Baking Tips

For Truly Pumpkiny Pumpkin Pie, Add Sweet Potato

Canned candied yams give the filling a deeper, more earthy flavor, greatly enhancing its complexity. This is a pie you'll want to make again and again.

Published Nov. 3, 2022.

I have always believed that if we only eat something once a year, it can't really be that good. 

Enter pumpkin pie. 

Pumpkin pie often does a poor job of showcasing the flavor of its star ingredient. 

The filling can be bland or so overpowered by spices that you would hardly know it was pumpkin. 

The main problem is that canned pumpkin puree (or even homemade pumpkin puree) contains a lot of moisture that waters down the flavor. To help make a truly flavorful pumpkin pie, we cook off some of that moisture and concentrate the pumpkin-y taste.

But what’s the ultimate boost to the flavor of this remarkably delicious pie? 

The addition of canned candied yams. 

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If you’re wondering what canned candied yams are, it turns out that they’re not yams at all. 

They are typically chunks of peeled sweet potatoes simmered in a sweetened syrup. (Even in the produce aisle, yams are uncommon in American supermarkets, so what is typically labeled a “yam” is, in fact, a sweet potato. Read more about that misnomer here.)

Pumpkin Pie

This pumpkin pie recipe is so satisfying and easy, you'll want to eat it more than just once a year.
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The addition of candied yams gives the filling a deeper, more earthy flavor that greatly enhances its complexity. Although we drain the yams, some of the syrup clings to their surface and works to lightly sweeten the filling.  

We still want pumpkin to be the star ingredient, so we use a 2:1 ratio of pumpkin puree to candied yams. 

But that’s not all we do to make this pumpkin pie stand out from the rest. Here are the three key ways we improve its flavor and texture:

Cutting down on dried spices and adding fresh ginger 

We skipped cloves and allspice (too strong) and instead relied on a smidge of cinnamon and nutmeg. A few teaspoons of freshly grated ginger in lieu of the dried kind imparted a bright, almost fruity, flavor to the filling. 

Simmering the pumpkin and yams 

Cooking these ingredients on the stovetop, along with the spices and sweeteners, for 20-plus minutes before combining them with the dairy and eggs drives off moisture and concentrates their taste.

Cooking the pie high and low 

To avoid a curdled pie with a runny center, we start the pie in a 400-degree oven, which sets the filling quickly. Then we lower the temperature to 300 degrees and allow it to cook through gently. 

Once you make this deeply pumpkin-y velvety-smooth filling, you'll never go back to ordinary pumpkin pie again.

How to Make Truly Pumpkin-y Pumpkin Pie Filling: 

  1. Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in large heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes. Continue to simmer pumpkin mixture, stirring constantly and mashing yams against sides of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and vanilla together in medium bowl. Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated. Pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Using back of ladle or spatula press solids through strainer. Rewhisk mixture and transfer to warm prebaked pie shell baked at 400 degrees on a baking sheet.
  3. Return pie plate with baking sheet to 400-degree oven and bake pie for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set (instant-read thermometer inserted in center registers 175 degrees), 20 to 35 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours. 

Watch us cook through the pie. 


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