Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie: The traditional Thanksgiving dessert

Carnation's famous pumpkin pie vintage recipe

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Extra touch of spice: Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie

Why use evaporated milk in pumpkin pie?

Have you ever wondered… why use evaporated milk in pumpkin pie instead of cream — or even just regular milk?

Evaporated milk, as is used in this recipe for Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie, is a shelf-stable product with over 50% of the water removed, which intensifies its flavor and natural sweetness (no sugar is added — that would be sweetened condensed milk).

It’s thicker than milk — in fact, it can be whipped like heavy cream — but it is significantly lower in fat, which makes it a useful lower-calorie alternative to heavy whipping cream (admittedly, a concern that probably isn’t top of your mind at this precise moment).

Carnation's famous pumpkin pie The traditional Thanksgiving dessert (1984)

Libby’s influence on Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie — and pumpkin pie culture, in general

When Libby’s first launched their canned pumpkin puree product in the late 1920s, the recipe they published on the label called for using just regular milk.

In the 50s, however, Libby’s adjusted the recipe to swap in evaporated milk instead of regular milk. When evaporated milk is reconstituted with water, it becomes the equivalent of the regular milk we drink — which makes it useful as a pantry staple: you don’t ever need to run out of milk!

But Libby’s was on a quest to further decrease the water content in their recipe, which is why it calls for evaporated milk measured straight out of the can, undiluted.

This recipe adjustment reduced both the moisture in the pumpkin pie filling and the baking time, as well as enhancing the dairy flavor — overall improving its texture and taste.

Now you know…

Since Libby’s fabled pumpkin pie recipe is THE recipe that has defined for nearly 100 years what homemade pumpkin pie is even supposed to be (including its influence on Carnation’s also iconic recipe, as featured below) that, my friends, is why most of us will be putting evaporated milk on our holiday shopping lists this fall.

Note: Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie recipe is roughly the same as Libby’s — more sugar and evaporated milk, plus the addition of nutmeg and allspice to the spice mix. – BB

ALSO SEE
Classic pumpkin pie recipes: The ultimate collection

Libby's pumpkin pie This famous pumpkin pie recipe is the greatest of all time

1959

Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie: The traditional pumpkin pie is still the best

Pumpkin pie remains a seasonal dessert, even though few of us make it with fresh pumpkin any more, and the canned product is available the year around. Somehow we associate it with harvest time, November and Thanksgiving. Somehow it tastes best in this season!

No cook has ever been able to improve upon the taste of pumpkin pie as made in the traditional way. Many have tried.

I’ve tasted pumpkin pie with orange or lemon or wine in it, with mincemeat or pecans, with pineapple or applesauce, and somehow my reaction is this: Why don’t we let a perfect pie just be itself?

Even the chiffon and frozen versions aren’t as good as good old pumpkin custard pie, the kind great-grandma, grandma, and ma made, the Thanksgiving dessert that is a favorite and best of all!

The kinds and proportions of spices may vary a little, and one cook may prefer evaporated milk to milk or cream for her pie.

Another may make it with brown sugar instead of white, and the amount of pumpkin is variable, too.

The trimmings — whipped cream or candied ginger or cheese — don’t matter much. But let pumpkin pie be pumpkin pie, I say!

A helpful trick to avoid spilling the uncooked filling as you carry the pie to the oven is this: Don’t fill the crust full before you put it in the oven. – Mary Meade, Chicago Tribune

ALSO SEE: 8 ways to make pumpkin spice mix at home

Carnation's famous pumpkin pie vintage recipe

Carnation's famous pumpkin pie recipe

Yield: 1 9" pie (8 servings)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1-2/3 cups large can undiluted Carnation evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 9-inch single-crust unbaked pie shell

Instructions

  1. Mix filling ingredients until smooth. 
  2. Pour the filling into unbaked pie shell. 
  3. Bake in hot oven (425 F) for 15 minutes.
  4. Lower temperature to moderate (350 F) and continue baking about 35 minutes or until the custard is firm.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 258Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 234mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 3gSugar: 34gProtein: 7g

Click Americana offers approximate nutrition information as a general reference only, and we make no warranties regarding its accuracy. Please make any necessary calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe, and consult with a qualified healthcare professional if you have dietary concerns.

Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie recipe

The sure way to a cream-smooth pumpkin pie…

Never grainy… 
Always smooth

The secret is today’s Carnation…
the milk you can use like cream with 1/2 the fat calories

See the smooth-as-cream texture! Ordinary milk can’t do it — it takes today’s Carnation, the milk that looks, cooks and even whips like cream. Yet it has half the calories of cream! An exclusive method of evaporation removes the water slowly and gives Carnation the consistency of cream — with far less fat calories! Try it — for a failure-proof pumpkin pie as smooth as if you’d made it with cream itself.

Carnation's famous pumpkin pie: The traditional Thanksgiving dessert (1959)


Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie retro recipe card (1950s)

Carnation's famous pumpkin pie recipe card (1950s)

DON’T MISS THIS: Classic pumpkin pie recipes: The ultimate collection

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Comments on this story

2 Responses

  1. I have been making the Carnation Evaporated Pumpkin Pie recipe for 55+ years. Always use Carnation brand. I can’t explain why but you will notice your pie won’t have as much of a smooth and silky texture if you use other brands. I even made homemade baby formula with Carnation when my first child was born; she thrived! I hope Carnation Evaporated milk continues to be produced. Thank you!

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