Love it or hate it, pumpkin pie is always expected on the Thanksgiving table. When this classic dessert is not in its usual place on the holiday sideboard, right next to the pecan and apple pies, it feels like a family member is missing.
Pumpkin pie is also a great make-ahead dessert to cross off your Thanksgiving to-do list. You can prepare and bake the pie up to two days in advance and it will still taste great on the big day. Just make sure you store the pie in the refrigerator—not on the kitchen counter—until you are ready to serve it.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, recipes made with milk and eggs must be refrigerated within two hours of baking. Like quiches, cheesecakes, and other dairy-heavy recipes with a creamy, custardy texture, pumpkin pie can not sit out at room temperature for very long—even if you reheat them before serving. Eggs and liquid dairy like milk are high in protein and moisture. When left at room temperature, bacteria can easily multiply.
Watch: Southern Pumpkin Pie
After baking the pie, let it cool, then wrap it completely in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Store the wrapped pie in the refrigerator up to two days ahead of Thanksgiving. Although the pie will still be good to eat after four days (but not a day longer), for the best flavor and texture, we recommend serving it within two days.
If any moisture forms on the top of the refrigerated pie, gently blot it off with a paper towel. If the top cracks (which may happen when a custard-based pie is chilled), cover the top of the pie—and the crack—with a pile of fluffy whipped cream.