How to Cook a Pumpkin: Roasted and Puréed

Faced with the choices below of sources for cooked pumpkin purée to use in a pie, which one would you choose?

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I chose the big one. No-brainer. More pumpkin flesh, more purée. I’ve got a lot of baking to do. I’m smart. NOT. There is more intense and earthy pumpkin flavor in the small “pie” pumpkin than in the biggest pumpkin you’ve ever brought home from a pumpkin patch. And, by the way, the flavor in the canned purée may equal that of the little two-pounder.DSC_0460

How much work was it to roast the big pumpkin to find this out the hard way?

I can barely talk about it so pictures will have to do.DSC_0155 DSC_0412 DSC_0491 DSC_0502

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All that work, and when I used the purée in my Mom’s Pumpkin Pie, a pie that always delivers, it barely tasted like pumpkin, the flavor was that vapid. Additionally, the pie left a chalky aftertaste in my mouth that only I detected, but it was enough to make me throw the rest of the pie in the compost.

The next morning, I went to Trader Joe’s and bought two pie pumpkins and a can of pumpkin purée. Note: each of these items was a $1.99, so there was no monetary benefit to making this a DIY project. The only benefit was quelling my curiosity about what went wrong flavorwise.

Roasting Pie Pumpkins

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I followed the directions on the label and cooked the pumpkins at 350º for 1½ hours.

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I scooped out the flesh. I didn’t even need to purée it; it was so ready to use. Figure on two cups of purée per two-pound pie pumpkin.DSC_0459 (1)

Here’s the thing I didn’t know about pumpkin purée. It’s not sweet and tasty on its own. Having never stuck my finger into a can of purée before, this surprised me. I thought I was familiar with the taste of pumpkin from eating it in desserts, but they are sweetened with sugar and flavored by vanilla and spices. I remember a similar thing happened the first time I tasted natural unsweetened cocoa. I was expecting to taste the chocolate of a candy bar and instead what I tasted was bitter and harsh. The pumpkin surprise factor wasn’t nearly as extreme,  but you get the idea.

So, will I ever cook a big pumpkin for purée again? Not likely.

Will I ever roast a small pie pumpkin again? Perhaps, when I have grandchildren and want to show them where pumpkin purée comes from.

Will I go back to buying canned pumpkin? Yes, for sure!

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13 thoughts on “How to Cook a Pumpkin: Roasted and Puréed

  1. Great post about pumpkins! Been there, done that with the cooking my own and won’t do it again (unless there is a great canned pumpkin shortage). We often bake the pumpkin “pie” filling all by itself without a crust, toss in a handful of chopped nuts for the alst 5 minutes of the bake. Yum! Watch out for cheaply priced canned pumpkin from China! I bought a can not knowing it’s source. Yuck! The puree was light yellow in color, watery, and bland.

    1. Thanks, Terry. Good to know about the poor quality of the pumpkin from China. Now that I’ve done so much research on pumpkin puree, I’ll only buy Libby’s or organic brands. Thanks for the tip about baking the pie filling by itself with nuts. Sounds yummy. Thanks for writing!

  2. Very interesting post- I always wondered how the canned pumpkin stacked up against the fresh pumpkin. I always use the canned. I have made a squash pie using fresh butternut squash and that is very good and not too much work. Thanks for this experiment!

    1. Cindy, the baked flesh from the large pumpkin tasted a lot like hubbard squash which I normally roast with olive oil, sea salt and garlic pepper. Butternut has a more intense flavor that the large squashes don’t have; I could see it being good in a pie. Do you use a lot of spices with it, or do you allow the natural taste of butternut squash to shine through?

  3. Yep. Only time I’d do “scratch” pumpkin is if I couldn’t find organic in a can. I admire your energetic tackling of that big one, though. Wouldn’t your hens have enjoyed the “leftovers”?

  4. I use buttercup and/or butternut squash for all my “pumpkin” recipes. Much better flavor and texture and not as much moisture. But you always have to make it yourself as canned isn’t available. I freeze it in zip top bags to use all winter.

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