Canned Pumpkin, Minus the Can

November 16, 2012

Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, A Cozy Kitchen's Adrianna Adarme gives us a homemade alternative to canned pumpkin purée. Use it in a tried-and-true classic pumpkin pie, an elegant holiday hors d'oeuvre, or an irresistible hostess gift.

Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and I'm sure many of you are drafting up menus, making checklists, writing shopping lists, prepping, or ... you might be procrastinating like I always do. But I can be almost certain that pumpkin puree will appear on your shopping list. That's why I'm here to urge you to give homemade pumpkin purée a whirl. I promise that your family and friends' taste buds will greatly appreciate the effort.

Once upon a time I was a firm believer that there was no difference between homemade pumpkin purée and the canned stuff. I had read so many articles and opinions on the matter, and all of them always favored canned pumpkin's reliability (excess water content is a big concern), relatively low price and ease. I frankly thought it was a waste of time -- that was, until I finally did it. Now my opinion is changed forever! Homemade tastes better than canned. I know that shouldn't have been a surprise, but it totally was for me. The taste, as it turns out, is dramatically different. The homemade version is sweeter, nuttier, and well, for the lack of a better word, more pumpkin-y.

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The bonus is that making homemade pumpkin purée is ridiculously easy. To make the project even more seamless, here are a few tips on selecting the perfect pumpkin for the job:

• The best type of pumpkin for making purée is a Sugar Pie Pumpkin. Sugar pumpkins are smaller than the ones you carve at Halloween. Their skin is smoother, thinner, more orange, and they're sweeter in flavor, making them perfect for cooking and baking.

• Seek out pumpkins that are deep orange in color, with smooth and even-colored exteriors and fresh-looking stems.

• Select a pumpkin that is firm to the touch, with no soft spots.

Homemade Pumpkin Purée
Makes about 1 1/4 to 2 cups of purée, depending on the size of the pumpkin you use.

1 sugar pie pumpkin 
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Under cold water, wash the pumpkin and dry it thoroughly. Using a large knife, cut it in half.

Using a metal spoon or an ice cream scoop, scoop out the seeds and innards and set aside. (If you'd like to roast the seeds, clean them thoroughly, allow them to air-dry for a few hours, and then toss with a bit of olive oil and any spices you like; think Madras curry powder, cayenne pepper or even good salt and pepper.)

Rub a baking sheet with the teaspoon of vegetable oil and transfer the two pumpkin halves, skin-side up. (Alternatively, you could also place it on a piece of foil or parchment.) Place the pumpkin in the oven to roast for 1 hour, or until tender.

Allow it to cool slightly, about 15 minutes, before handling. Scoop out the pumpkin and place it in the bowl of a food processor. (Depending on how big your food processor is, you may need to do this in batches.) Blend the pumpkin until completely smooth.

Sugar pie pumpkins tend to be drier, but if the pumpkin looks a bit wet, feel free to place the pumpkin purée in a cheesecloth-lined sieve and set over a bowl. I did this step just to see how much water would be drained and ended up with only a few teaspoons of water.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Save and print the recipe here.

Adrianna will be answering questions about pumpkin purée on the Hotline for those of you who want to take on this project at home. For the quickest response, go to her recipe and ask a question from there -- we'll email her your question right away!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • ahtinahw
  • AntoniaJames
  • elangomatt
I'm the writer behind the food blog, A Cozy Kitchen. My blog is a place where my love for cute things, pancakes and corgis is celebrated. In Spring 2013 my first cookbook, PANCAKES: 72 Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Perfect Stack, was published.


ahtinahw November 18, 2012
re: the canned pumpkin vs. fresh: It is so easy to make the fresh puree, and you have the control over how you want it to taste!! So I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to use the fresh variety. I understand the time factor, but that is not too difficult in the scheme of things. Someone gave me a rather large pumpkin, after Halloween. Today, I provcessed half of the fruit, adjusting the needed sugar,and spices. Tomorrow I will finish with condensed milk, and eggs, And make a pie. The rest will go into my freezer for another day.
AntoniaJames November 16, 2012
And I'm with Melissa Clark, whose recent article in the New York Times summarized her testing of roasted fresh pumpkin. I independently came to same conclusion that she did, which is that butternut squash is so much tastier than sugar pie pumpkin. Like elangomatt, I see no real taste advantage in roasting a sugar pie pumpkin over using canned pumpkin (though I generally buy as few items as possible in cans or plastic of any kind for environmental reasons, which is why I've roasted, pureed and frozen butternut squash for the pie I plan to make for the holiday next week). ;o)
elangomatt November 16, 2012
I disagree, I made my own pumpkin puree a few years ago and could taste very little difference from the home made and the can of Libby's. I didn't think that making the pumpkin puree was also not as easy as you make it sound here either. I also like supporting the semi-local economy too since Libby's is made in Morton, IL about 2 hours southwest of my home.