Pumpkin Pie

While the focus of Home Office Lunch is generally preparing meals for lunch at home, having a slice of pumpkin pie as dessert after lunch, or as a midafternoon snack, is pretty awesome.

Pumpkin pie, with one slice removed.

Pumpkins are easy to cook with; if you can bake a potato, you can make a pumpkin pie. This recipe is more of a guide; because pumpkins are so flexible, there are a lot of paths that lead to a good pumpkin pie. My personal preference is to play with the savory nature of the pumpkin — which is a squash — and go a little spicy. I use molasses to get a deeper flavor with the sweetness. If that doesn’t work for you omit molasses and only use brown sugar, or a mix of white and brown sugar. Build a filling that matches tastes that you love.

Every pie needs a basic pie crust. You can buy decent frozen pie crusts in stores, or you can make one at home using this recipe. The pie crust can be made days ahead of time, and a frozen pie crust can last weeks in the freezer.

The pie filling uses the ingredients listed below. Quantities and proportion are included in the writeup. I haven’t measured precise ingredients in years, largely because pumpkins are such a flexible ingredient. When adding spices, salt, and sweeteners, start small. It’s easy to add more, and impossible to take it out.

The core ingredients you will need are:

  • Pumpkins
  • Chipotle pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Molasses
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Chinese five spice blend

Start with one medium size or two small sugar pie pumpkins. For reference, a small pumpkin is about twice the size of a softball.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

To roast the pumpkin, cut it in half, and use a spoon to remove all the seeds and stringy/fibrous bits attached to the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into quarters, and interior of the pumpkin with olive oil. Sprinkle the pumpkin with sea salt and chipotle pepper.

Place the pumpkins quarters on a baking sheet, and roast until the flesh is soft to the point where a fork passes easily though it/the quarters begin to sag down under their own weight.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let the pumpkin cool, then remove the flesh of the pumpkin from the skin. A spoon should be all you need to scrape the roasted pumpkin from the skin.

Roasting the pumpkin can be done 1-3 days before making the pie.

When you are ready to make the pie, preheat your oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.

Roll your dough into a circle big enough to fit in a 9 inch round pie dish. Lay the dough in the dish.

To convert the roasted pumpkin into pie filling, mash it with your choice of a fork, a potato masher, an immersion blender, or a hand mixer. Add molasses and sugar to taste, and then add some cinnamon and Chinese five spice to taste. Start with approximately 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon five spice. I haven’t measured these in years, but I will add molasses, sugar, and spices to taste.

When the pumpkin mixture tastes delicious, add two eggs into the pumpkin and spice mixture. Beat the eggs, and then spoon the filling into the pie dish.

Bake at 325 for around 40-45 minutes. Unless you are 100% certain that your oven heats perfectly evenly, rotate your pie 2-3 times over the 45 minute cook time. The pie is done when you can insert a bamboo skewer into the center of the pie and remove it with no filling sticking to the skemer. If you don’t have a skewer, you can also use a standard table knife or a paring knife.

As I said earlier, feel free to play with the ingredients and the spice mix. Adding the eggs last, after the spices are dialed in, allows you to taste the filling without worrying about eating raw egg. Roasting a pumpking can feel daunting the first time you do it, but once you’ve done it once it’s simple.


Ssamjang is a staple in Korean cooking, and is traditionally used as a sauce in wraps. It packs amazing flavors, is simple to make, and can be made in advance and stored and used when you want to add incredible flavor to just about anything.

For more informed perspectives on Ssamjang, see these posts:

I like to have ssamjang on hand to add to use on just about everything. I’ve used it with dishes ranging from bulgogi beef to tofu with veggies over rice to grilled chicken. It adds incredible flavor, which is never a bad thing — especially on a busy workday when your lunch might otherwise feel mundane.

When I make ssamjang, I stick most closely to the steps described in this recipe.

  • 2 tablespoons doenjang
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (toast them beforehand to bring out flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion (I generally go a little heavier on the garlic and onion)
  • honey (add until it has the right balance between sweet and salty)
  • mirin or unseasoned rice wine – add to adjust consistency, and until the acidity level is your preferred balance of salty, sweet, and acidic.

Start with 1 tablespoon each of honey and mirin/unseasoned rice wine vinegar and adjust to taste.

To start, mince garlic and onion.

Diced onions and garlic
Diced onions and garlic

In a dry saucepan, toast the sesame seeds on medium high heat until they turn golden brown and you can smell the scent of the seeds. This takes between 1-2 minutes, depending on the heat of your pan and how frequently you stir the seeds.

Put the seeds in a bowl, return the pan to the heat, and add canola oil. I recommend putting the seeds in a large bowl that you will use to mix the rest of the ssamjang.

Saute the onions until they begin to caramelize. Add garlic to the onions, and cook until the garlic also begins to brown.

Add the garlic and onions to the sesame seeds.

Add the doenjang, gochujang, sesame oil, honey, and mirin to the garlic, onions, and sesame seeds.

Ssamjang sauce ingredients, ready for mixing
Ssamjang sauce ingredients, ready for mixing

Mix the ingredients. Adjust levels of honey and mirin/seasoned rice wine vinegar to match your preferred taste.