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The secret for the best pumpkin pie from scratch? Leave out the pumpkin and use butternut squash instead. It’s closer to what’s used to make canned pumpkin and will give you a sweet and creamy pumpkin pie with full-on traditional flavor.
I’m about to shatter your childhood illusions. You know those creamy pumpkin pies you celebrate each Thanksgiving with? Well, it turns out there’s no real “pumpkin” in them at all. If you were introduced to the pumpkin that is used to make pumpkin puree in a can you’d look at it and think it was some kind of squash. That is how I came up with this butternut squash pie recipe, and how I found out that when you’re making pumpkin pie from scratch, butternut squash is one of your best starting points.
You’ll find the full recipe below along with a video, and if you make it I guarantee you that not a single person at your holiday gathering will realize that it’s made with butternut. They’ll ooh and aww at your incredibly delicious pumpkin pie and say that it’s the best they’ve ever had. I even challenge you to serve it alongside a pumpkin-from-a-can pie, or a homemade sugar pumpkin pie, as a taste test. It could get things lively at the end of Thanksgiving dinner!
Libby’s Pumpkin Puree isn’t what you think
Recently, I was researching the best pumpkin varieties for eating when I decided to look into the pumpkin used for Libby’s pumpkin purée. It has great flavor and is what most people use to make pumpkin pie. What variety is it that they use though? I was more than a little surprised to find out that most people would classify it as a squash.
The Dickinson Select squash has the same skin and flesh color as butternut, although the squash is much larger. It’s a trademarked variety so you can’t buy seeds to grow it yourself but there are similar varieties including this one. That got me thinking though — what would a pumpkin pie made with butternut squash taste like? It turns out that it tastes exactly like an incredibly delicious pumpkin pie.
Use Butternut Squash to make Pumpkin Pie
If you want to make pumpkin pie from a can, it’s easy and traditional. If you want to make pumpkin pie from scratch, avoid the pumpkins sold at shops. Unfortunately, most of them have bland taste or a texture that isn’t suited for pie filling. It’s not common knowledge that you need pumpkins (and squash!) with dense flesh to make a good pumpkin pie. Many varieties give you a watery puree that’s much better suited to making my pumpkin spice soap recipe than a thick and creamy pie filling.
You also need flesh that has an excellent and sweet flavor to make pumpkin pie from scratch. If you can find a sugar pumpkin at a farmers market, or miraculously at your supermarket, then use it to make pumpkin pie. If not, and all you can find are the tasteless Halloween pumpkins, pick up a butternut squash. It’s sweet and flavorsome, makes excellent pie, and is readily available.
Butternut Squash Pumpkin Pie Recipe
One Crust Pastry Dough
- 1 cups plain flour 130 grams
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter 70 grams
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 2-3 Tbsp cold water
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk 14 oz / 400ml
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 TBSP sunflower oil
- 1 TBSP ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 Eggs
Make the butternut purée
- Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place the squash flesh side down on a baking tray. It helps to line the tray with baking paper. Roast at 375°F / 190°C / 170°C Fan assisted oven for an hour. Take out and allow to cool.
- When room temperature, peel the skin off — a potato peeler works a treat. Next, blend the squash into a purée using a food processor or a stick (immersion) blender. You'll need about four cups of butternut squash purée for this recipe.
Make the Pie Crust
- You can skip this step by purchasing a ready-made pie crust but it's worth the extra effort! Cut the butter into the flour and salt using two crisscrossing butter knives or a pastry cutter. The latter will save you hassle though. What you're aiming to do is mix the butter with the dry ingredients without melting it. It should have the texture of fine crumbs when you're finished.
- When it's ready, begin adding the cold water. Stir it into the mix until the pastry dough starts sticking together and cleaning the side of the bowl.
Blind-bake the Pie Crust
- Roll the dough into a ball and then out flat on a floured surface, roll it so that it fits your pie pan. It should be wide enough to over-hang the edges by an inch. To get it in the pan, I find rolling it up on the rolling pin and then unrolling it onto the pan works a treat. You can fold the edges up like mine if you wish or just trim and press the edges to the outer side of the pan.
- To make sure that your crust is crispy, you'll need to 'blind bake' it. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C / 165°C Fan-assisted oven. Line the pie crust with a sheet of foil or baking paper and then pour three or four cups of hard, uncooked beans* (or rice) in. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until the crust has firmed up.
Make the Pie Filling
- In a bowl, beat the eggs with the spices, vanilla, and oil. Pour it into the pumpkin purée and stir well. Next, stir in the can of sweetened condensed milk and the cream. When it's blended, pour into the pre-baked pie crust.
Bake the Pie
- Bake the pie for an hour or until the center is set. It may bubble or crack around the edges but that just adds to its charm. Cool it for at least 30 minutes before serving — you can serve it at room temperature or chilled. I like a nice dollop of cinnamon whipped cream served with mine.
More Delicious Holiday Recipes to Try
- Classic Apple Pie (with a Colorful Twist!)
- Baileys Irish Cream from Scratch
- How to make a Decadent Chocolate Yule Cake
- Make Kahlua Coffee Liqueur (15 min recipe)