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What is canned pumpkin pie mix?

Pumpkin pie fillings in cans

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.

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  • Thomas
    November 19, 2012

    I’m planning on trying a recipe called “Pumpkin Angel Food Cake”. The recipe states:
    “3/4 C Canned Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)”.
    I had no clue there was a difference. Thanks for the article and clarification which gives me the confidence that I will purchase the correct ingredients.

  • deedee
    December 13, 2013

    Rats! I live in Mexico City (of which you cannot beg, borrow or steal for pumpkin pie mix or canned pumpkin). A former student of my husbands is returning from Texas and I asked him to bring me 4 cans of pumpkin for pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. Oh no, I guess that kicks it in the bud for that idea! He brought the wrong kinds of pumpkin for me!!! Many items from ‘home’ a person cant find in this country. Really sad! So many thing we miss from our country. How on earth can you try to explain to these people the difference in the flavors of food when they only know food without flavor!

  • Cheryl Fisher
    October 21, 2015

    do you have a list of what exactly is added to the puree to make the pumpkin mx/filling?

  • Ann
    December 9, 2016

    Pie mix (30 oz can also contains water, sugar ,salt & pepper)

    I want to make pumpkin bars calls for 16 on can ( the cans are now 15 oz)


  • Nicole
    December 10, 2016

    Hi Ann, you will be able to substitute in a 15 oz can for a 16 oz can without any problem in just about any recipe. I hope that helps!

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