If you’re not a baker — or if you typically run out of steam by the time you prepare, oh, a 20-pound turkey and six side dishes on Thanksgiving — there’s no shame in busting out a store-bought frozen or ready-to-serve pumpkin pie for dessert. (After all, the packaged versions aren't far off from those made from the back-of-the-can recipe.) But if you want to make that store-bought pie a little more special this year, try adding one of these easy extra touches to give it a homemade spin. Go ahead, take credit for doing the baking too!
1. Parfait-in-a-pinch: While this idea for pumpkin parfaits with coconut whipped cream was intended to work with a from-scratch pumpkin filling, recipe developer Erin Clarke told TODAY.com she doesn't see why it wouldn't work with scoops of pre-prepared pumpkin pie, layered in glasses with gingersnap cookie crumbles and whipped cream. Bonus: It's the perfect way to salvage a pie that doesn't come out of the oven looking super pretty.
2. Flavored whipped cream: Once you’ve made homemade whipped cream — and it’s mind-blowingly easy even for non-cooks — you’ll be addicted. And it’s easy to gussy up with fun twists, like these 10 flavored whip cream ideas from Idaho cookbook author and kitchen-goods purveyor Dennis Weaver. His mix-ins for whipped cream include citrus zest, butterscotch and brown sugar, all of which would be fantastic with pumpkin pie. (If you’re still apprehensive about making your own whipped cream, check out this short how-to video from Real Simple, and remember that you can use electric beaters instead of a whisk.)
4. Cranberry topping: Chances are, you probably have extra cranberry sauce lying around on Thanksgiving. Put it to use with this simple and pretty idea from The Bakers Express blog: Simply stir together a splash of orange juice with some cornstarch, add a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce and boil while stirring for a minute, then cool. Pour the topping over the pie or serve it in a bowl for dolloping.
3. Brûléeed top: For a truly show-stopping dessert, break out a torch, sprinkle the pumpkin pie with sugar, and give it a brûléed top, as Adrianna Adarme, a Los Angeles recipe developer and cookbook author, does for her Brûléed classic pumpkin pie. Chill the baked pie in the fridge for a couple of hours, then right before serving it, sprinkle it with sugar and then go over it with a kitchen blowtorch to melt the sugar and add a crackly, golden top. Please don’t attempt this unless you've used a torch before or are in the company of someone who has — no need for extra Thanksgiving drama!
5. A dairy-free spin: If you’re having dairy-free guests over, there are dairy-free frozen pumpkin pies out there (such as the Wholly Wholesome brand). Go the extra mile by making them whipped cream from coconut milk, like this vegan whipped topping from The Daily Garnish author Emily Malone, a Seattle-based vegetarian chef. Your dairy-free guests will be grateful to be in on dessert, and the rest of the crowd will love it as well: "You can taste a mild coconut flavor, which pairs so well with pumpkin and all those great spice flavors,” says the chef.
6. Toppings bar: If all else fails and there's no time to prepare homemade toppings (again, no shame), gather up these items for a DIY toppings bar: canned whipped cream, salted caramel sauce, dried coconut flakes, walnut and/or pecan pieces and gingersnap cookies. Crush the cookies in advance, warm up the caramel sauce (or not), put the coconut and nuts in bowls, and set up a little create-your-own pie toppings bar. They’ll never care if you didn't roast that pumpkin yourself — trust us.