The Biggest Mistake People Make With Pumpkin Pie

When you think of Thanksgiving — and its table groaning with delicious savory and sweet foods — what's the first dish that comes to mind? While many people might think of the burnished, whole-roasted turkey, we're willing to bet that lots of folks' minds go straight to one of the holiday's most iconic desserts: pumpkin pie. Typically consisting of a smooth, eggy filling baked into a single bottom crust, the type of pumpkin pie most Americans enjoy today goes way back, already a popular choice by 1796, when early American cookbook author Amelia Simmons included a fairly modern-sounding recipe for pumpkin pie in her pioneering tome "American Cookery" (via Library of Congress).

Featuring stewed and strained pumpkin mixed with eggs, sugar, cream, and molasses, Simmons' recipe also features another common pumpkin pie ingredient: spices in the form of ginger, mace, nutmeg, and allspice. Spices are a wonderfully fragrant, defining feature of pumpkin pie — but you don't want to go overboard with them, either.

Spice your pumpkin pie with a light hand

As hard as it is to believe, there are people out there who don't like pumpkin pie — and a common complaint among this rare subset is that the filling is too heavily spiced with the strong flavors of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and other ingredients. The Denver Post advocates for a very lightly spiced filling, just enough to bring out the warm, fall flavors of the pumpkin, but not so much so as to taste like liquid gingerbread. The paper's recipe for the iconic pie calls for 1 full teaspoon of ground cinnamon but a conservative ⅛ teaspoon each of the remaining spices of allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.

Bon Appétit also proposes a light hand with the pumpkin pie spices, naming over-spicing as one of the seven most common mistakes home bakers make with this beloved pie. And the outlet has an ingenious suggestion for making sure that the filling remains subtly spiced, recommending that cooks mix all the custard ingredients but the eggs in order to be able to taste the raw filling as they go and make sure it's gently seasoned. So when Thanksgiving rolls around — or any fall night on which you're craving pumpkin pie — be sure to break out your warming spices in moderation only.