Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. While it’s a relatively easy pie to make, it does take a fair number of ingredients and a bit of time to throw together. Not to mention the holiday involves various dishes that hog oven and fridge space and, frequently, shuttling around to a family’s house or two.
If you’re not a seasoned baker and you’re short on time and energy, sometimes it’s just easier to pick up a pie and call it a day. With local bakery options costing as much as $60 a pop (to feed just eight people!), you may find yourself reaching for a pumpkin pie at your local grocery’s bakery section. But is it any good? Will my friends and family mock me for this decision?
I tasted store-bought, prepared pumpkin pies from several major grocery stores so that you don’t have to, and there was a clear winner. I’d be proud to take this pie to any Thanksgiving gathering.
The Testing Process
I tested four pumpkin pies from major grocery chains: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, and Kroger. These pies were all from the bakery section of the store and ready to eat, not frozen. I tasted each pie and had my husband and neighbors taste them as well. We tried them plain with no toppings. The winner was unanimous.
The Winner: A Giant Pumpkin Pie
Costco’s giant pumpkin pie has a super smooth filling, a nice orange color, good spice and sweetness, and the only edible crust of any pies tested. It was nicely browned, a bit salty, and crumbly in a good way.
Not only does Costco make a truly good pumpkin pie, but it’s gigantic, feeding 10 to 12 instead of the usual eight. It also costs $5.99. You heard me—you can feed a dozen people dessert for six bucks. I think it’s nearly impossible to make a pie this size at home for that price, so you’re actually saving money.
Pies from other grocery stores tended to cost twice that much, were much smaller, and had sad, underbaked, and flavorless crusts.
Make Costco’s Pumpkin Pie Even Better
My only complaint about Costco’s pumpkin pie: the top of the pie wept a bit (just gently lay a dry paper towel on top and it will soak up any liquid) and it was slightly too sweet for my taste. So I found a great way to upgrade Costco’s pumpkin pie while lowering the sweetness a bit and punching up the spice, all in one go.
Since you’re not doing any baking, why not upgrade this store-bought pie a bit with cinnamon whipped cream? This does a few things: makes the pie look and feel fancier and more homemade, adds a bit of rich creaminess without adding sweetness, and ups the spice factor a bit.
I liked this pie twice as much with the whipped cream, so if you have time to whip some up, go for it.
To make cinnamon whipped cream, you’ll need:
- 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Combine the cream, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until the mixture thickens. Add the sugar 1/2 teaspoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until medium peaks form—the whipped cream should be thick and fluffy and stand up into peaks when you pull the beaters out.
Plop the whipped cream into the center of the pie and spread it out a bit, so you have a pretty little mound of whipped cream in the center of the pie. Alternatively, top individual slices with a dollop just before serving.