Pumpkin pie is a mandatory part of many families' Thanksgiving , but not everyone has the time or desire to bake one from scratch. There's often so much other cooking going on that having to bake a pie on top of it all can be overwhelming.
Opting for a store-bought pie is an obvious solution, and while it probably won't beat the flavor of homemade, some premade pies come closer than others. So the editors at Southern Living decided to do a blind taste test to determine which store-bought pumpkin pie is best. The team sampled pies from five national grocery chains and considered all the details, from the thickness of the pumpkin custard to the flakiness of the crust. Two pies were neck and neck, but one ultimately came out on top. Can you guess which?
How We Tested
Nine of our editors did a blind taste test of five different store-bought pumpkin pies to determine which pie was our favorite. Each pie was sliced, plated, and numbered, so nobody knew which was which while tasting.
Every editor tasted and then ranked each pie on a 0 to 5 scale, recording their impressions of each based on flavor, appearance, and texture. After sampling all of the pies, every editor selected an overall favorite. I tallied up all the overall favorites to find which brand came out on top.
We visited the bakery department of five major grocery stores to sample what they're baking up this holiday season. These are the competitors and how they stacked up.
By far the largest, Costco's giant pumpkin pie, weighing just under four pounds and measuring a foot wide, somehow only costs $5.99. With a neatly crimped crust and nice orange hue, it's a large and impressive pie for a crowd.
During the tasting, most editors noted that the custard layer on this pie was thinner than others, and had a more subtle spice flavor. They liked that the crust wasn't too thick, for the ideal ratio of filling to pastry.
A few editors described the pie as very neutral, not too spicy or too pumpkin-y, but one editor felt the pie could punch up the flavor a little. Even with all the nit-picking, many editors said they would be more than happy to serve this pie during the holidays.
Noticeably less orange than the other pies, this pie had the strongest pumpkin pie spice flavor. One editor said it tasted like chai, and another tasted a lot of allspice. A different editor felt the spice flavor was so strong that the pie didn't taste much like pumpkin anymore.
Still, it won high marks for its crust, with editors noticing how flaky and buttery the pastry was. Although the editors weren't aware of this while tasting, it's worth noting that this pie was almost double the price of Costco's but half the size.
The first observation almost every editor made was how orange this pie was in comparison to the others. Visually, it immediately screamed pumpkin, and had that very classic smooth, shiny pumpkin custard finish.
After tasting, editors noted that it indeed had a very strong pumpkin flavor , but almost no spice, and was very sweet. Almost all editors said the crust was dry, and when I sliced the pie, I noticed how much it crumbled when cut.
Editors also felt the crust was very pale, lacking that classic golden crust color, and in turn some of that toasty flavor a well-browned crust imparts. The custard was also slightly too soft for some editors.
TJ's is known for carrying a variety of pumpkin products during the fall and winter, including pumpkin pie. The store offers both a frozen and fresh pumpkin pie in the bakery section. We opted for the latter in this taste test, as all the other pies also came from the bakery departments of each grocery store.
Most editors noted that the crust on this pie was thicker than the rest, which was the preference for some tasters and a drawback for others. Everyone found the crimping on this pie the prettiest, but some found it less buttery and closer to a press-in cookie crust in taste. Most editors liked the balance of pumpkin and spice in the filling, but thought it was too grainy.
One editor said that this pie "tastes the most like the pumpkin pie I grew up with." Others echoed her, saying it had the best flavor, and that it was pumpkin forward, while still having a pleasant spice flavor.
Some liked that it had an extra thick layer of custard, and others thought it was too much and made the overall bite a little too mushy. Editors were also split on the crust, some found it bland, and wished it was crisper, especially on the bottom, and others thought it was the best crust of the bunch.
And The Editors' Pick Is...
While Publix came in a close second, editors prefered the flavor and texture of Costco's pumpkin pie. From crust to crimp, the pie had everything they were looking for: A silky smooth custard filling that balanced spice and pumpkin flavor, as well as a crust that was crisp on the bottom, flaky, and buttery. On taste alone, the editors thought it was the best store-bought pie, but its excellent price point and extra large size are added bonuses.