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Mexican S'mores Pumpkin Pie

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

From Bitterness To Thankfulness in a Pumpkin Pie.

On their own, the majority of the ingredients in a pumpkin pie taste terrible. Pumpkin is earthy, bitter, and bland. Cinnamon is fiery and irritates the throat. Nutmeg tastes like old soap. Clove and allspice can be overwhelmingly pungent. Fresh ginger is abrasive and assaults the senses. And natural vanilla is surprisingly bitter.

Yet, when these diverse and astringent ingredients are blended vigorously, then put through a trial of intense heat in the oven, they yield an iconic and delicious dish.

In many ways, this transformation of bitter to sweet captures the essence of the Thanksgiving story.

Variations of a Thanksgiving holiday have been celebrated around the world for centuries, often as harvest festivals commemorating a fruitful yield, or as national celebrations of peace following a time of war or intense difficulty. The American Thanksgiving holiday is perhaps the most prominent example, and it includes both of these elements.

The feasts and harvest celebrations held by early European settlers to the North American continent are widely regarded as the “first Thanksgiving.” Yet these commemorations of God’s abundance were often set against the backdrop of famine, disease, and other hardships. And when Thanksgiving Day was established as a national, federal holiday, by Abraham Lincoln in 1863, recognition of God’s goodness and providence was held in tension by the pain of the ongoing Civil War. Even the establishment of the holiday itself is a story of blessing through endurance. Author and activist Sarah Josepha Hale petitioned several presidents and advocated for a national day of Thanksgiving for nearly 20 years before Lincoln finally assented. Hale hoped the holiday would cultivate unity amid the nation’s deep divisions.

We have a deeper sense of gratitude after trial and hardship. Hardship often forges character, inspiration, and hope, and can even foster harmony between those who are bitterly divided or remarkably different.

This delicious twist on a classic pumpkin pie adds the sweetness of marshmallow, caramel, and dark chocolate to the mix. The recipe’s length may intimidate you, but it’s all quite easy to make. However, if you’d like to “chef it down” and go with the traditional pumpkin pie, the conversation guide will still pair easily.

Perhaps the mix of bitter and sweet represents the diverse array of guests at your Thanksgiving table. The discussion guide below will invite you to reflect on the bitter trials that deepen your gratitude and perhaps even kindle unity where there is now division.

Recipe: Mexican S'mores Pumpkin Pie


9”-12” tart pan with removable bottom.

2 Medium mixing bowls

2 Medium sized pots

3 cookie sheets

Cake pan

Electric stand mixer with whisk attachment

Frying pan

Wire rack

Airtight storage container

Several small bowls

Candy thermometer

Culinary Torch


Pie Crust

2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs

3 oz (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbsp granulated sugar

2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped

Pumpkin Pie Filling

1 3/4 cup (400 ml) pumpkin pie filling. (There are two kinds of pie filling on the market. This recipe is for unsweetened pure pumpkin pie filling. If you have the sweet pre-spiced pumpkin pie filling, all you need to add from the rest of the list is eggs and milk. Be sure to check the label on your pie filling!)

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 tsp Pumpkin pie spice (OR 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg)

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Spiced Pepitas Brittle

1 1/2 cups shelled, raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1 tsp butter or olive oil

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup water

2 Tbsp light corn syrup

Home Made Marshmallows

28 grams or 4 envelopes of powdered gelatine

1/2 cup of water and 3/4 cup of water in separate measuring cups.

3 cups granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Paste or vanilla extract

1 pinch of salt

1 cup powdered sugar

½ cup cornstarch

Tempered Dark Chocolate Shards

150 g dark chocolate, chopped

[Header: Recipe for the Dish]

Note: Best if made a day before serving.

Set aside small amounts of the pumpkin pie spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves), vanilla, chili powder, and Cayenne pepper as you use them. Guests will be invited to sample these on their own as part of the conversation.


Pie Crust

1. Preheat oven to 350℉.

2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugars, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

3. Firmly press mixture into the bottom and up sides of a tart pan with removable bottom, then bake for 8 - 10 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chopped bittersweet chocolate over the bottom of the crust.

5. Return to oven to melt chocolate, about 1 - 2 minutes.

6. Spread the melted chocolate in a thin layer on the bottom and up the sides with a spatula or the back of a large spoon. Let cool on a wire rack.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  1. Place eggs in a medium bowl and beat lightly. Add brown sugar, pumpkin pie filling, pumpkin pie spices, and salt. Stir ingredients together until well combined.

  2. Blend in heavy cream or evaporated milk. Pour filling into the prepared pie shell.

  3. Bake at 350 F for 45 - 50 min or until a toothpick inserted 1-inch from the crust edge comes out clean and the filling is almost set in the centre.

  4. Let cool to room temperature, for about 1 hour.

Spiced Pepitas Brittle

  1. Heat a frying pan to medium heat, then melt the butter or oil.

  2. Add the pumpkin seeds, chili powder, Cayenne pepper, and salt, stirring while heating to combine the seeds and spices. Heat until seeds are toasted, about 3 - 5 min.

  3. Remove from heat and put the spiced, toasted seeds in a bowl.

  4. Mix the water, sugar, and light corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized pot on low heat until all the sugar has dissolved.

  5. Increase heat to medium-high and let simmer for 10 - 12 min, bringing the temperature of the mixture to 335℉. Use a candy thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature. Don’t stir.

  6. While the sugar mixture is coming up to temperature, line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or aluminum foil. If you use foil you will want to spray it with canola oil so the candy won’t stick.

  7. Spray the bottom of a second cookie sheet with canola oil, as you will use it to press the hot caramel to be nice and thin.

  8. Check the sugar mixture. When it begins to brown around the edges of the pot, gently tilt to swirl the syrup so it caramelizes easily. When the temperature reaches 335°F [168°C] and turns amber or golden brown, remove the pot from the heat.

  9. Immediately after removing from the heat, carefully stir in the pumpkin seeds with a silicone spatula. Use caution as the mixture will bubble and pop in the hot caramel.

  10. Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared cookie sheet. Use the second cookie sheet with the oiled bottom to press on the hot brittle to get it as thin as possible.

  11. Let the brittle stand at room temperature until cool, about 1 hour.

  12. Break the cooled brittle into 2 1/2 - 3” triangle-shaped shards, using a sharp chef knife or simply by hand. Set aside to be used as a garnish for the finished pie.

Home Made Marshmallows

  1. Line a deep dished cake pan with aluminum foil, then spray it with canola oil to prevent marshmallows from sticking.

  2. Mix the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. You will use this to dust the marshmallows so they don’t stick together.

  3. Hydrate the gelatine by mixing the powdered gelatine in the stand mixer’s bowl with 1/2 cup of water.

  4. In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, dissolve the granulated sugar in 3/4 cup of water and 1 ¼ cup of light corn syrup on low heat.

  5. Once the sugar has dissolved, insert a candy thermometer, being sure the probe stays off the bottom of the pot. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the sugar to a boil.

  6. When the temperature reaches 240℉ (after about 15 minutes of boiling), remove the mixture from the heat and let the bubbles subside.

  7. Turn your mixer with the whisk attachment on medium-low speed and pour the sugar syrup into the gelatine. Be careful to pour along the inside wall of the bowl to prevent the gelatine from being scorched by the hot sugar syrup.

  8. Add a pinch of salt and increase the speed to medium-high. Whisk on medium-high for 3 – 5 minutes, until the marshmallow base has doubled in size.

  9. Add the vanilla and mix for another 3 -5 minutes on high speed. It will grow to 3 times its original volume.

  10. Pour the marshmallow into the prepared cake pan using an oiled spatula. Spread the marshmallow evenly in the pan.

  11. Using a sieve, dust the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture over the top of the marshmallow. Use about half of the sugar/cornstarch mix and save the other half to dust after cutting the marshmallows. Let the marshmallow set for at least 6 hours.

  12. Turn the set marshmallow out onto a work surface dusted with dusting powder. Use an oiled knife to cut marshmallows into 4 x 5 rectangles, then triangles. Toss each marshmallow in the dusting powder and store it in an air-tight container until you are ready to plate the pie.

Tempered Dark Chocolate Shards

  1. Temper the chocolate in a microwave by melting 2/3 of the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 30-second intervals, stirring in-between intervals. The Chocolate should be fully melted by 1:30 - 2 min. Be careful not to overheat.

  2. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate until it’s all fully melted.

  3. Smear the melted chocolate on a parchment-lined tray or cookie sheet. Spread it thin, about 1/8” (6 mm) thick. Let it set for 15 min. You will know it is tempered when it is set and has a nice snap to it when you break it. Break into triangular shards.


  1. Insert the Pepita Brittle Shards along the inside edge of the pie.

  2. Gently insert the chocolate shards into the interior of the pie, then set the triangular marshmallows on the pie’s surface.

  3. Just before serving, in front of your guests, use a culinary torch to lightly toast the marshmallows and melt the chocolate shards. Be careful not to burn the chocolate.

Conversation Guide

Most will say that this Mexican S'mores Pie would be one of our "Chef it up!" or more advanced recipes. Although each step is easy, you could "Chef it down" by preparing a taste of ground cinnamon, ginger root, and nutmeg cloves along with a simple Pumpkin pie while using the conversation guide below:

TO THE HOST: Instruct your guests not to eat the pie when served, because you’re going to try some of the ingredients on their own first as a contrast.

READ: Pumpkin pie brings together a host of flavors that, on their own, are quite assertive. Let’s take a small taste of each.

ASK: What are some of the ways you’d describe these flavors?

READ Bitterness, irritation, astringency—these aren’t flavors or descriptions we’d assume would come together to create something sweet and delicious. Yet that’s what happens in pumpkin pie. Part of that is the combination of flavors and the introduction of ingredients like eggs and milk that add balance. But another, quite significant, part is the baking itself. In the intense heat of the oven, chemical reactions occur and the ingredients congeal into a unified whole. We could view the oven and its heat as a trial: suffering, affliction, or difficulty that causes pain or distress.

ASK: What are some examples of trials or hardships you’ve faced, or are facing currently? What did those “taste” like at the time?

READ: Just like the pumpkin pie’s bitter ingredients undergo the heat of a trial and emerge as something inviting and delicious, the trials we face can produce good things in our lives.

ASK: What positive results have emerged from your trials? How would these not have come about any other way?

READ: It’s traditional at Thanksgiving to share with others the things for which we are grateful. But the context for this gratitude is often pain and difficulty. The “first Thanksgiving” celebrated in America happened after half of those who came to North America on the Mayflower had died, and when Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a federal holiday the country was in the middle of the Civil War.

ASK: As you look back on your trials now, what do they “taste” like? What gratitude have they created?

READ: Trials also bring with them the opportunity to transform us relationally. We often see this story trope in sports movies: a team filled with squabbling and division endures a difficult training camp or in-season adversity and emerges on the other side united and determined to reach their goal together. The same can be true in our real-world trials. Walking through the pain with others, even if they are completely different in terms of personality or perspective, can create unbreakable bonds.

ASK: Who have you endured trials alongside? What effect did that have relationally?

ASK: How does recognizing the positive effects of trials can have impacted the way you might approach trials in the future?

TO THE HOST: Feel free to continue the conversation by sharing other things you’re grateful for from the past year, answers to prayers you’ve seen, etc.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

~ Philippians 4:6-7 NLT

Please let us know how you pie turns out and how your conversation goes. You can comment on our post here or email

Recipe by Gary Stevenson

Photography by Rima Dickson

See the back story of our Smore's Pumpkin Pie on our Instagram page:

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