With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to start planning your holiday recipes. For many households, Thanksgiving just isn’t complete without pumpkin, apple, or pecan pie for dessert. But when is the best time to bake your pies so they’re at peak freshness on Turkey Day? Here’s a comprehensive guide on how far in advance you can make your Thanksgiving pies.
Here are some quick answers to common questions about making Thanksgiving pies in advance:
- Most pies can be baked 2-3 days in advance of Thanksgiving and stored properly in the fridge.
- Fruit pies can usually last 5-7 days when refrigerated.
- Custard and cream pies should be baked no more than 2 days before serving.
- Unbaked pie crusts can be made up to a week ahead and kept refrigerated.
- Frozen pies can be baked up to 2 months in advance and thawed in the fridge up to 2 days before Thanksgiving.
Baking Fruit Pies in Advance
Popular Thanksgiving fruit pie flavors like apple, cherry, or pumpkin pie fare quite well when made a few days ahead of time. The high acidity and sugar content in fruit pies acts as a natural preservative, allowing the pie to last 5-7 days refrigerated. Here are some tips for baking fruit pies in advance:
- Choose firm, crisp fruits like Granny Smith apples that will hold their shape when baked.
- Reinforce the bottom crust with egg wash or milk before baking to prevent sogginess.
- Allow the baked pie to cool fully at room temperature before refrigerating to prevent condensation.
- Cover the pie loosely while storing to allow air circulation.
- Bring the chilled pie to room temperature before serving for the best texture.
Baked fruit pies will last longer refrigerated, but fruit pies can also be frozen for 1-2 months. When freezing, wrap the pie tightly in plastic wrap and foil. Thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.
Baking Custard and Cream Pies in Advance
Custard and cream fillings, like pumpkin, buttermilk, or chocolate cream pie, are more delicate than fruit fillings. The eggs and dairy in these pies cause them to spoil faster. Only bake these pies 1-2 days before serving.
- Fully bake custard pies until the center is set to help prevent watery fillings.
- Cool cream pies rapidly in the fridge so the filling sets quickly.
- Store custard or cream pies in the coldest part of the fridge once cooled.
- Whipped cream toppings should be added within 6 hours of serving.
Unfilled baked pie crusts of custard or cream pies can be baked 4-5 days in advance and stored at room temperature inside a zip top bag. Fill and refrigerate these pre-baked crusts up to 2 days before serving.
Making Pie Crusts in Advance
You can make pie dough up to 2-3 days before Thanksgiving and refrigerate it until you’re ready to use it. For longer storage, pie dough can be frozen raw for up to 3 months.
- When refrigerating raw dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and press into a disc shape before storing.
- Allow refrigerated dough to soften slightly at room temp before rolling out.
- Freeze unwrapped dough discs in a single layer, then wrap tightly in a second layer of plastic once frozen solid.
- Thaw frozen dough overnight in the fridge before using.
For pies with a top and bottom crust, the bottom crust can be fitted into the pie plate, filled, and refrigerated up to 2 days before baking. Place plastic wrap directly on the filling before chilling to prevent the raw top crust from getting soggy.
Thanksgiving Pie Baking Timeline
Here is a sample timeline showing when you can bake different types of pies in advance of Thanksgiving to ensure they are as fresh as possible on the big day:
|Fill and Bake Pie
|Thaw if Frozen
|Fruit (apple, pumpkin)
|Up to 1 week before
|2-3 days before
|2 days before
|Up to 5 days before
|1-2 days before
|Cream (chocolate, banana cream)
|Up to 5 days before
|1-2 days before
The key is to bake your Thanksgiving pies as close to the big day as you can while still leaving enough time to get all your cooking done. Letting fruit pies chill for 2-3 days helps flavors meld, while custard and cream pies should be as fresh as possible.
Freezing Fully Baked Pies
While best when fresh, you can fully bake your Thanksgiving pies further in advance and freeze them with good results.
- Double wrap pies in plastic wrap then foil for freezing.
- Place in freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.
- Fruit pies can be frozen for 4-6 months, custard pies for 2-3 months.
- Thaw frozen pies for 24-48 hours in the fridge before serving.
- Use thawed fruit pies within 3-4 days and thawed custard pies within 2 days.
When freezing custard or cream pies, you can freeze just the filling or fully assembled pie. Freeze pie fillings in airtight containers, allowing headspace for expansion during freezing. Fully assembled frozen pies may weep a bit during thawing.
Storing Leftover Pie
Thanksgiving pies have a way of disappearing fast, but you may have leftovers if you bake multiple pies for your gathering. Here are some proper storage methods for pie leftovers:
- Store leftover pie loosely covered in the fridge.
- Let uneaten portions of fruit pie come to room temp before covering and refrigerating.
- Consume refrigerated leftover pie within 2-3 days.
- Freeze additional slices of pie, wrapped well, for 1-2 months.
- Reheat frozen leftover pie slices in a 300°F oven until warm, about 15 minutes.
Pie leftovers can also be transformed into tasty new desserts. Try using extra pie in trifles or as the filling between layers of cake for a creative pie cake!
Preparing a Pie for Pick Up
If you plan on baking your pies at home in advance but picking them up closer to Thanksgiving, follow these tips:
- Transport pies in boxes on the floor or backseat, not loose in the trunk.
- Use crumpled paper or towels to stabilize the pie during transport.
- Buckle up pies in the car if possible!
- Bring a cooler with ice packs if you have a longer drive.
- Let a chilled pie come to room temp for 1-2 hours before serving.
Driving carefully and focusing on gentle braking and acceleration will keep your pies looking great on arrival. You want to avoid any sloshing of fillings during transport.
Buying Frozen Store-Bought Pies
Ordering frozen pies from the grocery store bakery can be a handy shortcut for Thanksgiving dessert. Here are some tips for getting the best pre-made frozen pie:
- Look for pies with simple, natural ingredients if possible.
- Check the frozen and thawed use-by dates before purchasing.
- Select frozen pies that are thoroughly frozen with no freezer burn.
- Allow 24-48 hours to thaw frozen pies in the fridge.
- Keep thawed pies refrigerated and consume within 3-4 days.
Make sure to account for thawing time when choosing frozen store-bought pies. The safest bet is allowing 2 full days for thawing and chilling before Thanksgiving.
Baking and Transporting Pies
Here are some top tips for baking your pies at home and getting them to your Thanksgiving destination in one piece:
- Preheat your oven and pie plates for better browning.
- Use glass or ceramic pie plates which conduct heat better than metal.
- Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any spills.
- Check your pies mid-bake to prevent over-browning crust edges.
- Cool completely before wrapping well and stacking pies to transport.
- Transport in dry, roomy containers padded with towels or paper.
- Avoid setting hot pies directly on cold surfaces which can crack the crust.
- Drive carefully over speed bumps and railroad tracks!
Your beautiful homemade pies will make it to Thanksgiving intact if you follow these recommendations when baking and traveling with them. Share the joy of pie with your loved ones this Thanksgiving!
When preparing pies for Thanksgiving, you have lots of flexibility in how far in advance they can be made. Fruit and frozen pies can be done up to a week ahead, while fresh custard and cream pies should bake no more than 2 days before serving. With some planning, you can give yourself plenty of time to bake pies at your leisure without sacrificing taste and texture on Thanksgiving Day. Just be sure to store pies properly, allow thawing time if needed, and transport with care. Your guests will be grateful for a delicious homemade pie, no matter when it was baked.