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. I’m enjoying a piece ultimate walnut pie right now!:) Delicious! I add 1/2 cup of black walnuts to the 2 cups walnuts great flavor.

    Andrea wrote on November 21st, 2011
  2. wahooo!

    Jaclyn wrote on November 21st, 2011
  3. wow. this looks good.
    can i substitute almond meal tho. (have finished bag, don’t feel like getting walnuts)
    i’ll use creme Fraiche on top instead.


    pam wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  4. NOM ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Will be making this one tonite!!!1

    Karla Austin wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  5. Wondering what you guys think of honey as a substitute for maple syrup… we have honey but no good quality maple syrup….

    Primal Toad wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  6. My American friend and I attempted to make this in London – sadly, despite converting amounts and temperatures it didn’t work out so well. Batch number two (probably less primal) will have be made tomorrow!

    Gracie wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  7. I’m going to give this a try tomorrow. They didn’t carry arrowroot at the whole foods I went to. To avoid a wild goose chase tomorrow, any subs to use? I have tapioca starch…

    Christina wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  8. Having just rendered about 40 lbs of fat from our pigs into lard, I’m dying to try it and I’ve heard that it makes way better pastry than butter. Even though this recipe’s crust is not, perhaps, technically “pastry” I was wondering if anybody has tried making the crust using lard instead of butter?

    PaleoMyWay wrote on November 22nd, 2011
    • I have made crust with lard and it’s wonderful texture wise. If you’ve got some leaf lard it won’t impart an unusual flavor. Some lard is kinda “porky” though so I have made a slightly pork flavored crust before. No one in my family seemed to noticed though. They just scarfed it all down. So yeah, go for it.

      Michelle wrote on November 17th, 2012
  9. This looks so delicious. Even though i’m on a strict diet i’ll be having some pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream for Thanksgiving tomorrow.

    Amy @ Flex Belt wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  10. So, I tried making this last night, and wasn’t terribly impressed. It wasn’t bad, and given the small amount of sugar, it’s probably a healthier option, but it was barely sweet (and the walnut crust was very slightly bitter, not really sweet at all), and wouldn’t satisfy much of a sweet tooth, IMO.

    I made this pie last week, and it was *excellent*:

    Though, I used Kerrygold butter and heavy cream instead of coconut oil and coconut milk, and added about a tablespoon of maple syrup to the crust. The crust was *delicious*. Like, could have been baked as its own dessert (I mean, it’s practically a macaroon).

    Justin Ross wrote on November 23rd, 2011
    • Thanks for the link. Angie’s pie looks really good though I will probably try to figure out some way to reduce the honey. I love many of Mark’s recipes but I did kind of have my doubts about a walnut crust. Btw, that’s a good idea about baking the crust as it’s own dessert! Something for when the cookie craving strikes.

      Tina wrote on December 1st, 2011
  11. I followed the directions and made it exactly the way it was written. For some reason my crust was still gooey and mushy and definitely not hard. I baked the crust first at 350 degrees for 15 mins. I did it in a glass pie dish does that make a difference !?!?! I was so proud of myself and now i’m sad that my crust wasn’t anything but mush :(

    dbauchle wrote on November 23rd, 2011
    • Yes a glass dish will make a difference, it transfers the heat differently.

      Keith wrote on November 24th, 2011
  12. I agree with Keith. I made this for Thanksgiving and thought the actual pie part was a letdown. It was kind of tasteless and not sweet at all. I did use sugar-free maple syrup though (I’m following Atkins). Next time I might add some splenda or more sugar-free flavor. The consistency was good I felt (both the pie and crust – bake the pie at 350 BTW). Also, next time I’ll probably try Xantham Gum instead of Arrowroot (less carbs). I did like the crust though. However, I do appreciate the free recipes this site offers and will continue trying them. FWIW, we had the butternut squash mash under the comfort foods section and it was really good!

    Susan wrote on November 24th, 2011
    • Sugar-free maple syrup? Splenda?! You know the Primal way is all about natural ingredients, right? I think sugar replacements are probably worse (or as bad) as sugar itself.

      CaptSaltyJack wrote on November 25th, 2011
      • Ha, well, Atkins focuses on not raising blood glucose levels, which maple syrup and “natural” sugars do, so that’s why I chose those options. Atkins focuses a lot on natural foods too, but does allow those as options as long as you can tolerate them or want to use them. Anyway, I doubt you want to argue the merits of Atkins – I like to focus more on the similarities of the two ways of eating – which there are more of then differences. Anyway, I was giving my feedback on this recipe and needed to be clear on how I changed it for anyone that wanted to take my comments to heart.

        Take care.

        Susan wrote on November 25th, 2011
      • Hi,

        I agree with CaptSaltyJack.

        the sweetness was fine with me. we should just retrain our taste bud to appreciate. if it’s not sweet enough, i’d rather add sugar then sweetener.

        i made it with almond flour (+ lard & butter). the crust is flaky but still tastes good.

        next time, i’ll use heavy cream; coconut products just disagree with my stomach (ache) also more nutmeg.


        PHK wrote on November 29th, 2011
  13. Baked the filling in ramekins. Followed the recipe using the cream option, used a sugar pumpkin that I had roasted, cooled, scraped the meat out of and purred in food processor. Did not have cardamom. I took some raw walnuts and caramelized them with a tiny bit maple syrup, whipped the remaining cream and put some of that on top of each ramekins. Added nuts for those who eat nuts. First time using non canned pumpkin. It was paler than the canned stuff. Guests all loved iy.

    Snauzoo wrote on November 24th, 2011
    • Dang, that sounds good. You sound like one of those “jazz artist” cooks, improvising your way to some awesome grub. :-)

      Tina wrote on December 1st, 2011
  14. I made this for the holiday, and it was good.

    Crust – Never got firm, was soft and crumbly. It needs a bit of sweetness, because on its own, it just didn’t taste great. And I’m a crust fanatic, so that was a bummer. Also, it got very dark and burned-looking, even though I put the tart pan on a baking sheet, though it didn’t necessarily taste burnt. Just not the most aesthetically pleasing.

    Filling – Awesome. Not very sweet, which is fine by me. I baked the leftovers in a Pyrex dish as a custard which was a lovely pre-holiday treat.

    Topped with Vanilla-Bourbon Whipped Cream.

    Verdict – Keep the filling, try another crust recipe. I recommend anything from Elana’s Pantry (

    Karen P. wrote on November 25th, 2011
    • P.S.- For anyone concerned about the nuts, I would follow Snauzoo’s method above and bake as a custard and top with a few toasted nuts.

      Karen P. wrote on November 25th, 2011
  15. That’s funny – I liked the crust but wanted to change the filling for something else like apples. Could that even be done or would the crust get soggy during baking? Don’t know – I will try it out for Christmas. :)

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on November 26th, 2011
  16. I followed this recipe to the letter. The filling tasted fantastic. Unfortunately, the crust was extremely salty and am not really sure why. I’m pretty sure it was the baking soda.

    I’m gonna try again but with almond flour.

    Charlie Golf wrote on November 26th, 2011
  17. I don’t get the fear of fats?

    d1ricks wrote on November 26th, 2011
  18. Since I just got out of the hospital, my husband and I decided to keep things super simple this year. My mom was taking the kids for the family thing so it was just the two of us. The one thing that we both really, really wanted was pumpkin pie. Thank you for sharing this recipe! It was the one thing that I was allowed to make on turkey day and it was great! I ended up using cream since I could not find arrowroot powder (I drug the hubs through two towns worth of grocery stores)and I had a reaction to the walnuts, but all in all the recipe was great! The pie tasted good and we plan to make it again at Christmas (with hazelnuts since I know that they won’t hurt my tummy). Thanks again!

    Ebeth wrote on November 26th, 2011
  19. We made this pie for Thanksgiving 2011 and it was divine! As there was enough pumpkin filling for TWO 9″ pies, we made a second pie this eveing. It is even more beautiful.
    Here are my hints: (1) if you love spices – be generous with the measurements, (2) if you have a cuisinart there is no need to melt the butter for the crust – the crumbly mixture of nuts, butter, soda, and salt is much easier too press into the tart pan than the melted butter version (and the clean-up is easier), (3) we used 2C walnuts and 1/2 C almonds on the second pie and like the texture and flavor more than the 100% walnut version.
    We will make this easy, healthful, deliious pie again. Many thanks”

    marilyn wrote on November 28th, 2011
  20. I made the pie (actually it made 2) and thought the filling was great (I’m always more generous with cinnamon though). I was disappointed in the flavor of the crust. It tasted like baking soda (though two sons and husband didn’t know what I was talking about- third son was with me). Next time, I’d cut back on the baking soda and sub some pecans or use almonds.

    I’m sure the edges of the crust could be covered w/ foil (just like a regular pie) to keep the edges from browning too much – one pie was cooked to perfect looking and the crust was a bit soft. The second was cooked a bit longer (and I added a bit of cinnamon and Tbs maple syrup to the nuts) and it was a way more preferred version (though I still tasted the baking soda).

    amyp wrote on November 29th, 2011
  21. Can you use agave nectar instead of syrup?

    Libby wrote on November 29th, 2011
  22. This is AMAZING! Will totally make this for my next family gathering. Thank you!

    Bryanna wrote on November 29th, 2011
  23. I’ve got the second pie, exactly to recipe, baking now. The first, baked on Thanksgiving Day, was so good, and seemed to get better as the days went by. I gave my 13-year-old son the last piece on Sunday night. On Monday, he asked if we could bake another one. We liked the crumbly, slightly salty crust, and we liked the filling. Delicious. One just has to adjust one’s expectations. It won’t be a flakey flour-based crust, because that isn’t what it is.

    Penny wrote on November 29th, 2011
  24. What about a BPA and Guar gum free coconut milk option. If I make my own coconut milk do you think it will work in this recipe?

    Catherine wrote on December 2nd, 2011
  25. I made this pie yesterday with a few modifications, I don’t have maple in my pantry so used stevia instead, also did not have arrowroot, but the pie was delicious and a huge success for my guests.


    Rolonda Elliott wrote on December 3rd, 2011
  26. Pumpkin comes in a can?! No pumpkin seed homemade snacks, no carved scary faces, no pumpkin slices that look like melon?

    Thats no fun.

    Odie wrote on December 5th, 2011

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