This fall, skip the canned pumpkin! Instead, make homemade roasted pumpkin purée with a sugar pumpkin! (Make ahead and freeze for later!)
Let's talk pumpkin.
Pumpkin purée, to be specific.
I'm not here to tell you that you shouldn't use canned pumpkin at all.
I have two cans of pumpkin purée in my cabinet right now!
Canned pumpkin is faster and sometimes more convenient.
I do think that making your own pumpkin purée from fresh pumpkin is worth it.
One (really big) reason is that it helps cut down on the amount of processed food in your diet.
Any time that you can buy a whole vegetable and prepare it yourself is a win in my book.
Do you have an Instant Pot? Try making this Instant Pot Pumpkin Purée instead!
What's the Difference Between Fresh Pumpkin and Canned?
Canned pumpkin purée has a different flavor than homemade pumpkin purée.
To me, fresh pumpkin tastes a little milder and smoother than canned pumpkin.
It reminds me a little bit of acorn squash.
Fresh pumpkin is also a little more yellow than canned pumpkin.
Why are the flavors different?
One big reason is that canned pumpkin is typically made from a variety of pumpkin that you won't typically see in the grocery store-- Dickinson pumpkin.
Learn more about Dickinson pumpkin (and the debate about if it's really a pumpkin or another type of squash) in this article from The Atlantic.
What Kind of Pumpkin Should I Use?
To make this roasted pumpkin purée, look for a small variety of pumpkin called a sugar pumpkin (or sometimes pie pumpkin).
I normally find sugar pumpkins sold next to other types of winter squash.
How to Make Roasted Pumpkin Purée
Start by cutting the pumpkin in half.
Pumpkins can be just as tough to cut through as other winter squash, but here's the technique that works for me.
Set the pumpkin on a cutting board, with the flat bottom against the board.
Stick the tip of a large chef's knife into the pumpkin, and begin rocking the knife slowly back and forth until the pumpkin splits open.
Once the pumpkin is halved, use a sharp spoon, a melon baller, or an ice cream scoop to remove the seeds and membrane.
Drizzle the cut-side of the pumpkin with oil, and then sprinkle with salt.
I like to add a little smoked paprika and red chili flakes if I know I'm using the pumpkin in something savory.
Set the pumpkin cut-side down on a cutting board, and roast until tender (about 50 minutes).
Then, scoop the pumpkin out of the skin.
If you want, you can simply mash it with a fork.
If I know I'll be blending the pumpkin in a recipe later, or if I just want to eat the pumpkin as a snack, I stop here.
If you need silky smooth pumpkin purée, add the pumpkin to a blender or food processor.
Blender shopping? I use (and love) a Vitamix 750 blender.
Is It Safe to Can pumpkin purée?
You can FREEZE pumpkin purée, but no-- you should not can it.
Pumpkin is a low-acidity food, meaning it's at a high risk for developing botulism in the can.
And yes, clearly canned pumpkin is sold in stores, but while commercial canning machines can safely neutralize the bacteria that cause botulism, your home canning equipment cannot.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation says don't do it, and I don't think it's worth the risk to try it.
Want a pumpkin recipe that is safe to can? Try this cubed pumpkin canning tutorial from Sustainable Cooks.
Roasted Pumpkin Purée
- 1 sugar pumpkin (2-3 lbs) Sometimes labeled "pie pumpkin"
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Optional Ingredients for Savory Pumpkin Recipes:
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cut the pumpkin in half, and remove the seeds and membrane.
- Drizzle olive oil and salt over the pumpkin. Optionally, add smoked paprika and chili flakes.
- Set pumpkin cut-side down on a baking sheet, and roast 40-50 minutes or until tender.
- Remove pumpkin from the oven, scoop the pumpkin out, and discard the skin. Tip: If a little bit of skin ends up in the purée, it's okay. It's edible.
- Skip the Blender (Option 1):If you're eating the pumpkin as a side dish, adding it to a dish that will be puréed after adding the pumpkin, or adding it to a dish where it doesn't matter if the pumpkin is silky smooth, you can stop here.Blend the Pumpkin (Option 2):For extra-smooth pumpkin purée, add the pumpkin to a blender or food processor. If your blender struggles, add a splash of water while blending, but you shouldn't need to!
- Serve immediately as a side dish, or add to a recipe.Make Ahead:Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to two months. Do not can.