My Recipe Box
What We're Cooking Now

Your Thanksgiving Pie Questions Answered

By Fine Cooking Editors, editor

November 20th, 2009

 A make-ahead pumpkin pie?

Q. How far ahead can I make my pumpkin pie without the crust getting soggy? If I want to get the baking out of the way early, should I just make some other pumpkin dessert instead of a pie?

A. The truth is, any custard pie, even with a prebaked shell, will give off a little liquid while it is chilling. So if it's a snappy crust you're after (and a make-ahead), I'd make a pumpkin cheesecake with a cookie crust.

Or consider this pumpkin tart, which does have a pastry crust, but it's a very "short" and sweet crust (almost like a cookie) that holds up well to the filling.

If you've got your heart set on making traditional pumpkin pie, you can also opt to make the pie shell and the filling separately and ahead (both can be frozen: see the instructions at the end of the Brown Sugar and Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie), then just bake the pie on Thanksgiving morning.

brown sugar sour cream pie pumpkin chessecake pumpkin tart recipe
Brown Sugar and Sour Cream Pie    Pumpkin Cheesecake   Bourbon Pumpkin Tart with Walnut Streusel


Keep your pie crust and filling from separating

Q. Is there a secret to keeping my pumpkin pie filling from separating from the crust?

A. A custard pie filling separates from the crust because of shrinkage, which is a normal part of the cooling process. The fact is, all baked goods shrink as they cool due to the evaporation of moisture during baking; with a pie, the filling and crust are shrinking in opposite directions, which often results in separation. There are ways to reduce the chance of this happening, though. One is to avoid extreme changes in temperature; choose a spot to cool your pie that is free of drafts, and do not put the pie in the refrigerator until it has cooled completely.

I prefer serving a pie the day it is made so that it doesn’t need to go into the fridge. Also, I always prebake the pastry crust for pumpkin and other custard pies to give the crust a chance to shrink before the filling is added. Even though the filling will still shrink upon cooling, separation will be minimized.

If you must bake a pumpkin pie a day ahead, your best bet may be to disguise any separation. I like to sprinkle chopped toasted pecans or almonds around the edge of the filling before serving. I’ve also used crushed gingersnaps or biscotti. If you like, you could pipe whipped cream decoratively around the edge. Realize that the separation may be unavoidable, and that one bite of a homemade pumpkin pie will take everyone’s mind off how it looks.


all butter pie crust
  All-Butter Pie Crust

Have more questions? See our Whys of Pies for answers to everything from Why does my crust shrink? to How do I get the perfect, flaky crust?


Also see Nicole Rees' How to Make a Perfect Pie Crust to learn more pie crust tricks and three new ways to crimp. And test it out on Nicole's recipe for an All-Butter Pie Crust.

Need more recipes? Visit our Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner for hundreds of recipes, including more than 25 pie and tart recipes.

posted in: Blogs, Thanksgiving, pie, pumpkin pie, Pie Crust
Comments (2)

Christene writes: I'm wondering if you might have a comprehensive apple substitution guide? I know the type of apple can make or break your apple pie. For example, Fine Cooking has an awesome apple pie recipe that calls for Cortlands but I am unable to find them. Also, are there rules of thumb for breaking pie recipes into mini-pies? Thanks! Posted: 3:48 pm on November 21st

K9KRAZY writes: I once tried a pumkin pie recipe that had only pumkin/ eggs and sweetend condensed milk and spices of course it was wonderful especially since I make my own sweetend condensed milk . Does anyone have that recipe .I have been looking for awhile . Posted: 6:44 pm on December 18th

Log in or create a free account to post a comment.

Cookbooks, DVDs & More


What did you make for dinner last night? Here at FC, we never get tired of hearing what our colleagues cook at home. Read about what we're making with seasonal ingredients, and tell us how you're using them in your own kitchen.