Julia Child’s Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pumpkin Pie Recipe (2024)

By Julia Moskin

Julia Child’s Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pumpkin Pie Recipe (1)

Total Time
2 hours
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This recipe was published in Parade in November 1982, when Julia Child was writing a recipe column for the magazine. As all cooks (and writers) know, Thanksgiving is an adventure and a challenge: how to come up with fresh ideas that keep the dish on the right side of tradition? In this pie, Mrs. Child’s addition of molasses, extra spices and especially bourbon breathe new life into the filling. If you like your desserts on the spicy side, add an extra tablespoon of molasses and a pinch of black pepper.

Featured in: Thanksgiving, the Julia Child Way

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Yield:Two 9-inch pies, 16 to 20 servings

  • 4eggs
  • 215-ounce cans (3½ cups) pumpkin purée
  • 1cup light brown sugar
  • 1cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 3tablespoons molasses
  • 3tablespoons bourbon or dark rum (optional)
  • 3teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3teaspoons ginger
  • ¼teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼teaspoon cloves
  • 1cup heavy cream
  • ¾cup milk, more as needed
  • 2unbaked 9-inch pie shells, or one 11-inch pie shell (see recipe)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (18 servings)

291 calories; 13 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 41 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 25 grams sugars; 3 grams protein; 309 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Julia Child’s Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pumpkin Pie Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Heat oven to 450 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Separate eggs and set aside.

  2. Step


    Using a mixer, blender or large bowl, blend pumpkin, the 2 cups of the sugars, 1 teaspoon salt, molasses, bourbon or rum (if using), cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, egg yolks, cream and milk until smooth. Add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, if the mixture is stiff: it should be a soft purée.

  3. In a clean bowl, whip egg whites until foaming. Whip in a pinch of salt, then gradually whip in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until shiny white peaks form. Beat ¼ of the whites thoroughly into pumpkin mixture; gently fold in the rest.

  4. Step


    Immediately ladle filling into the shells, filling to just below the rim of the pan. Place in oven and bake just until rim of crust begins to turn gold, 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and bake another 25 to 30 minutes, until a tester inserted into the filling 2 inches from the rim comes out clean. (The center should still be a bit wet; it will cook more as it cools.) If the rim of the crust starts to get too brown, cover it with aluminum foil.

  5. Step


    Immediately turn oven off, leave door ajar (stick in a wooden spoon to hold it open if necessary) and let sit 20 to 30 minutes more as the oven cools; this will prevent the filling from turning watery. Serve warm, or let cool, wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Let pie come to room temperature before serving.



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Cooking Notes


I don't really want to buy a whole bottle of molasses and then use only 3 tbsps. Can I used all dark brown sugar instead?

Katherine R

This delicate, moist "pumpkin soufflé in a pie crust" is one of my favorites-—been making it since the late 1980s when a version was published in Julia Child's "The Way to Cook". It is both sophisticated and comforting, with the soufflé texture and the bourbon or rum and the lovely spices, and really impressive if you go for the 11-inch shell. The timed intervals to monitor the pie and lower the heat require dedication, but the result is worth the effort!

Middle agedF

I've been making this pie every year since it came out in Parade magazine. The thing I like about it is the airy texture from the beaten egg whites and the assertive spicing. Some hints:
Prebake the crust so it doesn't get soggy. My current favorite pie crust is Kenji's on Serious Eats.
Use 9" deep dish pie plates, as the filling will puff up to the top of the plate while baking and then collapse a little.
The recipe halves easily and successfully.


Everything in the recipe halves easily and there is nothing in the preparation that would make the larger quantity more successful.

Jeff Winett

May I post on my post? I have made this pie, 3 times within a 2 week period. My 3rd. rendition was the "charm" I had pondered. I did not separate and treat the whites and yolks as separate entities. The out of shell whole eggs were simply whisked and added to the filling, like most of the pumpkin pies I have baked over the years. This was the best pie yet!


Is the ginger in this recipe dried or fresh? (I assume dried but wonder whether anyone has tried grated or minced fresh.)

Kip Leitner

That's twice as much sugar as needed. Really too much. Other spices OK. Nice touch with the whipped egg whites. Good for fluff.


Absolutely, only half the sugar. Make it brown sugar. Use up the molasses: a fast and great breakfast molasses bread is in Diet For A small Planet. That's a paperback from the '60's. Find it on Ebay.


Molasses is a good one to have in your cooking arsenal. It can be used in a range of recipes, from sweet to savory -- I've been surprised to find it used even in making a number of fairly common Asian food sauces. Plus, it lasts forever.


Every November when I take out my files for the Thanksgiving holiday, I first read an old Gourmet magazine article from 1976--A Time of Plenty by Marilyn Kluger. Indiana farm circa 1939. Her grandfather can't abide a solid pumpkin pie, so grandmother whisks up egg whites with a flat whisk on a meat platter. No recipe, but there is one for grandmother's mincemeat pie, made with real boiled beef and suet.

The article always gets me in the mood to extra-please my family and guests.


without mace, it ain't pumpkin pie.
do a double blind randomized trial; ,make 2 pies, one with another without mace, have the tasters compare the 2 and the mace bearing pie will win


Thanks to the commenters who warned that the recipe was far too sweet. I made it with only brown sugar and it was quite sweet enough.

Julia Moskin

Because of the whipped egg whites, the pie needs to be filled and baked in quick succession, or the whites will deflate.

However, if you bake the pie all the way and then let it cool as described in the recipe, you can reheat it during the meal and serve warm.

Good luck!

Jeff Winett

I went in to this project thinking "how different can a pumpkin pie be?" Well, now I know. This pie is utterly sublime. The bourbon, spices, molasses, and the slightly higher amount of total sugars all played their parts in what will become our heirloom version of this seasonal treat. The pie shell absolutely needs to be a 9 inch "deep" dish rendition. I fully baked off the shell before filling. Additionally, I baked the pie at 350° for 1 hour, and then cooled.


Why would any good pumpkin pie chef use canned puree? Try the real thing like Winter Luxury Pumpkin which is easy to peel and prepare and tastes heavenly. Plus you get seeds.


Great soufflé texture. Made for Thanksgiving with Matt Beth Fritz, again with Ardell to take to Peter’s house Feb 23, 2024.

Cooking in seoul

I have a 9 inch pan, but even by halving the recipe amounts, I still got two pie worth of filling!! @@

Cooker Ree

Amazing. I made one 9" pie using 1 1/4 cups leftover baked butternut squash (no pumpkin, canned or otherwise). I expect to make this one again and again. I was able to save time by whipping the egg whites in the stand mixer and everything else in the Vitamix.


Recipe makes 3 regular 9 in pies, not 2.


Note: the eggs are separated! Too bad for me that the ingredient list didn't say so.


Has anyone made this in a springform pan? Would it work this way?


You can lighten (or fluff up) any pumpkin pie recipe by separating out the egg whites, beating them and folding them into the main mixture. I always do this, though I never use the same recipe from year to year. I don't beat them stiff, which causes cracking, but til they are soft and fluffy. Nor do I bother with beating sugar into them. Just fold them into the main mixture. I prefer the lighter texture to the traditional dense (and sometimes gummy) custard.


Just like my Grandmother used to make. Perfect. Absolutely the best pumpkin pie.


Maybe it has a great taste, but 3 tablespoon of rum or bourbon made a soup, not a custard. I wish I had seen some kind of notice to bring my attention to it so I could reduce the liquid portion. Darn!


I made this for Thanksgiving 2022 & did not like the taste of molasses. It doesn't look nearly as good if you make ahead and serve it the next day. Lastly, the dark color was unappealing


Butchered recipe. 1/2 & no crust. No molasses, beat whole eggs & all dark brown sugar until ribbons. No rum so used good French brandy, no cream so evaporated skim milk. Cooked up very soft but held shape. Flavor was super outstanding intense. Forgot mace. Custard Did not crack or weep! Leaving it to finish cooking & cooling in open oven was the key to being done but not over cooked. If add molasses I will cut back on sugar as sweetness was perfect.


Doubled spices


My family said this was the best pumpkin pie they ever had!


A lot left out like baking the shells beforehand, maybe the author takes it for granted that everyone does this, but it is not evident to everyone.Also, the amounts of ingredients given yielded enough for at least 3 pies. I followed the directions closely, something is off with the measurements here. It also says you should end up with the pumpkin mix being a "puree" consistency, mine ended up looking more like a soup, using the exact ingredients they stated to use. Disappointed.

Elizabeth F

This pie is my Thanksgiving go-to. I now switch out 1-1/2 tablespoons of the bourbon for Fireball. Don't use 3 tablespoons of Fireball. More is not better here. Skip all cinnamon in the recipe. Everything else keep the same. I agree with other comments that call for blind baking shell. It really helps take this pie to the next level.

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Julia Child’s Aunt Helen’s Fluffy Pumpkin Pie Recipe (2024)


Why is evaporated milk used in pumpkin pie? ›

Evaporated milk: A can of evaporated milk lends richness and helps thicken the pie filling.

Does Ina Garten have a pumpkin pie recipe? ›

Although she doesn't often stray from traditional flavors, her pumpkin pie recipe is actually pretty unique. The classic warm spices — cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg — are there, but what makes Ina's recipe special is the addition of orange zest and dark rum.

Why does pumpkin pie puff up? ›

Any oven setting over 350 degrees F is likely overdoing it for a pumpkin pie. Baking in a too-hot oven makes the custard puff up like a soufflé and then fall when it cools.

What is the difference between canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie? ›

Ingredients - Pumpkin puree made from scratch contains only pumpkin, but canned puree may contain a preservative like salt. Pumpkin pie filling contains additional ingredients like sugar, spices, and thickeners. Flavor - Pure pumpkin puree has a slightly sweet, earthy taste.

Which is better in pumpkin pie condensed milk or evaporated milk? ›

As the name suggests, sweetened condensed milk makes the pie sweeter and gives it a denser, creamier texture. Evaporated milk, on the other hand, yields a lighter, airier result. Evaporated milk isn't sweetened either, which is why you can't simply swap one thickener for the other.

Is heavy cream or evaporated milk better for pumpkin pie? ›

During my testing of pumpkin pies, I tried lots of different milk options – heavy whipping cream, regular milk (I used 2% in my testing), sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Ultimately, I found heavy whipping cream to be the best. It produced the creamiest pie in my opinion.

What is the difference between Libby's pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling? ›

While the canned pumpkin puree is just canned pumpkin, the Libby "Canned Pumpkin Pie Filling" also has sugar syrup, natural flavoring, salt and spices.

Why is canned pumpkin better to use in baking? ›

So, Why Used Canned Pumpkin Instead of Fresh?
  • Canned Pumpkin Saves Time and Effort. “Making pumpkin puree is time-consuming,” says Maggie. ...
  • Canned Pumpkin Delivers Consistent Results. ...
  • Canned Just Tastes Better. ...
  • Canned Pumpkin Is Cost-Effective. ...
  • Canned Pumpkin Is Readily Available.
Nov 21, 2022

Should you prebake pie crust for pumpkin pie? ›

While not traditional or really necessary due to the time pumpkin custard takes to cook, you can avoid a 'soggy' bottomed pumpkin pie, by laying down some parchment paper in the shell, fill it with pie weights or old beans, wrapping the edges with foil then par baking the crust for 10-15 minutes at 425ºF.

How do you keep the bottom crust of pumpkin pie from getting soggy? ›

Often, blind-baking solves this problem. If you're making a single crust custard-filled pie, like a pumpkin pie, bake the pie dough first before adding filling to allow some of the moisture in the crust to evaporate. You can also totally blind-bake fruit pies.

Can you put an undercooked pumpkin pie back in the oven? ›

Note that if your test determines an undercooked pumpkin pie, return it to the oven and bake a few minutes longer before testing it again.

What happens if you use pumpkin pie mix instead of pumpkin puree? ›

Pumpkin pie mix can be used as a substitute for pure canned pumpkin in some recipes. However, since it is already sweetened and flavored, you'll need to make some adjustments. In most dessert recipes, leave out the pumpkin pie spice and cut down on the sugar since the pumpkin pie mix includes it.

Is Libby's 100 pure pumpkin the same as pumpkin puree? ›

Pumpkin puree can be labeled as 100% pure pumpkin, pumpkin puree, solid pack pumpkin, or simply "pumpkin." Regardless of what it's called, one thing pumpkin puree won't contain is any sort of seasonings or sugar—it's just cooked and mashed squash.

Can dogs eat pumpkin? ›

Yes, dogs can eat pumpkin and it is actually often added to dog foods. Check the label of some dog treats and you may find pumpkin on the ingredient list there too. However, if you are feeding fresh pumpkin, you will need to be careful about which part you're feeding as the stem and leaves are covered in prickly hairs.

Can I use milk instead of evaporated milk in pumpkin pie? ›

While many recipes call for it, you can absolutely make an outstanding pumpkin pie without evaporated milk. If your recipe calls for one can of evaporated milk (as most do), you can substitute 1 ½ cups of cream or half and half, or a combination of the two. You can also use milk (any kind from whole to skim).

What is the purpose of evaporated milk? ›

Evaporated milk is often used in much the same way that half-and-half is, in custards, cakes, shakes and candies like fudge. When you have a recipe that calls for milk and you don't have fresh milk, you'll be glad you've got that can of evaporated milk in the pantry. Grab it, shake it, open it and make a choice.

What does evaporated milk do in baking? ›

Bakers often use it as a substitute for cream to help reduce fat content. To substitute for a cup of regular milk, add in one part evaporated milk and one part water. For a more fresh-milk taste, add half the called for milk with evaporated milk, and the rest with water.

What does adding evaporated milk do? ›

But when left in its thickened, low-moisture canned state, it can also stand in for milk or heavy cream as an enriching agent. Evaporated milk gives body to smoothies, thickens up and sweetens coffee, and adds nuance and richness to creamy soups and chowders, not to mention savory sauces and even oatmeal.

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