Most recipes that call for pumpkin recommend using canned pumpkin puree. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the facts that pumpkin puree is relatively inexpensive, easy to find, convenient to use and very consistent in color, flavor and texture. Having a standard ingredient to recommend helps cookbook authors and recipe writers to help you achieve the desired results with their recipes. You can find both regular and organic pumpkin puree pretty easily these days at both regular and specialty markets. That said, it is also very possible to make your own pumpkin puree and this is a great option or those of us who like to eat squash and pumpkin on a regular basis.
First, start out with a whole pumpkin. It’s best not to have one too large, or it will be difficult to work with. Peel it, slice it open and seed it. Bring some water to a boil on the stovetop. Cut up the pumpkin flesh into chunks and drop it into the boiling water. Cool the pumpkin pieces until they’re tender, exactly the same way you would with potatoes.
Drain and cool the pumpkin pieces, then put them in the food processor. This is the only part where making your own gets tricky. Pumpkin can be fairly fibrous, and canned pumpkin puree is very smooth, so make sure that you process your pumpkin as much as possible. Sometimes, I add back a little bit of water to the puree so that I can process it more easily. I aim to get the consistency close to that of the canned puree (fairly thick, but not dry) so that I know it will work out in the recipes that call for it.
When I make it, I use pumpkin puree within a day or two of making it, storing it in the refrigerator in the meantime.
CindyOctober 22, 2009
I recently read that canned pumpkin puree may be part squash or sweet potato. Don’t remember which blog was discussing that, but do you know if that’s true?
NicoleOctober 22, 2009
Cindy – It should say on the ingredients of the can, but there are many types of winter squash that could be considered to be pumpkins (i.e. there is no single “pumpkin” out there), so it wouldn’t surprise me if several types of squash were used in making the average can of pumpkin puree.
MollyCookieOctober 22, 2009
I love pumpkin pie. When I was a kid it was one of my favorite desserts. I think it would be fun to make my own puree, and now I’m really glad that I know how! Thanks for sharing this. It is definitely a good time of year for it.
Kitchen CornerOctober 22, 2009
Thanks for the tips! Your pumpkin puree looks very very smooth. Cheers!
Nutmeg NannyOctober 22, 2009
I just did a whole post about using fresh pumpkin…yummy!
snooky doodleOctober 22, 2009
I thought I was the only one using this method od making pumpkin puree:) since here canned one is not available I tried this quick and easy method instead. baking is as much as good using fresh pumpkin 🙂 thanks for sharing.this cake is made used fresh pumpkin puree
nicolaOctober 23, 2009
Hey! I live in a country where canned pumpkin isn’t available. I do mine differently as I find boiling adds too much water into the flesh. I cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Then I put the two halves, cut side down, on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake until tender. I then scoop out the flesh and pueÃ©e if needed – often a potato masher will do the job just fine. If the pumpkin is watery then I strain it through muslin, but usually using this methods it is lovely and thick.
MelissaOctober 23, 2009
I bake mine, too, and then I freeze the puree. I’ve recently fallen in love with pumpkin puree, and since pie pumpkins are so damn cheap now I think I’ll be making a lot.
Leigh AnnOctober 23, 2009
How do you peel a pumpkin?? Does a regular vegetable peeler work, or is the skin too tough for that?
SteveOctober 23, 2009
I never tried making that one. Let me try that one out, I will bookmark this for reference.
LydiaOctober 23, 2009
Canned pumpkin is made typically from what are called “field” pumpkins (there are several varieties) and they usually have pale orange/tan or even gray colored skin. Jack-o-Lantern type pumpkins are NOT used and are NOT recommended for cooking with (while they are edible, their flavor and texture are not nearly as appealing). Sugar pumpkins are typically recommended for home baking, but I still find their flavor and texture abhorrent no matter how I cook it. The best “pumpkins” are the heirloom varieties such as Jarrahdale or Long Island Cheese. But since they are not as easy to find everywhere, any dryish winter squash will work as a substitute (butternut, red kuri, hubbard are my favorites). And a bonus is that typically you get so much flesh from the “pumpkins” that the effort of cooking and pureeing (and straining if necessary) is outweighed by the sheer volume of puree you get.
PS- A food mill or ricer also works well for squash if you don’t have a food processor; and sometimes it is necessary to press the mixture through a sieve to get an even finer texture.
MaryDecember 1, 2009
I have made my own pure I simply wash the pumpkin and cut it in half then scoop out the seeds and bake in in the oven at 350 d.
till its soft then scoop out the pulp and put in in food
processor. Thats how I make it.
Good to know that there are more ways and now I have a choice as to how to make it.
RachelOctober 5, 2010
I have a pie pumpkin sitting on my counter right now, begging me to eat it!
Thanks for the tips!
I wonder if I could use a hand blender to puree the pumpkin chunks?
SashaOctober 27, 2010
I used a hand blender myself to puree the pumpkin. It came out nice and smooth (not perfectly smooth, but I prefer mine that way. I could have easily kept at it a few more minutes).
KimberlyNovember 24, 2011
Do they add flavoring of any kind to canned pumpkin puree or can I safely substitute my own non-flavored puree in place of canned when the recipe says canned?
NicoleNovember 24, 2011
Kimberly – No, they don’t add flavoring to regular pumpkin puree. There are canned pumpkin pie fillings available, which have sugar and spices added to them, but regular canned pumpkin puree can be substituted for homemade puree.
louiseOctober 24, 2012
It’s easy to peel the pulp and the seeds away from the rind after the pumpkin has cooled a bit when you bake it. Home made puree makes a delicious pie. I found large pumpkins contain more stringy pulp than small pumpkins and small pumkins bake leaving a more dense ingredient. In the store the small pumpkins are often called “pie pumpkins.”
valNovember 6, 2012
I have a pumpkin that is large and after cutting it open the meat is more consistent with spaghetti squash than what I expected. Is this too large to bake and try to make puree?
NicoleNovember 6, 2012
Val – Yes, larger pumpkins tend to be more fibrous. Smaller pumpkins typically have denser flesh that makes a better, smoother puree.
MaryNovember 30, 2012
I bake the pumpkins also and then put the flesh through the food processor. While it may not be necessary, I push the puree from this through a large food strainer to eliminate any strings or tough fibre that did not process enough in the processor. I love pumpkin bread and pumpkin soup and can’t believe that they would be as good with canned pumpkin…just as fresh tuna is so different from canned tuna…personal preference, I guess.
SherileeAugust 24, 2013
About the discussion about whether the canned pumpkin is actually pumpkin or squash makes me laugh, because in Australia, Butternut Pumpkin (ahem, sorry, Butternut Squash) is considered a pumpkin, and is one of the more sought-after varieties. So as an Aussie (who has never seen or tried canned pumpkin btw) reading about there being an ‘issue’ about whether it is pumpkin or squash, especially seeing that butternut was one of the squash listed as an “oh no!” – I had to have a good giggle. It is so smooth, creamy, and flavourful! Anyhow, thanks for the great blog post, it has actually really helped me as an Aussie navigate some of the recipes that call for canned pumpkin! 🙂
ClareAugust 18, 2014
As far as I know, canned pumpkin is not available in New Zealand but we always have pumpkin in the store. Many people grow them too (including me).
I cut pumpkin into half inch cubed pieces (more or less) and microwave for five or six minutes, let cool and then mash with a potato masher. It’s very quick and easy.
Say No to Canned Pumkins!November 5, 2015
I would never call “pumpkin pie” unless it’s made of fresh pumpkins, as that thing called canned pumpkin never tastes good to me. I always make my pumpkin pie from scratch …..
I usually use butternut squashs, but sugar pumpkins work equally fine. And i prefer to bake them in the owen — as opposed to boiling in the water, because when you bake your pumpkin you definetly get a firmer puree along with much more delicious pie as baking forces the pumpkin to release a stronger pumpkin taste which is truly delicous.
Also, i add a generous amount of pumpkin flour when preparing my own crust from scratch …..,
On top of that, i add some pumpkin flour when mix milk and eggs with my baked pumkin puree.
You can buy pumpkin flour from Health Food strores …… Or you can make your own easily by baking your pumpkin in the owen ……, then scoop out the flesh and dried either in the owen, or preferably under the sun, and once it’s totally dry; gound it using your mixes. Click on my name to learn more about pumpkin four (how to make it and how use it in countless recipes …
Also, i always use butter. Never use shortening, margarine, etc. Similarly i always try to use goat milk in glass jars ….
And if you add a spoonful of extra virgin pumpkin seed oil to your pie, you will end up with the best tasting REAL pumpkin pie ever made.