Libby’s pumpkin pie: Smooth, gently spicy, and perfect (1929 to present)
Our favorite “old-fashioned pumpkin pie” is relatively modern
Thanksgiving is a holiday we celebrate with family and good food. And pumpkin pie of some variety has been on fall and winter holiday menus — well, for over a couple centuries.
You might not recognize those older versions as the same pumpkin pie you enjoy today, however.
Pumpkin pie was originally conceived as a custard made from cooked and pureed fresh pumpkin, cream, eggs, and warming spices.
It picked up even more traction as a holiday staple in the late 1920s after Libby’s started canning Dickinson pumpkins (they still grow these today, and yes, they’re really pumpkins) and promoted their recipe on the label and in women’s magazines.
The recipe — and, really, the entire concept of canned pumpkin — quickly caught on with America’s homemakers.
In 1950, they tweaked the recipe in one major way, swapping in evaporated milk for regular milk — and it’s been the gold standard for pumpkin pie ever since.
Libby’s pumpkin pie: Turns out the easiest recipe makes the best pumpkin pie
Compared to prepping, roasting, de-seeding and pureeing fresh pumpkin — a laborious task that typically involves hand-cranking a food mill — it’s way more convenient to lean on canned pumpkin puree for the key ingredient, especially on a cooking day as chaotic as Thanksgiving.
And it turns out, people preferred this recipe anyway! So much so that it became the foundation for the dozens of variations to follow over the past century (including Carnation’s famous pumpkin pie, which is the version for you if you prefer nutmeg and allspice flavors in your pie).
The taste, texture, ease and speed of preparation all added up to an iconic recipe that became THE recipe most Americans associate with the experience of a homemade pumpkin pie. -BB
1987: Libby’s pumpkin pie. Homemade with love.
You can taste all the love you bake into a Libby’s pumpkin pie. It’s delicious and so easy to make with the recipe below. Serve this classic pie for Thanksgiving or Christmas!
Ingredients for Libby’s famous pumpkin pie recipe
Clockwise from upper left: Pie crust, pumpkin, salt, evaporated milk, eggs, spices, cinnamon, sugar
Add sugar to the beaten eggs
You can whisk the ingredients in a bowl, or use a stand mixer or hand mixer on low speed to blend them.
SEE CLASSIC MIXERS: Vintage table mixers/classic stand mixers & 10 vintage portable electric hand mixers & beaters from the 50s
Add evaporated milk and spices to the mixture
Remember that you can modify the pumpkin spice blend so that it perfectly suits your taste! Try more or less cinnamon, or varying amounts of nutmeg or allspice in addition to — or in place of — cloves and ginger.
Start to add the pumpkin puree
Be sure you’re using plain pumpkin, and not a ready-made spiced pumpkin pie mix. (The cans are similar.)
The blended pumpkin mixture, ready to pour into the crust
Carefully pour the pumpkin mixture into the pie shell
When the oven is preheated, fill the unbaked pie crust carefully to avoid drips, spills and sloshes. (Areas with just a small amount of filling often burn.) Don’t over-fill the shell or else it may spill over into your oven. Some people like to use a cookie sheet (which may be covered with foil) to handle any dribbles.
If your oven racks are steady, flat, and can be smoothly pushed back into place, one way to avoid too much mess is to fill the crust only about halfway before you put it in the oven. Then, as soon as you have the pie in the oven, use a large spoon or ladle to fill it the rest of the way.
Pumpkin pies are best baked on the bottom rack of the oven, to help ensure the bottom crust gets properly cooked.
Let your freshly-baked pumpkin pie cool
You can check that the pie is done by using a fork, knife or toothpick. When the pie is ready, whatever you use should look clean when removed, without anything raw or drippy. (The custard filling will continue to cook a bit more after it’s out.)
Be sure your pie has time to cool and fully set before you cut it.
Because of the perishable ingredients — especially the eggs and milk — as soon as it’s cooled, you should put it in the refrigerator. Lightly cover the pie with foil, and to keep it looking pretty, try to avoid letting the foil touch the surface of the pie filling.
Time in the fridge can be a benefit, because pumpkin pie is delicious when served cold!
Cut the cooled pie
Compared to apple pie with its big chunks of fruit, pumpkin pie is usually very easy to cut — you can use a pie server, butter knife, or a sharp knife. For the most attractive slices, be sure you cut cleanly through the bottom crust as well.
Serve up your delicious Libby’s pumpkin pie!
Pumpkin pie pairs perfectly with whipped cream. If you don’t have any freshly made, your guests will probably be just as delighted with ready-made whipped topping.
Libby’s pumpkin pie variations with pre-made pie crusts
Pumpkin pie recipe variation 1: Regular frozen pie shells
If regular 9-inch frozen pie shells are substituted, recipe fills two. Slightly thaw pie shells while combining other ingredients.
Pour filling into pie shells. Preheat oven and cookie sheet to 375 F. Bake on cookie sheet 45 minutes or until pies test done with a knife as noted above.
Pumpkin pie recipe variation 2: Deep-dish frozen pie shells
If a deep-dish 9-inch frozen pie shell is substituted, recipe fills one. Let shell thaw 20 minutes, then recrimp edge to stand an inch above rim.
Pour filling into pie shell. Preheat oven and cookie sheet to 375 F. Bake on cookie sheet 70 minutes or until pie tests done as noted above.
ALSO SEE: 8 ways to make pumpkin spice mix at home
1955: You’ll never miss with Libby’s old-fashioned pumpkin pie
Be sure (absolutely!) to get Libby’s pumpkin, because it’s made from specially cultivated “pie pumpkins” and packed Libby’s tried-and-true way to give you velvet-rich, custard-like fillings every time. (Never, never a dry pie or a runny filling with Libby’s!)
1955: Libby’s pumpkin pie in 3 easy steps