What to CookFallCooking with ScrapsHalloween

A Fourth-Generation Chutney That'll Have You Praising Pumpkin Guts

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When we talk about using up an entire pumpkin, generally we’re talking about using up the always-more-than-you-think-there-will-be amount of flesh you get from just about any hulking winter squash—unless you regularly practice self-restraint and only go for the petite sugar pie pumpkins and teeny honeynut squashes.

And yes, we always save the seeds for roasting, but everyone always pitches the other part of pumpkin guts, the stringy webbing stuff, right? Wrong.

How to Make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds without a Recipe
How to Make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds without a Recipe

Panfusine uses the pumpkin innards in Pumpkin ‘Brain’ Chutney. It’s not a new revelation: Her family has been cooking the pumpkin webbing for generations! Clearly, we’ve all been missing out for far too long.

The recipe’s origins trace back to Panfusine's great-grandmother, who christened it with an equally Halloween-esque name: “She called it 'Yaana Thalai' (which translates to to elephant’s head in Tamil) chutney. The reason why she called it that was apparently her grandkids (my dad included) would easily polish off a whole elephant head’s worth in volume of the dish.”

Brains in a bowl. Pumpkin brains, that is.
Brains in a bowl. Pumpkin brains, that is. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Panfusine says she’s found that cheese pumpkins and calabaza squashes have a meatier webbing that yields more of the key ingredient for the chutney, but feel free to use the innards from whatever type of winter squash you happen to have on hand.


She suggests eating it with hot plain rice, using it as a dip for chips, or slathering it on warm roti (or toast). I followed her suggestion of serving it with hot rice (adding a side of basic black beans), and found it easy to see why this recipe has remained a family favorite throughout the years. Never again will I be pitching the pile of pumpkin innards—I bet you won’t either.

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Pumpkin 'Brain' Chutney

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Makes 3 cups
  • 1 cup webbing from the innards of a pumpkin
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 small onions, cut into eights
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon split, dehusked urad dal
  • 2-3 arbol chiles, broken into bits (adjust as per taste)
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
  • 1-2 teaspoons tamarind pulp OR
  • Juice of 1 large lime
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (optional)
  • Salt to taste
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Know of a great recipe hiding in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure!

Tags: cooking with scraps, pumpkins, pumpkin guts