The USDA advises that all “egg rich pies” be refrigerated after baking and cooling unless it will be served within two hours of baking.* Pumpkin and pecan pies fall in this category along with custard and meringue pies. So the short answer is YES—with one exception.
ALL homemade and bakery pumpkin and pecan pies made with fresh ingredients should be refrigerated. The reason is that bacteria will grow rapidly when the homemade pie is kept at temperatures between 40° F and 140° F. To prevent foodborne illness, these pies should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
The one exception is store-bought pies displayed and sold unrefrigerated; these commercially produced pies have shelf-stable ingredients and anti-microbial preservatives added to make them shelf-stable and typically do not need to be refrigerated until cut. Pies of this type have a sell-by date which indicates how long the pie will remain safe to eat stored at room temperature. In general, store-bought pies are safe 2-4 days after the sell-by date if they are refrigerated; it is never wrong to store these pies in the refrigerator once they are brought home. Leftover pieces of these pies should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 2-4 days of the sell-by date.
If you are unsure of proper storage for a purchased pie, be sure to ask or check the label for storage instructions to make sure it is safe.
Storing Egg-Rich Pies – Cool, Chill, Wrap
Homemade egg-rich pies should be completely cooled after baking before covering and refrigerating to prevent condensation occurring under the wrapping. Condensation will lead to a soggy crust and perfect conditions for bacteria to breed. A good way to prevent either is to cool the pie completely, place in the refrigerator uncovered until chilled, and then loosely wrap in plastic or place in a pie cover. (Pies that are not completely cooled in two hours may be placed unwrapped in the refrigerator to continue cooling before wrapping.) The same procedure is true for bakery pies made with fresh ingredients; they may be stored in the box or container used by the bakery.
An unrefrigerated store-bought pie, can be stored on the counter per the sell-by date or placed in the refrigerator as soon as you bring it home. You can keep it in the box or container that it was purchased in.
If the pie won’t be served within the safe period (2-4 days), you can easily freeze pumpkin and pecan pie so that it lasts longer. Pie can be frozen whole, half, or in slices. Properly stored, the pie will maintain at best quality for about 1 to 2 months, but will remain safe beyond that time if kept constantly frozen at 0°F.
The best way to tell if a pie is bad or spoiled is to inspect it visually and by smell. Discard if there is an off smell or appearance such as mold.
Serving Egg-Rich Pies
According to the FDA, homemade or bakery pumpkin and pecan pie can be left at room temperature for two hours, after which it is in danger of growing harmful bacteria. This is plenty of time for serving either plated on from a buffet. If the pie needs to be held longer than two hours, place it on ice to keep it chilled.
While refrigerating pecan and pumpkin pie is important for food safety, it has an added benefit of getting a perfect slice. Remove the pie from the refrigerator a few minutes before serving to let the filling soften a bit; then slice with a sharp serrated knife (drawing for pumpkin, sawing for pecan) for that perfect slice.
Plan your holiday baking or shoping carefully. Keeping egg-rich pies at room temperature could leave it at risk for foodborne illness or spoiling too soon.
Updated Jan 2024, mg.
*Does Pecan Pie Have to Be Refrigerated? StillTasty.com. https://www.stilltasty.com/questions/index/163
*Does Pumpkin Pie Have to Be Refrigerated? StillTasty.com. https://www.stilltasty.com/questions/index/164