How to Cook a Whole Pumpkin (to make pumpkin puree)

 

Pumpkin_Puree_Collage_2

Every year, the boys and I visit a pumpkin patch.  Every year after visiting the pumpkin patch, I bake a few of the pumpkins we bring home so that I’ll have plenty of pureed pumpkin in the freezer for pies, breads, muffins and other treats throughout the year.  Every year, in order to bake the pumpkins, I slice them in half to put them into a baking dish.

Ever tried slicing a raw pumpkin in half? It’s horribly not enjoyable or easy.  Now don’t make fun of me, because it is a fact that I have very wimpy muscles.  Therefore, I find that cutting a pumpkin in half makes me a little cranky -and also a little bit scared that I’m going to lose a finger.

This year, I decided to rebel - mostly because after the trip to the pumpkin patch with six boys (I took extras), I was a little tired and in no mood to lose a finger.

I’m not sure why I haven’t been cooking the pumpkin in its whole form all along – but now that I know it works so well, I will for sure be doing it this way from now on.  Or at least on the days I don’t feel like losing a finger.

How to Make Pumpkin Puree from a Whole Pumpkin

First wash your pumpkin so that there will be no chance for soil or squished bugs to be mistaken for raisins in your muffins on a cloudy, autumn morning.

Next, give your pumpkin 6-10 nice stabs with a knife.  There’s no better way to say it – there’s no such thing as gently poking a fork into a raw pumpkin.  It must be stabbed.  Although, I’m the one with the wimpy muscles, so what do I know?

Third, place your pumpkin in a baking dish, then into a 350° oven.  I had to remove one of my oven racks to make this happen, but I figured I’d just saved at least three fingers, so this five second bit of labor was worth my time.

Bake your pumpkin for about an hour and a half or until poking it with a fork has become effortless.

Now slice the pumpkin in half – see how easy that is?  Allow pumpkin to cool for 15-30 minutes.


Use a metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and the stringy stuff.  Save the seeds for making roasted pumpkin seeds if you’d like.

Someone tell me what the real name of that stringy stuff is.  It probably has some technical name like ”glutinous threads”.

Scoop out the soft pumpkin – or turn the pumpkin over and easily slice away the rind.

All done:


Place a few slices into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Continue pureeing pieces of pumpkin until you’re finished, because that is the point at which you will be done.  (Sometimes it’s fun to simply state the obvious.)

Freeze pumpkin puree in jars or freezer bags.  I like to freeze it in two-quart portions for easy measuring while baking.

With my pumpkin puree, I make Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, Pumpkin Bars, and Pumpkin Pie Squares – plus a delicious Multi-Grain Pumpkin Pancake/Waffle recipe my friend Angie shared with me that I will in turn be sharing with you tomorrow.

How do you make pumpkin puree (or do you buy it already canned)?  What do you like to make with pumpkin?

Disclaimer:  No fingers were lost while making this pumpkin puree.  Let us all rejoice.

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Comments

  1. Susan F says

    Wow, this is a great way to take care of pumpkin. I’m used to buying a wonderful can of pumpkin called ‘One Pie” during the season. It is processed here in Maine. I’ve never cooked a pumpkin. Thanks Laura.

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  2. Alicia says

    This is perfect. I’m doing it tomorrow!! Our pumpkins have served their decorative purpose for the year, now they will serve us some muffins & pies!! And waffles! And bread! Thank you Laura. Is it weird if I say I think we’d be friends in real life?? (:

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  3. Linda says

    Thank you for the test in baking a whole pumpkin. Like you, I do NOT like losing fingers while cutting a pumpkin. I read that cooking a whole pumpkin may be too watery. Did you have any problems with the consistency in baking the whole pumpkin vs baking the half pumpkins?

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    Laura Reply:

    Nope, the consistency way great either way. :)

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    cynthia Reply:

    i tried this just now with 2 med sized punkins i love this idea it was great and easy to do and i have all 10 fingers left….i love it i just made punkin pies and toasted punkin seeds never though of stabbing it and cooking the whole punkin awesome idea great to get rid of punkins after halloween i had to wash erasable markers off but still i cooked with some ink still on and it didnt bother it i like this idea and i will keep using it…..fyi stabbing a punkin is kinds fun….lol use watch ur fingers but i loved it…..

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  4. AudraG says

    I’m so excited to try this method! I’ve got pumpkins taunting me, daring me to bake them. I hate cutting them in half and scraping out the guts. It looks like the scraping is much easier after baking too. Thanks!

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  5. says

    I knew the Amish cook whole squash–but when I arrived at my winter rental, someone had left pie pumpkins. Happy your site gave me excellent directions for using them instead of throwing them away.

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  6. Lee Ann says

    This worked great! So much easier than cutting them first. I do have a tip to add. Some years my pumpkins have a lot of water in them making the puree very runny and it alters the texture of the recipe. (This may be because I live in the PNW and we have a lot of rain?) Anyway, a friend told me to put the puree in a bowl in the fridge for a day and the water will rise to the top. Some years a lot of water rises and others hardly any. But, if people have runny puree, it’s a great tip and will really make a better muffin :)

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  7. Marla says

    This was just what I was looking for. DH found 2 pumpkins in the garden (its New Years Day!!) and I did n’t want the find to go to waste. I just put them in the oven and thought I’d better check to see if they actually can be baked this way. Thanks so much!!

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  8. K. Ann Guinn says

    Thanks for the tip to bake the pumpkin whole! Does anyone just mash the pumpkin by hand, rather than puree it in a food processor? My food processor is on the fritz, it’s not in my budget to replace it right now; last year I tried to use my blender, but had to ADD liquid (the opposite of what we are going for, here!), and the nice lady who provides our farm shares said she does it that way. (I guess it’s a night for run-on sentences!) Any tips would be appreciated!

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    Angelia Johnson Reply:

    Use a blender. But, you can mash by hand with a masher.

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    Birdie Reply:

    Hi K. Ann. Try mashing it through a sieve. You would get the lumps out.

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    Jamie Reply:

    From past experience if you don’t puree the cooked pumpkin and just mash it… The pumpkin will turn out stringy. Id recomend asking to borrow one if you dont have the money to buy one right now.

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  9. Angelia Johnson says

    Okay, I actually peeled the skin with a veggie peeler and boiled it like sweet potatoes. Until I knew to cut in half and bake. However, this is so much better! Thanks

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  10. martha says

    can you make pumpkin rolls out of fresh pumpkin

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    Laura Reply:

    Sure, sounds yummy!

    [Reply]

    Birdie Reply:

    You’ll have no problem. I have a pumpkin rolls recipe that is soooo delicious.

    [Reply]

    martha Reply:

    I’d love to try your recipe

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  11. says

    Thank you. Since I have about 40 pumpkins to process, I will give your method a try. Usually I use a huge butcher knife to cut the pumpkin into chunks, but I value my fingers, too. I’m definitely in favor of an easier method. I’ll stick with my sieve instead of the food processor, though.

    BTW, the stringy stuff is called “fibrous strands,” but I think “stringy stuff” is the more common terminology ;)

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  12. Karen says

    My dogs love the stringy stuff! I can’t wait to try the whole pumpkin baking method this year. I, too, am in the PNW, so will also follow the tip Lee Ann posted above about letting the water rise to the top of the puree in a bowl. Thanks for this tip! Pumpkins are already in the stores and the patches!

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  13. Birdie says

    ~~~Pumpkin or Butternut Squash Cake Roll~~~

    3 eggs
    1 cup sugar
    2/3 cup mashed pumpkin or squash (well drained)
    3/4 cup flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1 cup finely chopped walnuts
    Confectioners’ sugar
    Filling:
    1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
    2 Tbsp. butter, softened
    1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    3/4 tsp vanilla extract
    Additional confectioners’ sugar, optional

    In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs; gradually beat in sugar. Add pumpkin or squash and mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon; add pumpkin or squash mixture and mix well.

    Line a 15″ x 10″ x 1″ baking pan with waxed paper; grease and flour the paper. Spread batter evenly into pan. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake at 375* for 13 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

    Turn cake onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in the towel, jelly-roll style, starting with short side. Cool completely on a wire rack.

    In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Unroll cake; spread filling evenly over cake to within 1″ of edges. Roll up again. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

    Just before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
    Yield: 10 servings

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  14. Debb O'Brien says

    Thanks Laura. I had found a way to cook a pumpkin in the Joy of Cooking Cook Book – My mom had the book and I took it after she died. Then, when I was looking for it to make sure I had the recipe, I found that my sister had taken the cookbook from me! So, thanks for putting this on the web! There was also a great recipe for pumpkin cookies in that cook book. Do you happen to have a recipe for pumpkin cookies? Why don’t I ask my sister? She is going through her own problems and the least of them is looking for a recipe. Thanks again.

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    Sharon Keen Reply:

    Laura, I am so glad to find this post on cooking the pumpkin whole! I have only cooked pumpkin once bbecause it was sooo difficult to cut up! I can’t wait to try this way. I shared this on my blog with a link back to you in the post that I mentioned below. I hope id is okay to share the link here for Debb.

    Hi Debb, I have The Joy of Cooking and found the recipe for pumpkin cookies. I posted it on my blog for you here: http://keeninspirations.blogspot.com/2013/10/old-fashioned-pumpkin-cookies.html

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  15. Ann Guinn says

    Thanks, Laura, for your wonderful idea! Thanks, also to those who responsed to my query above (about how to process w/o a food processor). I really liked this method, as it was not only easier, but also kept enough moisture in the pumpkin that I was able to just mash it by hand. I then ran my hand mixer through, just to smooth it up a bit. It is wonderful!

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  16. Tammy Dudley says

    I am baking my pie pumpkins as I speak!! LOL Just wanted to add that you can puree your baked pumpkin, spread it out on the nonstick drying sheets in your dehydrator evenly to about 1/8 inch thick. Dry it then grind it in your spice grinder to a fine powder (I recommend you sift out the bigger pieces and regrind them). Several small pumpkins can go into a quart jar like that. Just take out 1/4 cup of the pie powder, place in a small bowl and pour about 3/4 to 1 cup of boiling water on it and within 15 minutes you have pureed pumpkin which is enough for 1 pumpkin pie and it tastes like fresh and if you have a food saver you can keep the jar of pumpkin powder sealed and reseal it after use and it will last years.

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    Sheila Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this Tammy! I’m always on the lookout for dehydrator ideas and along w/ whole pumpkin baking, my pumpkins will be fast to work up and easy to store!!
    I don’t have a spice grider. Will a coffee grinder work you think??

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    Tammy Dudley Reply:

    A coffee grinder works but I would buy one just
    for spices and keep one for just coffee only.
    That what I do. :)
    You can also dehydrate and powder sweet potatoes,
    squash.
    Apple peels dried and powdered are great in spiced teas
    along with orange and lemon zest.

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  17. says

    I just gave this a try today and it is soooo easy! One question: since the seeds have already been cooked inside the pumpkin, can you just roast them per your normal recipe? Has anyone tried it?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, that should work!

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  18. Karen Y says

    This may be a silly question, but do you have to use pie pumpkins or would the purée be good for baking from a bigger pumpkin?

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    Birdie Reply:

    Hi Karen Y. You question is not silly, I’ve asked this before 8->. Pie pumpkins are denser and large pumpkins have more water. The taste is superior in pie pumpkins.

    [Reply]

    Sheila Reply:

    I use bigger pumpkins (field pumpkins, jack-o-latern pumpkins) for baking without problem. Sometimes I have to drain the liquid off if I freeze the puree, but that’s not a problem.

    I just purchased 10 big pumkins from Wal-Mart for 1 penny a piece!!! I’m trying the whole pumpkin baking right now ;)

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    Kristin Reply:

    I agree pie pumpkins are superior in flavor! And, when compared to the price of canned pumpkin, still a bargain. I’ve found pie pumpkins for as little as $1.50 at the farmers market.

    I like to freeze my pureed pumpkin in pre-measured amounts for my favorite recipes. I simply label the ziplock bags as pie, muffins, pancakes as bars. This way I can plan out exactly how many of each baked good I want to make that fall/winter. It keeps me from freezing more pumpkin then I actually need/use.

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    I agree with what everyone else said, however, if you did want to make a substitute that would be fine.

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  19. Jennifer says

    I bought two pumpkins with the idea to can puree.. I have read over and over and over that canning pumpkin isn’t recommended????

    Someone help me understand this please????

    [Reply]

    Birdie Reply:

    Hi Jennifer. I can my puree with no problems. If its low acid, you have to pressure can it.

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    Sheila Reply:

    I like this page;s explanations for why not to canned pureed pumpkin (cubes/dices is fine)http://pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/pumpkinprecautions.php

    and just in case you haven’t found this resource on preserving pumpkin……
    http://nchfp.uga.edu/tips/fall/pumpkins.html

    I don’t have a lot of freezer space for pumpkin puree so I’m going to try drying it like Tammy Dudley commented on Oct. 10.

    Good luck!!

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    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    I think these are good sources. I would say to be safe I would just freeze it in jars. :)

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  20. Julie says

    Thank you for an upbeat, well-spelled blog. Your sense of humor cracks me up–I can identify all too well with working so hard “to not lose a finger”. My brothers have kidded me my whole life, “Put down that knife and step away,” or “Here, sis, let me do that so you don’t get hurt.”

    I have baked large and small pumpkins. I don’t remember stabbing them, but that might account for why my pumpkin seemed liquid-y–maybe the vents allow the excess moisture to escape.

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  21. Dottie Skelley says

    Thanks for the info. I frequently cook large squashes and they are even harder to cut in half than pumpkins!! I will try this method. I usually cook them in my microwave. I have a large microwave, so think a large squash would fit in whole. I see by your photos that you don’t know about Oven liner mats. The one I have goes on the bottom rack rather than the bottom of the oven because my coils are enclosed, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference in oven use but sure makes oven cleaning easier. You just pull it out and wipe it off, wash with soap and water and replace. Since the majority of oven cleaning involves the bottom of the oven, I hardly ever have to clean the whole oven!

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  22. Karen P. says

    I cooked pumpkin for the first time last year. I cut it, steamed it and used my immersion blender. I think baking it would be easier. I then put it in quart size ziplock freezer bags. I must warn you that when I take them out if the freezer to thaw, the liquid leaks out. It has happened to every bag. So now they thaw in a bowl. Food tastes better with fresh pumpkin, especially scones! ????

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  23. Lorie says

    You have convinced me. My boys got pumpkins from a local patch a few weeks ago. If they are still good, I will try this today instead of going to buy pumpkin at the store :)

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  24. says

    ….I can’t believe it’s that easy to make your own pumpkin puree at home. I thought about it, vs buying the cans, but thought “naw, it’s probably hard and time-consuming.”
    I am getting an extra pumpkin or two next year!! (Can’t find any locally right now.)

    I do have a question–how much puree do you get out of one medium pumpkin?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    The one I cooked yesterday gave me 4-5 cups.

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  25. Karen Dee says

    I made pumpkin puree from a pumpkin centuries ago. I thought I’d try it again a couple of yrs ago. Bought a pie pumpkin. It was just awful. So much so I vowed to never use anything but canned. I imagine I got a bad pumpkin like you can get a bad squash. I was so disappointed.

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  26. Ricke W says

    So glad I found this site. We were given a stack of pumpkins and after cutting up two I had so many blisters I lost the use of my right hand. Whole pumpkin in the oven now!!

    Did you know that pumpkin seeds were a natural wormer for your chickens?

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  27. sharon says

    One of my pumpkins has started to blacken right around the stem, should I cut that part off to check the inside to see if it is ok, or go ahead and bake it and then check?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I would cut the black part off and peek inside first. :)

    [Reply]

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