Cakes and Cupcakes · Desserts · Fall (Halloween & Thanksgiving)

Pumpkin Crunch – The Perfect Thanksgiving Dessert

Pumpkin Crunch - The best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever
Pumpkin Crunch – The best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever

I don’t know about you all, but my family had an awesome Halloween.  We spent it with some of our best friends and their kiddos (who are some of our kiddos best friends.) Before we headed out into the dark drizzle with our to-go hot chocolates, we gathered first at our house for hot spiced honeycrisp apple cider, homemade soup, rolls, and salad, and fresh veggie appetizers.  My friend Leina, who is an excellent cook, brought over dessert- a mystical thing that I had never had nor heard of called a pumpkin crunch.

My little Elsa and Olaf
My little Elsa and Olaf

After googling “pumpkin crunch recipes” I realized it is kind of weird that I’d never heard of it, but I digress.

Occasionally, a food will come into your life that is life changing and dangerous.  This was both.  Life changing because after one bite, I knew I would be making this every fall for the rest of my life, and dangerous because not only was it incredible, Leina told me how to make it, and it was super easy too.

Pumpkin Crunch - The best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever
Pumpkin Crunch – The best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever

Super easy and super delicious is never a good combo- because you will make it all the time.  All the time.  And this has a lot of butter in it.  A lot.  That’s why it’s so good.  Very bad news for my food-tracking-trying-to-eat-healthy-self.

I have been so good this pregnancy with my weight gain, and I’m pretty sure that pumpkin crunch is going to blow it all to hell.

Drizzle on that butter, baby.
Drizzle on that butter, baby.

Exhibit A:  even though I’m supposed to be trying to stay off my feet as much as possible during the rest of my pregnancy, and my baking has really slowed due to that, there is one in my oven right now.  Yes, I will send most of it to work with my husband tomorrow, but that still leaves me the whole afternoon and evening to devour half of a 9×13 pan.

Butter... so much butter... We're talking Paula Deen amounts of butter.
Butter… so much butter… We’re talking Paula Deen amounts of butter.

Exhibit B: After I tasted Leina’s (and ate 4 pieces of it) I called my sister to tell her about it and how she had to try making one.  I bake new things pretty much constantly, but she will tell you- I almost never do this.  This is good, y’all.  It would be the perfect dessert to bring to Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Crunch - The best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever
Pumpkin Crunch – The best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever

Like all pumpkin-y desserts, this one gets better the longer it sits in the fridge.  I suggest letting it sit overnight before you serve it- and don’t spread your whipped cream across it until right before serving.  If you use cool whip, you can cover it with that the night before.

Pumpkin Crunch - The best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever
Pumpkin Crunch – The best Thanksgiving Dessert Ever

Something about the buttery, crunchy, nutty topping baked into the creamy pumpkin pie filling and topped with whipped cream is simply irresistible.  Make one today.  Or, don’t.  It’s too late for me, but you all can still save yourselves.

Recipe from my friend, Leina

28 oz can of pumpkin puree (not the pie mix)
12 oz can of evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 1/2 cups walnuts (smashed into small pieces)
1 cup of butter, melted

2 cups of whipped cream (or cool whip, whatever you prefer)

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper (this step is important- don’t skip it.)

Mix together the pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.  Pour it into your prepared pan.

Sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the top of the pumpkin mixture.  Cover that with the nuts.

Melt the butter, and spoon it evenly over the top of the cake mix and nuts

Bake for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  Cool completely.

After cooling completely, very carefully turn it out upside down onto a platter.  Before serving, cover with whipped cream and serve.



68 thoughts on “Pumpkin Crunch – The Perfect Thanksgiving Dessert

      1. Hi Shannon. This sounds awesome. My family will love this. I’ll be making two batches. One cake for some of our guests and muffins for my daughters myself and who ever else likes ( we recently gave up some of our prescription drugs for a more natural medication. Morphine for me for14 yrs.) I digress. I am going to make an attempt at baking edibles with the muffins. If you or any fans of this recipe has any tips on how NOT to be able to tell there is leafy green substance in baking I need to know asap. I don’t want to ruin this desert. Thank you. PS. Sounds to me you know RFB . Or not. I’m out.

      1. Duncan Hines yellow cake mix is vegan. If I was going to try this vegan, I’d use that with earth balance in place of butter, VeganEgg or Ener-G Egg replacer in place of eggs, coconut cream in place of evaporated milk, and toffuti whipped cream. Good luck.

      1. For refrigerating- doesn’t matter. You can leave the parchment paper on, or take it off while refrigerating. Just cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and make sure you remove the parchment before serving. Happy Thanksgiving.

  1. All the other recipes for pumpkin crunch I can find call for one 15 oz can of pumpkin…I followed your recipe and after an hour of cooking it was no where near set. Was that a typo and the amount is supposed to be only 15 oz? I am cooking it longer and praying it comes out!

      1. Thanks! It seems set now, maybe my oven temp was running low. I’m pretty positive I followed the recipe exactly. Hopefully the walnuts aren’t over-cooked…we shall see tomorrow! Smells good 🙂

  2. OH. GOOD. GOD. This is an amazing dessert. I was looking for something with pumpkin to make for Thanksgiving. I wanted something a little different from traditional pumpkin pie, and this sounded so easy I just had to try it. Wow! It’s is incredibly simple, but the results were fantastic. The whole family loved it. I think this will be my go-to-recipe for Thanksgiving dessert. Thanks so much!

  3. When I make my pumpkin Crunch, I use macadamia nuts and then on top of the whipped cream I sprinkle a little cinnamon and nuts to add color.

  4. I just tried out this amazing looking recipe to test it out for Thanksgiving dessert, and if I might say……AMAZING!!!!!!! thank you so much for sharing this, it is definitely delicious 🙂 happy holidays

  5. This was so good! I made it with fresh pureed pumpkin and served it with the nuts on top instead of flipping it. Topped it with french vanilla ice cream on each individual serving! Very rich.. Great for a large group.

    1. Terry, well I haven’t tried freezing was desired, I have a feeling that freezing and thawing it would cause the “crunch” part to get a lot less crunchy. You could however make this ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. I want to make this for a bake sale and would like to leave it in the pan. Does it have to be turned upside down or will it be ok the way it is? I plan on having cool whip for them to add when they are ready to serve. Thanks!

      1. Yay! Thank you! I bought all of the stuff already so I was just going to have to keep it if I had to flip it out….I was kind of hoping you would say yes! LOL! Sorry to post twice! The first one wasn’t showing!

  7. We made this for our Family Thanksgiving Gathering and it was the favorite -out of 11 desserts! I was worried about creating a scandal by not bringing a traditional pumpkin pie (we have a few opinionated grandpas in the group :). They loved it! This is, from now on, our new traditional pumpkin dessert!

  8. I want to make this for a work party. How will the cool whip hold up if I flip it out and then frost it like a sheet cake. We have a fridge at work to store it in. Will the cool whip hold up or get too soggy? Its for my boss’ s birthday who loves pumpkin pie but I’m bad at making pie crust. This looks like a good alternative.

    1. Hi Margaret, the beauty of cool whip is that it will hold up GREAT as long as you refrigerate it. I have a pumpkin crunch in my fridge right now that I made on Halloween, and the Cool Whip is still perfect. Real whipped cream won’t hold up, but cool whip will, and it won’t get soggy.

  9. This looks yummy, I’m making it for Thanksgiving. My questions are when mixing up the pumpkin mixture, do you mix by hand or use an electric mixture and also I’m taking this to someone’s home and would like to leave in pan to make travel easier. So f I don’t intend to flip it, and leave the nuts on top do I omit using the parchment paper?

    Thanks for a great recipe!
    Nonna R.

    1. I use a Kitchenaid mixer, but anyway you want to mix it would be fine. You could easily mix it with a whisk by hand. I would do the parchment paper on the bottom even if you aren’t going to flip it. It will make it much easier to get out of the pan. Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. If I’m going to refrigerate this, should I flip it out of the pan onto a platter first or leave in the pan? Thanks! Excited to try this!

  11. Hi Shannon
    I love the sound of this pumpkin crunch BUT I live in New Zealand so need your advice. We dont have pumpkin puree so how would I substitute this. Also we dont have pumpkin spice; can you tell me how to make my own. And lastly ‘yellow cake mix’; can you tell me what brand/name of cake mix you use or what would be the alternative in New Zealand.
    Hope you can help me cos it sounds sooo yummy.
    Cant wait to get your reply.

    1. Hi Pali- thanks so much for reading! I’m afraid I don’t know what you could substitute for pumpkin purée in this recipe. Do you have pumpkins available? It is very easy to make your own pumpkin purée! Here are directions:

      Pumpkin pie spice is a mix of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. You could get away with three parts cinnamon, one parts cloves in this recipe.

      I use Betty Crocker’s SuperMoist Yellow cake mix for this recipe:

      I hope you’re able to make it happen! 😘

  12. My family liked this recipe but I did make a few changes.
    Milk and butter were dairy free substitute.
    And, the cake mix was gluten-free.
    For the spices, I substituted what I use for pumpkin pie as pumpkin tends to be a little bland for my family:

    ½ teaspoon salt
    2/3 cup brown sugar
    1½ teaspoon cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ginger (cut by half if preferred)
    3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon cloves (can be cut, but if you do up the cinnamon to 2 teaspoons)

  13. Can I use the pumpkin pie filling? I know this calls for the pure pumpkin, but all I have is the pie filling. It looks like the ingredients are about the same.

    1. Hi Veronica, sometimes the pumpkin pie filling is already sweetened and spiced, so just be careful not to over sweeten or spice and it will be fine. Check your labels and if there’s sugar in there, make sure and omit the sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice in the recipe if it’s already in your can of pumpkin. Hope that helps.

  14. I can’t just print your recipes,I have to print the whole article am I doing something wrong?

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