Bake

Pumpkin Pudding (aka No-Pie Pumpkin Pie)

October  5, 2021
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Do you know anyone who really likes pumpkin pie? I don't think so. See, I think people like the idea of pumpkin pie more than the pie itself. 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 crust 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, instead of pie, always included a dish called "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 (which is actually not just pumpkin but a few types of winter squash) and evaporated milk, mixed with spices exactly as directed in the recipe on the can of Libby's 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. By the way, I'm talking real whipped cream, impossibly fluffy and light.

People always ask me for the recipe (and little do they know, it's hiding in plain sight!). So here I am to give the big reveal. It's quite a simple recipe and absolutely foolproof.

After you mix up a few ingredients, it's on to the baking. I have kept notes for the pudding's results in various baking dishes (see baking notes below), which I have relied on over the years. My notes have told me how many recipes fit in each dish and about how long the pudding 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, mind you—in an exceedingly unattractive way.

A good thing to know, though, is that you can fill a baking dish deeper than you can a pie crust, but it’s best not to exceed a depth of about 1½ 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. Ultimately, 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!”

The pudding can and should be baked the day before Thanksgiving (a make-ahead win; plus, it'll free up some much-needed oven space on the big day)—both the texture and flavor are enhanced with a night in the fridge. When I make this pudding, I make a whole lot of it, as my mother always did, because my family is extremely devoted to its 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. (And at 91, my mother still prefers leftover pumpkin pudding and apple crisp to all of the other turkey-sandwich components.)

On Thanksgiving itself, 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.

(I must add, though, that if you absolutely must make a crusted pie, start with this recipe and do a test run in October first.) —Alice Medrich

Test Kitchen Notes

Crustless Pumpkin Pudding Baking Notes:

A triple recipe for the filling (three regular 14-ounce cans or one large 28-ounce plus 1 regular can of pumpkin purée) will fill two 2- to 2½-quart baking dishes. Baking time will be somewhere between 55 and 65 minutes at 350°F—stick a knife into the pudding and see if it comes out relatively clean (and not at all liquidy) to test for doneness. Typically, this will be around 50 minutes to an hour.

You can also make this recipe in ceramic ovenproof ramekins, to yield 8 individual servings. You'll want to reduce the baking time, too—start checking at 25 minutes and move from there.

Last, a note on making this dairy-free: Some have asked if you can use coconut milk for the filling and whip up coconut cream for the topping. While I've never tried it this way myself, I don't see why it wouldn't work—there's enough fat content, and thickness, in coconut milk to help keep up the pudding's texture. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Pumpkin Pudding (aka No-Pie Pumpkin Pie)
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Makes 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs to blend. Stir in the pumpkin purée and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk.
  3. Pour into glass or ceramic baking dish. 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 1½ inches. Baking times vary with the depth, size, and type of baking dish, so you just have to watch and check. Bake until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack, then refrigerate overnight, until ready to serve. Serve with the whipped cream, if using.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Debra McCormick
    Debra McCormick
  • Sarah Aline Steinberg
    Sarah Aline Steinberg
  • jpriddy
    jpriddy
  • Denise Grant Fletcher
    Denise Grant Fletcher
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!).

67 Reviews

judy September 29, 2021
Started making pumpkin custard several decades ago. I have never been very good at crust--ALWAYS soggy and terrible. So one year I simply made the filling, and served it with whipped cream. Now it is a staple. I have since found a great recipe for pumpkin pie with the crust ON TOP! (here on F52) and now get to enjoy both with and without crust.
 
PanTostado December 14, 2020
Delicious!! Couldn’t tell the difference when made dairy free with coconut milk.
 
Debra M. November 17, 2020
This desert was fantastic! My husband loves it 😉 and he is picky. Thank you for your recipe.
 
Jennc133 November 17, 2020
came to read reviews, mine is in the oven right now 🥰
 
[email protected] November 2, 2020
Made this with full fat coconut milk. It was excellent!
 
Mpope October 19, 2020
What is the nutritional information?
 
[email protected] February 4, 2020
Yes my dog loves this pumpkin pudding!!
 
[email protected] February 2, 2020
My dog needs pumpkin in his diet for reasons I don't want to share. I like pumpkin pie but bombed and the crust lately so I thought I would try this recipe
 
Jennc133 November 17, 2020
Pumpkin is great for dogs! 👍
 
jo M. November 30, 2019
thought to try this, using egg replacer (my daughter is allergic to eggs) turned out very tasty, maybe a little off on texture from egg replacer, but will definitely make it again (w/real eggs) served w/fresh whipped cream!
 
MadeleineC November 25, 2019
I was looking for just such a recipe two weeks ago! Thank you. And one suggestion - if adding crumbs for parfait I suggest gingersnaps. I have been making a crumb crust for pumpkin pie with gingersnaps for years, we like it much better than a pastry crust..
 
Sarah A. November 20, 2018
Has anyone done this with coconut milk instead of condensed milk? I’ve found that the condensed milk pies make my family, well, to be honest, gassy. Like not fit for company gassy.
 
Candy November 25, 2020
Sarah, coconut milk works great. Just sub it for same amount as the milk.
 
starving_artist November 3, 2017
I found the text sort of grainy. I used the whole foods 365 pumpkin purée. Anyone else have rugs issue?
 
starving_artist November 3, 2017
Ugh auto correct! That should read: I found the texture sort of grainy. And Does anyone else have that issue?
 
Ahdah November 4, 2017
America's Test Kitchen reviewed canned pumpkin puree and recommended Libby's. Some of them they said were grainy, you might want to give it one more try.
 
Debra M. November 17, 2020
I used Libby's and it was fine.
 
Ahdah November 3, 2017
I baked mine in a deep glass pie plate. I then was able to slice it like a pie and serve. Delicious! I used less sugar because I am on WW and used a can of 2% evaporated milk. I have all the ingredients ready to take with us to HHI on Sunday.
 
jpriddy October 9, 2017
I have been making Pumpkin Custard for my granddaughter since she was tiny. Pumpkin or Delicata or other rich squash plus a small amount of brown sugar, milk or cream or full fat coconut milk, plus spices, and eggs.
 
Leanna October 11, 2019
I am interested in your recipe. Please share.
 
Merry December 14, 2016
In a rectangular glass dish, I've found it takes right at one hour. I do always check it and have sometimes added a few additional minutes.
 
Denise G. December 13, 2016
How long do you "roughly" bake it? Say in a rectangular glass casserole dish?
 
Cindy L. November 29, 2016
Once baked, how long will this last in the refrigerator?
 
Merry November 29, 2016
We've eaten it over four days with no problem. Also like the addition of some "candied" walnuts crumbled over the top.
 
Steph November 4, 2016
Great recipe! Although mine has a curdled texture. Any ideas why this happened? Thanks
 
Barbara October 13, 2016
Barbara
I love the fact that this is a grain-free recipe. I added a little nutmeg to the spices, which is my favorite.
 
judy February 23, 2016
This has been a staple dessert in our household for years. I am not very good at piecrust and we don't miss the calories, either. My sons still want an extra pie when they come over so that there is some for breakfast the next morning.
 
Merry November 27, 2015
Just tried this for the first time and thought it was terrific. Pie crust isn't at the top of my list, so we didn't miss it at all. Will definitely be making again (killer breakfast with an espresso).