In an article about seasonal pies, an illustration depicting a slice of pumpkin pie
Illustration by Olivia Bermingham, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
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In an article about seasonal pies, an illustration depicting a slice of pumpkin pie
Illustration by Olivia Bermingham, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

The beloved fall dessert has plenty of delicious variations.

It’s finally starting to feel like fall — or winter if you live in Southern California — and the star dessert of the season is pie!

Seasonal Pies: An American Tradition

Pie is not a uniquely American dessert; it has been around for centuries, and is even featured in the Cook’s Story in the Canterbury Tales. But there’s no question that Americans have embraced pie as a dessert for all seasons. There’s even an idiom to describe things that are representative of the country: “as American as apple pie.” While apple pie may not have been invented in America, it was certainly popularized here. Every year, apple pies make an appearance at holiday tables around the country. Here are some other seasonal pies that are popular this time of the year and some uncommon ones that you should consider!

Apple Slab Pie - Recipes
Apple Slab Pie - Recipes

Pumpkin Charlotte

While Starbucks may be ditching pumpkin spice for wintery flavors like peppermint and sugar cookie, pumpkin pie is still a staple of the fall season. Pumpkin pie can be found in grocery stores across the nation, but many people enjoy creating the classic treat from scratch. A common holiday tradition involves baking these popular pies for Thanksgiving to enjoy with the family.

There is an ongoing debate about whether pumpkin pie should be served hot or cold, with whipped cream or ice cream and whether dairy-free whipped topping is better than the whipped cream in an aerosol can. (The correct way to serve pumpkin pie is cold and with whipped cream, because whipped topping is not even close to its canned counterpart. No need for further discussion).

Although the perfect holiday dessert table usually features a pumpkin pie, one out of the box alternative is the glorious pumpkin charlotte. Pumpkin charlotte is a fluffy dessert that incorporates the grounding flavor of pumpkin into a creamy pie filling. An optional cream cheese layer gives this dessert a cheesecake-like flavor and texture. It’s incredibly easy to make and has a wow factor that will impress all your holiday guests.

Cranberry Pie

Other popular seasonal pies are, of course, fruit pies. Johnny Appleseed may have cemented apple pie into American history books, but there are other worthwhile fall flavors such as cherry, pear, peach and berry. Served hot alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream, fruit pies are a favorite for Thanksgiving guests young and old. These pies are guaranteed crowd pleasers and a safe choice for any Thanksgiving gathering.

Fruit pies are generally easy to make; provided you mix in enough sugar and spices to ensure that the fruity flavors stand out. However, one fruit that is continually overlooked in the pie world is the cranberry. The humble cranberry, who is solely popular in the fall, is usually found in the form of a sauce or jelly. This year, consider using it in a pie. Unlike apples, cranberries are indigenous to the North American continent, so perhaps they deserve a place at the Thanksgiving dessert table instead of being relegated to a side dish.

Key Lime Pie

Cream pies are a hit at any gathering, but especially during the holidays. Many people love the chocolate cream, banana cream or lemon cream flavors. The basic versions of these pies are simple to make and only require a hand mixer to whip the pie into a creamy texture. Toppings like chocolate shavings or chopped nuts will add even more visual appeal. For even easier access to these popular seasonal pies, look no further than the grocery store freezer aisle where Marie Callender’s has been creating table-ready pies for decades. Their frozen pies require less than an hour to defrost before serving, so keeping some on hand will prepare anyone for an impromptu holiday potluck.

However, the easiest cream pie to make, whether you’re a seasoned baker or an ambitious newbie, is key lime pie. The sharp tartness of key limes combined with sweetened milk makes this pie a stunning feature on the holiday dessert table. Guests will be extremely impressed with your baking skills and it’s perfectly fine to let them believe this pie required hours of time and energy.

Fall pie baking is as American as, well, apple pie. Fall is the perfect time to stay inside with your family and bake. Trying out new pie flavors in the kitchen will improve your baking skills and reward you with a tasty dessert at the end.

Peanut Butter Raspberry Cream Pie

There is even a perfect book for seasonal pie baking: “Pie” by Sarah Weeks features fourteen chapters, each beginning with its own pie recipe. All the pies in the book are easy to make and delicious. The last chapter of the book features a pie that combines all the traditional pies into one glorious dessert: peanut butter raspberry cream pie. While the recipe takes more time, patience and skill than most pies, the result is well worth it and will have Thanksgiving guests fighting for a second slice. Think of a grownup version of peanut butter and jelly. The salty peanut butter and deliciously sweet raspberries are separated by a vanilla cream layer, culminating in the most amazing flavor. This is the pie that will convince guests of your pie-baking prowess.

Ultimately, seasonal pies in any form and flavor spread the message of love, family and tradition. No matter which pie is served this fall, be sure to savor it with the people who make life sweet.

Writer Profile

Megan Miller

Arizona State University
English/History

Megan has lived her whole life in Southern California where she enjoys all the local attractions, especially the beaches. She enjoys reading, writing and cooking. She is obsessed with her dog, Moose.

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