My favorite part of Thanksgiving has always been pumpkin pie. Not just any pumpkin pie. It has to be my mom’s no-bake pumpkin pie in a graham cracker crust. She made the filling on the stovetop with canned pumpkin, marshmallows, and Cool Whip. It wasn’t until adulthood that I found out that most people had pies with a flaky crust and baked custard filling.
I’ve made my share of both and am here to tell you that I love my mom’s no-bake pie more than ever.
The silky pie is a saturated orange color with a bright, lightly spiced pumpkin flavor. The filling is firm, resulting in picture-perfect slices. I don’t have to worry about overcooking the custard or the top cracking. This no-bake pumpkin pie is super quick and easy to make ahead, leaving me with less to think about on Thanksgiving, as well as extra oven space.
The only changes I make from the pie of my childhood are that I make my graham cracker crust instead of store-bought and I swap out the Cool Whip for homemade whipped cream in both the filling and the topping.
Marshmallows Are Key
The marshmallows are the genius part of this no-bake pie. They provide all of the sweetness, a touch of vanilla flavor, and contain the gelatin to set the filling. That’s a lot to ask of one ingredient but marshmallows are up to the task. The goal is to gently melt the marshmallows and not cook them.
Building the Perfect Graham Cracker Crust
The most important part of making a graham cracker crust is ensuring the graham crackers are ground fine and you have enough butter to hold everything together. If your crust is crumbling when you try to press it to the side of the pie pan, pulse the crust in the food processor five times. If it’s still crumbly then dribble in additional melted butter. You can follow the below step-by-step recipe for a graham cracker crust.
Tips for Making No-Bake Pumpkin Pie
Marshmallows come in various sizes. Buy the 10-ounce bag and don’t let anyone touch it. If you can only find 12 or 16-ounce bags, then count out 49 regular-sized marshmallows, or even better, use a kitchen scale! The pie would still taste fine but the texture will be less pleasant with either too many or too few marshmallows.
After mixing the pumpkin and marshmallows on the stove, you want the mixture to cool down before incorporating into the whipped cream. I put it in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes so that it is around room temperature.
Make It Ahead
You can make the graham cracker crust a day in advance. Wrap it in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature. Refrigerate the wrapped, assembled pie up to two days before serving.
More No-Bake Desserts
- Banoffee Pie
- Pumpkin Tiramisu
- Easy Lime Icebox Cake
- Easy No-Bake Cheesecake
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the graham cracker crust:
Place the butter into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until fully melted.
Process the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground, about 15 seconds. Add the melted butter, sugar, and salt and process until combined, about 10 seconds. The mixture will be very finely ground and look like wet sand. Remove the blade of the food processor and pour the graham cracker mixture into a 9-inch pie pan.
Start with the sides and press the mixture evenly all around the pan. Continue gently pressing and compacting it until it doesn’t shift when pressed.
Bake the pie for 8 minutes until lightly browned. Then cool the pie crust on a cooling rack.
Make the pumpkin mixture:
Add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and kosher salt into a large pot. Warm the ingredients on medium heat and stir to combine. Continue stirring until you can smell the spices, about 1 minute.
Turn the heat to low and fold in the marshmallows. Continue stirring to keep them from scorching. Once the marshmallows are fully melted and incorporated into the pumpkin, transfer the mixture to a small bowl. Refrigerate the pumpkin mixture to cool it down.
Whip the cream:
Pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and use a hand mixer to whip the cream. Gradually increase the speed as the cream becomes thicker. Whip on high until the cream is fluffy, the beaters leave deep tracks in the whipped cream, and form firm peaks when you turn off the mixer and lift the beaters out.
Finish the filling:
When the pumpkin mixture is cooled to room temperature (after about 10 minutes in the fridge), pour it into the bowl of whipped cream and fold gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain and it’s a creamy orange color. It will look like pudding.
Assemble the pie:
Scrape the pumpkin filling into the pie crust and spread it evenly. A small offset spatula or butter knife works well for this.
Cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 4 hours. You’ll know the pie is ready when you can press the center of the pie and the filling is firm.
Serve and store:
If the plastic wrap left a pattern on the top of the pie, you can smooth it out by running a butter knife along the top. Cut into slices and serve chilled with whipped cream, if using.
Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie for up to 4 days.
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