Better Safe Than Sick

Does Pumpkin Pie Need To Be Refrigerated? Heads Up If You Linger For Leftovers

This holiday staple’s shelf life probably isn’t as long as you think.

Pumpkin pie is a classic leftover treat, but it should only be left out of the refrigerator for a fe...
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It's holiday season, so bring on the pumpkin pie! Whether you bake it from scratch or buy it from your local bakery, the spicy-yet-sweet treat is a delicious dessert staple and fan favorite this time of year. But before or after your big holiday feast, you might wonder: Does pumpkin pie need to be refrigerated? After all, a few leftover slices on the counter can't be that bad, right? Actually... you may need to change your post-holiday pumpkin pie leftover policy.

If you're in the habit of leaving leftover pumpkin pie out to hit for seconds (or thirds), keep reading to find out how long you have before that tasty dessert takes a turn for the worse.

So, do you have to refrigerate pumpkin pie?

According to the USDA, all "egg-rich pies" must be kept refrigerated after baking and cooling. Pumpkin pie is a custard pie, and since eggs (and milk) are key ingredients in custard pies, then — you guessed it — pumpkin pie is an egg-rich pie. This rule is true for pumpkin pies that are bought or baked. Yep! It doesn't matter how the pie came to your kitchen; it belongs in the fridge.

An easy way to remember this is to think of other egg-rich dishes like quiche. Would you really want to eat a quiche that’s been sitting out for hours? Probably not.

How long can pumpkin pie be left out of the refrigerator?

Don't get too stressed — according to the FDA, your homemade pumpkin pie can safely sit out on the dinner table for up to two hours. That leaves plenty of time for everyone to eat a slice or two without concern. Any time after two hours, though, you run the risk of bacterial growth. If you’ve noticed that other pies have longer windows of safety, it could be due to the type of filling. The sugar and acidity in many fruit pies actually work together to inhibit the growth of bacteria, food expert Ellen Shumaker told NC State University.

An important note: This time doesn't include the time you need for your home-baked pie to cool after coming out of the oven. Your pumpkin pie needs to cool down before going into the fridge; otherwise, you risk a soggy pie and a moist breeding ground of bacteria.

How long does pumpkin pie last?

Who doesn't love plundering the fridge post-holiday to discover there's pumpkin pie left? Whether you have it for breakfast the day after or snack on it for a few days, it's the kind of treat you enjoy so much that you want to hide it from the rest of your household. And while it probably doesn't always stick around long, you should still know how long it will safely last. Well, the USDA states that pumpkin pie can stay safely in the fridge for three to four days.

However, there is an exception to the rule. You might be curious why your store-bought pie can remain on the shelf in the store for days. That's because they are typically cooked at a higher temperature and made with preservatives that allow them a little more wiggle room. There's probably an expiration date located on the pie box, which will give you an idea of how long your pie can last, even on the countertop.

But if you bought your pie from a bakery, not the grocery store, you're likely dealing with fresher ingredients and fewer preservatives. A good rule of thumb? For your safety, follow the USDA's advice and store the pie in the fridge for up to four days.

Another tip — freeze your pie. If you know you won't be serving your pumpkin pie for a few days or you want to save your leftovers a little longer (no matter how much you might crave it), then you can safely freeze your pie or slices for up to a month so you can enjoy it later.