Cans of pumpkin pie mix, or pumpkin pie filling, line the baking shelves at many grocery stores this time of year. They’re usually set right next to the ready-to-use graham cracker pie crusts, so they catch your eye and get you thinking about baking a pie. The filling mix is also usually next to the regular canned pumpkin puree and many bakers have picked up the wrong can accidentally time or two.
Canned pumpkin pie mix is not the same as pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree is just pumpkin that has been cooked and pureed until it is smooth. A product labeled as pumpkin pie filling, or pumpkin pie mix, contains pumpkin puree that has already been sweetened and flavored. It is really intended to only go into a pumpkin pie – and to make the process of putting a pie together as easy as possible (even though from-scratch pumpkin pie is quite easy, too).
I often get asked if this pre-mixed pumpkin pie filling can be substituted for pumpkin puree in other recipes. In general, canned pumpkin pie filling should not be substituted for plain puree in a recipe that only calls for the puree, such as a recipe for cake, cookies or muffins. The added sugar and spices can throw off a recipe and removing sugar from the recipe to try to compensate can alter the texture of the finished product, so you won’t necessarily get the result you were hoping for. The pumpkin pie filling is also too sweet to be used in savory pumpkin dishes, such as pumpkin soup, and can throw off the flavor there. Keep the filling for an easy pie on short notice, and instead stock up on the more versatile pumpkin puree if you are going to do a lot of pumpkin baking.