Pumpkin pies are holiday favorites. We are all at some point in our lives tempted to bake the pies for our holiday meal ahead of time so that Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings can be devoted to the main course. And, because pies are all rather large and take up a lot of room in the refrigerator, there is always the temptation to leave them out at room temperature overnight. But is this practice safe? After a lot of reading on the subject, this is what I discovered.
Pumpkin pies must be refrigerated since they are made with milk and eggs. The high levels of protein and moisture contained in those ingredients support the growth of bacteria and make it necessary to refrigerate them. In fact, the USDA says they should be refrigerated within 2 hours of being baked.
Now let’s explore the subject in greater detail.
How Long Does Pumpkin Pie Last Once Baked?
How long pumpkin pie lasts, as with any other type of pie, depends on the ingredients and the temperature of the room after it is removed from the oven. More specifically:
- If the pie contains eggs or any dairy product such as milk, cream, buttermilk, sour cream, cream cheese, cheese (for savory pies), condensed milk, or evaporated milk, as does pumpkin pie, it must be refrigerated as soon as it is cool enough to be refrigerated.
- Refrigeration will keep pumpkin pie good for up to 4 days by retarding bacteria’s growth, but not entirely prevent it.
- The only exception to this rule is if there is a cool area like a utility room or porch where the temperature is 40 degrees or below, it would be safe to leave the pies there for a more extended period without refrigeration.
- If pumpkin pie is still around after about 4 days, it can be wrapped carefully and frozen. I recommend getting good freezer-safe containers if you plan to leave the pie in there for an extended period. Here are some that I recommend found on Amazon. They are specially designed for pies and cakes.
Here are recommendations for how long most types of pie last with refrigeration and without:
|Type of Pie||Should they be refrigerated immediately||Table Shelf Life||Refrigerated Shelf Life||Frozen Shelf Life|
|Sweet Potato & Pumpkin||Yes||2-4 hours||4 days||Yes; 6-8 mos|
|Cream or custard||Yes||2-4 hours||4 days||No|
|Fruit||No||2 days||4 days||Yes; 6-8 mos|
|Savory||Yes||2-4 hours||4 days||Yes; 6-8 mos|
How to Tell If Pumpkin Pie Has Gone Bad
- The first sign that a pumpkin pie is going bad is that the crust will become soggy.
- Any odd smell or taste should alert you to the fact that maybe the pie should be discarded.
- Heaven forbid that a pumpkin pie should hang around so long that it begins to show signs of mold. But, that would definitely be a good indication that it should be thrown away immediately.
Things That Help Pumpkin Pies Last Longer
There are a few things you can do to make your pumpkin pies last longer.
- Refrigerate as soon as possible after baking in a good container, like the one previously mentioned.
- If not refrigerated after baking, store in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight and at a temperature that does not exceed 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep the pie covered to avoid airborne contamination.
- Use a knife or pie server that is dedicated solely to that particular pie to avoid cross-contamination with other food.
- After a pumpkin pie is refrigerated and you pull it out to serve, please don’t leave it unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.
- Freeze pumpkin pies after 4 days to use at a later date.
What to Do If You Have Too Many Pies
If you should find yourself with too many leftover pumpkin pies or portions of pies after that big family gathering and you have sent as much pie home with family members as you possibly can, don’t let them hang around too long and go bad. Just wrap them carefully with foil and freeze so they can be pulled out and used later when you need a quick dessert. Most pumpkin pies will last for 6 to 8 months in the freezer.
Types of Pie That Would Not Be Safe Ever to Leave Unrefrigerated
Any pies made with dairy products and/or eggs would not be safe to eat if left unrefrigerated after baking. This certainly includes pumpkin pies.
Can Pumpkin Pies be Frozen?
Pumpkin pies can be frozen for up to 6 or 8 months, and possibly for up to 1 year.
How to Prepare a Pie for Freezing
Wait until the pie is completely cooled before freezing. Wrap the pie in at least two plastic wrap layers, making sure there is a good seal to avoid odors from other foods. Then, add a good layer of aluminum foil to protect from freezer burn and put it in a freezer-safe container, for extra measure.
How to Thaw a Frozen Pie
Remove the frozen pie from the freezer 12 to 24 hours before serving and unwrap the foil and plastic wrap. Allow the pie to thaw in the refrigerator to avoid condensation that would ruin the crust by making it soggy.
How to Store Pumpkin Pie From a Store
Unlike most homemade pies, pumpkin pie bought from the grocery or supermarket is probably loaded with preservatives that make it alright to let them sit out unrefrigerated. So, if you purchased a pie that was sitting out at the store, it will be alright to sit out in your kitchen until it’s expiration date. But, if you bought it from the freezer or refrigerated section, the leftovers will need to be stored in your refrigerator.
Interesting Facts About Pumpkin Pie
- Pumpkin pies were not always a favorite of the Pilgrims. In 1654, Edward Johnson, a Massachusetts ship captain, wrote that “as New England prospered, people prepared apples, pears, and quince tarts instead of their former Pumpkin Pies.”
- A French cookbook from 1653 included a recipe for pumpkin pie. The instructions were for the pumpkin to be boiled in milk, strained, and mixed with sugar, butter, salt, and almonds before putting it into a crust.
- Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, prompting an editorialist from Richmond, Virginia, to write an explanation of what was considered to be a Yankee tradition as an annual holiday “heretofore celebrated with devout oblations to themselves of pumpkin pie and roast turkey.”
- In 1929, Libby’s meat packing company began marketing canned pumpkin that made it unnecessary to clean and cook your own pumpkin.
We often read or hear conflicting information on whether pumpkin pies have to be refrigerated. Some experts say pies made with dairy products and/or eggs should be refrigerated within 4 hours of baking. Then you have some old-timers who say they leave pies out overnight if necessary. And to add to the confusion, you see pies in the supermarkets on display for hours waiting to be sold.
So, which advice should we take? Should we listen to the experts, the old-timers, or what we see with our own eyes? Well, the pies that we see on display at our local grocery stores contain preservatives that our homemade pies do not have. The experts are probably just considering the length of time it takes for the pies to cool and then add 2 hours. The old-timers? They don’t tell you that they place the pies in the coolest room in the house or on a screened porch to spend the night.
All things considered, my recommendation is to take the advice of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, which recommends that all cooked food be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking since bacteria proliferate between the temperatures of 40ºF and 140ºF. Just go ahead and give the pies an hour or so to cool and make room in your refrigerator to slide them in. They should fit nicely right on top of a casserole dish.
One more little hint, you could just make your pie crust and mix the pumpkin pie filling a couple of days before the holiday and refrigerate them. Then, right after the turkey comes out of the oven on Thanksgiving morning, pour the pie filling into the crust and slide it into the oven. Don’t forget to set the alarm, and you will have hot pumpkin pie fresh out of the oven for your holiday guests. What a treat!
Before I go, I’ve been dying to try this recipe for pumpkin pie the way the pilgrims made it from the Souffle Bombay website. I thought you might be interested in it as well.