The holidays just aren't the same without pies on the dessert table. Warehouse Goliath Costco helps make the season even merrier with its selection of ginormous pies, arriving just in time for Thanksgiving and hanging around the bakery section until Christmas. These heavy-hitting desserts provide oversized finished pies ready to serve without needing defrosting or time in the oven. And Costco pies are known to fly off the shelves faster than Tickle Me Elmo in the mid-90s, a sugar-fed rush that only adds to the fun.
Costco knows what its devoted seasonal customers love best, which may explain the reason behind limiting its pie selection to three cherished selections: pumpkin, apple, and pecan. This simple menu covers the range of desserts that home cooks are most likely to conjure up for their hungry friends and families. Even with limited flavors, shoppers should make no mistake: Costco offers an alternative to the trouble of shopping and preparing homemade pies, labor that only adds to the holiday task list.
Though these pies are renowned for being comically large and cost-effective, are they worthy of a place on your table? We picked up one of each to give them all an old-fashioned taste test and see which Costco pie is best primed for the holidays. Sample three tasty bakes was a tough job, but finding out how they stack up as feast-worthy fare was worth every bite.
3. Costco Pumpkin Pie
This Thanksgiving and Christmas staple has also become an expected part of the Costco shopping experience. Costco's oversized pumpkin pies are a fan favorite that comes with its very own annual season, eagerly awaited by shoppers planning their festive feast. It isn't difficult to see why; with such generous portions available and ready to serve a crowd of any size, one pie can finish off your entire dessert table with a single purchase. This prodigious pie is always available at an eye-popping low price, currently $5.99, which makes us wonder how Costco is able to sell a pumpkin pie so cheaply.
Inexpensive pumpkin pie may be a glorious prospect, but how can a pie that costs slightly more than twice the price of a can of pumpkin measure up when inspected more closely? Is there some sort of warehouse sorcery afoot that allows Costco to maximize size while minimizing expense? Some secret spell the other chains can't seem to replicate? While the grand scale and heart-swelling price are the major aspects of the attraction, the possibility of having a pre-made pie to save you tons of work is just as enchanting. Could the real deal ever live up to the dream? Yes ... and no. And maybe.
The Trim List Of Ingredients Provides Recognizable Flavor
The moist ingredients in a Costco pumpkin pie means this gigantic bake requires refrigeration at the very least. If you'll be waiting a while to serve it, you can freeze it immediately and thaw it when you're ready. Considering the size of the pie and its inflexible packaging, you'll need to clear out a fair amount of space for freezer storage. Knowing that customers flock to Costco to grab their pumpkin pies as soon as the warehouse puts out the call means you should do some maneuvering ahead of time to make sure you're able to lock in the flavor before stock dwindles and you're left pie-less, freezer space or no freezer space.
Comparing the ingredient lists on all three holiday pie labels, Costco's pumpkin pie appears to be the most natural. There are no thickeners and very few preservatives, a fact that necessitates refrigeration. This also means that your pie won't stay stable at room temperature for very long, turning soft and slippery, and loading up with bacteria if left out for more than two hours. It's a quality inherent in most pumpkin pies, and a feature you won't escape in this pie, either. So, while you're getting a truly homestyle pumpkin pie as far as flavor and ingredients go, you're also getting a touchy bake that needs to be coddled in order to stay fresh — not a dealbreaker, but something to be aware of when choosing.
There's Plenty Of Pastry For A Modest Price
The 12-inch circumference of this hearty pie is enough to feed plenty of hungry dessert fans. To visualize what this pastry looks like sliced into 12 equal servings, think about a 12-inch pizza cut into the generally accepted eight equal slices. Now, imagine serving your guests a pizza-sized slice of pumpkin pie. Seems pretty liberal, doesn't it? A slightly smaller slice sounds more like the recommended portion, which means you can get at least 16 slices out of a single pie. The short story is that your Costco pumpkin pie can go a long way toward satisfying a holiday crowd.
For $5.99, the Costco pumpkin pie is a classic creation served up at a prime price point. You'd be hard-pressed to find even a smaller bake at that price in the freezer section. In fact, a 9-inch Mrs. Smith's pie at Walmart is $5.94. So, you'll get far less pie for a nickel less. That's bad spending no matter how you slice it. If there's any possibility that you'll want to skip doing your own baking for your pumpkin pie needs, having a Costco pumpkin pie or two on hand is the most cost-effective way to keep a classic on the table without feeling like you've been taken for a ride.
Don't Get Punked By This Supremely-Priced Pumpkin Pie
We were so excited to put the famous Costco pumpkin pie to the test against the other holiday pies on the list. This is the one that receives the clarion call every year (The size! The price! The clamoring crowds!), but it's a siren song at best. Even with a list of modest and recognizable ingredients and a price point that's bound to make money watchers ecstatic, there's not much to get excited about here. It's a run-of-the-mill pumpkin pie, made extra-large and sold on the cheap. The flavor is standard, which is great news for pumpkin pie lovers, but holiday dessert connoisseurs will be disappointed at the lackluster flavor.
Adding a sprinkle of candied nuts, a drizzle of caramel or chocolate sauce, or even a blast of canned whipped cream can only be an improvement in both presentation and taste. The best that can be said about this fan-favorite pie is that it's large, and it prevents you from having to spend time baking when you could be enjoying your company instead. But you've undoubtedly had better pumpkin pie than this, and so have we. It may be better than nothing, but it's certainly not better than other options in the Costco pie family.
2. Costco Pecan Pie
Costco's pecan pie is undoubtedly the most indulgent and deluxe pie in the holiday collection. The filling is essentially a candy gel; the pecans on top are like a delicious mosaic, dutifully considered and carefully placed. There's no mistaking this grand goodie for an underappreciated Costco item, even if the din raised over the super-affordable pumpkin pie tends to overpower this pecan pie's decadent beauty. Fortunately, Costco stocks its pecan pies in the bakery section, adjacent to the refrigerator case where the pumpkin pies live. This gives shoppers a chance to discover the wonder of this luxurious creation while in the vicinity of the real moneymaker.
And speaking of money making ... pecan pies are the most expensive of the Costco pie array, though size and quality more than compensate. Does all of that taken together mean pecan is a more desirable option than the other competitors in the pie races? Or does it mean each selection has its own strengths to play up, and the delights of a pecan pie are well-presented enough to justify the additional cost? The results are a mixed bag, which came as something of a surprise.
The Flavor Is Great ... The Ingredients Are Iffy
Even if Costco fans are divided over the quality versus cost aspect of this massive pecan pie, the possibility of getting a ton of festive food with fewer expenses is a wildly attractive prospect. The top of the pie is studded with pecan halves, all perfectly spaced and artfully arranged, and the gel-custard filling is deeply colored and highly glossy. It's all eye candy to lure the serious shopper, but it's also a familiar scene for fans of pecan pie. The label prominently displays a listing of recognizable ingredients, including corn syrup, eggs, and of course, pecans.
On the downside, there are also a few preservatives in the line-up, necessary to extend the shelf life of this unrefrigerated pie. Costco's pecan pie also includes thickeners like carrageenan and xanthan gum, substances you aren't likely to include in your recipe. These ingredients are commonly found in foods that require a creamy consistency, and packaged goods like ice cream and coffee creamer, but they're also known to cause stomach irritation to sensitive eaters (via Healthline). So, if you're hoping for a full-fledged homemade pecan pie experience without strange elements that might not sit well with your guests, you might be better off biting the bullet and making your own.
It's A Whopper Of A Bargain For Servings And Price
TikTok user CostcoBuys reports that Costco's pecan pie weighs in at an impressive 5 pounds, though the label on the pie we tasted says something closer to 4 ½ pounds, which is close enough for our liking. While pie by the pound is a concept that hasn't caught on in the baking world (yet!), the idea of getting a weighed pastry adds to the perceived value Costco imparts in its bulk shopping algorithm. More is on proud display in the bakery case, and your overlarge pecan pie provides enough dessert spectacle to become both a favored treat and a stunning centerpiece to showcase among your selection of sweets.
If you have a pecan tree in your yard and can harvest all the free pecans, you'll need to make your own pie, so go for it! But if you're opting for pre-shelled pecans from your local grocer, you could be shelling out in the neighborhood of $13.00 for four cups of nuts to cover your party pie needs. Depending on your holiday headcount, you could end up spending a pretty penny on your pecan pies, plus you'll have a bunch of baking to do — not the best deal on the block. With one Costco purchase for $16.99, you can have plenty of pecan pie to feed at least 12 guests, and the only work you'll have is slicing, plating, and serving.
This Pecan Pie Is A Tough Nut To Crack
Loaded with pecan halves from edge to edge, afloat on a gooey filling of brown sugar and corn syrup, a Costco pecan pie practically redefines the idea of a holiday dessert. After all, where else can you find a 12-inch pastry that can be eaten straight out of the package while allowing you to keep your holiday budget well in check? We dove headlong into a slice and found that the taste and texture were as delightful as any pecan pie we've ever had ... and there have been many a homemade pecan pie in our holiday past. It was an enjoyable task, indeed.
But after reading the ingredient list, we couldn't shake the knowledge that carrageenan is part of the recipe. With the possibility of causing a litany of digestive issues — some of which can be serious — having this culinary thickening agent in the formula doesn't seem like a wise option. So, Costco's pecan pie gets great raves for replicating flavor and mouthfeel, as well as presenting a lovely finished product, but it fails to top the list due to the inclusion of an undesirable ingredient. Maybe there's hope in the future for a reformulation. If so, a revisit might be called for. For now, Costco's pecan pie is an also-ran.
1. Costco Apple Pie
An American classic that's welcome at any celebration, the Costco version of an apple pie provides abundant apple filling in a tender crust topped with a sprinkling of sugar, and a surprisingly decorative top. The simple familiarity of an apple pie makes it an easy go-to for diners who might be unsure about more adventurous options on your dessert tray. The apple peeling and slicing labor saved alone by choosing a pre-made pie is well worth the price. And, of course, the enormity of this pie creates the ultimate shareable dessert opportunity, whether you're doling it out to a houseful of revelers or presenting pie to a smaller group and living for the leftovers.
If you have a treasured family recipe for apple pie that you're eager to create to carry on the sweet tradition, there's likely no replacing it with a store-bought pie, even from the likes of Costco. But if you're not terribly picky about where your pie comes from, could Costco be the pie purveyor of choice for your festivities? A glance at the quaint cut crust under the clear plastic lid might entice you to say "yes," but it takes a deeper dive to uncover the truth at this pretty pastry's core.
Familiar Flavors And Recognizable Ingredients Are A Delight
Costco fills its homestyle apple pies with copious quantities of tangy apples and a silky glaze that's sweet enough to be pleasing without the nasty mass-produced taste and unappetizing texture found in many pre-packaged pies. Sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on the crust is a tasty touch that gives the finished pie a comforting sheen, even if it isn't fresh out of the oven. Of the Costco holiday pies, the apple is the one most likely to elicit "oohs" and "aahs" from delighted visitors who easily recognize the hallmarks of care in craftsmanship. All of that is bound to come from the cuts on the top crust, an element that only Costco's apple pie contains.
Under the shell, the ingredients in this pie are fairly benign, if a bit more involved than a home recipe would include. Beyond the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and shortening for the crust, there are also xanthan and guar gum, the two sneaky thickeners that help make the glaze among the apples even sturdier. You wouldn't use this if you made your own pies, but Costco does. There are also malic acid, citric acid, and calcium propionate, a preservative trio the label calls out prominently and the reason this pie is shelf-stable without refrigeration while in the store. While these may not spoil the excitement of picking up this Costco creation, they are things to be considered.
You'll Love The Pleasing Portions And Budget Friendliness
Costco's apple pie looks like a pie your grandmother might have made, then inflated with a helium tank before serving it to the family. It's colossal, a fun enlargement on the usual apple pie, measuring a full 12 inches around. For comparison, a frozen Marie Callender's apple pie measures 9 inches, which means you're getting one-third more pie from Costco. And while the frozen pie shows a recommended 10 servings, you can picture how modest those slices might be. Meanwhile, the Costco apple pie invites slices of all sizes, with enough pie from edge to center to give every guest a satisfying sliver.
An average apple pie recipe can call for between three and five pounds of fresh apples. And at least $0.99 and $1.99 per pound for your preferred variety, fruit shopping alone can set you back upwards of $7.00. Sugar and flour may be relatively inexpensive, but add in a few dollars for butter for the crust, which may be as much as three-quarters of a cup, and you're looking at an $11.00 pie with tax included. All of this presumes you'll be making only one pie; making anything more obviously doubles your costs. With a price of $12.99 for a single Costco apple pie, you'll have plenty to serve without having to cross anyone off of your Christmas shopping list.
This Sweet Apple Pastry Offers Genuine Holiday Appeal
Real apple pie aficionados will not be disappointed in the least when they slice into this Costco offering. From the premium-sized apple slices to the crust that holds its shape upon slicing and the balanced glaze cradling the fruit inside, it's a masterwork of warehouse pie production. We tried ours after refrigeration, which made it better somehow; the flavor of the apples shone even brighter than a warmed-up slice. The purity and richness of the taste required nothing more, no whipped cream or à la mode topping, though anyone wanting those extras would only have more to enjoy. Served dressed or starkly bare in nothing more than its crust, a Costco apple pie will make happy dessert memories at your gathering.
While there's nothing to complain about as far as the pie itself, there's a word of caution to be shared regarding the packaging. With this pie being shelved at Costco at room temperature, handling the plastic case by the edges caused the rim of the crust to crack. A bit of repair work reassembled the offending split, but if you're planning on displaying the pie in whole on your table, we advise lifting and carrying from the bottom to avoid damage. You'll have a more composed pastry to adorn your dessert setting before the feast begins.
Read the original article on Mashed.