Caramelize Canned Pumpkin For Richer, Tastier Pies This Fall

As soon as the pumpkin spiced latte popped up at Starbucks (and even before that), we were in fall pumpkin mode. There's not as much buzz about a classic pumpkin pie recipe as there is about novelty treats like Wendy's Pumpkin Spice Frosty and Salt & Straw's new festive pumpkin spice flavor, but there are still plenty of tricks you can try to elevate this fall dessert. One of the most criminally underrated? Caramelizing your pumpkin purée.

What does this accomplish? Like when caramelizing most things, adding this extra step into your recipe will bring out the sweetness in your pumpkin. It will also turn the flavor in your fruit's sugars from one-note sweetness to complex layers of toasted caramel goodness. Plus, if you're a fan of the pumpkin flavor itself, taking the time to caramelize your purée will concentrate its flavor even more. Keep in mind that your fruit will turn a darker color like most foods do when they're being caramelized. But in the case of pumpkin pie, that will only make your dessert look richer and more intensely pumpkin-flavored (which it will be). And as an added bonus, cooking your purée will help to get rid of some of the excess moisture.

How to caramelize your pumpkin puree

Depending on which device you'd rather deploy, there are a few ways you can caramelize canned pumpkin. In general, this reaction occurs when the sugars in the fruit are heated up, sometimes with another type of sugar to speed things along. The simplest method here is to induce caramelization on the stove. All you need to do is pour your puree from the can into a pan, heat it up on the stove, and keep stirring until you get the results you're looking for (a little darker and smelling amazing). If you're using a liquid sugar like maple syrup in your recipe, you can add it to the pot here too. The whole process should take no more than 10 minutes, and once you take the pan off the stove, you can stir in your sugar (if you haven't already) and spices.

You can also achieve a similar effect in the Instant Pot. Pour your canned pumpkin into the pot with some butter and let it pressure cook on the high setting for around 20 minutes. You can let it cool completely before moving on, or you can go right ahead and mix it in a bowl with your sugar and spices. Whichever method you choose, after your pumpkin is caramelized and combined with the rest of the flavoring ingredients, you can proceed to make your pie as normal.