The BEST healthy pumpkin pie! This old fashioned pumpkin chiffon pie has a fluffy pumpkin filling and an easy 3-ingredient graham cracker crust (without butter) that comes together quickly. The pie holds up perfectly thanks to a packet of gelatin, and the result is a light, airy pumpkin pie that is a great addition to your Thanksgiving table!
It is finally the week. The week of family and thankfulness and food and celebration. THANKSGIVING!
Let's talk about pumpkin chiffon pie. Have you ever had it? I, truthfully, didn't know about "regular" pumpkin pie until I was in my twenties - we only ever had this kind of pumpkin pie, so I thought that's all there was!
This version of old fashioned pumpkin chiffon pie is an old family recipe (my mom's recipe card was written by my great grandmother), and I can't remember a Thanksgiving without it. It's FLUFFY pumpkin pie with egg whites and spices and a graham crust, which I love.
- What I love about this pie is that it takes less than an hour start to finish to make, then it just needs to chill for a few hours.
- This version of pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust is nice and light thanks to an egg white mixture that gets stirred into the cooked pumpkin filling.
- The graham cracker crust has just three ingredients and no added sugar or butter - we use applesauce to substitute for both of those ingredients.
- Egg white baked goods can fall and get soupy, so we avoid that here with a packet of gelatin that keeps the filling nice and sturdy even if you make the pie a day or two in advance.
- I acknowledge that there are raw egg whites in this, and encourage you to do some true reading on dangers of consuming raw egg whites - there are very, very few but it's important to note that with nearly any food consumed there can be some risks.
Heck yes! Graham cracker crusts work well with almost any kind of pie that calls for traditional pie crust if that's your preference.
I love both types of crust, but for this lighter pie filling in particular I find that the graham cracker crust works really well to add texture and body to the finished pumpkin pie.
Nope! This recipe is for a no bake pie crust which is quick and delicious - it solidifies nicely in the fridge as the pie filling chills and soaks into it a bit.
Let's make pie!
No Bake Graham Cracker Pie Crust
First: the graham cracker crust!
- This version uses applesauce instead of butter which accomplishes two things: There is no need for added sugar, and the pie crust is lower in fat.
- To make the crust, combine graham cracker crumbs, applesauce, and cinnamon in a bowl. Use a fork for this; the mixture will be crumbly and lumpy.
- Press the crust evenly into a pie dish, working it up the sides of the dish and really packing it together with your fingers as you go.
- Let the pie crust chill and firm up in the fridge while you make the pumpkin pie filling.
Once the crust is made and chilling, gather the rest of your ingredients:
- Water and gelatin are combined together and will act as a thickener for the pie filling.
- Eggs add protein and structure.
- Pumpkin puree - not pumpkin pie filling, check the label!
- Sugar for sweetness.
- Milk to thin the filling a tiny bit.
- Cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla for flavor.
Seasoning note: You can also use pumpkin pie spice in place of the cinnamon and ginger, totally your preference. Both versions are yummy!
PS if you have leftover graham cracker crumbs you can make cheesecake!
Step by Step Instructions
Here's our roadmap: We make the crust, then we chill that. (check!) While the crust chills, we make the pumpkin mixture, then SEPARATELY we make the egg white mixture, then those two get combined and dumped into the pie crust.
The pumpkin mixture cooks on the stovetop for 5 minutes, but other than that this is a NO BAKE PUMPKIN PIE.
First, we add the gelatin to the water to let it soften slash "bloom" for a few minutes. It'll get kind of .... gelatinous. As you'd expect.
While the gelatin is resting, separate the egg whites and yolks. Place the whites in the bowl of a mixer (or any bowl if you're using a handheld mixer), and the yolks in the bottom of a small (cold) pot.
How to Separate Egg Whites from Yolk
To separate eggs, crack the egg, then break the egg shell in half. Use the shell halves to coax the yolk back and forth as the white separates and falls into a bowl. You'll be left with just the yolk in one half of the shell to drop into the pot you'll use for the pumpkin mixture.
Roadmap Update: Now, we have gelatin blooming, egg whites in the mixer bowl, and egg yolks in the bottom of a small pot. At this point, grab another large bowl and set it aside; we'll use it to cool the pumpkin mixture and combine the filling.
Pumpkin Pie Filling with Gelatin
To the pot with the egg yolks, add the pumpkin puree, HALF the sugar (½ cup), the milk, cinnamon, and ginger. Alternatively, skip the cinnamon and ginger and add 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.
Stir the egg yolk mixture together and place the pot on the stovetop over medium heat. As the pumpkin mixture is heating, stir every minute or so really well to prevent the eggs from scrambling and becoming lumpy.
(no one ever said at the awkward "what are you grateful for" family circle, "I'm so grateful that there are scrambled eggs in this pie.")
When the pumpkin mixture comes to a light boil (adjust the heat if needed), let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly at this point to keep the filling very smooth and from sticking.
After 5 minutes, turn the heat OFF, move the pot off the hot burner, and stir in the gelatin and water mixture.
Keep stirring for a few more minutes to dissolve the gelatin into the pumpkin mixture, then pour the whole pumpkin mixture into a large bowl to cool while you prep the egg whites.
Now, onto the egg whites! The gelatin in the pumpkin mixture helps firm up the pie, and the egg whites folded in right at the end keep things fluffy and light.
How to Beat Egg Whites Until Stiff
Start to beat the egg whites at a high speed for about 5 minutes until they get super duper white and fluffy and soft peaks form. THEN, with the mixer still running, add the vanilla and slowly pour in the sugar.
Note that with sturdy egg whites, it's important to go more with what the egg whites look like than with the timing. By the time the egg whites are done and the sugar has been added, they should be very glossy and with stiff peaks (I know, I know, me too).
If you aren't sure, envision the texture of melted marshmallow versus chocolate mousse with more visible air holes. The egg white mixture should feel sturdy.
The mixture will thicken considerably in a minute or two after the sugar is added. When the mixture turns GLOSSY, the egg whites are done! Glossy is key.
Assembling the Pie
So now we have our pie crust chilling, the pumpkin mixture cooling in a bowl, and the fluffy egg whites. Let's perform the marriage.
Add ⅓ of the egg whites to the pumpkin mixture, and VERY gently stir it together. We want to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
Then, add half of the remaining egg whites, and keep gently folding (just fold it in!).
Add the rest of the egg whites, and stir everything together until the filling is smooth. If there are a few streaks in the pie filling it is completely fine, err on the side of stirring LESS, not more.
Pour the filling into the pie crust, and chill the pie in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight if you are making the pie in advance!
Make Ahead and Leftover Storage
- I make this pie a day in advance or the morning of Thanksgiving and chill it while I make everything else.
- Leftovers keep well in the fridge for about 2 days, after that things get a little iffy.
Keep the pie cold until right before you serve, then carefully cut slices and ploop them on plates. Every once in awhile I'll have a version of this that doesn't hold up as well as I'd like, but the fluffy light texture is way worth a softer pie.
If you're not into pumpkin pie but like PSL-type flavors, this just might be the pie for you, my friends. It's one of my absolute favorites, and I hope you'll try it this year with your family!
Pumpkin Pie with Graham Cracker Crust
FOR THE CRUST
- 1 ¼ cups finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup apple sauce (one individual container)
FOR THE FILLING
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1 ¼ cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
- 3 eggs yolks and whites divided
- 1 cup sugar divided
- ½ cup milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- For the crust, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, and press the crust mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate, pressing the crumbs up the side of the plate. Chill until the crust is firm, about 30 minutes, while you make the filling.
- Make the pumpkin mixture. Pour the water into a bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Allow the gelatin to soften in the water for about 5 minutes.
- Combine the pumpkin, egg yolks, ½ cup of sugar, milk, salt, ginger, and ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon in a COLD saucepan, and mix until smooth.
- Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until it almost reaches a simmer, and cook until thickened, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes; stir in the gelatin and water until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool.
- Beat the Egg Whites. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks; gradually beat in ½ cup of sugar and the vanilla extract until the mixture is glossy. This will take 7-10 minutes depending on your eggs and mixer.
- Assemble and Chill: Lightly fold the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture, keeping as much air in the mixture as possible. Scoop the pumpkin mixture into the graham cracker crust. Chill at least four hours or overnight. Serve cold.
This recipe was originally published in November 2014 and has been updated with better text and instructions. It's one of our family's favorites that we make every Thanksgiving!