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How to Cook a Pumpkin: Roast and Purée Pumpkin | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Cook a Pumpkin

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Easy Ways to Bake, Roast, and Purée Pumpkin

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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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