How to Make Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie from Scratch

Piece of Pumpkin Pie
Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie
is Easy to Make Gluten Free
(Photo Dinner Series, CC BY 2.0)
Did you know that pumpkin pie was not a part of the original Thanksgiving celebration?

Although, it has now become a solid American tradition to serve pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie filling cooked inside of a rolled-out pie crust didn't surface in American kitchens until the end of the 19th century.

Before that time, cooks baked pumpkin custard inside a pumpkin, sort of like using the pumpkin gourd for the crust or bowl.

Yep.

Pumpkin pie started out as a gluten-free culinary specialty.

If you need to eat gluten free, or gluten free and dairy free, you could still cook that yummy pumpkin custard inside a whole, scooped out pumpkin. It would make a surprising Thanksgiving treat. But you honestly don't have to.

Making a gluten-free pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving is actually quite simple when you pair it with a flaky crust that doesn't require rolling out the dough. Fuss-free and dialed in to provide just the right amount of spice and flavor, this classic gluten-free pumpkin pie recipe will make the perfect end to your next Thanksgiving meal.


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Use the Right Type of Pumpkin


The best pumpkin pie filling isn’t made from the giant pumpkins you can purchase at the supermarket. While those huge bright orange beauties work well when carving scary Jack-O’-Lanterns for Halloween, that type of pumpkin has light-colored, watery flesh, and hardly NO flavor.

While they can be doctored up with extra sweeteners, spices, and flavorings (I’ve done that myself when the budget was tight), the best pumpkin for making Thanksgiving pies is called:

sweet pumpkins or baking pumpkins

Don't Use Decorated Sweet Pumpkins if Allergic to Food Coloring
Grocery Stores Often Only
Sell Baking Pumpkins
Decorated for Halloween

Baking pumpkins are fairly small, when compared to those gigantic pumpkins you use for Halloween.

Often, grocery stores will purchase them already painted and decorated with cute Jack-O'-Lantern faces long before the holiday. The pre-decorated pumpkins usually disappear by November.


These pre-decorated pumpkins are not a good choice for a gluten-free pumpkin pie if you are sensitive to food coloring. 

The orange color will seep through the pores of the skin and into the pumpkin's interior.

Try to find baking pumpkins that are not decorated. Often, the produce manager will mark them specifically for holiday baking:

Bin of Pie Pumpkins Marked by the Produce Manager
Often the Produce Manager will
Mark Which Pumpkins are for Pie

But if they don't, those pumpkins are small, dark orange, and look like this:

Pie Pumpkins are Small Enough to Hold in One Hand
Pie Pumpkins: Small and Dark Orange

I used to grow nothing but sweet pie pumpkins in my home garden when I was raising my sons. We used them for both Halloween and pumpkin recipes. They are easy to grow and not always available at the grocery store.

However, I've noticed that baking pumpkins are popular here in Utah and not as hard to get as they used to be in Southern California. They do come with a heftier cost than the large, tasteless pumpkins, but the flavor is well worth the extra money.

How to Make Mashed Pumpkin for Holiday Pies

So, "How do you bake a pumpkin?" you might ask.

When looking at a whole pumpkin, it can feel intimidating at first, but it's really not difficult to bake and mash them.

Since sweet pumpkins are very small, you can simply place them in a large roasting pan, just as they are, whole, with the stem facing up. You don't have to slice them up and remove the stringy flesh or seeds like you do if using a giant pumpkin.

If you want to roast the pumpkin seeds:

Industrial Strength
(Available at Amazon)

Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds, like you would if you were going to carve it up. You don't have to worry about getting all of that stringy stuff out of the pumpkin because it's easy to remove after baking.

If you want to use those larger Halloween pumpkins:

Cut them in half or wedges that are small enough to fit into your roasting pan. The pieces don't have to be uniform in size, or anything, but you will need a heavy, very sharp knife to do this. Pumpkins are a winter squash, so they are extremely hard and difficult to cut when raw.


Cheap, plastic pumpkin-cutting tools won't be sturdy enough to do the job, so if you don't have an industrial strength set of carving tools, at least use a high-quality, strong knife.

Place the whole pumpkin or pumpkins pieces in the pan. For pieces, you want them skin-side down, so they don't soak up too much water. Fill the pan with about 3 to 4-inches of water. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the pumpkin.

To check, you can just curl up a bit of the foil, being careful to avoid the steam, and poke the pumpkins with a sharp knife or fork. They will be quite tender when done.

Once thoroughly cooked through, remove the foil, and allow the pumpkin or pumpkin pieces to cool enough to handle. You can then remove the seeds and strings, if you haven’t already, and also the peel. If baking a whole pumpkin, simply half or quarter the squash before you attempt to do this.

The task will be quick and easy if the pumpkins are thoroughly cooked.

How Do You Bake and Mash a Pumpkin?
Homemade Mashed Pumpkin
for Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
(Photo Mary C. Salome, CC BY 2.0)
Once peeled, toss the pumpkin pieces into a large bowl and mash with a hand-held potato masher. You can also whip the pulp with an electric mixer until smooth.

I’ve done it both ways.

Homemade mashed pumpkin can be easily frozen for up to 6 months.

However, please note that canning mashed pumpkin is not recommended.

While the USDA did have directions for canning pumpkin and other winter squashes at one time, those directions were withdrawn in 1994. Today, if you find them posted somewhere on the web, they are considered out-of-date.

Pumpkin and other winter squashes are low-acid foods, which support the growth of harmful bacteria. Due to the inconsistency between different batches of mashed pumpkin:
  • the thickness of the pulp after mashing
  • its low acidity level
  • and uncontrollable water content
Calculating a safe processing time for canning mashed pumpkin is not possible.    

Canned Pumpkin is Available Year Round

Libby’s pumpkin hit the market in 1929, giving the busy holiday cook a head start. That event made canned pumpkin available to cooks year round.


(Check Amazon for Availability)

However, holiday tradition was already firmly set here in the U.S. before canned pumpkin became a thing.

While it's extremely easy to make a pumpkin pie recipe from scratch, most individuals only associate pumpkin with holiday baking. For that reason, the greater majority of canned pumpkin is sold during the holiday season.
  • Year-round availability
  • convenience
  • and safety
haven’t changed that tendency.

While pumpkin is a versatile, nutritious, high-fiber botanical fruit that can be used in your gluten-free baking year round, it is generally only thought of as an ingredient for a holiday dessert or sweet bread.

If you want to use canned pumpkin throughout the year, you might need to stock up during the month of November or search out online sources. Here, in our area of Utah, only store-brand canned pumpkin is available year round.  

How to Make a Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie - Dairy-Free


Pumpkin pie filling was originally made with heavy or light cream. When evaporated milk became popular, however, most pumpkin pie recipes switched to using canned milk instead, due to the cheaper price and convenience.

For those who are not sensitive to dairy, heavy cream, light cream, and canned evaporated milk will all work well in this recipe. Use whichever one you like. I normally use heavy cream since it contains only a small amount of lactose. Evaporated milk is concentrated, so it contains double the amount of milk sugar that regular milk has.

If you need a dairy-free pumpkin pie filling:

Replace the canned milk with:

canned coconut milk
almond milk
soy milk
or rice milk

They all work well in pumpkin pie. Real canned coconut milk available at Amazon and in the oriental section of many supermarkets (not the coconut-flavored water type) adds richness to the pumpkin custard that you won't get with almond milk. Coconut milk will also provide a texture that is more similar to a pumpkin pie made with heavy cream.

Traditionally, pumpkin pie is baked in a pre-baked pie crust to avoid sogginess, but I haven’t had much luck doing it that way. Since going gluten free, I've found that this classic pumpkin pie recipe works better if you simply pour the pie filling into a gluten-free pie crust without pre-baking it.

My Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Recipe from Scratch
My First Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie
(Made with lots of molasses and traditional spices
instead of Pumpkin Spice)

Best Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie Recipe


Ingredients:
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream, evaporated milk, or milk alternative
  • 1-1/2 cups mashed pumpkin (or 15oz can)
  • 2 tablespoons molasses (I use Grandma's)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I make my own)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup packed pure cane brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I have Tone's right now)
  • 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice (I use McCormick)
  • Single deep-dish pie crust
Prepare the gluten-free pie crust according to the linked-to recipe, and set aside.

If you're not sensitive to whole grains, there are several brands of pre-formed gluten-free pie crusts on the market that might be suitable if you don't want to make your own. They are incredibly flaky, but all hurt my stomach, so I don't use them very much. They also have Xantham gum of unknown origin.

When ready to make the filling, preheat oven to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, heavy cream, pumpkin, molasses, vanilla, and salt. Blend well.

In a separate small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and spices. If you are using a large, jack-o’-lantern type home-mashed pumpkin, also add a tablespoon of cornstarch. If you don't add the cornstarch, your pie won't set up properly. Stir the sugar mixture into the pumpkin mixture.

Pour the filling into your pie crust and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. This will set the custard. Lower the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking, without opening up the oven door, for 45 to 50 minutes. 

The pie is done if the filling jiggles just a little when shaken gently. It shouldn’t be completely firm. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

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Comments

  1. Pumpkin pie is a traditional sweet dessert, often eaten during the fall and early winter, especially for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the United States and Canada.

    ReplyDelete

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