I didn't set out to make a gluten-free pumpkin pie, but after much trial and error, this low sodium, gluten free pumpkin pie had the best balance of texture, flavor, and most importantly, sodium. The crust is made of almond meal. It's crumbly and buttery, almost like a shortbread cookie but strong enough to hold up when you slice into it. Best of all, it's really easy to make and doesn't require any rolling or chilling. And because it's sort of a cookie-like crust, you can easily modify this recipe to make pumpkin pie bars, which I now prefer over a standard pie. This recipe makes enough for one 9x13 inch pan, so if you cut that into 24 little squares, each serving has just 7 mg of sodium. I'm not a huge dessert person so that's just enough pie for me.
The pie filling is pretty simple--just canned pumpkin puree, cream, sugar, spices, and eggs. I took modified pumpkin pie recipes by Smitten Kitchen, Sally's Baking Addiction, and the backs of the Libby's and Trader Joe's canned pumpkin puree to come up with this recipe.
An average pumpkin pie has 2,378 mg of sodium (according to the USDA). This one is just 158 mg of sodium for the entire 9-inch pie, leaving you plenty of room for all your other Thanksgiving favorites.
Servings: One 9-inch pie (or one 9x13 inch pan for bars)
Sodium: 158 mg for the entire pie, or 20 mg per 1/8 slice
Time: 30 minutes to prepare, 40-45 minutes to bake, and one day to cool and chill (so make this the day before Thanksgiving)
2 cups fine or super-fine almond flour*
71 g (5 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but not melted (or use 4 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil)
1/4 - 1/3 cup white sugar (this is a matter of taste, I prefer 1/4 cup)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
Filling ingredients: One 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1 cup heavy whipping cream*
*See TIPS below
1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
2) For the crust - mix all the dough ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon, and then with your hands, until you have a soft dough (it feels like cookie dough).
3) Form the dough into a rough ball and press it into a 9-inch pie plate. The key here is to press the dough so that it's even throughout the plate. Start by just pressing down into the dough in the middle of the plate, and then use your fingers and palm to even out the bottom and corners first, and then the edges last. Focus more on getting an even layer on the pie, if some edges come up higher than others, it's really easy to just pinch off some of the dough from the higher/thicker sides and press them into other parts of the plate. Press the dough just to the edge of the plate and smooth it out.
If you're making bars, line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides (so you can pull it out easily after baking). Press the dough evenly into the pan.
4) Prepare the filling - in a small saucepan (mine is 1.5 quarts), combine the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice and heat on medium until just warm, about 4-5 minutes. Add cream and stir to combine, and then add eggs and whisk until the filling is smooth. I like this step of heating the filling just a little but you can skip it if you want. It makes the filling just a little smoother and gives it a head start on the baking. Don't get it hot, you don't want the eggs to cook, just warm enough that the sugar dissolves. It makes your house smell really nice, too.
5) Pour the filling into the crust and smooth out the top. Bake for 40-50 minutes (see tips below on baking times). Let the pie cool completely and then refrigerate overnight before serving.
Here's a picture of the pumpkin pie bars. Not the best picture, but it'll do for now.
TIPS ON BAKING TIMES:
Here's what I've learned about baking times for this pie. There are just 2 eggs in this pie. Many pumpkin pie recipes call for 3 eggs but I cut it down to 2 to decrease the sodium. As a result, the filling does not bake up quite as firm (the eggs give it that nice custardy texture) so I like to bake it a little bit longer. My preference is to bake for about 45 minutes, and then let it cool completely for a few hours, and refrigerate overnight before serving. But, if you let it bake for 45+ minutes, the filling will crack and some people don't like that (it doesn't bother me). If you bake for 40 minutes, you'll have a prettier pie but the center will be a little less firm. Either way, you need to let this pie cool completely and you should refrigerate a few hours (preferably overnight) before serving.
Here's how the pie looks right out of the oven after 40 minutes of baking. Note how it jiggles in the middle.
Now compare that to this pie, that baked just 5 minutes longer. No jiggling and more cracking on the surface. The crust on this pie is darker but that's not due to the longer baking time, it's a different type of almond flour. See my notes below on this.
TIPS ON INGREDIENTS:
-I've tried this with two different kinds of almond flour, one made from whole almonds (with the skin) and one made from blanched almonds (without the skin). The whole almonds are darker, and make for a grittier, slightly harder crust. The blanched almonds make the crust taste more like a shortbread cookie, and it's much lighter in color. Either works fine and I like them both, but I'm guessing most people would like the blanched almond flour more because it tastes more like a shortbread cookie.
Here's a picture of the two different types of almond flour, the blanched, and then the whole almond flour. There's a significant difference in color and texture but both work fine.
-I used a heavy whipping cream that has no sodium, and that's partly how this pie is so low in sodium. I've noticed many others have 5 mg of sodium per tablespoon, which would add another 80 mg of sodium to this pie. Just a note to make sure you check your labels.
-If you don't have 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, use 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp ground cloves instead.
-It's really important for us to keep this as low sodium as possible but if you have a little room to add more sodium, I would start by adding an egg to the crust and then adding an egg to the filling (an extra 140 mg of sodium total). The egg will bind the crust and make it a little less crumbly, and it will also help bind the filling as well. That said, I think this version is really good (especially with some fresh whipped cream!) and allows us a little more freedom in planning the rest of our Thanksgiving menu.