Even after you’ve stuffed yourself silly with turkey and all of the glorious sides, there’s always room for pie on Thanksgiving. This year, rather than making multiple pies, just pick one: pumpkin or pecan. Then, dress it up a little.

If you opt for pumpkin pie, add a Pecan Butterscotch Sauce – it’s the best of both pie flavor profiles, but you’ll need to roll out only one crust.

Or, if you and your crew are bigger fans of pecan pie, make a simple Pumpkin Mousse to dollop on each slice.

Alternately, skip the pie entirely and make the pumpkin mousse and pecan butterscotch for an easier, parfait-like take on Thanksgiving’s classic dessert flavors.

Silky Pumpkin Pie Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post

Silky Pumpkin Pie

Active time: 40 minutes | Total time: 2 hours, plus cooling time


8 to 10 servings; makes one 9-inch pie

This pumpkin pie is silkier than most, thanks to a few tricks. First, cooking canned pumpkin removes excess moisture, thereby concentrating flavor. Using brown sugar brings out the squash’s butterscotch notes. Heavy cream (instead of milk) turns it into a rich custard. A blender helps smooth out any lumps, and, if you have time, straining the mixture, while tedious, ensures a supremely smooth filling. Finally, baking the pie in a blind-baked pie crust at a low temperature prevents the filling from curdling as it sets. Don’t worry if the surface of your pie cracks. It will still have great flavor and a wonderfully smooth texture.

Serve it plain, with a simple dollop of whipped cream or topped with a drizzle of Pecan Butterscotch Sauce.

For a spicier pie, use a teaspoon or two of grated fresh ginger instead of ground.

This recipe makes about 4 cups of filling, which will fill a deep-dish pie plate. If your pie plate is shallow, you may have extra filling, which you can bake separately in ramekins as pumpkin custards, if you wish: Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, or until just barely set.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in a covered container for up to 4 days.



1 (9-inch) pie crust, par-baked

One (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger


1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

1 1/4 cups (300 milliliters) heavy cream

4 large eggs, cold from the refrigerator

Pecan butterscotch sauce or whipped cream, for serving (optional)



Preheat the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

In a medium nonstick skillet over high heat, bring the pumpkin puree to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until the puree reduces and turns a shade or two darker, about 5 minutes. (You are starting with 425 grams of pumpkin puree and should end up with about 325 grams.) Transfer the puree to a blender (see NOTE), add the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves or allspice, and salt, and let the pumpkin cool for about 15 minutes.

Add the heavy cream and eggs and blend, starting on low speed and increasing to medium-high, until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. For an especially smooth filling, pass the filling through a mesh strainer into a bowl, pushing the mixture through with a silicone spatula. If you do not strain the filling, lift the blender pitcher a few inches above the counter and gently drop it back down a few times – this will help remove excess air bubbles from the mixture.

Place the par-baked crust on a large, rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips, and pour the filling into the crust. If necessary, smooth the top with an offset spatula or spoon. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the filling is just set. The center should still slightly jiggle, but will firm up from the residual heat. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, at least 3 hours. Serve with whipped cream or butterscotch sauce on top or on the side, if desired.

NOTE: The texture of your filling may be different, depending on the blender you use. A high-powered blender will produce a smoother, silkier filling. A regular blender will produce a filling that is a bit thicker and may need to be smoothed on top before baking.

Nutrition information per serving (1 slice with no topping), based on 10 | Calories: 323; Total Fat: 22 g; Saturated Fat: 13 g; Cholesterol: 140 mg; Sodium: 160 mg; Carbohydrates: 27 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 11 g; Protein: 5 g


Brown Butter Pecan Pie Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post

Brown Butter Pecan Pie

Active time: 40 minutes | Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, plus cooling time

8 to 10 servings; one 9-inch pie

Brown butter enhances the nuttiness of this pecan pie, which is generously packed with pecans. More impressively, it’s not too sweet. Toast your pecans for the best flavor. If you prefer a pie with a deeper sugary layer beneath the nuts, use fewer nuts.

Serve this pecan pie as is, or top it with a dollop of Pumpkin Mousse to get both pecan and pumpkin pie flavors in one dessert.



1 (9-onch) pie crust

4 tablespoons (62 grams) unsalted butter

1 cup (220 grams) packed light brown sugar

Scant 1/2 cup (150 grams) light corn syrup

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/2 teaspoon fine salt

3 large eggs, cold

2 cups (227 grams) toasted pecan pieces

Pumpkin Mousse or whipped cream, for serving (see related recipes)


Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.


In a medium saucepan over high heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking it, swirling the pan occasionally, until it turns golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Whisk in the brown sugar, syrup, flour, vanilla and salt. Whisk in the eggs, beating each one into the mixture before adding the next, then add the pecans and stir. Remove the cover from the prepared crust, pour in the filling and bake until puffed and deep brown, 45 to 50 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely, for at least 4 hours, before serving. Top with pumpkin mousse or whipped cream (see related recipes.)

Nutrition information per serving (1 slice with no topping), based on 10 | Calories: 478; Total Fat: 32 g; Saturated Fat: 11 g; Cholesterol: 93 mg; Sodium: 209 mg; Carbohydrates: 47 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 24 g; Protein: 6 g

Pumpkin Mousse Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post

Pumpkin Mousse

Active time: 15 minutes | Total time: 35 minutes

6 servings as a full dessert; 20 as a garnish


Rich, with a touch of spice and a pronounced tang, this pumpkin mousse is a good Thanksgiving dessert option if you’re not in the mood to make pie.

First, you’ll cook canned pumpkin to remove some of its moisture, thereby concentrating the taste and color of the squash. This gets dumped into a blender with cream cheese, which gives the mousse its body and a pleasantly salty note. Punchy ginger and warming cinnamon – and a touch of allspice or cloves – lend the mousse lots of fall flavor. Whipped cream, folded in at the end, adds lightness.

Add a dollop atop slices of pecan pie, to get pumpkin and pecan flavors in each bite. Or, you can serve it in coupe glasses like a parfait, with a spoonful of whipped cream or a drizzle of Pecan Butterscotch Sauce on top. This will serve six as a full dessert or up to 20 as a topping to another dessert.

Make Ahead: The dessert can be made 1 day in advance.


1/2 cup (120 milliliters) cold heavy cream


One (8-ounce/227-gram) package cold cream cheese (not reduced-fat), cubed

1 cup (260 grams) canned pumpkin puree

1/3 cup (73 grams) packed light brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice


1/8 teaspoon fine salt


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or in a large bowl and using a hand mixer or a whisk, whip the cream on medium-high speed if using a mixer, until soft peaks form. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator.

Place the cream cheese in a blender or food processor.

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, bring the pumpkin puree to a boil, about 1 minute. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the puree reduces and turns several shades darker, about 5 minutes. Add to the cream cheese, then add the brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves or allspice and salt. Blend or process until smooth, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape the sides as needed.

Using a silicone spatula, transfer to a medium bowl and refrigerate until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, 10 to 15 minutes.


Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled pumpkin mixture until no streaks remain. Portion into six (6-ounce) glasses or transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Nutrition information as a full dessert: Per serving (2/3 cup), based on 6 | Calories: 253; Total Fat: 20 g; Saturated Fat: 12 g; Cholesterol: 69 mg; Sodium: 180 mg; Carbohydrates: 17 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 13 g; Protein: 3 g

Nutrition information as a garnish: Per serving (generous 3 tablespoons), based on 20 | Calories: 76; Total Fat: 6 g; Saturated Fat: 4 g; Cholesterol: 21 mg; Sodium: 54 mg; Carbohydrates: 5 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 4 g; Protein: 1 g

Pecan Butterscotch Sauce Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post

Pecan Butterscotch Sauce

Active time: 10 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes

8 to 10 (Makes 1 1/4 cups sauce)


Brown butter, caramelized brown sugar and Scotch whisky flavor this pecan butterscotch sauce, which is great drizzled over a slice of pumpkin pie. It also works well as a topping for ice cream, pancakes or Pumpkin Mousse.

The one-pot recipe starts with browned butter to which you’ll add chopped pecans. Use toasted pecans for the best crunch and nuttiest flavor. Then, add brown sugar. (The difference between caramel sauce and butterscotch is that caramel uses granulated sugar while butterscotch uses brown sugar.) Allow it to melt and caramelize fully before adding the cream. Using room temperature cream keeps the sauce from sputtering out of the pan. It’s optional, but a splash of Scotch stirred in at the end balances the salty and sweet flavors.

Storage Note: Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup (60 grams) chopped unsalted pecans (toasted or untoasted)


1/2 cup (110 grams) packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup (180 milliliters) heavy cream, at room temperature

2 teaspoons Scotch whisky (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon fine salt


In a medium saucepan over high heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, just until the butter turns a pale golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pecans, and decrease the heat to medium-high. Stir in the brown sugar, cooking and stirring it until it melts and you no longer see sugar crystals in the pot, about 4 minutes. Carefully stir in the heavy cream, starting with about a third of it before adding the rest: The mixture will bubble up, so stir gently and constantly so that it does not boil over. Continue cooking until the brown sugar fully dissolves into the cream, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the whisky (if using), vanilla and salt. Let cool on the counter for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight, before serving.

Nutrition information per serving (2 tablespoons, based on 10) | Calories: 171; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 3 mg; Sodium: 125 mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 10 g; Protein: 1 g

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: