My Pumpkin Caramel Tart with Candied Walnuts is a sophisticated pumpkin pie for the foodie set. Homemade caramel gives this pumpkin tart a depth of flavor that is absolutely amazing (you might just start a new Thanksgiving tradition with this one).
If you’re on the hook for a pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try.
It’s different, but not too different, so those diehard traditionalists in your crowd won’t be disappointed. It doesn’t stray too far from the classic Thanksgiving dessert that everyone loves and expects, except that it’s better than any pumpkin pie I’ve ever had.
What makes this pumpkin tart different from classic pumpkin pie?
Instead of sweetened condensed milk, which is the base for most pumpkin pie recipes, (including the classic Libby’s Pumpkin Pie) in this recipe the pumpkin puree, spices, and eggs are blended with a deep, rich, homemade caramel sauce. I was really impressed with the flavor of the custard; it’s richer, silkier, and denser than classic pumpkin pie filling.
I love the toasty caramel notes paired with the pumpkin for a bit of added complexity.
Making caramel sauce from scratch is really very simple ~ you may even decide to make a little extra to drizzle on top of the finished tart.
Tips for perfect homemade caramel sauce ~
- Add a couple tablespoons of water to the sugar as it’s melting ~ it helps the sugar to melt evenly, and as long as you don’t add too much, it shouldn’t affect the consistency of the finished sauce
- Don’t stir! After the sugar has melted and is starting to caramelize, resist the urge to stir it, as this can cause it to start crystalizing. Instead, swirl the pan gently now and then, and keep a good eye on it, adjusting the heat if needed to make sure the sugar caramelizes evenly and doesn’t burn.
- Use a sturdy, deep pan. Caramel gets very hot as it cooks, and the mixture will bubble up when you add the cream at the end, so you’ll need a pan that’s deep enough to accommodate that.
- Make clean-up a breeze by soaking your sticky pan and any utensils in hot water in the sink before trying to scrub them clean. The water should dissolve the sugar easily and make them much easier to clean.
The crust comes together very easily and is pressed right into the pan ~ no rolling!
The crumbly, buttery walnut crust is a great companion to the sweet, creamy pumpkin filling for this tart. The original recipe used hazelnuts, or you could swap in pecans too. This kind of easy crust really comes in handy during busy holidays, I use a similar one in my Cranberry Gingersnap Pie using, you guessed it, gingersnaps.
The candied walnuts make for an easy-yet-dramatic decoration for this tart, and provide a nice crunchy contrast to the smooth silky tart filling. You can skip them and adorn the pie with simple dollops of whipped cream if you like.
More easy holiday desserts from the archives ~
- Maple Frangipane Pecan Pie
- Black Bottom Bourbon Pecan Pie
- Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake
- Fall Forward Ice Cream Recipes
Pumpkin Caramel Tart with Candied Walnuts
- 9 inch springform pan
For the crust
- 3/4 cup raw walnuts
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 stick, or 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
- 3 Tbsp cold water
For the pumpkin filling
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 Tbsp water
- 1 pinch cream of tartar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
For the candied walnuts
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1/2 cup whole raw walnuts
For the crust
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter a 9-inch springform pan.
- Add the walnuts, flour, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground.
- Add the butter to the food processor and continue to pulse until there are no more large chunks of butter left (small pieces are fine).
- Add the water and pulse a few more times until the dough comes together.
- Turn the dough to your prepared tart pan (I like to break the dough into pieces and scatter them across the bottom of the pan; it makes it easier to press it in evenly) and press it across the bottom of the pan and up the sides about 1 1/2 to 2 inches. (See note below.)
- Chill the crust in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
- Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes. It will still be fairly pale and not fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you make the filling.
For the pumpkin filling
- First, make the caramel. Add the sugar, water, and cream of tartar to a medium saucepan, and stir together so that the cream of tartar is evenly incorporated into the mixture. Over medium heat, melt the sugar mixture until it bubbles. You can continue to stir the mixture a bit while the sugar is melting to make sure it dissolves evenly, but you may not need to. Continue to cook, keeping a careful eye on the sugar until it starts to turn golden. At this point, do not stir anymore. Swirl the pan a couple times as it continues to cook, and remove from the heat when the caramel turns a rich deep brown. This whole process should take about 8-10 minutes.
- Allow the caramel to cool briefly (just for a minute or so), then slowly add the heavy cream, whisking as you pour. Be careful here, as the caramel will still be quite hot and will start to bubble as you add the cream. Continue to whisk until the caramel is smooth, and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, flour, eggs, and spices. Add the caramel and whisk until everything is smooth.
- Pour the pumpkin filling into your pre-baked tart shell. Your filling should reach very close to the top of the sides of your tart shell. It helps to place your tart pan on a baking sheet before filling for easier transfer to the oven and to catch any drips. If your filling goes just a little over the edge in a couple places, that's fine.
- Bake for about 35 minutes until the tart is just set and no longer wobbly in the middle.
For the candied walnuts
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the sugar and water to a saucepan and melt. When the sugar begins to turn golden, add the walnuts. Stir everything and continue to cook until the sugar has caramelized. Watch carefully as the walnuts can start to burn quickly. Pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and allow to cool.
- Once the candied walnuts are cooled and hardened, roughly chop them and add them to the top of the pumpkin tart.
notes and variations