Pies You Should Be Refrigerating—And Those That Don't Need To Be

We're discussing cream pies, fruit pies, pumpkin pie, and more.

During the holidays, refrigerator space is as valuable as Nashville real estate. This means if you're baking your holiday pies in advance, there might not be enough room to store them next to all your other groceries. Luckily, not all pies have to be refrigerated. In fact, some varieties will taste better if you store them at room temperature. So, how do you know the difference?

You went through a great deal of trouble to bake those fabulous pies, and you want to make sure you're presenting them at their very best. Don't worry: There are some basic rules of thumb to follow when it comes to storing pies. To find out which pies do and don't need to be refrigerated, we went to Teresa Stephens, owner/baker, and Ashilee Wickenden, baker, of Cast Iron Grill in Lubbock, Texas, where the pie sells out so fast you have to order it at breakfast to guarantee yourself a slice.

pumpkin pie with whipped cream
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Do Refrigerate Pies With Egg and Dairy

Pies with dairy and egg that fall in the cream pie category, such as our Coconut Cream Pie or a chocolate mousse pie, should always be refrigerated, according to Stephens and Wickenden. If they're fresh baked, the pair also says you should make sure you give them a chance to set in the refrigerator for at least three to four hours before slicing.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Icebox Pie
Photographer Victor Protasio, Food Stylist Ruth Blackburn, Prop Stylist Christine Keely

Get the Recipe: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Icebox Pie

Do Not Refrigerate Fruit Pies

According to Stephens and Wickenden, a counter pie is any form of fruit pie like cherry, peach, or apple. The pair say these types of pies can be stored in the refrigerator if you want them to last a day or two longer, but that there's a tradeoff. They explain that if you put them in the refrigerator, they can lose their flavor. They often taste better at room temperature.

Do You Need to Refrigerate Pumpkin Pie?

Whether or not you should refrigerate pumpkin pie is a little controversial. According to the Food and Drug Administration, homemade pies containing eggs should be refrigerated. However, you've probably noticed that a lot of grocery stores and restaurants serve and store them at room temperature. This is because, quite simply, they taste better that way. So, if you're not going to serve your pumpkin pie for a day or two, your best bet is to store it in the refrigerator. Then, place it on the counter so it warms to room temperature before serving.

Virginia Pumpkin Pie
Jennifer Causey; Food Stylist: Rishon Hanners; Prop Stylist: Audrey Davis

Do Refrigerate Anything Topped With Cream

You should refrigerate any kind of pie with whipped toppings. "If it's not refrigerated, it will begin to wilt, sweat, and spoil," explained Stephens and Wickenden. For the best results, you should wait and top fruit and pecan pies right before serving. This will allow you to store them at room temperature so they'll taste their very best.

Which Pies Can Be Frozen?

If you've got leftovers after your holiday meal or you're baking your pies in advance, you may be wondering which pies can be frozen. In general, custard and cream pies do not freeze well. They tend to get soggy and unappealing when you defrost them. On the other hand, Stephens and Wickenden say fruit pies freeze quite beautifully.

First, let the pie cool to room temperature. Next, wrap it in two or three layers of plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. Be sure to enjoy it within about four months.

How Long Does Pie Last Unrefrigerated?

According to the University of Illinois Extension, pies with eggs and dairy will only last about two hours without refrigeration, and up to four days in the refrigerator. Pies with eggs and dairy products should always be stored in the refrigerator until served. Pies without eggs or dairy, according to FDA, can last for up to two days without refrigeration.

Our Favorite Pie Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long can I leave apple pie unrefrigerated?

    According to the USDA, fruit pies in an airtight container can stay unrefrigerated at room temperature for up to two days. When refrigerated, apple pie can remain for up to one week.

  • How should you store pie overnight?

    After a fruit pie reaches room temperature, store it in the refrigerator double-wrapped in a plastic seal. Keep the edges secure so air does not contact the pie—helping it remain fresh.

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Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Davis CA. Consumer Guidelines for Food Safety - USDA.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. What is safe storage for pecan pie?

  3. University of Illinois Extension. Do I need to refrigerate the pie?

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