Refined sugar sneaks into homemade pumpkin pie through sweetened condensed milk – a standard ingredient in most recipes, but an unnecessary one. This simple swap solves your sugar conundrum while preserving your pie's texture and flavor (and you thought you had enough to be thankful for).
Oh, pumpkin pie: Easy enough for a toddler to make; tasty enough for a toddler to eat; and sweet enough for a toddler to fly off the freaking roof until they violently deteriorate to a shrieking mess on your living room floor. But is it asking too much to hope for a pie that's still easy to make, but can also keep sugar crashes at bay?
Nah. Here's why (and how to tackle it):
The majority of pumpkin pies are made with sweetened condensed milk - a delightfully gooey combination of evaporated milk and sugar that lends a silky texture and a caramelly flavor to your pie filling, as well as supports thickening during the baking process. The most popular pie recipes in America, like this one, gain their sweetness purely from sweetened condensed milk, while others call for both sweetened condensed milk and refined sugar (like the classic Libby's recipe). It can feel impossible to remove refined sugar from pumpkin pie for this reason - because how the heck are you supposed to extract the sugar from the can?
The answer is actually pretty easy: Just use evaporated milk in replacement of sweetened condensed milk, then handle the sweetening yourself. In a very non-scientific nutshell, sweetened condensed milk is close to 50% sugar. Without the added sugar, evaporated and condensed milk are essentially the same thing, which means you can rejigger your pie as follows: For every cup of sweetened condensed milk, replace 50% of the milk with granulated coconut flower nectar. So for instance, if your recipe calls for one 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk, add one scant cup of evaporated milk (7oz), and one scant cup of granulated coconut flower nectar (7oz).*
We've shared our favorite pumpkin pie recipe below, adapted from the insanely simple recipe shared by California Farms organic evaporated milk - but you can use the above ratio in any pumpkin pie recipe you love. Here, we pour our filling into a pre-baked shell (because we think it's good insurance against a soggy crust), but if your recipe calls for unbaked, go right ahead - there are many ways to bake a pie, we're just here to take the refined sugar out of it. Happy baking!
Refined Sugar-Free Pumpkin Pie
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups pumpkin
1 cup granulated coconut flower nectar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup evaporated milk
1 prepared 9" pie shell
For the pie shell: Prepare pastry dough from Honeycrisp Apple Tart. Instead of a tart pan, use a 9" pie pan, trimming excess dough from the edges and baking with parchment and pie weights as directed.
For the pie:
1. Preheat oven to 425º F. Combine pumpkin, eggs, sugar, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add evaporated milk, stir well to combine.
3. Pour mixture into a baked pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350º F and continue baking for 30 minutes, or until skewer inserted in middle of pie comes out clean. If pie crust is browning too aggressively, a ring of baking foil with stop the browning while allowing your filling to continue to cook.
*Important caveat: Pie is forgiving; confectionary is not. This alternative for sweetened condensed milk works great for pumpkin pie, but we're not sure what would happen in something like fudge or toffee. If you try it, let us know how it went in the comments!