We have harvested just about everything from our garden — including the pumpkins — and now it’s time to start cooking!
Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin smoothies… pumpkin everything! But first: how to cook fresh pumpkin?
There are many varieties of pumpkin but the main difference is pie vs. carving.
Pie pumpkins (also called sugar pumpkins) are smaller and their flesh is smooth and sweet.
Carving pumpkins have less flesh (for easier carving) and the flesh is grainier and stringier. If you are hoping to eat your pumpkin, choose a pie pumpkin!
Some pumpkin enthusiasts choose to steam their pumpkin for pureeing. I, on the other hand, prefer to roast it.
Here’s why: Roasting pumpkin intensifies the flavor and allows more of the moisture to escape so that you don’t end up with a wet gloopy mess.
What’s So Great About Pumpkin Anyway?
Lots of things! Pumpkin is delicious of course, but it’s also incredibly nutritious. Pumpkin contains a lot of:
- dietary fiber
- vitamin A
- vitamin C
Pumpkin also contains vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, thiamin, niacin, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Pumpkin is considered a starchy vegetable so it may not be the best choice for those suffering from blood sugar issues. However, eating starchy vegetables (like pumpkin) with healthy protein and fat reduces the impact it has on blood sugar.
Because it’s so healthy otherwise, I think it’s worthwhile to figure out if you can handle small amounts of pumpkin and other starchy vegetables.
Additionally, pumpkin is very versatile and can be used in many dishes from pumpkin bread and muffins to stewed pumpkin and savory pumpkin soup.
Is Pumpkin a Fruit?
The short answer is: Yes and no (sorry!). Botanically, a pumpkin is a fruit since the pumpkin is the “fruit” of the pumpkin plant the grows from the flower (think apples, tomatoes, melon, etc). Typically, vegetables are the other edible parts of a plant such as leaves and roots (think lettuce, spinach, potatoes, carrots, etc.)
However, culinarily, pumpkin is thought of as a vegetable (a starchy one!) since it is not naturally very sweet like apples, berries, melons, and other culinary fruits and wouldn’t be a great addition to a fruit salad.
How to Cook Fresh Pumpkin
Cooking pumpkin is so simple! This roasting method is the easiest way to cook pumpkin for pureeing and it keeps the flavor and nutrition better than steaming.
I love making homemade pumpkin puree because it’s incredibly easy and also great for freezing.
- 1 large or 2 small pie pumpkins
Wash the outside of your pumpkin and dry with a clean towel.
Cut the stem off and then cut the fruit in half.
Scoop out the seeds and “goop” and save or toss (we roasted the seeds for ourselves and gave the stringy goop to the chickens).
Oil the cut side of the pumpkin and place face down on a parchment papered baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes for small fruits and 50-60 minutes for a large fruit. You can tell it’s done when you can easily pierce the skin (and fruit) with a fork.
Allow to sit until cool enough to handle.
Peel the skin off. I used a paring knife to peel the skin. If the pumpkin is cooked well you may not need anything but your fingers.
Cut into chunks and puree in the food processor until smooth. Yields 6-8 cups of puree.
Use however you use canned pumpkin. Leftovers can be frozen.
- 1 large or 2 small pie pumpkins
- Wash the outside of your pumpkin and dry with a clean towel.
- Cut the stem off and then cut the pumpkin in half.
- Scoop out the seeds and pumpkin "goop" and save or toss.
- Oil the cut side of the pumpkin and place face down on a parchment papered baking sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes for small pumpkins and 50-60 minutes for a large pumpkin. You can tell it's done when you can easily pierce the skin with a fork.
- Allow to sit until cool enough to handle.
- Peel the skin off. I used a paring knife to peel the skin. If the pumpkin is cooked well you may not need anything but your fingers.
- Cut into chunks and puree in the food processor until smooth. Yields 6-8 cups of puree.
- Use however you use canned pumpkin. Stay tuned for next weeks post for a pumpkin truffle recipe using fresh pumpkin puree!
Fresh Pumpkin Recipes
Wondering how to use fresh pumpkin in recipes? You can use fresh pumpkin puree any way you use canned. I like to use it in:
- pumpkin butter
- pumpkin truffle recipe
- pumpkin soup
- flourless pumpkin bars
- pumpkin pie pudding
- pumpkin custard
- pumpkin bread
- pumpkin muffins
- pumpkin apple breakfast bake
I love trying new ways of using pumpkin since it’s so versatile!
How to Choose a Pumpkin for Pureeing
If you want to make your own pumpkin puree, the first step is knowing which pumpkins will taste good. Generally the smaller the pumpkin the better. Giant pumpkins tend to have less flavor and sometimes have a strange texture. If something is labeled as a “sugar pumpkin” you’re good to go for eating it!
How Long Should I Cook my Pumpkin Squash?
The great thing about pumpkin and other winter squash is that they are not delicate. You can overcook a pumpkin and it will still be amazing. Use the time guide above, but then just check on your pumpkin every 5-10 minutes by piercing with a fork. If it goes in smooth, the pumpkin is finished cooking!
How to Cut a Pumpkin for Cooking
Using a sharp knife, cut the stem off by turning the pumpkin on its side and cutting the stem and the top of the pumpkin off. It’ doesn’t need to be perfect.
Then turn the pumpkin back upright and cut down the middle so you have two halves filled with seeds. Remove the seeds and pulp and set aside (you can feed this to your chickens or roast the seeds later!).
How to Store Pumpkin Puree
My favorite way to store cooked pumpkin squash is to freeze it. Simple scoop your puree into ziploc bags (I like to measure 2 cups per bag, which is roughly how much a can holds). Lay the bags flat on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Then you can stack them in the freezer however you like. Learn more about freezing pumpkins and other winter squash.
You can also keep it in the refrigerator for a few days. Just make sure to cover tightly (I like to use DIY beeswax fabric).
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