Learn how to cook fresh pumpkin for all of your fall and winter baking. Even if you are just thinking of pies right now, a roasted pumpkin makes a great side dish for dinner, too! Use it everywhere from waffles to muffins without a can of store bought in sight.Jump to Recipe
Cooking your own fresh pumpkin for recipes is so simple to do and the flavor is far and away better than anything canned.
If you’re baking with home baked pumpkin, you may need to work on drying it out and thickening it up which you don’t have to do with canned (it’s already been done for you) but you’ll be glad you did it.
What kind of pumpkin is right for cooking?
Starting in late September or early October, you will be able to find what the grocery store calls “sugar pumpkins”, “pie pumpkins”, or “sweet pumpkins”.
They are small, about the size of a volleyball or smaller and you’ll never find them outside in big cardboard boxes. The large pumpkins are carving pumpkins and won’t be right for cooking.
Are Halloween pumpkins good for cooking?
Although it might be tempting to turn the insides of your carved Halloween pumpkin into a culinary masterpiece, think again. Carving pumpkins tend to be stringy and watery and, as such, quite unpleasant to munch on.
Can you cook a freshly picked pumpkin?
100% yes! In fact, I highly suggest growing your own pumpkins and cooking them when they are ripe. Picking them off the vine from someone else’s garden is almost as fun.
Just make sure you are growing (or picking) cooking pumpkins (sugar pumpkins/pie pumpkins/sweet pumpkins”), not Halloween carving pumpkins.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Do pumpkins need to be peeled before cooking?
Nope! Just cut the pumpkins in half, remove the seeds, and roast. The flesh will come out easily once the pumpkin has been cooked.
How long does raw pumpkin take to cook?
Cook times will vary depending on the size of your pumpkin but, on average, a pumpkin will need about 45 minutes to an hour in the oven. Cutting your pumpkin in half before roasting as this will help it cook more evenly.
Handy tip: An easy way to cut a pumpkin in half
Pumpkins are very hard and if you don’t have a sharp knife and muscles, they can be really tough to cut in half. To help, put your sugar pumpkin in the microwave for two to three minutes just to soften the skin, and a knife will go through much more easily.
Strain the liquid for proper texture
Cooked pumpkin holds a lot of water which can negatively impact your recipe–especially baking recipes like waffles or pie.
So be sure to strain it (and strain it well) before pureeing and using it in a recipe. Transfer the cooked pumpkin flesh to a mesh strainer, lay a plate over it with some cans stacked on top (to weigh it down), and let the water drip out into the sink for a couple of hours.
You could also hang it in some cheesecloth over a bowl (tie it to your kitchen cabinet) and let it drip several hours or even overnight in the refrigerator.
And as a last, faster alternative you could dry it out by gently simmering it in a pot on low until it’s thicker and some of the liquid has evaporated.
How to cook a fresh pumpkin step by step
Step 1: Cut one sugar pumpkin in half top to bottom and scrape out the seeds and strings. Place on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet.
Step 2: Brush the pumpkin inside and out with avocado oil (vegetable oil works if you use that) or your choice of cooking fat. For savory recipes, lard would be delicious!
Step 3: Turn the pumpkin halves cut side down and roast at 375 until a knife goes through cleanly; about 30 minutes depending on your pumpkin’s thickness.
Step 4: After roasting, let the pumpkin cool enough to handle. Then use a fork or spoon to remove the flesh from the skin.
Step 5: The pumpkin is ready to use if you don’t mind the texture which is a bit stringy. It’s best to smooth out the flesh with a quick blend in a food processor or blender. From here, you can use the pumpkin as-is or use one of the methods listed above to dry it out further.
How to puree fresh pumpkin
Once you’ve cooked your pumpkin, you will want to puree it so that it can be used in a variety of recipes ranging from pumpkin pie to bread to soup. There are a few ways to go about doing it. Here they are.
- Food processor. This is my favorite method. Work in batches so as not to overwhelm the food processor.
- Immersion blender. This is great for larger batches because it saves you the trouble of pureeing in batches.
- Regular blender. Be careful not to overload the blender. Blend in batches if you are working with a lot of pumpkin.
- Food mill
- Hand masher. Or a potato masher. This manual method takes a little more effort but produces excellent results.
- Hand mixer. You can use an electric hand mixer. Just note that the end result won’t be as smooth.
How to swap homemade pumpkin puree for canned
Now that you know how to make homemade pumpkin puree, I am sure you are excited to use it in a recipe. Swap the canned pumpkin puree in any recipe out for equal parts homemade puree. Just be 100% sure that it is as well drained as humanly possible.
How long is fresh pumpkin puree good for?
So long as it’s stored in an airtight container, cooked fresh pumpkin will stay good in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
If you freeze it, allow the puree to thaw in the fridge before using it in a recipe. I also suggest straining the puree again after thawing it.
Recipes that use freshly cooked pumpkin
Ready to make some pumpkin-tastic goodies with your homemade pumpkin puree? Here are some fun ideas to get you started.
- Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
- Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cheesecake Filling
- Classic Pumpkin Roll – This one actually uses canned pumpkin but remember that, so long as your homemade pumpkin puree is well drained, you can use it as a 1:1 substitute.
- Want more? Check out these Healthy and Easy recipes with Pumpkin Puree from the Natural Nurturer
How to Cook Fresh Pumpkin
- 1 sugar (pie) pumpkin halved and seeded
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil of choice I use avocado
- pinch sea salt optional, best for savory recipes
- Preheat the oven to 375. Rinse and dry the outside of your pumpkin.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the pumpkin in half from the stem to the bottom. Use caution here.
- Scrape out the seeds and strings with a spoon. You can roast your pumpkin seeds separately if you want to.
- Brush the pumpkin inside and out with the oil. If you want to use a little salt, you can sprinkle on a pinch of fine sea salt here.
- Place the pumpkin cut side down on a parchment lined, rimmed cookie sheet and bake on the center rack until a knife goes through without resistance–about 30 minutes depending on the size of your pumpkin.
- Let the pumpkin get cool enough to handle then use a spoon to scrape out the flesh. For a smoother texture, mash, puree or blend the pumpkin flesh in a food processor or blender.
- You can use your pumpkin as is, or place in a strainer or in cheesecloth over a bowl for several hours to remove additional liquid.