Food and Drink

Let this butterscotch-pumpkin pudding pie solve all your (pie) problems

Tell me if any of these Thanksgiving pie stress scenarios ring a bell. You secretly hate making crust. Everyone in your family is suddenly gluten-free. You have to work and you need something delicious you can make ahead. You’re just tired of the same old pumpkin pie. If this sounds familiar, my friend, you are going to love this butterscotch-pumpkin pudding pie.

Flavored with toasted sugar and pumpkin puree, this pie has all the silky, nutty beauty of homemade butterscotch pudding, plus enough traditional pumpkin pie gravitas that it could be the pumpkin pie on your dessert table this year. And, you don’t have to make pie crust if you don’t want to.

This pie plays best in a cookie crust. Cracker crusts are quick and easy to make and there are plenty of recipes out there. You could use graham crackers or Biscoff cookies or gluten-free ginger snaps. Or, you can just give yourself a break and buy a totally respectable pre-made cookie/graham cracker crust. Most stores carry gluten-free cookie or nut flour versions of these, if that’s a concern. When I’m short on time, this is exactly what I do and I don’t feel bad about it at all.

The filling does take a little attention — it is imperative you read the whole recipe before you launch. You’re making a luscious milk pudding thickened with both egg and cornstarch, so there are some steps. I highly recommend measuring out all the ingredients before starting, too, just so you don’t get distracted, like I often do, and forget something. It does feel pretty great to get it done a day ahead and slide it in the fridge. Then you just plop a big beautiful dollop of whipped cream on it before serving and call it a win.

[11 pie (and pie adjacent) Thanksgiving dessert ideas from Alaska bakers]

Butterscotch pumpkin pudding pie

Makes one 9-inch pie



One homemade or store bought 9-inch graham cracker pie crust, gluten free or regular

6 egg yolks, beaten

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cups warm water

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 cups whole milk

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon salted butter

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Optional: one teaspoon vanilla or butterscotch liqueur

Ground nutmeg or cookie/graham cracker crumbs


Method: Beat the egg yolks in a bowl that can hold at least four cups, set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves. Let it bubble over the heat, swirling frequently, until it reduces and turns amber-colored, about 10 minutes. Pull it off the heat and stir in the cream until well combined. Set aside. In a larger saucepan, without turning on the heat, whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice and sea salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together toasted sugar mixture, pumpkin puree and milk until smooth. Slowly whisk the puree and milk mixture into the cornstarch mixture. When combined, turn the burner to medium. Heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly and thickened. Pull off the heat. Temper the eggs. To do this, whisking eggs constantly, slowly pour 1/4 cup of hot pudding into the eggs at a time, until two cups of pudding have been combined with the eggs. Now whisk the egg mixture back into the saucepan of pudding and return it to medium heat. Stir constantly until it bubbles, allow it to thicken for a minute or so. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until combined. Pour into a prepared pie crust. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours. To serve: whip cream with sugar and vanilla or liqueur. Serve with cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg or cookie crumbs.

(Correction: A previous version of this story missed a step in the preparation method. The sugar, water and cream mixture is to be mixed in with the pumpkin puree and milk until smooth.)

Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently writer in residence at the Anchorage Museum.