Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
19 Nov

Ultimate Walnut Pie Crust with Pumpkin Filling

Traditions are a big part of the holiday season for many people, but if you find yourself doing something strictly out of tradition and not because you particularly enjoy it, then it’s time for a new tradition. Or maybe, just time for a new recipe. Take pumpkin pie – it’s hard to imagine Thanksgiving without one, but too often it’s a soggy, bland dessert that disappoints. Made with a cup of sugar and white flour crust, it’s an indulgence that’s not always worth it.

But what if you broke from the traditional recipe by taking the granulated sugar and flour out and it actually made the pie taste better? What if this new and slightly untraditional version of pumpkin pie had a buttery, crunchy crust and silky-smooth filling? Sure, you could call this new and improved version Primal Pumpkin Pie, or, you could just call it by another name: Damn Good Pie.

The best place to start the re-invention of pumpkin, or really any pie you’re serving, is with the crust. Nut-based crusts don’t have the exact same flavor or texture as a crust that you roll out from a flour-based dough. However, the buttery-crumbly texture and naturally sweet flavor of a nut crust will pair really well with any of your favorite pie fillings: pumpkin, apple, berry, other fruits and chocolate. The natural sweetness of nuts also means that you can add less sweetener to your pie filling. Also, nut-based crusts are filling, so a small slice of pie is likely to fill you up and satisfy.

Almonds and walnuts tend to make crusts that hold together better than other nuts and using a tart pan instead of a pie plate gives the crust better shape. To avoid a soggy bottom, pre-bake the crust, then add your filling and continue baking until the filling is done. Nut crusts are a little fragile, so let the pie cool completely before cutting into it and use care when removing the pie from the pan.

The filling of Primal Pumpkin Pie is made with coconut milk instead of heavy cream, which gives the pumpkin a silky texture but doesn’t impart any detectable coconut flavor. A little bit of arrowroot powder ensures that the coconut milk filling firms up, or, you can opt to use heavy cream instead of coconut milk and skip the arrowroot. However, the coconut milk also gives the pie just a hint of sweetness, so a scant 3 tablespoons of maple syrup for the entire pie is the only additional sweetener needed. Throw in a generous blend of baking spices and their aroma alone will have you salivating as the pie bakes.

When you, and even your non-Primal friends and family, take a bite of Primal Pumpkin Pie it will confirm that change is a good thing. There is, however, one pie tradition that’s worth keeping – a dollop of whipped cream on top (of course, you can always make it with coconut milk instead of whole cream).

This recipe for pumpkin pie is a way to indulge without straying too far from healthy eating goals, but just because a dessert is Primal doesn’t mean you have a free pass to eat the whole thing by yourself. Primal or not, dessert is still dessert, a treat to be savored in moderation and shared with those you love. Besides, pie isn’t the only thing on the table. Fill up on succulent turkey, holiday veggies and savory stuffing first. Then treat yourself to a bite of something sweet.

The Ultimate Walnut Crust:


  • 2 1/2 cups walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted


Blend walnuts, baking soda and salt in a food processor until finely ground. Add butter and pulse until butter is mixed in.

Scrape the batter into a 9-inch tart pan. You can use a rubber spatula to smooth the batter over the bottom and up the sides, but ultimately your fingers will be the best tool. Take your time smoothing and patting the batter out evenly. It’s better to spread the batter thinner across the bottom of the pan and thicker around the edges of the crust.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet (helps to keep the bottom from burning) and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the crust from the oven and pour your filling of choice inside. Bake again until filling is done.

Pumpkin Filling:


  • One 15-ounce can of pumpkin
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (found the spice section of grocery stores)
  • 3 eggs, whisked


Mix together all ingredients. Pour into the pre-baked crust. Don’t overfill the crust – you might have a little batter leftover.

Bake for 50 minutes. The center of the pie should be fairly firm and only jiggle a tiny bit if you shake the pan. Let the pie cool completely before cutting into it. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. First? Looks delicious!

    Ulla Lauridsen wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • I have been 100% paleo since August and am in charge of Christmas dinner this year. I am thankful for this website I am definitely making this pie! I love walnuts and pumpkin! Yum! Thanks Mark:)

      Nichole wrote on December 22nd, 2011
    • The “pie” is bland. No depth if flavour, the crust could definitly use a little sugar and less butter. As a cook/ budding chef I would refrain from advertising this recipe ever again. This recipe needs some fine tuning.

      Raymond wrote on April 4th, 2013
      • I made it last Thanksgiving and my family happily gobbled it up. It was absolutely delicious and I’ll be making it again tonight.

        If you’re concerned about depth of flavour, try roasting a real pumpkin instead of using canned purée. The crust really doesn’t need sugar if your tastebuds are acclimatized to eating less sweet foods. The walnuts caramelize nicely in the oven and become sweeter. But if it’s not sweet enough for you, try subbing in some pecans.

        Carli wrote on October 14th, 2013
      • As a budding chef/ cook you should know how to tune recipes to suit your tastes, and not leave snarky unconstructive criticism on the work of others.

        Rodge wrote on November 10th, 2013
      • Raymond,

        if it’s too bland to you, use more sugar.

        but i really think you need to retrain your taste bud.

        (most commercial baked goods taste “bland” to me now, only single note of taste —- too sweet)


        pam wrote on December 8th, 2013
      • You are mean, Raymond. Geez. Your reply was so pompous.

        Marie wrote on August 17th, 2014
        • I went to culinary arts too. two different schools actually. I find it a little hard to believe he’s just trolling. I graduated, but I never bothered getting the job. the amount of drama and arrogance among the all the artists was appalling. I didn’t think the money was worth it if that was how it would be in the commercial kitchen. pompous is contagious in the field.

          dakota wrote on January 27th, 2015
      • Hi Raymond,

        As a “cook/budding chef” you should know to TASTE what you are cooking and adjust accordingly. You are ALLOWED to ADD spices, etc.

        Thanks Marks for the great recipes and all of the effort and POSITIVITY you put into everything.

        DBeee! wrote on December 26th, 2014
  2. OMG, I woke up with no breakfast in the house, hungry as hell, log onto MDA and stare at a piece of pumkin pie!

    Just cruel

    Looks very delicious, I’m gonna try that one for thanksgiving.

    Arty wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • hahaha I had the exactly same response to this entry!! CRUEL! and tasty

      Tanya wrote on November 19th, 2011
  3. oven temp?

    lunasma wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • Please give oven temperature for the crust

      pat wrote on November 21st, 2011
  4. I think I’ll give it a shot with the hazelnut meal that is in the cupboard as i don’t care for walnuts much. Should be delicious!

    Honeybuns wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • I agree, also cashews could work. Sometimes I make only the filling (lemon pudding, etc) and top it with whipping cream, sometimes covering it with crushed nuts. I’m about 90% paleo with 10% occasional pc of cake, some brown rice, Quinoa cereal or egg noodles and veg. dish.

      laura m. wrote on November 22nd, 2011
      • Raw foodists make a lot of faux-pastry crusts using cashews. Almonds and pine nuts are popular, too.

        Mara wrote on May 11th, 2013
  5. I’m with you all the way till you get to the canned pumpkin. Try roasting your own delicata or kabocha or butternut squash and you’ll never go back to canned again. You’ll probably need less maple syrup as well — squashes are botanically fruits and hold their own in sweetness.

    Mary-Claire van Leunen wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • Pumpkins are squashes. They’re just squashes that are lower in sugar. To those reading this who are watching their carbs, pumpkin’s lower than butternut. Don’t know about delicata or kabocha.

      By all means experiment with several winter squashes but there’s nothing *wrong* with pumpkin per se.

      Dana wrote on November 19th, 2011
      • Note that she said pumpkins are “botanically fruits”, which is true. In culinary terms, pumpkins are squash, but in botanical terms, they are fruits, as all squash are fruits.

        Reiko wrote on November 20th, 2011
        • I’m pretty sure she was just referring to the fact that it was canned actually, not that it was pumpkin. And she’s right, roasting your own squash while it takes longer, is mighty tasty. I’m a big fan of roasting a fresh pumpkin to make a pie.

          Catherine wrote on November 20th, 2011
        • However, much of canned “pumpkin” is in fact Hubbard Squash. Fruit – Pumpkin – Squash — All of the above. :)

          EllaJac wrote on November 21st, 2011
    • That’s funny. I used to use freshly roasted pumpkins for my pie, and then one year I didn’t feel like going to the effort and used canned instead. I noticed no difference. I’ve never gone back to roasting. It’s a lot of work and in my opinion, not worth it. Where I work on depth of flavor is in tweaking the spices and the pumpkin-egg ratio.

      Gillian wrote on November 21st, 2015
  6. Not including oven temperatures is just a sick joke, Mark.

    Kevin Meyers wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • Cavemen didn’t have thermometers. Be a real friggin’caveman and stick it on a fire! LOL!

      Shema wrote on November 19th, 2011
      • Hahaha

        Alyssa wrote on November 19th, 2011
      • Will do!

        “Pumpkin Pie roasting over an open fire…”

        Primal Toad wrote on November 19th, 2011
      • THIS. Set up a little tree-branch spit and everything.

        Mara wrote on May 11th, 2013
  7. Going to give this a try in a few days!

    Rusty wrote on November 19th, 2011
  8. Use a real pumpkin. It tastes sooooo much better, and dare I say, sweeter.

    Erin wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • Yes, real pumpkin is the only way to go. It takes only an hour in the oven (400F) and you can easily freeze it for later.

      Sara wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • I would absolutely agree! I found baking my pumpkins whole (just remember to prick them so the steam can escape) meant the pumpkin was not watery. I also make mine with honey instead of maple syrup. We also make our crustless–just pure filling. No need even for whip cream on top as we use the heavy cream in the filling.

      Happycyclegirl wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • Do you just peel it and mash it?

      andrew wrote on November 19th, 2011
      • Not so much peel. Cut in half and scoop the good stuff out.

        Kate wrote on November 20th, 2011
      • Most markets have sugar pumpkins (they are much smaller and sweeter than the ones you carve for Halloween)and if you put the whole pumpkin in the oven at 350 degrees for about an hour it should be done. A knife should slide easily into the flesh. Doing it this way makes it so much easier to peal. Once you get all the seeds out, puree it until it is smooth.

        Peggy wrote on November 21st, 2011
  9. I was wondering what to make this year for dessert, now that I’m eating primal. This pie will be it! Oven temp? 350F is usually good for pies, so I guess that I’ll go with that. :)

    Joanne wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • thanks :)

      lunasma wrote on November 19th, 2011
  10. you know … that crust could be good with any old chocolate filling

    Ulla Lauridsen wrote on November 19th, 2011
  11. I’m so wary of using nut meal for, well, anything. Especially heated applications. So much oxidized omega 6. I just make pie crusts out of white rice flour and tapioca starch. I’d rather eat a couple hundred calories worth of carbs than 1,000 calories of oxidized omega 6. The coconut pumpkin pie filling sounds awesome, though. Definitely must try.

    ChocoTaco369 wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • I’d love to have your recipe for the pie-crust.

      Maba wrote on November 19th, 2011
      • Just use 1 cup of white rice flour and 1/4 cup of tapioca starch. From there, you can use any standard pie crust recipe that would typically call for all purpose white wheat flour. I like to put a little Greek yogurt in it, too.

        ChocoTaco369 wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • I’m kind of with you… how often does one use nut flour? Back in April of last year when I first went primal it seemed like people were enjoying baked goods as meals. I was really questioning this.

      But, as an alternative for regular pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving? I’ll be all over it. I’d rather have this pumpkin pie then any other pumpkin pie! Hands down.

      Primal Toad wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • Grind the nuts yourself. That’s all nut meal is, anyway. 200 calories’ worth of carbs is 50g carbs and that’s far too much for some people, especially diabetics.

      Dana wrote on November 19th, 2011
      • From our years of living in the Alaskan bush, we learned to improvise, and pumpkins were not available. We used well cooked carrots, pureed, added the same spices, etc. and it was a very acceptable substitute for pumpkin. Anyone ever tried coconut oil as a substitute for butter in the crust?

        karla wrote on November 24th, 2011
        • I made one with coconut oil just the other day. It worked well, but I mixed it with just ground almonds and some sea salt. It would probably work better with Mark’s recipe.

          DJK wrote on November 24th, 2011
    • I think that if you are primal eater in general that roasting (as long as they aren’t burnt) the nuts for this crust will not disturb the fat ratios in your body or do any lasting oxidation damage in your body. Pop a fish oil before you eat it if it’s a concern. I just didn’t want people to think that this recipe was unhealthy for the reason you mentioned. One of the great things about eating well in general is that the body is able to deal with things like baked nuts which have a lot more good things than rice flour. Nitpicking about every little thing one eats probably causes more stress on a body than having roasted nuts in a pie crust once a year for Thanksgiving.

      David wrote on November 20th, 2011
    • Walnuts are actually loaded with Omega 3s, which doesn’t mean you should use them for everything, but they would make a better choice than almonds which are heavy on Omega 6s.

      Kim wrote on December 21st, 2011
  12. Yum, that looks like a great one.

    Mary Hone wrote on November 19th, 2011
  13. “…Just because a dessert is Primal doesn’t mean you have a free pass to eat the whole thing by yourself.” – Mark

    I should keep this in mind. I made a Grok friendly pumpkin pie last week and ate most of it myself…within 3 days.

    Andrea wrote on November 19th, 2011
  14. I agree with the others….sounds great but a simple guy like me needs the oven temp. I’ve promised my wife that I’ll only do Paleo cooking EXACTLY per the instructions since I’ve screwed up so many times (and she is a hard sell on PB living so far).

    kmuray wrote on November 19th, 2011
  15. Watch out for the amounts! I use a very similar recipe for pumpkin pie and it FILLS a 10 Inch pie plate. You may end up with twice as much filling as you need.

    Not a bad thing — You can also make a crustless pie on the side in and 8 or 9 inch pie plate with plenty of coconut oil to keep it from sticking.

    Temperature — I start my pie at 400 F for 15 min., then turn it down to 325 for about another 40-45 min.

    Note — without the crust, it’s not as filling, but is really more like a serving of primal, starch veg. Plus I usually substitute stevia for the sugar, tho I may try some maple syrup this year for the holiday.

    Diane wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • That’s exactly what I found when I made it, and I did the same thing! :) Just tried this for the first time today as a way to celebrate my success on the Primal diet (and also to celebrate Thanksgiving of course!), and also for my brother’s success. I didn’t want to sabotage his (or my) efforts with the typical pies, so I made this recipe and we’re about to enjoy it. I ended up with extra filling and I just greased up a small 8 inch dish greased w/ coconut oil and we’ll have the crustless one to enjoy as well. I did use maple syrup- it’s so good. I used a generous 3 tablespoons, but no more.

      Jolynn wrote on November 24th, 2011
  16. You can also mix walnuts and pecan nuts for the crust. Very tasty!

    Claire wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • I may do this… we have both walnuts and pecans in the house!

      I may make this… I always say this for recipes and I’ll be honest… I think I may have made 1 or 2 since April 5, 2010!

      BUT… I’ve been thinking about what to make for Thanksgiving. I really want to make something this time… I was tihnking of doing little smoothies but after seeing this… I may have to make some pumpkin pie! My almost primal brother would be all over it.

      Thanks Mark! You most definitely inspired me.

      Primal Toad wrote on November 19th, 2011
  17. We’re doing this one for Thanksgiving! Thanks!

    Sandra Brigham wrote on November 19th, 2011
  18. wait a second… HOW LONG DO YOU BAKE IT????

    jakey wrote on November 19th, 2011
  19. Hey Mark, your butter is looking a little WHITE… what kind do you get? Butter should be YELLOW yellow yellow! Bring on the vitamin A :) AND K2!

    Meagan wrote on November 19th, 2011
    • It’s not going to be the same color all year round. I purchase grass-fed cream, and it’s yellower in spring and summer than it is in fall and winter.

      Dana wrote on November 19th, 2011
      • The color does change a bit from summer to winter, but that doesn’t explain white butter.

        Meagan wrote on November 20th, 2011
  20. Wow that looks so awesome Happy thanksgiving
    I guess it is time to give myself a food proc!

    Mark you are turning me into a cook. How did i live all those years on trader joes frozen food and oatmeal.

    andy wrote on November 19th, 2011
  21. “dessert is still dessert”… riiight… like that’s not breakfast waiting to happen!

    Michelle wrote on November 19th, 2011
  22. I am so in the mood for this. Guess who will be cooking tomorrow. 😀

    Audrey H wrote on November 20th, 2011
  23. Wow, this looks amazing! Wish I had thought to use walnuts or pecans last week when I was making pumpkin pie. I had two sugar pumpkins that needed to be eaten, so I used a traditional pumpkin pie recipe except halved the sugar and used heavy cream for the filling. For the crust, I used rice flour, egg, and butter. It was outrageously delish, and yes, some was eaten for breakfast, but this recipe looks like a worthwhile venture.

    Chandra Hartman wrote on November 20th, 2011
  24. This looks incredible, and thanks so much for posting it – we’ve been looking for a great way of including pumpkin pie in Thanksgiving dinner without slipping out of the primal realm.

    Laura wrote on November 20th, 2011
  25. Is any adjustment necessary to the cooking time or other ingredients when using fresh roasted pumpkin instead of canned.

    Jason wrote on November 20th, 2011
  26. Mark,

    Looks like a great recipe! This shows that you don’t need to give up great tasting holiday desserts to go Primal.


    Alykhan - Fitness Breakout wrote on November 20th, 2011
  27. WOW. I am dropping everything today to make this amazing recipe! I always wondered what the secret to a great nut crust and it must be the pre-bake in the tart pan. Bed, Bath and Beyond here I come.

    Lisa Scotto wrote on November 20th, 2011
  28. what size is that tart pan? don’t own one. and ,now the word “tart” conjures up the word “small”. so,eating the whole thing seems very feasible,especially if ti taste’s as good as it looks!!

    tcseacliff wrote on November 20th, 2011
    • It says 9-inch tart pan. Seems to me a standard 9-inch cake pan would be okay to use, too.

      Sanctus Real wrote on November 21st, 2011
      • thank you,don’t know how I missed that. bigger than i thought but still, doable!LOL!

        tcseacliff wrote on November 21st, 2011
  29. YUM! I love pumpkin pie, and making the full move to Primal in 2012. I’ve been thinking about all the “one-off” foods I like, especially during the holidays, and researching how to adapt them. So glad I found this recipe. Definitely bookmarking it.

    Brent wrote on November 20th, 2011
  30. Replace the maple syrup with stevia and you’ve got BREAKFAST!!

    Augustina wrote on November 20th, 2011
  31. That looks like dam good pie. I think it’s wonderful so many different recipes are popping up that are actually healthy. Where have they been all these years??

    Another thing you could try is using coconut palm sugar, it metabolizes at the same rate as carrots. The same glycemic index

    Luke Cage wrote on November 20th, 2011
  32. I tried making the filling with honey instead of maple syrup, coconut powder instead of coconut milk, added some stevia, raisins, macadamias and almonds and DAMN its good!! Forget the pie, pumpkin pudding is where its at! 😀

    TokyoJarrett wrote on November 21st, 2011
  33. Thanks so much for sharing. I made this recipe yesterday and it turned out really nice – excited to do it again for Thanksgiving guests. My only addition will be a bit more maple syrup or some honey to give it just a tough more sweetness. Also I did have extra filling left over so I just put it into ramekins and baked along with the pie.

    Gina Briguglio wrote on November 21st, 2011
  34. I’ve been making my pumpkin pie this way since last year. In fact I made one last week w/o crust! (pumpkin custard) I just didn’t think of using arrowroot, hmmm. I got a ton of squash frm CSA, so I have a freezer full of roasted squashes! Plus my dog loves it added to his food.
    also good to make primal pumpkin brownies :)
    (baking temp – everything bakes good at 350. I would say 30-45 min?? check with a tooth pick )
    (I cook professionaly, so I have an unfare advantage?)

    peggy wrote on November 21st, 2011
  35. Oooh, I’ve been DYING to find a Primal-friendly pumpkin pie recipe! YAY!!! My bf makes awesome pumpkin pie, but he uses a traditional flour-and-sugar laden recipe. I felt awful turning it down while he was out to visit me this past week, but now I’ve found a way for him to keep making it AND stay true to my Grok-ness! Thank you so much Mark; you may have just saved my relationship!!! lol =)

    Siren wrote on November 21st, 2011
  36. Ohhh…. *drool* I gotta try this!

    Sanctus Real wrote on November 21st, 2011
  37. I use almond flour from Trader Joes’s and coconut oil for pie crusts…works great and doesn’t need baking soda, only salt!

    Tys wrote on November 21st, 2011
    • How much almond flour and coconut oil do you use for a single pie crust. I just bought both yesterday at TJ’s figuring there must be a recipe for this. I was thinking of getting coconut flour too to mix in. Anyways – would appreciate your recipe

      Michael wrote on November 21st, 2011
      • I’m not much for measuring…mostly I just eyeball the amount of flour it would take and put it in the pie pan, add some salt and a few tablespoons coconut oil till it sticks together enough. I use my fingers to press it around the pan.

        Tys wrote on November 23rd, 2011

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