Feed it to Your Cat (& 5 Other Creative Uses for Leftover Canned Pumpkin)

November 23, 2015

Cans of pumpkin left after the holiday?

There are endless recipes that call for it, including at least a dozen on Food52, among which my recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Cake.

Photo by James Ransom

But here are 6 easy-peasy ideas, only one of which requires measuring, and none of which require leaving the page!

  • Keep it for next year. I know it sounds wrong—we all like to start holiday baking with fresh supplies. But when I was new in the bakery business (in the 1970s), I was told that aged canned pumpkin was especially good for pies. It was apparently Common Knowledge, or so said the vendor to the 20-something-year-old bakery owner. Whether that was true or a prank on the very rare “girl” in the bakery business, there is no harm and no foul in keeping pumpkin for next year (that's why we have "Use By" dates). I’ve done it. (And no, I’m not talking about an opened can…)

  • Wrap it up and put it under the tree for your favorite cat lover (or cat). If you are not a cat parent (I’m not), you may not know how that pumpkin is good for cat tummies. According to my mom, some kitties are crazy for it.

  • Make pumpkin milk. This is way more delicious than it sounds, can be served cold or warm, and does not require a lot of added sweetener. Think healthy afterschool snack. Use 3 or more tablespoons of purée for an 8-ounce glass of dairy milk (or almond or soy or rice, or any other milk). Sweeten with a little sugar, honey, maple or sorghum syrup. Add pumpkin pie spices, or just cinnamon or freshly grated nutmeg (especially delicious!) to taste. Whisk to combine (or better still, froth with an immersion blender).

Ice cream topped with pumpkin toffee sauce, with some pumpkin milk on the side. Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Make pumpkin eggnog. There is nothing about the flavor and texture of pumpkin that won’t go with the booze and spices that you put in your favorite homemade or purchased nog. Right?

  • Make pumpkin toffee sauce. This is super good on vanilla ice cream, but once you taste it, you’ll want to eat it on everything. In a small saucepan, mix and heat 1 cup pumpkin purée with 1 1/2 packed cups (300 grams) brown sugar (light muscovado would also be superb here) and 2/3 cup cream. Simmer gently, stirring often, for 10 to 15 minutes, until thickened. It keeps at least a week in the fridge (and probably much longer!).

  • Make soup. You really don’t need a recipe or a scale or measuring cups for this. Sauté a little onion (garlic too, if you like) in butter or oil. Add pumpkin and broth or cream or coconut milk. Simmer with some seasonings—pumpkin is versatile—such as pumpkin pie spices, curry powder or garam masala, ginger and/or nutmeg, or thyme. Have some fun. Serve it simply, or finish each bowl with a drizzle or dollop of something that goes with your flavors (cream or sour cream or yogurt, extra-virgin olive oil, tahini…). You can top with sautéed kale or toasted pumpkin or sesame seeds, or walnuts, or za'atar.

Photo by James Ransom

And if you are NOT okay with free styling, try these recipes:

What do you do with leftover cans of pumpkin? Tell us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Julie
  • Victoria Maynard
    Victoria Maynard
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).


Julie November 30, 2015
Pumpkin milk sounds so good. I want to go buy canned pumpkin to try it right now!

My cat is a snob about pumpkin--he loves, loves, loves freshly roasted pumpkin, but he turns his nose up at the canned stuff. I think he was expecting something more exciting when I took out the can opener.
Victoria M. November 23, 2015
My dog is OBSESSED with canned pumpkin.