How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Purée (Even if You Don't Have a Pumpkin)


Seasonally, it's kind of required that you stock up on all things pumpkin, squash, and gourd adjacent, and we're not just talking about in your pantry. Fresh pumpkin is not only packed with flavor, but also plenty of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals (hello, calcium, potassium, and magnesium!) that make the decorative, savory fruit, worth eating.

Sure, you could buy pumpkin purée in a can, but it's easy enough to make yourself. DIY pumpkin purée retains its health benefits and color, and is made without any shelf stabilizers or flavor additives. Bonus: Roasting the pumpkin adds a warm, autumnal scent to your home, no candle required! The puréeing process is quick and one pumpkin (depending on its size) yields enough purée for at least two pies and more.

What kind of pumpkin can you purée?

While any pumpkin can be puréed, culinary professionals prefer certain varieties for various uses. Chef Amy Yi, culinary director of Genuine Foods, a culturally relevant food service provider, recommends a Fairytale pumpkin, also known as Musquee de Provence. "They have a delicate, sweet flavor that is great for a balanced and flavored purée," she says.

Pumpkin swaps

However, if you don't have a pumpkin on hand, Yi notes that you can make a similar purée with other gourds. "If we're expanding this to winter squashes, I also like honeynut squash, kabocha squash, and acorn squash for savory applications because of their density," she adds.

How do you open a pumpkin?

"The trickiest part is getting a pumpkin cut open," Yi acknowledges. She recommends investing in a good cleaver, but any chef's knife or even a strong serrated knife can work. If you'd use it to cut open a watermelon, it should also work to cut open a pumpkin.

Start by holding your pumpkin still on a cutting board and slicing it in half. If there's a flatter side, use that for balance. If the pumpkin is too tough to cut, try removing the top (like you're making a Jack-o'-lantern) and clipping it in half from there.

How to make your own canned pumpkin puree

  1. Split your pumpkin in half and remove seeds
  2. Roast the pumpkin in a 300 degree oven until soft (about 2 hours)
  3. Allow the pumpkin to cool
  4. Scoop pumpkin flesh out of skin
  5. Transfer to a bowl and puree with a hand blender until smooth

Once the pumpkin is halved, use a spoon or your hands to remove the seeds (wash and reserve those to toast and snack on, if you wish), and roast it on a tin foil-lined baking sheet, flesh side down. Cook it at 300 degrees or even lower, until the flesh is soft (approximately one to two hours), depending on size. You can also add a cup of water to the pan to create more steam.

"Allow the steam to cook the flesh so it's easier to scoop out [of the skin]," Yi says. You can also wait until the pumpkin is roasted and slightly cooled to remove the seeds.

If working with a whole pumpkin or squash is too overwhelming (or there isn't room in your oven), you can also peel the pumpkin, slice the flesh, and boil, steam, or roast it, per Yi's recommendation.

Allow the pumpkin to cool slightly, and then add it to a large mixing bowl to purée with a hand blender. You could also use a food processor. "A blender is often too narrow for dense purées, and traps unwanted air pockets, or simply doesn't provide enough room for the pumpkin to blend freely," Yi notes.

How do you store pumpkin purée?

Store pumpkin purée in the freezer. "Pack it into plastic bags, remove any air before sealing, and freeze the bags by laying them flat in the freezer," Yi says. "Use pumpkin purée for soups, pies, side dishes, fold it into a curry or stew, or even use it for baby food. I love using it as a thickener for curries and soups, like a yellow lentil squash stew."

Pumpkin is also safe and healthy to feed dogs as a treat or mix into their food for extra flavor.

And of course, you can use it in any of your favorite recipes that call for canned pumpkin!

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