Alongside the big, decorative pumpkins typically used for making jack-o-lanterns around Halloween that they stock at most markets, you’ll also see smaller pumpkins with names like “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Large pumpkins tend to have watery and stringy flesh, so they’re not a great choice for cooking with. Sugar pumpkins, on the other hand, are an excellent choice for cooking and baking applications. These smaller squashes have a firm, sweet flesh that is much smoother than that of larger pumpkins. They’re great for roasting, making soups and for making homemade pumpkin puree for pies, not just because they have a good pumpkin flavor, but also because their firmer and less stringy flesh roasts up to a much more pleasant consistency than that of a much larger pumpkin.
Sugar pumpkins are only about 6 to 8 inches in diameter and they will usually be labeled with “sugar pumpkin” or the name of another small variety of pumpkin, often with a note indicating that they’re the best choice for baking. From one pumpkin of this size, you’ll typically be able to get the same amount of puree that you do from a can of pumpkin (15-16 oz), or perhaps a little bit more.