How to Cook a Pumpkin

Easy Ways to Bake, Roast, and Purée Pumpkin

October 16, 2020
Pumpkin Pile

Here’s how to clean and cook pumpkins two different ways. Plus, if you’re cooking your own pumpkins, it’s just one more step to make homemade pumpkin purée! Enjoy the fall flavor and healthy goodness of fresh pumpkin!

Picking the Right Pumpkin

Before you get to cooking, it’s important to pick the right pumpkin for the job.

  1. The most popular cooking pumpkin is the “sugar pumpkin” or “pie pumpkin,” which you’ll see in the grocery store in the fall. The are rounder and smaller than regular carving pumpkins. The flesh is sweeter and less stringy than a decorative carving pumpkin, too.
  2. Another pumpkin that’s great for cooking is the Japanese Kabocha pumpkin, which has a bright orange color. It is sweeter and more flavorful than the sugar pumpkin and has a fluffy texture. 

Note that all pumpkins are edible! The Jack-O’-lantern pumpkins tend to be stringer, less sweet, and have a higher moisture content than the smaller sugar (pie) pumpkin, but they can still be cooked and eaten. 

Storing Pumpkins 

To store pumpkins that you’re not going to cook right away, keep them cool but not quite as cool as root crops. If you have a coolish bedroom, stashing them under the bed works well (just don’t forget about them). A mudroom, garage, or cool basement will also work. They keep best at a temperature of about 50° to 65ºF (10° to 18°C).

Raw pumpkin slice

How to Cook a Pumpkin

Baking Pumpkin

Baking a pumpkin is as simple as cleaning it, cutting it into chunks, and sticking it in the oven.

  1. Heat oven to 325ºF.
  2. Scrub the outside of the pumpkin with a vegetable brush to remove any visible dirt. 
  3. Cut off the stem, then cut the pumpkin in half (from top to bottom). Use a spoon to scrape out any fibers and seeds out of each half. A serrated grapefruit spoon or an ice cream scoop work great for this. Clean and save the seeds for roasting, if you like.
  4. Cut the pumpkin halves into smaller chunks, then place the pieces skin-side up in a shallow baking dish with a lid.
  5. Add water to just cover the bottom of the dish, and cover tightly.
  6. Bake in oven for about 1 hour or until the pumpkin is fork tender. The time could be more or less depending on the size of your pieces, so keep an eye on them. If in doubt, cook longer; you won’t hurt the pumpkin.
  7. Let it cool for 10 minutes, and then either cut off the peel or scoop out the flesh.

Roasting Pumpkin

It’s even easier to roast the pumpkin at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time, which brings out that caramelized taste. Here’s how:

  1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
  2. Scrub the outside of the pumpkin with a vegetable brush to remove any visible dirt.
  3. Cut off the stem, then cut the pumpkin in half (from top to bottom). Use a spoon to scrape out any fibers and seeds out of each half. A serrated grapefruit spoon or an ice cream scoop work great for this. Clean and save the seeds for roasting, if you like.
  4. Place the pumpkin cut-side down on a baking sheet lined in parchment paper.
  5. Bake 35 to 50 minutes until the pumpkin is soft and nearly collapsing.
  6. Let it cool for 10 minutes, and then either cut off the peel or scoop out the flesh.

Making Fresh Pumpkin Purée

This step takes 5 minutes: Simply purée the cooked pumpkin chunks in a food processor until smooth! That’s it! Use your purée within a few days. Or freeze it in giant freezer bags for later use.

(Note: If your purée is too dry, add water. If it’s too watery, strain it through cheesecloth or over a fine mesh strainer.)

There’s certainly no harm in using canned pumpkin; the main difference is texture. Homemade purée is lighter in texture, fresher, and more vegetal. Canned pumpkin taste will taste predominantly of the spices added. We enjoy using homemade purée as a base for soups, in pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin dip, and more.  

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

Don’t let those pumpkin seeds go to waste! They make a tasty snack when seasoned and roasted. Check out our roasted pumpkin seed recipe here.

More Pumpkin Recipes to Try

Not sure what to do with all that pumpkin? See our favorite pumpkin recipes!

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Reader Comments

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Re: Pie vs Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkins

This Almanac article suggests you can use the same pumpkin to carve and to make into puree. Actually, the puree pumpkin is smaller, round and better in texture and flavor; while the carving for decoration pumpkin is more like a gourd - fibrous and poor in flavor. You should not recommend eating the large jack 0 lantern pumpkins.

Pumpkin Types

The Editors's picture

Thank you for your comment. We’ve edited the article to make it more clear that folks should be using pie pumpkins!

RE: PIE VS JACK-O-LANTERN PUMPKINS

I've been cooking my jack-o-lantern after using it as a Halloween decoration for years; it makes great pies, cakes, breads, soup, etc. and I've not had any complaints about it. I have grown pie pumpkins too and haven't found any difference in flavour or texture.

Question about baked pumpkin recipe

In the baked pumpkin recipe it says to put the pumpkins in the dish skin-side up not flesh-side up. Why is that? Wouldn't the flesh of the pumpkin burn if the skin sides were up? Thank you.

Cooking Pumpkin

When it came time to harvest and cook my pumpkins/winter squash I'd split in 1/2, clean, place upside down in a roaster pan on a rack with water underneath to steam cook, comes out soft, cooked and yummy

how to cook a pumpkin

The Editors's picture

Hi, Teko. Some recipes call for the skin side up, some call for skin side down. Here you are cooking the pumpkin in a covered dish, which essentially steams the pumpkin. The skin will not burn.

cleaning pumpkins

use an ice cream scoop to clean out the seeds. It is designed to handle that consistency.

Pumpkin pies

Please send me a recepi of pumpkin pie with Philadelphia layer at the bottom. Thank you

cooking & canning pumpkins

I've found some excellent short cuts here! To add information, if I cut and cover with added water to oven cook I have found I need to let the cooked pulp drain in a colander. It may be that the Long Island Cheese heirloom inherently has more water or it may be the steaming. I'm going to try adding some spice while cooking it to improve the smell, which isn't my favorite. Seeds are easy to clean but I've never frozen them, like tomatoes. Lots do dry and freeze on paper, easy to label and a small amount doesn't seem to hinder if attached to grow. Canning I've done by hot water bath according to times suggested in any canning guide, spiced or just pureed. A pinch of ground black pepper enhances the other spices, plus a pinch of grand marsala and/or mace. My dad loved it and he didn't like pumpkin pie! Thanks for the great suggestions.

seeds

Hello, I am trying to find out how long the seeds removed from a pumpkin will last. When we did our carving this year, I put some of the seeds in a ziplock bag and put it in the refrigerator. I did not remove the pulp or anything. The bag got pushed to the back of the fridge. It's been almost 3 weeks. They do not look moldy or anything. Thanks!

They should still be okay if

The Editors's picture

They should still be okay if you want to roast/bake them. As long as they do not have any mold and do not smell funky. Rinse and thoroughly dry them before baking.

Dear Sirs kindly let me know

Dear Sirs

kindly let me know if pumpkin can be stored to be used all year round for commercial usage and how.

Kind regards,

Elias Khabaz

Hi! I am needing to know how

Hi! I am needing to know how to store my seeds until spring? We live in Oklahoma, and so we will probably plant early July, but how to I keep my seeds fresh until then? Do I keep them moist or dry? In an air tight container or air flowing container?

We've been accidentally growing them for 2-3 years, this time we are looking to do it right! I've read how to plant and care for them, but its the before I need help with. Thanks!

Tammie, rinse the seeds under

Tammie, rinse the seeds under cool water and place them on some wax paper or a plastic container lid to air dry. Don't use a paper plate or paper towel due to the seed sticking to the paper and removal is difficult. Make sure the seeds are completely air dry. I store mine inside an envelope then place the envelope inside an air tight container or freezer bag and store in my freezer or refrigerator. I always remove the container/freezer bag from the freezer and let it come to room temperature BEFORE opening the container/freezer bag to remove seeds. This will help to prevent condensation from accumulating on the seeds. I hope this helps.

LOVE the suggestion of

LOVE the suggestion of storing pumpkins under the bed of a spare bedroom. Can't wait for guests to look under there and see these little round guys waiting to curl up with their shoes. Thanks to the FA, as ever....

re; baking pumpkin

re; baking pumpkin whole-should it be pierced before baking? Thanks!

The pumpkin should be cut

The Editors's picture

The pumpkin should be cut into pieces with seeds removed, not cooked whole. The skin does not need to be pierced.

Why must we remove the seeds?

Why must we remove the seeds? Now if we're farmers and want to plant the next crop, I understand. But if not, does it alter the flavor to cook the whole pumpkin with the seeds inside?

Clean, cut, cook and mash as

Clean, cut, cook and mash as above but use your microwave oven. About twenty minutes on high then cool and remove peel and mash. Just did it!

How do you CAN the pumpkin? I

How do you CAN the pumpkin? I would love to save some of the mashed puree pumpkin for relatives next year for summer.

I put 3 cups of the puree

I put 3 cups of the puree into freezer ziplocks bags and freeze them. 3 cups will make 2 9" pies or 4 loaves of my pumpkin bread. It freezes well and if you flatten the out in the bags, they will stack nicely in the freezer.

I freeze it in bag using the

I freeze it in bag using the food saver vac. Everyone thinks it's fresh when my wife bakes one for the 4th of Juy.

Just toss the whole, washed

Just toss the whole, washed pumpkin into the oven, let it bake for a while (til softened a little) then take it out and cut the way you desire (around the top or cut the whole top off, or cut in half - whatever) and scoop out seeds (save them). Then add some spices and bake about an hour. Then stir around the inside of the pumpkin loosening the flesh but being careful not to poke a hole, and bake until completely tender. Divide into 2 cup servings and place into freezer bags. You can also add cream to the inside of the pumpkin after adding the spices, if you know you're going to be using the whole pumpkin right away. Depends on the size.

This is the easiest way I've found to get pumpkin ready for pie filling.

I too bake my pumpkin this

I too bake my pumpkin this and if it too large, i simply cut in half. Adding the spices does make your home spell great while cooking! Yummy I have already began this year!

The outside of the pumpkin

What do you do with the outside of the pumpkin once it is baked and how long on what temperature do you bake it at, please!!!??? Make puree out of the insides but what with the outside? How do you cook your seeds, or bake them? How do you clean the seeds? My understanding is that you can eat all of the pumpkin except the stem and the stuff around the seeds. Is this correct? I am trying this for the first time and read soooo many posts but this seems the easiest and healthiest but need to know a little more please. Thank you.