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This Secret Ingredient Will Take Your Pumpkin Pie to the Next Level


During the holidays, my mom and I used to always bake pumpkin pie together to give to friends and family. It was a tradition I think of fondly, but I have to admit that after a few years I fell out of love with classic Thanksgiving dessert. The overwhelming sweetness just turned me off. Thankfully, my affinity for this pie was restored after I learned you can add sour cream to the pumpkin batter to really boost the flavor.

The holidays are the prime time to let our sweet tooth run free, which I’m all for, but eating a super sweet dessert after a heavy meal can often be just too much for my tastebuds. For pumpkin pie, I’ve made recipes that call for using an entire can of sweetened condensed milk. While that gave the pie a sugary taste, there were no other ingredients to balanced it out.

That was until I came across this recipe from Epicurious that included sour cream in the pie batter. Sour cream only gets it shine when dolloped over baked potatoes and cheesy enchiladas. However, the creamy yet tangy ingredient will leave your pie filling with a smooth consistency. It does the same for other other desserts such as sweet potato pie and homemade muffins.

Keeping these things in mind, I decided to give it a go at home and was blown away by the results.

How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Taking a look at the Epicurious recipe, I noticed there were a few more steps than just mixing everything all at once. I used a nine inch pre-made pie shell so that I could focus on making the filling. However, feel free to make your own pie dough from scratch for a more buttery and rich tasting crust.

Pie shell
Alexandria Brooks

First, I preheated my oven to 375 degrees before taking a fork and gently pricking the bottom of the pie crust. This prevents the dough at the base of the crust from rising. I then grabbed a piece of parchment paper that covered the width of the pie shell and lined it at the bottom. Next, I poured about a cup of uncooked rice on top of the parchment as an additional weight to keep the pie crust from rising. I then placed the pie shell on a baking sheet and baked in the oven for 20 minutes.

Afterwards, I removed the parchment paper and rice before letting it bake for another 10 minutes until the crust was pale golden. This step is called blind baking and ensures that your crust will bake evenly for maximum flakiness (no more soggy crusts!).

The pie crust was left to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes while I whipped up the filling. I placed one cup of full fat sour cream in a large heat safe bowl over a pot filled with an inch of simmering water for about three to four minutes until it was warm. Then, I whisked together the following ingredients in a separate bowl until smooth.

  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 13 ounce can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 egg yolks (save the whites for a later step)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Once combined, I added the pumpkin mixture to the warmed sour cream and mixed the two together and allowed to cook for about six minutes. You can tell when it reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer or when it’s thick and coats the back of a spoon.

I allowed the mixture to cool for 15 minutes. This was enough time to whip the three egg whites with an electric mixture until they resembled stiff peaks. The egg whites were then gently folded into the pumpkin mixture. From there, I poured the batter into the crust and made sure the mixture reached slightly before the crimped edge.

The pumpkin pie was baked in the oven for 50 minutes until the center was set. Because I put the pie plate on a baking sheet, I was able to give the tray a slight shake to tell when the filling was less jiggly and done cooking. After letting the pie rest at room temperature for two hours, the moment of truth finally came and it was time to do a taste test.

Pumpkin pie
Alexandria Brooks

Before taking the first bite, I noticed that the pie’s consistency was lighter than others I’ve made. It almost reminded me of the airy texture of chocolate mousse, which I loved. I was also fond of the sour cream adding a subtle tart flavor that complemented the sweetness from the dark brown sugar, while spices like ground nutmeg and ginger gave it an aromatic taste. It is basically “pumpkin pie 2.0” — it has all the flavors that you might be familiar with, but the sour cream takes it up a notch and balances all of the ingredients to achieve perfect harmony.

Although this recipe took a little extra effort to prepare, it was truly worth it. So much so, my mom and I might start making this pie a staple part of our Thanksgiving dessert table going forward!

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