This dairy free pumpkin pie is made with oat milk. It is not only a perfect dessert for a dairy free Thanksgiving, but also year-round.
Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite food is, I say pumpkin pie. I just can’t get enough of it!
In fact, pretty much anyone who knows me can tell you I’m obsessed with anything pumpkin and pumpkin spice. Pumpkin muffin, pumpkin spice latte, and pumpkin doughnuts are musts for me every fall.
Oh and am I picky about my pumpkin pie too! So many are bland… and my mom makes the best pumpkin pie, which only makes me a bigger pumpkin pie snob.
My mom uses dairy free whipping cream for her pies, but I prefer something a little less artificial…
That’s why I usually make my dairy free pumpkin pie with coconut milk (which doesn’t have a coconut flavor at all).
However, since my first time trying oat milk, I’ve been hooked and decided to make a pumpkin pie with oat milk instead. It came out perfect and oh so delicious!
Looking at the recipe, you may notice two unusual changes to your standard Libby’s recipe. One is the addition of oil, and the other is the increase in sugar.
The oil is needed to allow the oat milk to replace the evaporated milk at a one to one ratio.
This is because pumpkin pie is a custard filling and custards need cream. However, pumpkin pie uses evaporated milk instead of cream, which is also a one to one conversion.
So, basically, what we are doing is giving the oat milk the same consistency as cream by adding fat to it.
As for the sugar, what makes my mom’s pumpkin pie so incredibly amazing is the higher sugar content in the whipping cream over the sugar content in the evaporated milk.
The added sugar gives the pumpkin pie a sweetness that solves the problem of bland pumpkin pies.
Now Southerns never tell me that a sweet potato pie is better than a pumpkin pie!
History of Pumpkin Pie
The pumpkin is native to North America and was served at the first Thanksgiving.
It was an early export from the New World to Europe, and pumpkin pie recipes could be found in seventeenth century English cookbooks.
Pumpkin pies made by early American colonists were very different than what we know today as pumpkin pie.
Their “pies” were actually savory soups made and served in a pumpkin rather than a sweet custard in a crust.
It was not until the early 1800s that the recipes appeared American cookbooks and that pumpkin pie became a common addition to the Thanksgiving dinner.
At the same time in England, pumpkin “pies” were prepared by stuffing the pumpkin with apples, spices, and sugar and then baking it whole.
Why Do We Eat Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving?
This is actually due to the same incredible woman who is behind our celebrating Thanksgiving altogether: Sarah Josepha Hale.
Hale was a prominent writer and editor.
She wrote the children’s poem Mary Had a Little Lamb, helped found the American Ladies Magazine, which she used as a platform to promote women’s issues, and was the editor for Godey’s Lady Book for more than 40 years, turning it into one of the most influential periodicals in the country.
While at Godey’s, Hale often wrote editorials and articles about the holidays, including Thanksgiving, despite it not being a holiday yet.
She believed that if Thanksgiving was passed as a federal holiday, it would help ease growing tensions and divisions between the North and South at the time.
Hale advocated for the national holiday for 17 years before it was successful. She wrote to presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan who all ignored her.
However, this didn’t stop her. She published recipes for the holiday in her magazine so women would know what to make for it. Among these recipes was pumpkin pie!
It was finally President Lincoln who listened, though he planned on declaring the holiday in April.
Hale wrote again, and within a week, Thanksgiving declared to be on the final Thursday in November.
He hoped, as Hale did, that it would help “heal the wounds of the nation.”
Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln halfway through the civil war.
However, since pumpkins were native to the North, southern states had no tradition of eating pumpkin pie. They saw it as a symbol of Yankee culture imposed on them.
So, they made sweet potato pie instead. This tradition still holds in the South today, just as pumpkin pie does in the North.
The hardest part of making a pumpkin pie is the custard filling.
A custard is defined as a “milk or cream cooked with egg yolk to thicken it” and it can be a little tricky to make.
If you’ve ever tried to make pumpkin pie before, you may have gotten cracks on top or served it fallen and maybe even a little wet.
The first step is making sure the custard isn’t too thin, so the liquid won’t gather on top. To do this, I add a little bit of corn or potato starch.
Next, we make sure to bake it at a low temperature.
The pie usually falls because it rises too high when baking, due to the higher temperature. Then, as it cools, it falls.
By baking it on a lower temperature, it stays more even and won’t fall.
Lastly, cracks on top are due to over-baking or baking too close to the heat source.
To avoid this, bake on the middle rack and turn off the heat as soon as the pie has set in the middle.
Another problem a pumpkin pie can have is that it’s prone to having is a soggy crust.
One technique used to have a perfect crust is blind baking it.
Do this by first covering the crust with baking paper or tin foil and filling it with pie weights, sugar, beans, or pennies and bake at 375°F or 190°C for 30 minutes.
Then, remove the filling and bake for another 10 minutes to brown the bottom.
While the crust is still hot, you can brush it lightly with egg whites. Let them set and do not add the filling until the crust has cooled completely.
Doing this creates a barrier for the filling.
Dairy Free Substitute for Evaporated Milk
My favorite dairy free substitute for evaporated milk is coconut milk due to its cream-like consistency. Other milk alternatives are too thin.
In recipes with lots of flavor, like this dairy free pumpkin pie, you can’t even taste the coconut.
However, my second favorite substitute for evaporated milk is oat milk mixed with some oil. This fat helps make it creamier.
Can you substitute Oat Milk for Evaporated Milk in Pumpkin Pie?
You sure can. For every cup of evaporated milk, you want 1 cup of oat milk and 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil.
Does this pumpkin pie taste like oats?
Nope, especially if you use oat milks that have little to no oat flavor, like Oatly and Not Milk.
Which Type Of Oil to Use
I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil, but you can use olive oil or coconut oil too.
Best DIY Pumpkin Filling
If you’re not thrilled by the idea of using filling that comes out of a tin can, or live abroad and don’t have access to pumpkin pie filling, butternut squash is a great substitute.
As it turns out, the Dickinson pumpkin used in making Libby’s pie filling is actually the most in taste and texture to butternut squash.
I can actually confirm this to be true.
After moving to Israel, my Mom insisted on growing her own Dickinson pumpkins for pumpkin pie.
Funny thing, I was growing some butternut squash in the garden at the same time from seeds I saved from making butternut squash. Then one day we found a butternut squash growing on the pumpkin vine!
Anyway, we made pumpkin pie with the Dickinson pumpkins and it was exactly like my butternut squash pie.
No surprise, they were both just like Libby’s pumpkin pie filling.
Making Ahead of Time
The filling can be made a day in advanced. In fact, doing so allows the flavor of the spices to develop.
Freshly baked pumpkin pie will keep for about 3 to 4 days if covered and refrigerated.
Can Pumpkin Pie Be Stored at room temperature?
No. It has a custard filling, so it needs to be refrigerated.
HOW TO STORE
Let cool to room temperature. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or foil. Refrigerate for up to 3 to 4 days.
How to Freeze
Let cool to room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap until tightly sealed. Then, wrap in a layer of aluminum foil.
If you do not have plastic wrap and aluminum foil, place it in a resealable freezer bag.
Place on a level freezer shelf and freeze for up to 1 to 2 months. After this, the pie is still safe to eat, but the quality begins to degrade.
When you are ready to defrost the pie, transfer it to the refrigerator. Let thaw for at least 12 hours.