Sam's Club Vs Costco: Whose Pumpkin Pie Is Better?

When fall comes, it brings with it an onslaught of pumpkin-flavored treats. Pumpkin spice lattes get all the press, but there would be no pumpkin spice latte without the food those spices were initially named for: the pumpkin pie.

According to a 2017 survey by Delta Dental, pumpkin pie is the most popular pie flavor for Thanksgiving with Americans eating over 50 million pumpkin pies on the holiday alone. Unsurprisingly, corporations wanted a piece of the pie. When people think of big box stores like Costco and Sam's Club, they think about buying bulk quantities of everyday goods. But when the holidays roll around, both stores offer a pumpkin pie, though in typical fashion, they are much larger than a standard store-bought dessert.

The release of these pies is the signal that the holidays are near. But then consumers must face a difficult choice: Which pie do they want on their table? Each pie can feed a dinner party, but only one can satisfy that passion for pumpkin. We put Costco and Sam's Club head to head to determine which pie reigns supreme.

Costco pumpkin pie

Costco sells a truly staggering amount of pumpkin pie each year. While we don't have the numbers for every year, back in 2015, the company sold over 5 million in one limited season. We can only assume the numbers have gone up since then. The Costco pumpkin pie is sold under its Kirkland Signature brand, and the recipe has not changed since it was released in 1987. However, the pie has gotten a couple of inches larger.

According to an article from The Costco Connection, the pie dough is made in the store, and it contains no preservatives. The Costco pumpkin pie is so popular it has gained a cult following over the years. People wait for the pie to drop, and there are entire Facebook pages dedicated to it. The company is really setting the bar high and creating some stiff competition right off the bat. With Costco's reputation for quality products, we will have to see if Sam's Club can compete.

Sam's Club pumpkin pie

Sam's Club pumpkin pie is sold under the Member's Mark label, Sam's Club's home brand. Sam's Club pumpkin pie may not have the same cult following that the Costco pumpkin pie does, but it is still a popular fall dessert. During the fall, Sam's Club rolls out pumpkin pie, and boy, do they sell a lot. In 2021 alone, Sam's Club sold 450 football fields worth of pumpkin pies. These are simply mind-boggling numbers.

Sam's Club was even an early adopter of AI technology, which the company uses to predict how much pumpkin pie they will need to stock in each store. Based on how much effort the company is putting in, we can see the Sam's Club pumpkin pie is a worthy competitor to Costco pumpkin pie. Sadly, while there is a huge amount of information specifically about Costco's pumpkin pie, there are fewer specifics about Sam's Club. But hey, we like an air of mystery.

One pie has a lot more ingredients than the other

Costco has not changed its recipe in over 30 years, so it must have something going for it. The Costco pumpkin pie starts with a base of pumpkin, sugar, water, eggs, flour, and shortening, and also includes corn starch, nonfat milk, corn syrup solids, salt, canola and/or soybean oil, spices, and dextrose. It's not exactly a homestyle recipe, but it's nothing too bad.

The Sam's Club pumpkin pie is pumpkin, water, sugar, flour, palm and soybean oil shortening, palm oil, eggs, nonfat milk, corn syrup, food starch-modified, soybean oil, salt spices, dextrose, citric acid, carrageenan, potassium sorbate, yeast, cornstarch, konjac flour, sodium propionate, and xanthan gum.

Obviously, the ingredient list for the Sam's Club pumpkin pie is much longer. And with that length, we don't see much that is going to boost the quality of the product. They add a lot of preservatives and thickeners, which aren't without value but will change the consistency of the pie itself. We have to wonder why these two pies, which should be fairly similar, have such different ingredients.

Are there nutritional differences?

When it comes to the nutritional differences, we had to do a little digging. Sam's Club puts its nutrition information right on the label. Costco, however, does not. They also don't post it on the website. So, we went to Instacart, which had a copy of the nutrition label posted.

Both the Costco and Sam's Club pumpkin pies have 12 servings for each pie. The resulting nutrition is similar, although not exactly the same. A Costco pie is 320 calories per serving, which is 50 calories less than the 370 calories you get from Sam's Club. Sam's Club is also slightly higher in fat at 15 grams versus Costco's 11 grams. Other nutrients follow suit. Sam's Club pumpkin pie has 54 grams of carbs and 34 grams of sugar, while Costco has 48 grams of carbs and 31 grams of sugar. These are not huge differences, but they are notable.

Weight vs. length of the pies

When it comes to pie, size matters. A standard pie is somewhere between 8 and 9 inches. But these are products from Costco and Sam's Club. They do not do anything small. This means that even their pies are supersized. Both pies are 12 inches long. Three to four inches may not sound like a lot, but the difference in area is immense. A 12-inch pie has roughly 113 square inches, whereas a 9-inch pie is approximately 64 square inches. These pies are simply enormous.

Of course, we then had to get the two pies and weigh them to find out if they were actually the same size. The Sam's Club pie weighs in at 1687 grams. The Costco pie was slightly larger at 1758 grams. While the Costco pie is still a little larger, it is worth noting that an 8-inch pie from Target weighs just 510 grams, so that extra 71 grams really does not change the fact both of these pies are humongous.

Where to get one and how to store it

Both Costco and Sam's Club have pumpkin pie as a seasonal item which means they are not available all year. Typically, they both drop at some point in September and stay on the shelves into December. The exact date is not announced. So, if it is towards the end of the season, this is a buy-it-when-you-see-it situation.

No matter which one you choose, both pies have to be stored in a refrigerator. Since pumpkin pie is a custard base, it should not be left on the counter for days at a time. What we did notice, though, is that Costco's sell-by date is earlier than the Sam's Club use-by date. This could just be a matter of how the pies were batched at the respective grocery stores. But even though both pies were purchased on the same day, the Sam's Club pie is dated to last longer.

Finally, the plastic containers the two pies come in have very different designs. The Sam's Club design is just a basic plastic circle. There is nothing wrong with it, but the Costco one, while a little wider, also has little handles and divots in it, which made getting the pie out and putting it back in easier than the Sam's Club pie.

What is a penny worth?

The price difference between these two pies is all of $0.01. Obviously, that isn't nothing, but it is next to nothing. A Costco pie in our area costs $5.99, and a Sam's Club pie costs $5.98. Sam's Club does slightly win this round. That being said, the prices of each vary from location to location. Additionally, the Costco pie weighs more. So, when you break the price down per ounce, the Costco one is the winner. But again, we are talking about literally a single penny here. The thing that won't buy you anything anymore.

Both pies are frankly an incredible deal. Given the size, you really cannot beat the price. For some context, an 8-inch pie at Target costs $7.99, and a similarly sized pie at Whole Foods is a whopping $13.99. We frankly have to wonder if either Costco or Sam's Club is making any money on these pies at this point.

Looks can be deceiving

Just the look of these two pies shows you just how different they are. The Sam's Club pie is noticeably lighter in color and also appears to be slightly taller. The Costco pie is browner along the edges of the custard, and also appears to have sunk a smidge more than its competitor. That isn't where the differences stop, though. The two crusts look different. Not only are they crimped differently, but they spread differently, too. The Sam's Club pumpkin pie has a thicker crust and one that is crimped upwards, away from the tin it came in. The Costco crust, on the other hand, is thinner and shaped outward.

Once the pie is cut, the difference continues to appear. The Costco crust did not cut clearly. As you can see in the photos, small pieces of custard are stuck to the top, creating a rough look. Additionally, pieces of the crust crumbled and broke off. The Sam's Club pumpkin pie, though, cut beautifully. Not only did the custard cut cleanly, but the crust also held its shape.

Are there differences in the pie crust?

The crusts on these two pies are widely different. If you think all grocery store pie crusts are the same, you are very wrong. There should have been an indicator when the Sam's Club pie did not flex as we took it out of the plastic container. Instead, it stayed rigid as a board. This is great for transport, but unfortunately, it tasted like a board too. The crust is thick and dry, and has an unpleasant aftertaste that does not pair well with its creamy filling.

The Costco crust, on the other hand, was thinner and more crumbly. Where the Sam's Club pie was as stiff as a board, the Costco crust melted in the mouth. Additionally, the flavor of the Costco crust was perfectly fine; there was no weird aftertaste, and it allowed the custard to be the prominent flavor. The Costco crust is still a grocery store crust and nothing like a homemade one, but it was at least pleasant enough to eat.

The pumpkin custard

The star of the show here is really the pumpkin custard. You can't have a pumpkin pie without it. The custards of each of the pies were starkly different. We would say that Sam's Club is more custard than pumpkin, whereas Costco's is more pumpkin than custard. By this, we mean the Sam's Club pie was not just lighter in color but offered a smoother and less flavorful filling. The Costco custard, on the other hand, offered a richer pumpkin flavor with more pronounced spices and a taste of brown sugar.

The Costco custard was also far moister than the Sam's Club custard. The Sam's Club custard was firm and had a thicker consistency, almost like a cheesecake. Neither custard was bad, and a preference between the two will likely come down to personal tastes. But to us, a pumpkin pie requires pumpkin and spices, which bumps Costco's pie up a little above the Sam's Club pie.

Our final verdict

When it came down to the final decision, we knew which pie had to win. The pies were equal in terms of price and availability, but when it comes to pie, the main thing we are concerned about is taste. This means Costco pie had to be our winner, but not for the reason some might think. For us, the deciding factor was the crust. The Costco crust was simply better. It was not exceptional, but it did the job. The Sam's Club crust was just a bit too tough. Although it provided good support for transport, it didn't make for the best consistency when you were trying to eat it. Additionally, Sam's Club's crust flavor was just not there.

When it came to the pumpkin custard base, Sam's Club loaded its pie with so many thickeners that, sure, it looked great. But it just did not have that soft and creamy taste that comes along with a classic simple pumpkin pie. It almost felt like Sam's Club focused too hard on looks and forgot about tasting its pie. The custard was not bad, and we are sure there is a market for a thicker consistency. But at the end of the day, it simply can't compare to the simple but effective Costco pumpkin pie.