Amy Keyishian

Pumpkin Pie Filling: Buy It vs. Make It

pumpkin pie recipeI remember my first pumpkin pie. I was at the supermarket near my newly minted first apartment, reveling in the amazing feeling of filling my very own actual shopping cart with whatever I thought necessary (generally this was Tab, smoked Gouda, and a French bread, which would last me most of a week) when I noticed cans of pumpkin pie filling stacked in a pyramid, next to the graham cracker crusts.


“Oh my god,” I breathed. “I’m going … to make … a pie.”


The next day, I headed to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving carrying my very own pie that I made with my own two hands, a can opener, and an oven that groaned with surprise and let off an alarming odor when I preheated it. Pie. I made pie!


I’ve come a long way, baby. But even now, it’s hard to resist the festive orange cans of pumpkin puree and pumpkin-pie filling that stack up at this time of year. I’m almost never without it in my larder, even when there was an alleged pumpkin famine last year.


So should I be making it myself while the pumpkins are fresh? Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t.


In order for pumpkin pie filling to even be considered for this column, I had to eliminate 90 percent of the laborious steps recommended across the internet. I went with the easiest, lowest-impact method of pureeing pumpkin that I could squeeze out of the many, many recipes I found. Cutting a raw pumpkin? Scraping, then roasting? Using both the food processor and the blender? Running it through a sieve? Not doing any of that. Not … doing … it.


Instead, I found a slow-cooker recipe and, in the comments from other cooks, the confirmation I sought: Many people just pop the whole pumpkin in the oven or crockpot and let the chips fall where they may. I was on my way! I put two organic sugar-pie pumpkins in a roasting pan with about a half-inch of water at the bottom, baked them at 350 degrees for about 1¼ hours, let them cool and then put them in the fridge. The next morning, it was a breeze to scoop out the seeds, peel off the skin and pop batches into my blender (I performed all three of these steps with a two-year-old literally dangling off my arm).


So will I be making and freezing puree for my own purposes? Let’s break it down.



As long as I kept it simple (see above), this was much less effort than I thought it was going to be. It was actually pretty painless. I have a great horror of things that are stringy — carving pumpkins usually stresses me out because I cannot get enough of the strings cleaned off the flesh, and worry that a web of them will follow me to the ends of my days, along with corn silk and acrylic sweaters. But baking the pumpkin made it easier to scoop and string, and the strings that remained really did disappear in the blender. I quickly had three cups of cheerful orange goo and made my own substitutions (soy cream rather than condensed milk) to create my special take on pumpkin pie filling. It froze and thawed without incident.



Pumpkin is never bad. Pumpkin pie puree and filling from a can tastes amazing, because it is pumpkin. Made fresh and then frozen, it is tastier, though: brighter, with a heartier texture. But is it so undeniably superior that you can never go back to canned once you’ve had it? No, not really. But it’s very good!



Pumpkin pie filling and puree cost the same — 10 cents an ounce when on sale, 21 when not. Meanwhile, the fresh pumpkins by me were $1.29 per pound, and a 3.5 pound pumpkin yielded about 3 cups of puree. That makes it $.18 an ounce, which is more. So you’ve got to get cheaper pumpkins or really love the fresh stuff to make this worth your while! (I’ll note, for the record, that a whole frozen pie is $.14 per ounce. Jeesh!)



Buy it. Unless you’re super-duper into making it, which is great. But it doesn’t save you anything.




What’s the verdict? Check out all our Buy It vs. Make It comparisons!



9 Responses to “Pumpkin Pie Filling: Buy It vs. Make It”

  • says:

    Any suggestions for a high altitude (7200 ft) pumpkin pie? I always use pie pumpkins (love the crockpot approach!) but never at 7200 feet. I don’t want a disaster. I have searched the internet and am still not hitting the mark. Please direct me if you can.
    Thank you,
    Pat in Santa Fe

  • Nancy O says:

    Never heard of making pumpkin pie with condensed milk…a;ways have used evaporated milk.

  • Rita Hiatt says:

    When you make pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkins you should try Honey Pumpkin Pie it’s great if your going to the trouble might just as well go healthy!

  • Deb McCarrick says:

    I found my sugar pumpkins at my local Sprouts Market. 2 for $3.00. Bought 4 of them, wishing I had gotten more!

  • lu ann halstead says:

    i made my first pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin this year. you might want to try a farmers market to get the sugar pumpkins. the one by me has them for 1.99…they had a sale not long ago, 6 for $10 i have about 5 cups in my freezer now, and i have 6 pumpkins to do yet. i cut the stem out cut pumpkin in half, then scoop the junk out, place cut side up on foil covered pan bake for 1 hr 45 min at 350, let cool, the skin peels right off the pulp, i use a potato masher to get it to the consistency i like, add the spices, measure it into freezer bags, and pop it in the freezer. need to make sure i have pumpkin so when my fiance decides he wants a pumpkin pie in the middle of summer, i can make one. I, for one, will never go back to using canned pumpkin again.

    • Irene Samec says:

      I have never used fresh pumpkin for a pie. How much pumpkin (cups) would one use for a 9″ pie?

      • Amy Keyishian says:

        I got roughly 1 cup of puree for every pound of pumpkin, maybe a little more.

        • alanad says:

          The best pumpkin for making pie is an heirloom variety called “long pie”. It looks more like a zucchini when it is growing than a pumpkin, and only turns orange after removed from the vine. No strings, easy to seed, and fantastic flavor. You can also use buttenut squash.

    • Jane says:

      Lu Ann this is my first time making a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin for a 9 inch pie how many cups of pumpkin do you use and do you have a recipe?

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