Does Pumpkin Pie Need to Be Refrigerated?

·2 min read
Photo credit: bhofack2 - Getty Images
Photo credit: bhofack2 - Getty Images

Ah, pumpkin pie! Whether you like it, love it, or leave it, it’s hard to imagine a full-on Thanksgiving menu without the spiced custard pie. If you're making your holiday desserts a day or two in advance or you're left with a couple of leftover slices after the big feast, you're probably wondering: Does pumpkin pie need to be refrigerated or is it OK to keep at room temperature? We all know refrigerator space is prime real estate around this time of year, so it's important to have the right info!

In a nutshell, you should refrigerate your pumpkin pie once it cools completely. Pumpkin pie is a custard pie (or you might even be making pumpkin cream pie), and that's a completely different story than a fruit pie. Because milk and eggs are key components in custard pies, you’ll want to treat a pumpkin pie more like a quiche or egg dish. (No one wants to eat an egg dish that’s been sitting out overnight!) Apple pie and other fruit pies are loaded with sugar, a natural preservative that helps them remain shelf-stable for longer at room temperature.

How long can pumpkin pie be left out of the refrigerator?

Don't worry—you can leave your pumpkin pie out on the table during dessert! The FDA’s official stance is that homemade pumpkin pie is OK at room temperature for up to two hours. That's plenty of time for you to linger over dessert! Just note: The two-hour window doesn't include the time needed to let a freshly baked pie cool completely, which is also important for food safety. If the pie hasn’t been properly cooled and you put it in the fridge, not only do you risk a soggy crust or weeping (water droplets) on the surface of your pie, you’re also creating the perfect storm of moist, lukewarm conditions for bacteria to breed—yuck!

Why are store-bought pumpkin pies not refrigerated?

This is the exception to the rule. Commercially-produced pumpkin pies are typically made with preservatives that allow them to remain shelf-stable for longer at room temperature. Most store-bought pies will include a sell-by date, which gives you an idea of how long they will remain safe to eat—even stored at room temperature. Pumpkin pies purchased at a bakery are a little trickier: If they’re made with only fresh ingredients, similar to a homemade pie, you’ll want to refrigerate them, but if preservatives are used, treat them like grocery store pies. For your own safety and that of your guests, ask to be sure!