Is it even pumpkin season if you don’t make the Perfect Pumpkin Pie? This pie if creamy, velvety, and filled with comforting spices – not to mention it’s surrounded by a buttery, flaky, golden brown pie crust.
We love pie. A delicious combination of flaky pastry and a delicious sweet filling – pie is one of the best dessert foods. Pumpkin pie is one of those desserts that you wait all year for. Up until this year Kat’s mom would make pie for the family or just buy one from the grocery store. However this year, Kat got much more interested in making the flaky vegan perfect pie crust. Thanks in part to her boyfriend’s family’s love of pie and a new Food52 series from Erin McDowell, pie became a new obsession. Lucky for you.
We’re calling this the Perfect Pumpkin Pie, because it truly is the perfect pumpkin pie for us. It has everything we’re looking for; a flaky pie crust complete with crispy layers of vegan butter and a smooth, velvety pumpkin pie filling packed with fall flavours. Before we get into the recipe, just a disclaimer it’s a time consuming recipe but well worth it in the end.
What is vegan pie crust made of?
Typically pie crust is made by combining flour, water, salt and a solid fat. Sounds easy enough. However typically that solid fat is some for of animal fat like butter, lard or shortening – not exactly vegan. For this recipe we opted to use a vegan butter by Becel, our current go-to for our baked goods. It’s the closest thing we can get to dairy butter. Then everything else is the same! You’d make your pie crust like any other pie crust.
Top tips for making vegan pie crust:
- Butter all the way. All pie crust is not created equal, but that doesn’t mean all pie crust isn’t delicious! We prefer an all vegan butter pie crust like we’ve made here. The flavour and texture results in exactly what the pie crust of our dreams is.
- Cold is key. The key to a perfectly flaky pie crust is cold ingredients. Cold butter, cold flour, cold tools – yes cold everything. This is especially important for those that have trouble making pastry, it can help keep the warmth from your hands from melting the butter and ruining a flaky pie crust. Be sure to chill your dough every step of the way for the perfect results. Even if we don’t say so in the recipe, if your dough is starting to feel too warm, it’s time to chill it.
- Don’t break up the butter. For a flaky pie crust you want the butter to be kept in large chunks, no smaller than the size of walnut halves. If you prefer a less flaky dough you can make the butter a tad smaller but we’d recommend going the flaky route.
- Be careful with the water. You want just enough water to form a dough, no more and no less. So be sure to add your water slowly so you can stop when you have just the right amount.
- Disk it. Before chilling your dough, form it into a disk about 1-2″ thick. This will make rolling it out into the correct shape much easier.
- Chill the dough. You want to chill the dough at every stage possible, even if it doesn’t say so in the recipe. If your dough starts to feel warm – chill it. If you need to take a break – store it in the fridge. The dough should always be chilled up until the moment you are ready to bake it.
- Keep the dough moving. When rolling out the dough, don’t be afraid to twist and flip the dough. Moving the dough ensures it’s not stuck to the counter top and that if the dough is going to retract in size a bit it will do it now and not while baking.
- Allow your dough to rest. Resting the dough is an important and unescapable step for the perfect pie crust. Resting ensures your dough doesn’t shrink while baking.
- Bake until brown, not golden. A deep brown colour, not golden, is the sign of a fully baked pie crust.
- Take your time. Pie crust is a process for a reason, it takes time to make it perfect. Don’t rush the process! If you don’t have time to make it all in one day you can make it in stages and just chill the dough until you are ready to move on with the next step.
Top tips for making vegan pumpkin pie:
- Replace the eggs. In regular pumpkin pie filling eggs typically act as the binder, to replace that function we used ground flax seeds!
- Load up the spices. Flavour is in the spices and don’t be afraid to add until your heart desires.
- Don’t overbake the filling. An overbaked filling can be dry and crack while cooling, we want to avoid this. Bake the pie until the filling is set around the edges but still jiggly in the centre.
Troubleshooting common errors:
- The dough is too wet. Chill it thoroughly and add extra flour when rolling out so that its no longer sticky.
- The dough is too dry. If your pie dough crumbles when rolling it out, it’s probably dry. Just flick some cold water over the dough and knead it in — gently! — until the dough comes together. Set it back into the fridge to chill and when you go to roll it should be a better consistency.
- Soggy bottom. It can be difficult to come back from a soggy bottom. Sometimes it means you need to par-bake it longer next time or bake it longer with the filling in. You can try to fix it by placing it back in the oven to continue to bake. If the edges are getting too dark, cover with tin foil and bake for a few more minutes. It’s best to use a glass pie plate so that you can check the bottom to ensure it’s fully baked.
- Pie crust shrunk after baking. There isn’t a way to fix this one unfortunately, but you can do different for next time. When your pie crust shrinks after baking it typically means you didn’t let the dough rest before baking. Next time, chill your dough for at least 15 minutes prior to baking.
- Cracked pumpkin pie filling. This is the tell tale sign that you’ve overbaked your filling. Only bake the pie until the edges are set and the centre is jiggly.
How to make The Perfect Pumpkin Pie:
Vegan pumpkin pie is a process, but a process worth doing for the end result.
Perfect Pumpkin Pie
Flaky Pie Crust
- 150 g all purpose flour
- 113 g vegan butter, cubed (1/2")
- 60 mL (1/4 cup) ice water
- pinch salt
Pumpkin Pie Filling
- 400 g (1¾ cup) pumpkin puree
- 240 mL (1 cup) coconut milk
- 100 g (½ cup) brown sugar
- 32 g (¼ cup) cornstarch
- 60 mL (¼ cup) maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp cloves
- pinch cardamom
- 14 g (2 tbsp) ground flax seed
- pinch salt
Before you start: Put your butter in the fridge or freezer to ensure it's as cold as possible. Do this with your ice water as well.*
- To a bowl add flour and salt – mix. Add cubes of very cold butter and using your hands toss until all the butter cubes are evenly coated in flour. One at a time squish each cube of butter between two fingers and toss in flour again. Gently rub the butter into the flour until the butter is about the size of walnut halves or leave as is for an extra flaky pie crust.
- Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in about half the cold water and toss until all the water is absorbed into the flour. One tbsp at a time, add more cold water to the bowl and mix until the dough comes together – you want to handle it as little as possible. You may need to add more or less water than stated as different flours hydrate at different percentages.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes. If making this recipe across a couple days this is a good place to stop.
- Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the dough into a circle ¼" thick. To transfer the dough, fold it in half, then in half again to form a triangle and lift into the pie pan. Unfold the pastry into the pie pan, then press gently to make sure the crust settles all the way to the bottom, but be careful not to poke any holes in the dough. Trim away the excess dough with scissors, leaving a ½" overhang all around. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Tuck the excess dough under at the edges, pressing lightly to help “seal” the dough to the outer rim of the pie pan. Crimp the edges of the piecrust as desired or leave as is. Return the dough to the refrigerator for 30 minutes. If making this recipe across a couple days this is a good place to stop.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Prick the pie crust all over with a fork. Cut a square of parchment slightly larger than the pie pan. Place the parchment over the crust and fill with pie weights or dried beans (we use dried beans). Bake the crust in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes.
- While the crust par-bakes, prepare the filling by combining pumpkin puree, coconut milk, brown sugar, cornstarch, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cardamom, ground flax seed, and a pinch of salt. Stir until smooth.
- Reduce heat to 350°F.
- Pour the pumpkin mixture into the par-baked crust and return the pie to the oven and bake until the crust is a deep brown and the filling appears set around the edges, but still slightly jiggly in the center – about 35-45 minutes. If the edges of the crust start to get too dark, cover with some tin foil.
- Let the pie cool completely before serving or storing in the fridge.