoon
    Janet Yoon
  • Jona @AssortedBites
    Jona @AssortedBites
  • I_Fortuna
  • molly yeh
    molly yeh
Food writer and creator of the site Seven Spoons. Author of the bestselling cookbook of the same name (Ten Speed Press and Appetite by Random House). Food columnist for The Globe and Mail.

39 Reviews

Kerry L. November 24, 2023
Made this pie + the caramel and some whip for a family gathering. So delicious! The flavors are beautiful and there is a great balance, so it's not too sweet. Definitely making this again! I tried the braided crust too, but all the extra time and handling of the dough made it a little tough. Next time I'll stick to a basic crimp.
Janet Y. November 7, 2016
Made this last night for friends last night and the pie was a success! For pie crust, I used standard butter crust recipe from Epicurious. Didn't have creme fraiche so substituted with sour cream and dash of leftover heavy cream - tasted great and didn't get any tartness from the sour cream. Thank you for this lovely take on a Thanksgiving classic!
Jona @. February 26, 2016
This is one of the prettiest pies I have ever seen.
I_Fortuna November 14, 2015
Well. chai means tea but I didn't see tea on the ingredient list. Otherwise, this is pretty traditional and looks fine. I was kind of expecting a more Indian influenced pie but I am not sure what would make it so. Was it the black pepper?
Tara O. November 26, 2015
Hello! On my site this was served with a black tea caramel, so that's where the "chai" is from — the chai masala is the spice mix used to season some teas in India, so that is where the influence comes from. It just so happens to be close to the spices traditionally used with pumpkin, with a slightly different proportion and the addition of black pepper, so that's what made me think they'd marry well. Hope that clears up the naming! Cheers.
ErinH November 26, 2014
I'm in the process of making this now; I'm midway through the pie but have already made the black tea caramel. HEAVEN. I can't wait to try the whole thing! (Though I'll have to wait until tomorrow after dinner...)
ErinH November 30, 2014
Okay, back after Thanksgiving to say that this pie and the black tea caramel were a HUGE hit. My "regular" pumpkin pie only got one slice taken out of it--this one was gobbled up. I will definitely make it again next year!
FoodieCloud November 23, 2014
Beautiful braided rim. Shows all the love that went into it :)
molly Y. November 22, 2014
Jessica D. November 22, 2014
is there a recipe for the black tea caramel?
Tara O. November 22, 2014
Hello Jessica, the black tea caramel is on my site, as mentioned in the headnote: Sorry for any confusion!
Jessica D. November 22, 2014
I see! I missed the headnote. Thank you!
Tara O. November 22, 2014
No problem, happy to point you in the right direction!
ninadora November 5, 2019
Is there a source for this recipe now? The website is gone and it sounds amazing!
Tara O. November 5, 2019
Hello! The black tea caramel is available on my new site:

I hope that is helpful!
Jamie P. November 22, 2014
So beautiful. Please can you offer tips on getting that picture-perfect, braided crust? I have a feeling mine would end up floppy and uneven, as when I attempt puff pastry cheese straws!
sticksnscones November 21, 2014
This looks fabulous! Could it be made with a different crust, let's say a graham cracker or gingersnap one?
Tara O. November 21, 2014
It should be possible, but I've not tested this filling with anything other than pastry. So, take that as you will, but I wouldn't think there would be a problem!
Diana A. November 26, 2015

Have you tried making this with a frozen crust? Any tips?
Windischgirl November 20, 2014
Sounds fab! Would love to make this for Thanksgiving. Question, though: doubt I can find creme fraiche here in the 'burbs, and no time to run to the city to look for it. Suggestions for substitutes...or a link to the instructions for how to make it? Thanks!
Tara O. November 20, 2014
Hello! The recipe has also been tested with a high-fat (30%) sour cream, or you can make your own here:
Windischgirl November 20, 2014
Thanks so much!
Clarissa K. November 19, 2014
Also what kind of pie plate did you use? Is that a tin? Any preferences on the brand? thanks!
Tara O. November 20, 2014
Hi Clarissa, both Nikole and I use standard aluminum pie tins for this pie (not the disposable ones). Ours our vintage, but new will be fine as long as it has a lip if you want to do a braided edge. For vintage, Etsy and eBay have loads!

If not doing a braided edge, there are lots of lovely pans here at Provisions. Good luck!
Tara O. November 20, 2014
Sorry, scratch that! I can't confirm our aluminum, but simply metal.
Clarissa K. November 20, 2014
perfect - thank you!!
Clarissa K. November 23, 2014
Hi Tara!

So I just took my pie out of the oven after the first initial bake (blind). The sides of the crust completely slid off the lip of the pan and half way down the side! :( :(

Not sure what I did wrong? I did have the braid on top of the crust, do you think the braided crust was too heavy and helped to slump the crust. I wish I could upload a picture to show you. Luckily this was a trial run for Thanksgiving. How can I fix this for next time?!

Clarissa K. November 23, 2014
I chilled the crust as instructed in the recipe, pricked the crust and used pie weights...
Tara O. November 23, 2014
Hello Clarissa, I'm so sorry to hear that! Hmm. It could be if the dough shrank, it would pull the crust towards the centre, or it could be the size of the lip on your pan. Do either of those sound possible? Which pie dough recipe did you use?
Clarissa K. November 23, 2014
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1/2 cup cold buttermilk plus 2 to 3 tablespoons if dough is dry

Since my metal pie tin hasn't arrived yet, I used a pyrex glass pie plate with a decent sized lip. I've been trying to research what I did wrong...too much butter? overworked dough? I read that glass is both good and bad for blind baking, so that wasn't helpful lol. I'm not sure...
Tara O. November 26, 2014
Hello Clarissa! Have you had any luck? I've not tested this technique with that crust, so can't say for sure — but I'm thinking that it was shrinking. I would say make sure the pastry isn't overworked, then let it rest for at least a few hours before rolling. Rest it again after forming, probably longer than minutes prescribed for mine. I hope that helps and best of luck with your endeavours!
Clarissa K. November 26, 2014
Hi Tara!

I actually tried again with a pie tin instead of glass to see if that would help. I also chilled it for 60 minutes instead of 30. I tried pricking holes through aluminum foil (for steam to escape more easily), as someone recommended that to me. In the first 10 minute blind bake one of the edges started slumping. I pulled the pie out of the oven determined to salvage it. I pulled the crust back up to the lip and it seemed to stay....until i took out the weights and foil for the next 10 minutes bake. After that, the entire crust fell into the middle.

another disaster. I'm going to try one more time. I'm going to skip buttering the tin in hopes that that will lessen the crusts ability to slide down the side (hopefully it won't have any adverse effects). I've also had suggestions to just leave pie weights in the entire 15-20 minutes..Any other suggestions?
Tara O. November 26, 2014
Try the weights and skip the buttering, or only butter the bottom and not the sides. Sorry to hear that you're having such trouble with your crust. Maybe try a thinner braid, as well.
Clarissa K. November 26, 2014
Ok - I will! Thank you so much for all your input! :)
Clarissa K. November 19, 2014
Is canned pumpkin the same as roasted pumpkin puree??
Tara O. November 20, 2014
Canned pure pumpkin will be fine!
Sini |. November 19, 2014
One of the prettiest pies I've ever come across. That rim!
Tara O. November 19, 2014
Thank you, Sini!
sheila November 9, 2020
in the recipe it says "see note" referring to pumpkin filling. where's the note?