No-Bake Pumpkin Pie with Brown Butter Graham Cracker Crust

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and though I like turkey and stuffing, it’s pumpkin pie I crave. The classic baked burnt-orange pumpkin pie isn’t what I grew up eating. No, the pie I crave is a modestly spiced, creamy, no-bake, marshmallow pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust. My mom made this every year and I always loved it but for some reason hadn’t made it myself. I decided to give it a try (with my own spin of course!) and was not disappointed.

No-bake pumpkin pie recipes are prolific on the internet and for good reason. First off, because they aren’t baked, there isn’t any worry about unseemly cracks on the top of the pie. Another plus? The no-bake version leaves my oven free to use for other Thanksgiving dishes.

The original version uses a premade graham cracker crust and Cool Whip. I wanted to up the flavor in the crust by making a homemade version with brown butter. For the pumpkin filling, I replaced the Cool Whip with freshly whipped cream. These simply changes amped up the flavor without over complicating an easy-as-can-be pie. 

There are a few tips to note regarding this pie: be sure to chill for at least four hours or overnight before serving. You’ll be able to tell that the pie is set by pressing on the center. It should be firm to the touch. Another tip for this pie is to make sure to choose the right size pie plate. The crust recipe makes enough for a 9-inch pie with 1-inch sides. A taller sided or larger pie pan will need extra crust and filling. I would 1.5x the recipe for a different sized pie.

The end result is a perfectly creamy pumpkin pie to remember for years to come.

What is Brown Butter?

Brown butter is when the butter solids are browned, usually in a saucepan over low heat.(surprising, I know! It imparts a nutty flavor that compliments the warm spices in the pumpkin filling.

Tips for Making a Graham Cracker Crust

I’ve made my share of crumbly graham cracker crusts and have learned a thing or two along the way. The main mistake is to not add enough butter. It should pack like wet sand and not be crumbly when pressing into the pan. Thankfully it’s an easy fix. Just add more butter! The other tip is to spray the pie tin to help the crust not stick. Lastly, I like to bake my graham crusts, though you don’t have to, I like how it ensues a firm crust and helps fend off moisture.

I used these adorable dish covers throughout the whole process (thanks Halo!) 

No-Bake Pumpkin Pie

Graham Crust:

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 190g Graham cracker crumbs (12 sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Pumpkin Filling

  • 1 cup (244g) pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch cloves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 ounces marshmallows
  • 1½ cup (4 ounces) heavy whipping cream, divided

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brown butter: Melt butter in a small saucepan set on medium heat and stir often. Once melted, simmer the butter until the butter solids are brown on the bottom of the pan. The butter foams and then the butter solids will brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small glass measuring cup to cool.

Crust directions: Heat oven to 350℉. Break graham crackers into the bowl of the food processor and process until fine crumbs, about 15 seconds. Add sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Drizzle most of the brown butter into the food processor while it’s running and thoroughly mix. Stop the processor and use a flexible spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and then squeeze the mixture and see if it holds together. If not, then add another tablespoon or two of the brown butter and pulse again. The graham mixture should look like wet sand.

Spray a 9 inch pie tin with cooking spray. Remove the blade from the food processor and take handfuls of graham mixture and press it into the pie pan. I find it helpful to start with the sides and work my way around the pan and then finish with the bottom. Press using steady, gentle pressure until the pan is covered evenly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until it is golden brown throughout and firm to the touch. Let cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

Pumpkin filling directions: In a medium saucepan, whisk the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Add marshmallows and cook, stirring often, on low until the marshmallows are melted. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, use a hand mixer to whip ½ cup heavy cream to stiff peaks, about one minute.

Assemble pie: Fold whipped cream into cooled pumpkin mixture. Fold until the mixture is homogeneous. Scrape filling into the cooled graham crust and spread evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. Press the center of the pie to make sure it is firm to the touch before removing from the refrigerator and serving. 


Finish and serve: Use a hand mixer and whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla extract to stiff peaks.

Cut pie into 8 slices. For the cleanest cuts, cut while the pie is cold and wipe off knife in-between each cut. Serve pie either at room temperature or chilled alongside a spoonful of whipped cream. Leftovers will keep for 3 days if well-wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.

Tips for Baking with Kids

It’s the holiday season and the good vibes are flowing. Family time is supposed to be magical, especially baking in the kitchen together. I really want this to be true, don’t you? Yet, often the magical memory- making feels lost under frustration and extra spills to clean up.

How can we make this fun for them and us? Well, I have some tricks for you that I’ve picked up while teaching a kids class called Little Chefs.

The key to success? Planning ahead:

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Allow for extra time.

The extra “helping” hands are not the fastest way to bake, so pick a time to bake together when both you and your child have time to spare. Another option is to break the project into multiple days. Such as making the dough one day and baking and decorating another day.

Be choosy with the recipe.

Pick a familiar recipe. Your attention is on helping your child so it’s not a good time to try something new. Also, pick a recipe that both you and your child enjoy eating. Looking forward to the finished product is half the fun and can work as good motivation.

Do the prep work.

Get all the ingredients out and organized. Read through the recipe and have each ingredient matched up with the measuring spoon needed. Get bowls, whisks and spatulas, and any other tools out and ready to use.

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Enjoy the process.

Like most aspects of parenthood, baking with kids is a balancing act of letting go of perfection. Yes, the cookies may not be perfect and the floor will have more flour on it than when you started, but that wasn’t the point anyway. The more I cook with my kids, the more I enjoy it for what it is: time spent together.

Thanksgiving Favorites

I always loved Thanksgiving as a child and remember grabbing the largest turkey leg off the platter before any of my cousins could claim it for themselves. Kai seems to feel the same, saying he can’t wait 2 (!!!) weeks for Thanksgiving food, namely fluffy mashed potatoes and crunchy topped green beans.

I remember the first time we cooked our own Thanksgiving meal. Mike and I lived in an apartment downtown and were vegetarian. I marveled at his ability to make sweet potatoes without a recipe and silently cursed the Tofurky.  I felt so thankful for the time spent together in the kitchen.

Each year has its own story and as I look back on past Thanksgivings, I cherish all the faces that shared this yearly tradition with us. A few are no longer with us and some now live miles away. Babies are born and children grow. Year after year we gather around the table together for this special feast, feeling thankful for all that has come before and all that is yet to come.

Read on for my favorite recipes and a few tips to make Thanksgiving as delicious as it was always meant to be.

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Wine: Lots of red. Any pinot noir from Oregon does the trick.

Appetizers: Relish tray full of pickles, olives and anything else I find. Celery, carrots or nuts round out the palate.

Turkey: Buy a fresh turkey if possible and plan 1 pound per person. I usually end up scouring the aisles for the smallest turkey available. Last year, I bought a 10 pound turkey at Whole Foods. Brine Monday or Tuesday. I like to dry brine the turkey. I find it much easier than a wet brine. No water sloshing around in my already crowded refrigerator. When it comes to baking it, grab a meat thermometer, especially the kind that stay inserted the whole time. Stress be gone!

Stuffing: I go for super easy and pick up pre-made stuffing mix and bread crumbs at our local market so that all I have to do is mix them together. To make it from scratch here is the recipe. The stove top is your friend.

Green Beans: Classic all the way. I follow the Campbell’s recipe and use frozen green beans.

Mashed Potatoes: Peeled russet potatoes boiled in salted water until fork tender. Transfer to a stand mixer and add butter, milk and sour cream and whip to creamy perfection.

Dinner Rolls: These potato rolls knocked my socks off when I tested them for Simply Recipes. Give them a try!

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Cranberry Sauce: I like to get a pre-made cranberry orange sauce fresh from our local grocer but if you want to make it from scratch, here is a link to their recipe.

Pumpkin Pie: I loved the depth of flavor of this pumpkin pie. Taking the extra step of cooking the pumpkin mixture deepens the pumpkin flavor while keeping the ease of canned pumpkin.

Pecan Pie: I need this pecan pie each and every year. Try this pecan pie and you won’t be disappointed.

Pie Crust: I use this crust from Smitten Kitchen but add 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and process in a food processor with the dough blade. As an extra bonus, one recipe makes two crusts which is exactly what I need. Hurray!

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Whipped Cream: Stella Parks elevates the whipping cream game to a whole new level. I also love that I can make it ahead of time.

Have fun and enjoy the time spent in the kitchen with those you love.