Here’s Why We Eat Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving

Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple, but have you ever wondered why? Most of us know it’s seasonal, but where did the Thanksgiving tradition come from? Well, we’re here to take you back a few centuries to see where it all began. Let’s look at the history!


How Did Pumpkin Pie Originate?

First off, where did the name “pumpkin” even come from? Yup, we’re taking it back that far!

“Pumpkin” got its name from the Greek word for large melon: “pepon.” The French changed “pepon” to “pompon.” Then, the English called it “pumpion” or “pompion.”

The earliest recipes of pumpkin (or shall we say pumpion) pie had no crust in sight! They weren’t really pies at all, just ways of using pumpkin to make a sweet treat. This involved hollowing out pumpkins, then filling them with milk, spices, and honey. Would you try this recipe?

How Did the Tradition Begin?

It's said to have all started back in the 1600s. In 1621 some of the earliest Native American settlers came across pumpkins for the first time. Imagine discovering pumpkins? Little did they know they were the ones who started the pumpkin-spice craze we all know and love today – who would have thought! 

Once they discovered pumpkins, they started growing pumpkins and squash. The Native Americans then brought them as gifts to the first settlers, teaching them the many ways one can use pumpkin. 

Some claim this led to serving pumpkin pie at the first Thanksgiving in America 50 years later, but no one actually knows if pumpkin pie was served – it could have been some type of pumpkin dish but not the pumpkin pie we enjoy today. 

Who Made the First Pumpkin Pie?

So, since milk, honey, and spices in a hollowed-out pumpkin wouldn’t really be considered pie, who made the first official one?

Well, the famous French man Francois Pierre la Varenne wrote one of the most famous French cookbooks of the 17th century, Le Vrai Cuisinier Francois (The True French Cook), where the first pumpkin-pie-like recipe was shared. It was called “Tourte of Pumpkin” and featured a pastry shell instead of the typical pie crust we use today. Here’s the recipe translated to English:

Tourte of Pumpkin – Boil it with good milk, pass it through a straining pan very thick, and mix it with sugar, butter, a little salt and if you will, a few stamped almonds; let all be very thin. Put it in your sheet of paste; bake it. After it is baked, besprinkle it with sugar and serve.



Later into the 17th century, in the 1670s, recipes for “pumpion pie” began to show up in many English cookbooks. These pumpkin pie recipes sound more similar to the ones we know today, made with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The recipes even added apples and raisins to the filling. A mix between apple and pumpkin pie?! I guess if you can’t decide on which pie you want you can just mix them together??

Then, fast forward to 1796, when the American cookbook called American Cookery, by an American Orphan by Amelia Simmons, was published. This was the first time we can really see a recipe close to our present-day pumpkin pie. Simmons called it pumpkin puddings.

Why is Pumpkin Pie the Dessert of Thanksgiving?

Pumpkin Pie is seen as the staple at the Thanksgiving table, even more so than the famous Thanksgiving turkey! But how come? Where did this tradition start? We guess it’s because it represents fall and the changing of the seasons so well that it has to be the main attraction on Thanksgiving. And, for those who think apple pie is the fall dessert of choice, go check out our last blog, where we compare the two in a fall showdown! 

Okay, we know, you’re probably thinking, “okay, come on, tell us why we eat pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving!” Well, here’s your answer!

The very first Thanksgiving was held in New England between the Wampanoag Tribe and Plymouth Colonists. It was a way to celebrate the successful harvest. It’s said that pumpkin was served at this celebratory dinner, but no one knows if it was a pie-like dessert or a pumpkin dish, but pumpkins were definitely involved! 

So, pumpkin has been the staple ever since – and we’re not complaining! But to be honest, we think people just like pumpkin pie during fall, and since Thanksgiving falls at the beginning of the season, we believe everyone is very eager to eat a type of pie we don’t get to eat all year round!

All this pie talk has us craving a pumpkin pie! Well, you’re in luck because we have fresh ones in our oven daily!

Order Online Today!

Order one of our classic pumpkin pies or pumpkin tarts online at www.sweetboutique.ca today to keep the tradition going! We provide fast and free shipping within Toronto and the GTA when you spend over $50.