Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Pumpkin Pies Compete For Votes, Which Is The Tastiest

Natalie DeWitt prepared 6 unique pumpkin fillings and 4 unique crusts. Which pumpkin pie will win out in the taste test?

natalie dewitt slices pumpkin pie

Photo: Sarah Kaiser

Natalie DeWitt slices her vegan pumpkin pie into slivers for a crowd of hungry students to taste.

Natalie DeWitt admits to using her cooking to win friends and influence people. “When people know that you cook well, they want to get you know you better.”

She won a bunch of new friends at her recent pumpkin pie tasting event on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She brought 6 pies that included 6 unique pumpkin filling and 4 unique crusts to determine once and for all which is the best pumpkin pie recipe.

A Good Excuse To Experiment

“It seems like it’s an average recipe in that everyone has their own but they all tend to taste the same,” she says. She hypothesized that much of the difference in the pies would come from the crusts. For an extra personal challenge, she rendered her own lard to use in one of the crusts. This was a good excuse to use up the lard she’d had in her freezer for a while but had no idea what do to with it. “My house smelled like breakfast, like you were cooking bacon but 20 times more intense than that.”

This project also gave her the excuse to make her own pumpkin purée from sugar pumpkins she bought at the farmers market. It’s just like breaking down any vegetable, she says. “You chop off the top, slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, put it on a cookie sheet with a little bit of water. Let it roast for an hour, and that’s it!”

DeWitt hopes that the hard work she put into rendering the lard and roasting the pumpkin for one of the pies will result in the tasters liking that pie the best.

More: Read more about Natalie DeWitt’s kitchen experiments on her blog.

  • Traditional Pumpkin Pie

    Image 1 of 5

    Photo: Sarah Kasier

    A: The recipe for this pie came from a traditional Indiana cookbook.

  • Pumpkin Pie Recipe Off The Can

    Image 2 of 5

    Photo: Sarah Kaiser

    B: This pumpkin pie is made with store-bought pumpkin puree. DeWitt followed the recipe on the can for this pie.

  • Vegan Pumpkin Pie With Pecans

    Image 3 of 5

    Photo: Sarah Kaiser

    C: This is a Vegan Pumpkin Pie With Pecans. Ingredients include silken tofu and maple syrup.

  • Pumpkin Pie From The Store

    Image 4 of 5

    Photo: Sarah Kaiser

    D: The crust on this pie looks so perfect because this is a store-bought pie. DeWitt included this in the taste testing to see how it stacked up against all the homemade pies.

  • Homemade Pumpkin Pie

    Image 5 of 5

    Photo: Sarah Kaiser

    F: DeWitt roasted a local pumpkin to create the puree for this pie. She also rendered her own lard to make this homemade crust. This pie was voted the favorite by the tasters!

The Contestants

A: Crust and filling both made from a recipe from an old-fashioned cookbook
B: Crust with Spectrum Organic All-Vegetable Oil instead of Crisco, filling made from a recipe off the side of the pumpkin can
C: Vegan pie, crust and filling both made from a recipe in Joy of Vegan Baking
D: Store-bought Sarah Lee pie
E: Store-bought crust, filling made from a recipe off the side of the pumpkin can
F: Crust with local lard, filling made from local pumpkins using Mrs. Sigg’s Fresh Pumpkin Pie recipe

The Votes Are Tallied

The pie that started the most conversations was the vegan pumpkin pie (C). From the decorative pecans to the crumby crust, it had most tasters confused. “The vegan one kind of taste like grass, but not in a bad way,” one taster admitted. Another taster, who was only sampling the various crusts raved that it should not compete against the rest because it was by far the best of the bunch.

Sitting with small slivers of the vegan pie (C) and the local pie (F) on her plate was a first-time pumpkin pie taster. She said that there are very few pumpkins in her country of Taiwan. What attracted her to the vegan pie initially was the pecans, but she joined her fellow taster in saying that the crust was fantastic.

wow vote for pumpkin pie F

Photo: Sarah Kaiser

In was unanimous: everyone preferred the pie with the homemade pumpkin puree and the homemade lard-based crust.

But as DeWitt hoped, her local pie (F) was voted the favorite pie as a whole. “I think I only tried F because it looked bigger than the other ones,” one taster commented, but soon word spread that this was the pie to try. Many folks described it as a standard pumpkin pie, but with 5 other “standard” pies also on display, surely there was something special that pushed this pie to the top of the class.

More: You can see pictures of the pumpkin pie tasting event on our Flickr page. And make sure to check out our recipe for making your own pumpkin purée.

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Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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