Fresh Pumpkin Versus Canned Pumpkin: The Ultimate Pie Test
Is it worth it to make homemade pumpkin puree for pumpkin pie? We compared homemade to canned and did the pie taste test. Find out what we discovered.
Okay, so we’ve walked you through how to make your own pumpkin puree, but the real question is, “Is it worth it?” After all, if you’re going to take 2-3 hours out of your life prepping fresh pumpkin for a pie, it had better be a pretty amazing pie, right?
Canned pumpkin is convenient and consistent and it’s 100% pumpkin with nothing added. But we wondered if the canning process made it lose some of its fresh pumpkin flavor or if the type of pumpkins used in the canned pumpkins weren’t as flavorful. So we put both canned and fresh pumpkin to the test by making and eating two pumpkin pies.
It’s a hard job, but we were willing to make the sacrifice for you!
Being food-scientist-wannabes, we wanted all the variables other than the pumpkin puree to be identical so we used the most widely-used pumpkin pie recipe (the one from LIBBY’S®) and a store-bought frozen pie crust. Normally we’d make our own, but we didn’t want variations in pie crust texture to influence the final verdict.
Fresh Pumpkin Versus Canned Pumpkin
The homemade pumpkin puree was much lighter in color than the canned pumpkin, which can be attributed to the different varieties of pumpkins. This showed a bit in the final product; the pie on the right is made with our homemade pumpkin puree, and next to the canned pumpkin pie, it is visibly lighter and less vibrant.
After cooling, the canned pumpkin pie had more moisture on the surface than the pie made with homemade pumpkin puree. This is probably because our homemade puree was drained very thoroughly and had less liquid to begin with.
Among our taste-testers the verdict was unanimous: The canned pumpkin pie tasted better. The spices seemed more pronounced, especially the cloves, and the pie made with the canned pumpkin was said to have a “stronger pumpkin aftertaste” and to be “more flavorful.”
We baked the pies to an internal temperature of 175°F to remove any variation in texture due to baking differences. The homemade pumpkin pie had the preferred texture and was denser than the pie made with canned pumpkin. That’s because our starting puree had less liquid than the canned pumpkin. However, the textural advantage didn’t outweigh the better flavor of the canned pumpkin.
It is undoubtedly more convenient to buy a can of pumpkin puree. There is no preparation required other than opening a can. On the other hand, making your own pumpkin puree takes a couple of hours and requires more equipment (a food processor like this and cheesecloth, for starters).
My pumpkin cost a little over $4/pound. I got one that was about 2 pounds ($8), which yielded 24 ounces of pumpkin puree. By comparison, a 15-ounce can of pumpkin usually costs between $1-$2. Unless you happen to grow your own squash or have a friend who is handing out pie pumpkins for free, it’s much cheaper to buy a can.
The Final Verdict
After all that, the verdict is pretty clear. Save your time and money and go for the canned pumpkin! There’s a time and a place for making things from scratch, but in this case, you can take the shortcut, guilt-free. So what are you going to do with those extra 3 hours? Have fun!
This article originally appeared in November 2015 and was revised and republished in October 2020.