Brow Beat

An Alternative Thanksgiving Pie for Pumpkin Haters

There is a small but vocal contingent of people who, inexplicably, dislike pumpkin pie. Many of these people are children. At least 116 of these people belong to the Facebook community called “I Hate Pumpkin Pie.” One food blogger unfathomably decried pumpkin pie filling, which she said “so often winds up turning even a perfectly good pie crust into sodden mush.” (She did concede that her dislike was “almost un-American.”)

If you have the misfortune of counting one of these pumpkin pie haters among your kin, what should you feed them for dessert on Thanksgiving? The obvious answer is pecan pie. But there is another option that looks almost exactly like pumpkin pie when it comes out of the oven (if not when you cut into it), yet tastes vastly different. It is suitable for pumpkin lovers and pumpkin haters alike. It is honey custard pie.


Jamelle Bouie—a Slate staff writer and a pie-making contest winner—joined me recently to show me how to make this unusual treat, which is distinguished by a sprinkle of salt right before serving. Jamelle’s recipe is adapted from the blog Joy the Baker, whose recipe is in turn adapted from the Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book.

Salted Honey Pie
Adapted from
Joy the Baker
Yield: 8 to 12 servings
Time: About 1½ hours, largely unattended

1½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
½ cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons flaked sea salt
⅓ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white cornmeal
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
¾ cup honey
3 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar


1. Put the flour, ½ cup (1 stick) of the butter, 2 teaspoons of the sugar, and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl; blend with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk and stir until the mixture forms a ball. (If the mixture is too crumbly, add cold water as needed to bring it together.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.


2. Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it’s approximately 11 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate; trim any dough that hangs over the edges of the plate and discard the scraps. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.


3. Heat the oven to 375°F.  Melt the remaining ½ cup (1 stick) butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat (or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave). Combine the melted butter, the remaining ½ cup sugar, the cornmeal, the vanilla bean seeds, and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the honey, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the cream and vinegar and whisk to combine.

4. Pour the honey mixture into the pie crust and bake until the top and edge of the pie are golden brown and the center of the pie is jiggly but no longer liquid, 45 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with the sea salt.