Pumpkin Pie Troubleshooting: Expert Answers

Pumpkin pie is the quintessential Thanksgiving pie, but it doesn’t always go to plan. Here are some of the most common problems bakers have with pumpkin pie and what to do about them.

Pumpkin Pie FAQ post
Alison Czinkota

When it comes to Thanksgiving meal essentials, pumpkin pie is arguably as important as the turkey itself. Even after a generous helping of turkey and thanksgiving fixings, everyone looks forward to a rich pumpkin custard with warm baking spices encased in a buttery, flaky crust. But even for experienced bakers, things don’t always go to plan. 

While you can always hide mistakes with an extra dollop of whipped cream, you may be wondering what else you can do to improve your next pumpkin pie. Here are some of the most common problems bakers have with pumpkin pie and what to do prevent or solve them.

How Do I Know When a Pumpkin Pie Is Done?

The first key to a perfect pumpkin pie every time is learning to recognize when pumpkin pie is done baking. A pumpkin pie gives us a few signs to let us know when it’s ready to come out of the oven.

  • The edges of the filling will be slightly domed while the middle might still be a bit sunken in.
  • When you give the pie a gentle nudge, there should still be a bit of movement in the middle: look for a jiggle, but not sloshing liquid.
  • A knife inserted about an inch from the center should come out clean.
  • You could also use an instant-read thermometer to check if the filling has reached 170°F.
Baked Pumpkin Pie From Scratch
Elise Bauer

Why Did My Pumpkin Pie Crack?

You go to take the pumpkin pie out of the oven, and you notice that along the edges, cracks have appeared in what you imagined would be a beautiful, smooth pumpkin filling.

Why this happens: Pumpkin pie cracks when it’s been overbaked. 

The filling for pumpkin pie is technically a custard, a liquid thickened with eggs. For a custard to thicken, it must reach a temperature of at least 160°F. At this temperature the structure of the proteins change, allowing them to hold onto liquids and create the creamy but clean-slicing pumpkin filling.

If the custard continues to cook, and reaches 175°F or higher, the proteins over-coagulate: the bonds holding them together get too tight. When the proteins tighten too much, it begins to pull the filling apart, causing cracks.

How to prevent cracking: Familiarize yourself with the signs that a pumpkin pie is done baking from the first question above. A helpful trick is to bake the pie in the lower third of the oven. This will help brown the crust of the pie while keeping the filling further from the top heating element.

Solution if it’s too late: Unfortunately, if the pie has already cracked, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. Cracking is so common with pumpkin pies that it’s almost inevitable, so don’t beat yourself up about it. It's nothing a little whipped cream can’t hide!

Why Is My Pumpkin Pie Weeping?

Another common problem that occurs when baking pumpkin pie is when you notice water on the top of the pie or leaking out from the filling.

Why this happens: Either the pie was overbaked, or it was placed in the fridge before cooling completely.

There are two possible reasons for weeping or condensation, and the cause depends on when the condensation appears. If you notice liquid on the top of your pie while it’s still in the oven or still hot, then it has been overbaked. Just as above, the proteins in the custard have toughened too much, squeezing out the liquid from the filling.

If you notice that the pie is dewy when you remove it from the fridge, it’s just condensation. It simply means that the pie was still warm when you placed it in the refrigerator.

How to prevent weeping and condensation: To prevent weeping, try not to overbake the pie. Check above for the signs that pumpkin pie is done baking. Condensation isn’t such a big issue, but make sure the pie has cooled long enough before placing it in the refrigerator.

Solution if it’s too late: If the pie is overbaked, unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about it, but it’s still perfectly fine to eat. If there’s condensation, simply blot the top of the pie with a paper towel to absorb the moisture.

Pumpkin pie slice on hite plate
Elise Bauer

Why Does My Pumpkin Pie Have a Soggy Crust?

Anyone who has seen The Great British Bakeoff knows to avoid a soggy, underbaked crust.

Why this happens: The pie was underbaked, or the oven temperature wasn’t high enough.

This is another problem that can occur when you haven’t baked a pumpkin pie long enough, or if the oven temperature wasn’t high enough. When pie dough is baked, the butter first melts and then steams, creating flaky layers in the crust. If the oven isn’t hot enough, the butter will melt and incorporate into the dough rather than steam. Without the steam, the crust won’t have a chance to get crisp and flaky.

How to prevent a soggy crust: Several techniques can be combined to prevent a soggy crust on your pumpkin pie.

  • Bake the pie in the lower third of the oven.
  • Use a glass pie plate so you can easily see if the crust has baked properly.
  • Just like this Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie recipe, start by baking the pie at a high temperature, then lower the temperature to finish baking. This ensures the butter in the crust gets hot enough to create steam and form layers.
  • You could also try partially blind baking the crust before baking the filling.

Solution if it’s too late: You can try returning the pie to the oven. Cover the pie with foil and bake it at 425°F on the lowest rack, checking after 15 minutes.

Why Didn’t My Pumpkin Pie Set?

You're ready to serve your homemade pumpkin pie, but when you try to cut it, it's too runny to get any clean slices.

Why this happens: The pie was underbaked, or the oven temperature wasn’t high enough.

Taking the pie out of the oven prematurely is a very easy mistake to make. Even before the pie is ready, the crust might darken and the edges of the filling will puff up. But the center may not have reached the temperature it needs to fully set.

Another reason could be that the pie hasn’t quite cooled enough before slicing. Pumpkin pie needs lots of time to cool and set before you can slice it.

How to prevent a pumpkin pie from not setting: Just like several other common problems here, this one has to do with recognizing when a pumpkin pie is done. Check the signs from in the first question.

It’s also important to let the pie cool for at least 4 hours before slicing and serving.

Solution if it’s too late: If the pie hasn’t been out of the oven for too long, you can put it back in the oven. Cover the pie with foil and bake it at 425°F, checking after 15 minutes.

Why Is My Pumpkin Pie Watery?

Another common issue with pumpkin pie is when the filling seems too watery, even if it’s been baked long enough.

Why this happens: This happens most often when using fresh pumpkin.

Canned pumpkin purée has a lower moisture content than fresh pumpkin. If you use fresh pumpkin to make your own pumpkin purée, there may be too much water in the filling, and you will need to compensate for that in some way.

How to prevent a water pumpkin pie: The easiest way to make a consistently exceptional pumpkin pie is to use canned pumpkin purée. Most recipes are developed for canned pumpkin because the moisture content is consistent from can to can.

If you choose to use fresh pumpkin, keep in mind that the moisture content will vary with different pumpkin varieties and cooking methods. Your best bet is to use a sugar pumpkin and roast it, rather than boil it. Roasting will evaporate some of the water, whereas boiling will increase the moisture content.

You can also strain the fresh pumpkin purée overnight to draw out some of the moisture before mixing the filling. Or you can cook the purée in a saucepan on low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes to concentrate the pumpkin.

Solution if it’s too late: Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem that’s easily fixed after baking. If you feel up for trying again, try our tried-and-true Old Fashioned Pumpkin Pie recipe or our Chiffon Pumpkin Pie.