A tale of two pies: Canned pumpkin versus pumpkin pie filling

I had been meaning to have a baking night at my place with a friend of mine. One of her favourite desserts is pumpkin pie, so with it being the Thanksgiving long weekend I figured what better time to make this dessert than this weekend.

However, it turns out that canned pumpkin can be pretty difficult to find. The first grocery store I went to didn’t have canned pumpkin in stock and the second store I went to only had canned pumpkin pie filling. The two are quite different in that canned pumpkin is only contains pumpkin and squash whereas canned pumpkin pie filling contains pumpkin, sugar, spices as well as several other ingredients. Hence, the two should not be used interchangeably in recipes.

Since I had gone all over the city trying to find canned pumpkin and had bought pumpkin pie filling as a back up (in case I couldn’t find canned pumpkin), this baking experiment became a two-part series. For this part of the experiment, I decided to test out two different recipes for pumpkin pie – one using pumpkin pie filling and the other using canned pumpkin.

Filling #1:

1 can (540 mL) pumpkin pie filling
1/3 cup evapourated milk
1 egg
Filling #2:

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

It is pretty obvious from the list of ingredients that one method is more simple than the other. The first recipe was quick to make as it only required combining three ingredients and pouring it into a pie shell. The whole process of opening up the cans, beating the egg and combining everything together only took around 5 minutes.

The second recipe was little bit more involved as additional ingredients and spices needed to be added. But in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t take that much longer to combine the extra ingredients (this is assuming that you already have these spices available in your kitchen). So the question is, are you better off simplifying things and buying pumpkin pie filling instead of canned pumpkin when it comes to making pumpkin pie?  ($3.99 vs. $1.79)

My theory:
Seeing that pumpkin pie looks like it’s a pretty straight forward recipe, I’m thinking that there won’t be a huge difference in the two fillings. However, if making a pumpkin pie just involves adding pumpkin pie filling to a frozen pie crust, perhaps it would just make more sense just to go to a store and buy a pumpkin pie instead of baking it yourself?

I think it would only make sense to bake a pumpkin pie from scratch if you wanted to make a different variation of the classic pumpkin pie recipe.

Taste testers: 

Please try each pie and comment on the flavour, texture and appearance of each pie filling. Which one do you like more?

The reveal:
Thank you everyone for posting your comments. Here are the results:
Pie B: Canned pumpkin
Pie C: Canned pumpkin pie filling

The results:

Pie B: Canned pumpkin (7 people’s favourite)
Pie C: Canned pumpkin pie filling (1 person’s favourite)

Wow! There was no contest with this one. The canned pumpkin was the clear winner from a texture, flavour and appearance perspective. I would never have imagined what a big difference there would be between canned pumpkin and canned pumpkin pie filling.

The Bottom Line:
When making pumpkin pie, it’s definitely not worth taking the shortcut of buying canned ‘pumpkin pie filling’. The texture is mushy and the flavours were overpowering when compared to the pie that was made with canned pumpkin. If you have a choice between using canned pumpkin or canned pumpkin pie filling, use canned pumpkin and do the extra step of adding the additional ingredients – it’s definitely worth it.

10 thoughts on “A tale of two pies: Canned pumpkin versus pumpkin pie filling

  1. The texture and consistency of the two pie fillings were pretty much the same.

    I could taste the cinnamon more in filling B than filling C which made it taste much, much better.

    My preference would be for filling B.

  2. B: This filling is more smooth. I can taste more cinnamon in this one. I find this one to also taste sweeter.

    C: This filling is more clumpy and I find the flavour to be more bland.

    I prefer B.

  3. I like B best. Better texture and more depth of flavour. C just tastes like plain pumpkin. B also holds it’s shape better when cut (or maybe it’s just the way I cut mine!)

  4. B-canned pie filling-spicing overpowering
    C-canned pumpkin-too sweet-spicing pleasant -pumpkin flavour stronger

    Not a fan of pumpkin pie

  5. Pumpkin Pie Filling C was more orange in colour and looked creamier, but Pie Filling B looked like it had more spices to it. So I’m going to guess that B is the canned pumpkin pie filling and C is the canned pumpkin.

  6. Again, just looking at the color and texture, I am totally attracted to Filling of pie B.

    Filling B – Rich color, see the spices, firm texture

    Filling C – Orange color (looks fake) and too moist.

    Verdict – Filling B all the way!

  7. There was no comparison – pie filling B was delicious!! Filling C was much goopier and more orange and just didn’t have the same flavour as filling B. Filling B win hands down in my books!

  8. B: paler colour, specks of spices… just looks a bit more artificial and “airy” compared to C. Not as smooth in texture as C either. I’ll say canned pumpkin pie filling.
    C: right away from the colour, deep orange – very different to B. looks more “pure”, with stronger pumpkin flavour. Smoother texture. Pumpkin puree.
    C is my fav pie… mmm

  9. For the pie filling:

    Sample C- Oh dear. I didn’t like this one, sorry Chef! Taste is bland, and not sweet or flavourful. Just heavy. I do like the colour though- looks like authentic pumpkin!

    Sample B- much better flavour, I can taste the nutmeg and cinnamon more. Also had a lighter texture, almost fluffier? Not as heavy, sits nicer on the plate instead of oozing like Sample C did.

  10. B: This filling was more custard like in consistency and smoother. It was more compact and not mushy at all. The flavours in this filling were also a lot more subtle and blended well together. I liked this one more.

    C: This filling was thick and mushy and didn’t have the custard/set/gelled consistency in terms of texture that sample B had. It tasted/looked like pumpkin puree. The flavours in this filling were a lot more overpowering, stronger and also tasted a lot sweeter when compared to sample B.

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