Canned pumpkin is a fall baking staple, used for everything from pumpkin pancakes for breakfast and pumpkin pies for dessert. But is fresh, homemade pumpkin puree any better to bake with than canned pumpkin? There are a couple of reasons that canned pumpkin puree is so popular. First, it is very convenient and readily available to anyone with a well-stocked grocery store. There are both regular and organic versions available and it is relatively inexpensive. The second reason is that it is consistent. Canned pumpkin puree – although there might be slight differences from brand to brand – does not vary much in its thickness, texture or flavor. Recipes usually call for pumpkin puree with the expectation that you will use canned pumpkin, and you can expect consistently good results when using it.
Homemade pumpkin puree can be as good as canned, but it takes quite a bit of prep work to cook the pumpkin and puree it. Since recipes are written for canned, if you have a pumpkin that yields a puree that is too thick or too thin, you may have to adjust it (by straining or by adding in a tablespoon or two of water) to get the right consistency. Pumpkins vary widely in flavor, and homemade puree doesn’t always turn out to be as flavorful as canned (believe it or not, but I have had many bland pumpkins – even pie pumpkins!). Now that I’ve scared you off, fresh pumpkin puree can very flavorful and, if you get good quality sugar or pie pumpkins you can get a really great result that was well worth the extra effort. You just don’t get the guarantees of canned when working with fresh pumpkin and there is a risk that your pumpkin might not be up to snuff in the flavor-department.
I have used both in the past and will use both in the future, but in the end, canned pumpkin is definitely easier and can be tastier than fresh pumpkin puree. I make fresh if I have a great pumpkin to start with and when I have some spare time. As long as you don’t mind all the extra prep work involved in making your own puree, it’s worth a shot, but it’s a good idea to have a can (organic, regular – any kind you like) on hand in the back of the pantry just in case.