Trust me, I get it — this sounds like a gimmick. But it works. Cayenne plays well with cinnamon and ginger, already familiar players in classic pumpkin pie filling, and adds just enough of a kick to announce its presence without overwhelming your taste buds. A little chicken fat adds umami to the crust (although you can use all butter; see variation below) and honey helps bridge the savory-sweet gap between the spice and sweet pumpkin filling. It’s sweet, creamy and oddly refreshing — just the thing you need after the big holiday meal. But if you’re really averse to the spice, omit it altogether and you’re left with a classic pumpkin pie recipe to stand the test of time — and fads — for years.
Just to be safe, buy a new container of cayenne to ensure it gives the pie the characteristic Nashville hot chicken kick. Don’t skimp on the whipped cream on top — its richness balances the heat of the filling perfectly. And though it’s an extra step, blind-baking the crust here is essential to getting crisp, flaky dough along with a properly custard-like filling.
Nashville Hot Pumpkin Pie
2 hours, plus 1 hour hands-off. Makes two 9-inch pies.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- ¼ cup rendered chicken fat, frozen
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 can pumpkin or sweet potato purée (15 ounces)
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey, plus more for serving
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cayenne, plus more to garnish
- 2 large eggs
- 1 can evaporated milk (12 ounces)
- 2 cups chilled heavy cream
- In a food processor, combine the flour, butter, chicken fat, sugar and 2 teaspoons salt and pulse 10 times until the butter is the size of peas. Add ½ cup ice-cold water and pulse quickly 4 or 5 times to moisten the crumbles but not combine the dough. If the dough seems dry, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons ice-cold water and pulse to combine. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and press lightly until it begins to stick together. Form the dough into a ball, then split it in half and form each half into a disk. Wrap the disks separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
- On a floured work surface, roll each chilled dough disk until ⅛-inch-thick. Transfer each to a regular (not deep-dish) 9-inch foil or light metal pie pan, leaving a 1-inch overhang all around and trimming any excess. Fold the overhang underneath itself so it forms a thick rim that’s flush with the edge of the pan. Crimp the rim with a fork or your fingers. Place the pie pans in the freezer and chill until firm, at least 20 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Tear off 2 sheets of parchment paper, wad each up into a ball, then unfurl. Place a sheet over each frozen pie crust, then fill each to the top with pie weights (you can use raw rice or dried beans too). Place both crusts in the oven and bake, rotating halfway through cooking, until the edges turn light golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove the parchment paper sheets and weights and continue baking the crusts until the bottoms brown lightly, about 10 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, honey, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and remaining ½ teaspoon salt until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, then the evaporated milk. With the pies still on the oven racks, pour half the filling (2 cups) into each crust. Close the oven and bake until the center of each pie jiggles slightly when the pan is tapped on the edge, about 35 minutes. Transfer the pies to a rack and let cool completely.
- Up to 2 hours before serving, whisk the cream to stiff peaks in a large bowl. Spread half the whipped cream evenly over the top of each pie and dust lightly with more cayenne. Serve each slice with a drizzle of honey on top, if you like.
- All-butter crust: No schmaltz? No problem! Nix the chicken fat and use 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter total.