24 Unique Ingredients That Will Seriously Upgrade Your Pumpkin Pie

slice of cream cheese pumpkin pie
slice of cream cheese pumpkin pie - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Pumpkin pie is a staple of autumnal cuisine. They're such an iconic dish of the holidays that one town in Connecticut delayed their Thanksgiving celebration in 1705 because they didn't have enough of the ingredients needed for the pie. Back then, some New England pumpkin pies used to be cooked directly in pumpkin shells. However, today, the dessert has become more convenient to make or buy and is usually served in classic pie crusts rather than hollow pumpkins, and they still grace many dining tables during Thanksgiving.

Traditional flavors are so popular that you can find just about anything pumpkin spice-flavored during the season. Still, there are some who vehemently avoid the craze, and we get it. Pumpkin pie might not be for everyone. But we think it can be, especially if you elevate the traditional flavors. From creamy to sweet to savory, there are a multitude of ways to spruce up the classic pie. While we're fans of the original and know a good thing when we taste it, we are also believers in the power of innovation. Here, we've gathered some creative ingredients ranging from out-of-the-ordinary to completely indulgent that will take your homemade or store-bought pumpkin pie to the next level.

Read more: The Ultimate Ice Cream Brands, Ranked

White Chocolate

chunks of white chocolate
chunks of white chocolate - Ac_bnphotos/Getty Images

As luxurious and sweet as white chocolate is, this ingredient makes the perfect partner for pumpkin pie's rich, spiced flavors. Because white chocolate is more delicate than bitter dark chocolate, it counterbalances the pie's inherent sweetness and adds a velvety texture to the airy dessert.

Simply melt some white chocolate and either add it directly to the pie filling or swirl it into the mixture after filling the crust. If you don't want to bake it into the pie, try adding shredded white chocolate flakes to the top of your pumpkin pie for a subtle touch of creamy chocolate.


spoon dipped in caramel sauce
spoon dipped in caramel sauce - New Africa/Shutterstock

In the same way that pumpkins are synonymous with fall, so is caramel. It's creamy, smooth, and indulgent -- the perfect addition to most fall desserts. And when it's salted, it's even more layered and delicious.

Caramel is a delicious addition to pumpkin pie, with many versatile ways to incorporate it. You could swirl salted caramel on top of a frozen pumpkin pie, or you could add a few small chunks of soft caramel into the pie's filling. Inversely, you could pour a layer of caramel onto the crust before adding in the pumpkin filling. And if you're feeling like a baker with extra time, we recommend whipping up some salted caramel pumpkin pie crescents to pair.


streusel on pumpkin pie
streusel on pumpkin pie - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Streusel is perfect for all types of desserts, from cobbler and muffins to coffee cake and apple pie. Something about it is comforting, no matter how it's used. So why not combine two comforts and use it on pumpkin pie?

It's a perfectly sweet, crunchy addition to the spiced dessert. Plus, it's incredibly easy to make -- the crumbly topping only requires butter, white sugar, brown sugar, flour, and a touch of salt. Remember to add streusel to your pumpkin pie closer to the end of baking it. A good 15 minutes should do the trick to get it golden brown without burning the topping.


two mugs of eggnog
two mugs of eggnog - Kajakiki/Getty Images

A quintessential holiday drink, eggnog takes this dessert to a new level. Typically, eggnog is spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla -- sometimes bourbon or rum is added to the frothy milk. All of these flavors mimic or complement those in pumpkin pie, which hints at how delicious this duo could be.

Yes, even the boozy kind. If all you have is spiked eggnog, know that when you add it to your pumpkin pie most of the alcohol will cook out as it is baking. To incorporate eggnog, you can either substitute it for the milk or cream in your recipe or just add a dash of it to your filling. It could also help to adjust the spices in your pumpkin pie filling so the matching flavors aren't overpowering. For instance, try using a little less nutmeg if you're adding eggnog.

Candied Nuts

glazed pecans in skillet
glazed pecans in skillet - Rudisill/Getty Images

Whether it's inside, on top, or as a crust substitute, candied nuts are the ideal ingredient for a delicious pumpkin pie recipe. No matter which kind you use, this sweet and nutty addition adds the perfect crunch to the dessert.

Almonds, pecans, and walnuts are all common choices for candied nuts, but you could also go for hazelnuts, macadamias, or cashews. To get the nuts sweet, golden brown, and ready, just roast them in the oven or cook them in a skillet with a syrupy mixture -- typically of sugar, butter, spices, and vanilla -- until they are caramelized. Then add a pinch of salt and let them cool until they harden like candy. Once they're candied, you can incorporate them into your recipe however you like.


bowl of honey on tweed
bowl of honey on tweed - Pannonia/Getty Images

Pumpkin pie can be sweet, but it could also be sweeter if that's what you prefer. After all, most of the sweetness comes from the cinnamon, nutmeg, and condensed milk instead of the pumpkin. Even though the milk can lend a good deal of sugar-sweet flavor, the traditional spices have more of a bite.

If you want to bring a new kind of sweetness to the table, honey is a great addition without being too cloying. A drizzle of honey in your filling can elevate the pie to a level of sweetness that balances between subtle and succulent. Additionally, the floral notes of honey complement the earthiness of pumpkin, bringing some more complexity to the spiced dessert.


person holding meringue pie
person holding meringue pie - Tom Merton/Getty Images

When making a lemon meringue pie, getting a half pie and half meringue topping is essential. Part of the beauty of meringue is taking a slice and seeing the whipped, fluffy topping hold firm as part of the pie. Adding it to your pumpkin pie can be just as satisfying.

Preparing meringue is a delicate process of beating egg whites until frothy, and then you fold in cream of tartar, salt, sugar, and vanilla and then beating the mixture until stiff peaks start to form. We suggest keeping the meringue uncooked, which is also the French version, and topping your pie with it. To get the tips of those peaks beautifully golden, continue baking the pie for a short amount of time, or use a kitchen torch to carefully brown the meringue.

Feta Cheese

crumbled block of feta cheese
crumbled block of feta cheese - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

Pumpkin pie doesn't always need something sweet to enhance it -- tangy and salty will also suffice. Feta cheese might seem like an unlikely ingredient for a pumpkin pie, but it can certainly turn this dessert into something a little more savory.

Pumpkin with feta is also not an unordinary combination, but we can see how the traditional spices of a pumpkin pie can seem to conflict with the distinctive flavors of feta cheese. Trust us, it works.

Go ahead and keep your typical spices in the mix, though perhaps in smaller amounts, and try incorporating some others that complement the feta. Mediterranean herbs, such as garlic, mint, and thyme, can bring this savory-sweet dessert some depth. It's probably best to not try baking the cheese into the pie filling. Instead, try crumbling the cheese on the top of the pie for a unique and sharp flavor profile.


close up of marshmallows
close up of marshmallows - Anthonyrosenberg/Getty Images

Sweet, gooey marshmallows go really well with the rich, creamy flavors in pumpkin pie. It adds some extra sweetness while leaving you in control of just how much. You can use a few marshmallows or you could spread them throughout the pie.

The idea is to layer mini marshmallows on the top of the pie and bake it until it starts to brown, leaving you with a toasted, melty, marshmallow top. Another way is to take store-bought marshmallow creme, spread it on the pie, and use a kitchen torch for a gooey, caramelized topping. You can also add marshmallows to the crust while putting the pie together, and as it bakes, you'll end up with a sweet, stuffed crust.

Cream Cheese

cream cheese pumpkin pie slice
cream cheese pumpkin pie slice - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Cream cheese is an easy element to include in your pumpkin pie that can add a little more depth and creaminess to complement the rich, spiced flavors. To use as a topping, make a cream cheese frosting to spread onto your pie using a package of cream cheese, some milk, confectioner's sugar, and a bit of vanilla extract.

If you want your dessert to have a more hidden bite, try layering cream cheese on the crust before dropping in the pie's filling. You can also swirl the cream cheese into the filling before baking it, but take care not to add too much or you could affect the overall texture. However, if you're down with changing up the texture of your classic pumpkin pie, you can use cream cheese to turn your dessert into a pumpkin cheesecake.

Garam Masala

garam masala in spoon
garam masala in spoon - Ajaykampani/Getty Images

The main mixture that gives pumpkin pie its signature flavor, is typically made with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. So when you consider garam masala, which is a mix of spices such as cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, and cumin, they really aren't too far off from each other.

Sure, garam masala has more savory notes, but it is translated as "warm spice" with good reason. This Indian spice is used in an array of recipes from baked bread to roasted root vegetables or traditional curry. It's warm, comforting, and the perfect savory yet spiced ingredient for your pumpkin pie. Just swap out your classic pumpkin spice mixture, or include less of it, to incorporate garam masala in a balanced way.


close up of butterscotch chips
close up of butterscotch chips - Blurr/Getty Images

Brown sugar, heavy cream, salt, vanilla, butter, and Scotch are the handful of ingredients that are usually required to prepare a butterscotch sauce. Just as the name suggests, butter and Scotch are exactly what this sticky, sweet sauce tastes like, without the bite of booze.

This rich, caramel-like sauce pairs perfectly with pumpkin pie, which brings a different kind of flavor and creaminess to the table. If you don't want to drizzle the sauce on top of the pie or in the filling, we suggest adding a few butterscotch chips into the pie to get a delicate, buttery burst of flavor in every bite. It's easy and tasty.

Greek Yogurt

bowl of yogurt on table
bowl of yogurt on table - Yelenayemchuk/Getty Images

Another tangy, savory addition to your pie is Greek yogurt. This is an easy and delicious way to bring some more depth to any pumpkin pie recipe. As versatile as it is, plain Greek yogurt can be included in several creative ways.

The easiest way to do this might just be blending some of it into the pie filling and baking as you normally would. You can also substitute some of the condensed milk for the yogurt. Another option we like is to create pumpkin pie parfaits by alternately layering the pie and the yogurt, and finishing the dessert off with crumbled crust as a garnish. But it can be simple, too -- even a dollop of Greek yogurt takes your pumpkin pie to the next level without any fuss.

Toasted Coconut

bowl of toasted coconut
bowl of toasted coconut - Debbismirnoff/Getty Images

Unlike candied nuts, which contain added sugars, coconut is naturally nutty, sweet, and crunchy in its own delicate way. Whether topping your pie or mixing it in, toasted coconut is a great way to add subtle sweetness and texture to the dessert.

We suggest using the toasted coconut flakes as a base for your pie by mixing them with crushed graham crackers to create a flavorful, and more robust crust. You can also sprinkle toasted coconut flakes over the top of the baked pumpkin pie just before serving. Another idea for a garnish is to mix toasted coconut with flour, brown sugar, and butter to create a streusel-like topping.


close up of several toffee bits
close up of several toffee bits - Toasted Pictures/Shutterstock

By adding a sweet, caramelized richness, toffee complements the warm spices in pumpkin pie. The buttery, crunchy texture of toffee contrasts with the smoothness of the pie, and it's simple enough to try making or it can be bought from the store.

All you have to do is crush toffee into small pieces and sprinkling it on top of a fully baked pumpkin pie for an easy, sweet, and crunchy experience. If you add the bits into the pumpkin pie before baking, the toffee will melt and blend with the filling, and you'll end up with a caramelized flavor in each bite. Another way to bring these rich flavors together is a drizzle of warm toffee sauce over slices of pumpkin pie.

Chocolate Chips

close up of chocolate chips
close up of chocolate chips - Mphillips007/Getty Images

Because chocolate chips are usually semi-sweet, and meant for baking, they're a prime ingredient to add to pumpkin pie. They're not quite as rich as milk or dark chocolate, but they still have that slightly bitter, sweet flavor that will pair well with the pie.

Try layering the chips on the crust before pouring in the filling or add them to the top before baking or while it's still hot from the oven so they melt. Chocolate chips can also be melted and marbled through the pie, or drizzled lightly on top, which incorporates a smaller amount of the sweet addition.

Plant-Based Milk

ingredients to make vegan milk
ingredients to make vegan milk - Ivan Bajic/Getty Images

Almond, soy, hemp, cashew, or oat milk are all tasty substitutions for evaporated milk in pumpkin pie. If you like to go dairy-free, you can replace the milk entirely with one of your favorite nutty, plant-based milks.

Remember, though, if you change the milk you may have to alter your bake time or adjust the measurements. For instance, some recipes call for 2 cups of plant-based milk instead of 1 can of condensed milk. To keep the flavors of the condensed milk, try combining a little of the plant-based milk until you get a ratio that will blend the two kinds together. This way, you'll maintain a similar texture in the pie. Not only will this make your pie vegan-friendly, but it also adds a creamy, nutty flavor to the mix.

Maple Syrup

spoon of maple syrup
spoon of maple syrup - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Maple pumpkin pie seems like it's already a classic variation of the traditional dessert, but we're here to convince you to try it yourself. Sticky and sweet, maple fits right in with the fall dessert.

Aside from just adding syrup to the filling, maple has some versatility. It can be turned into a streusel topping, a drizzle for garnish, or you could glaze nuts, like pecans or walnuts, with maple syrup to add to the pie. However you go about it, maple syrup gives pumpkin pie the rich, delicious caramelization that it deserves.


bowl of mascarpone
bowl of mascarpone - Repinanatoly/Getty Images

Mascarpone is a creamy ingredient that will completely elevate any traditional pumpkin pie recipe. In a way that's different from whipped cream or meringue, mascarpone is slightly sweet and acidic. All you need is a dollop on top to make a huge difference and bring a depth of flavor to the pie.

Alternatively, you could also swirl some of the cheese inside the filling without it turning into cheesecake. When the rich, creaminess of mascarpone meets your pumpkin pie concoction, you won't regret it. According to Giada de Laurentiis' blog, Giadzy, the celebrity chef also suggests using mascarpone to enhance any pumpkin pie recipe.


silken tofu on porcelain dish
silken tofu on porcelain dish - Picturepartners/Getty Images

You may not believe it at first, but tofu can be the star ingredient for a fluffy vegan pumpkin pie if you let it be. It's easy to switch the dairy for tofu -- all you have to do is use equal amounts of tofu for the heavy cream.

If your pumpkin pie recipe calls for a cup of cream, then add a cup of tofu instead. In particular, silken tofu gives the recipe the same kind of creaminess, though some of the sweetness may be lost. You can always alter the spices or sprinkle in a little brown sugar to match the flavors of the condensed milk.


bowl of mushrooms
bowl of mushrooms - Alvarez/Getty Images

For a savory twist on pumpkin pie, try adding mushrooms. We get it -- cinnamon, nutmeg, and mushrooms might have you raising your eyebrows in doubt. But the combination of pumpkin and mushrooms really works. Plus, other spices can be added to balance the savoriness, such as ginger and cayenne pepper.

You could also leave the sweeter spices out completely. If you don't want to brave some of the recipes out there that fully incorporate mushrooms, start slowly. We suggest trying some roasted, spiced mushrooms as a topping to see how you like the flavors together. Either way, don't knock it until you try it.


bowl of chocolate hazelnut spread
bowl of chocolate hazelnut spread - beats1/Shutterstock

Nutella brings the sweetness of chocolate and the nuttiness of hazelnut together in one rich, creamy spread. Easy to use and delicious to snack on, Nutella is an undeniably delicious way to upgrade your pumpkin pie.

Considering how indulgent it can be, you don't need to add a lot to the dessert. A layer on the bottom of the pie before baking or marbling the spread into the filling is more than enough to spruce up your pie. If you're a big fan of Nutella, try adding a layer on the bottom, swirling some into the pumpkin pie itself, and drizzling some more on top once it's done baking. We don't really think there's any way to go overboard here.


glass of bourbon
glass of bourbon - Karandaev/Getty Images

Giving your pumpkin pie the sharp bite of bourbon just makes sense. Even though it won't give you a buzz, the actual flavor of bourbon gives the dessert a caramelized depth.

While you may think the only way to include bourbon is by putting it in the filling outright, it's actually a very versatile ingredient with a lot of creative potential. Besides the common method of infusing the pie with booze, you can also make a bourbon glaze for the top. Another way to use the liquor is by making bourbon-glazed nuts, raisins, or caramel to decorate the pie.

Infused Whipped Cream

pumpkin pie with cinnamon whipped cream
pumpkin pie with cinnamon whipped cream - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Infused whipped cream is perhaps one of the most versatile ways to spice up your pumpkin pie. All you have to do is combine your favorite ingredients with cold or hot cream and letting the mixture sit until the cream takes on the flavors. Once it's been steeped for a while, strain it, chill it, and whip it up to get it to that fluffy consistency we all know and love.

Plain whipped cream gets the job done, there's no doubt about that. But we suggest taking it a step further and infusing it with any of your favorite flavors. A few options include cinnamon, maple, caramel, bourbon, chocolate, coconut, honey, toffee, and booze -- or any combination you can whip up. You could also take the natural flavors of pumpkin pie to the next degree with a pumpkin-infused whipped cream.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.