It never occured to me that there was pumpkin pie before evaporated milk. And yet, Ashley ponders this fact and comes up with a delicious alternative. If you want a healthier option for your dessert, this recipe will surely tingle your taste buds.

I love pumpkin pie, but why is it so hard to find a recipe that doesn’t contain evaporated milk? Sure, evaporated milk is convenient, never expires and won’t make a pie watery like adding plain milk will, but it’s a dead, lifeless food that, honestly, give me the creeps a bit. It’s milk that has been cooked so long that it’s no longer an enzymatic, living source of whole food nutrition.

Surely pumpkin pie was made long before canned milk was available, but what was used instead? Older recipes for pumpkin pie tend to use half and half, or even just cream for a very rich and silky “pots of creme” style pumpkin pie, akin to eating a pumpkin creme brulee. I began experimenting and found that I could create a spectacular pumpkin pie with just the right amount of richness by using half heavy cream and half whole milk instead of evaporated milk.

The problem with heavy cream is that it spoils quickly. Often enough, I’d buy a pint intending to make pumpkin pie, only to find that it had spoiled before I’d gotten around to it. Since I’d already had my mind set on pumpkin pie, what could I use instead? Would sour cream work the same way, adding richness without resulting in a strange off flavor? The answer: Yes!

Mixing one part sour cream with one part milk, in place of evaporated milk, in pumpkin pie produced a tasty pie with just a slight hint of fermented tang, but not too much actual sourness. My family quickly grew to love the extra dimension of flavor and now plain pumpkin pie falls flat by comparison.

Once I began adding cultured dairy to my pumpkin pie, it’s a logical next step to give the whole mixture a short fermentation time to allow the cultures to fully colonize the mix, before adding eggs and baking.

This pie can be made with sour cream, creme fraiche or if you’re hoping for a low fat version, yogurt also works. A yogurt-based pumpkin pie will be noticeably different, and though it’s still pumpkin-y and delicious, it lacks the creamy texture and flavor that I love in a dessert pumpkin pie.

With that in mind, I’ve made a yogurt-based pumpkin pie and served it as a ready-made breakfast for my kids on busy mornings. They love the idea that they’re eating pie for breakfast, and in reality they’re enjoying yogurt, pumpkin and eggs—which I can feel good about.



Yield: 1 deep dish pie
Fermentation Time: 12 – 24 Hours


• 3 to 3.5 cups pumpkin (or butternut squash), cooked and pureed (or two 15-ounce cans)
• 1 cup sour cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt
• 1 cup milk
• 3 eggs
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 1/2 tsp salt
• A pinch of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice (*see note)
• One unbaked pie crust (Try a home made sourdough pie crust if you dare)


  1. Mix the pumpkin (cooked, cooled and pureed) with the cultured cream of your choice. Let stand on the counter at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours to ferment.
  2. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the eggs and milk. Your goal is to incorporate the eggs and milk completely so that there’s no stray strands of egg white that will be left in the pie. At the same time, if you over-mix the eggs you’ll incorporate too much air and make a souffle instead of a pie. Whip them with a fork until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the milk and egg mixture to the fermented pumpkin mixture, along with the spices, and mix until fully incorporated.
  4. Pour the mixture into a prepared unbaked pie crust in an extra large deep dish pie plate. If you only have small pie plates, consider making two smaller pies or make a few small pumpkin custard cups on the side in a Pyrex dish or ramekin.
  5. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake for an additional 40-60 minutes until the pumpkin pie sets in the center. Two smaller pies will require less time, and may only take an additional 30-40 minutes at 350°.
  6. Once cooled, top with creme fraiche, strained yogurt or Greek yogurt, or stick with the traditional lightly sweetened whipped cream.

*Cook’s Note: Feel free to use more seasoning if you like a more heavily spiced pumpkin pie. I like to be able to taste the pumpkin as the dominant flavor, rather than a background flavor masked by heavy spicing.


As an alternative to this lacto-fermented pumpkin pie recipe, try filling your sourdough crust with fermented pumpkin butter.


Ashley is an off grid homesteader in central Vermont. She is passionate about fermentation, charcuterie and foraging. Read more about her adventures at

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