It seems as soon as the weather turns cooler, the pumpkins come out. Once you see the orange pumpkins, large and small, in the grocery store and farmers’ markets, we know autumn has truly arrived. Pumpkins may make us think of Halloween and Jack o’ lanterns, but they aren’t just for decorating. In fact, carving pumpkins are different from cooking pumpkins.
Smaller pumpkins are better for cooking because they have a smooth texture, dense flesh and are sweet. They usually weigh between 4 and 8 pounds. When choosing a pumpkin, make sure there aren’t any bruises or soft spots since that might mean the pumpkin has begun to rot. Choose a pumpkin that has no cuts in the shell and be sure to check the bottom since it has probably been sitting on the damp ground. One last thing: the stem is not a handle. Lift a pumpkin from the bottom or sides. If the stem breaks, the pumpkin will start to go bad.
Now that you know how to choose a pumpkin, what will you cook with it? Sure, pumpkin pie is a great idea but you can do so much more with pumpkin. Pumpkin desserts are delicious but you can also enjoy pumpkin for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as in snacks and beverages. Here are 10 ways to cook with pumpkin this fall.
1. Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree
Why buy cans of pumpkin puree when it’s so easy to make your own? A medium-sized pumpkin can yield around 1 ½-2 cups pumpkin puree, which you can use in any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin. The hardest part of using your own pumpkins is cleaning out all the seeds, but as a reward, you get a big bowl of roasted pumpkin seeds to snack on.
Take the pumpkin and using a large chef’s knife, place it on one side of the stem and cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and strings with a spoon. Rinse the seeds, getting all the strings off them and set them aside to make roasted pumpkin seeds. Place the pumpkin halves in a baking dish, cut side down. Add ½ cup water to the baking dish. Roast the pumpkin halves at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until the pumpkin is fork-tender. Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, peel away the skin from the pumpkin flesh. It should come off easily in big pieces. Discard the skin. Place the pumpkin flesh in a food processor or blender and process until it is a smooth puree. You can use this puree for any of your pumpkin recipes.
2. Pumpkin for Breakfast
Start the day right with a pumpkin breakfast. Pumpkin is filled with antioxidant vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, as well as folate, niacin and minerals such as copper, calcium and potassium. Sometimes, when it’s cold, we want a breakfast that will warm me us inside and out. Oatmeal is good for that, but it needs more flavor. In my Pumpkin Oatmeal with Hazelnuts, pumpkin and warm spices add a delicious and cozy taste while the hazelnuts add a satisfying crunch. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine 2 cups rolled oats, 3 cups water or non-dairy milk, 1 cup pumpkin puree, ¼ cup pure maple syrup, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground nutmeg, and ¼ tsp. ground cloves (or 1 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice). Stir together and cook over medium heat. Stir every now and then until you have the consistency you want, about 10 minutes. Transfer the oatmeal to serving bowls and top with ½ cup chopped hazelnuts.
Other ways to have pumpkin for breakfast include Pumpkin, Apple and Pecan Pie Waffles, Yeasted Pumpkin Pancakes, Vegan Pumpkin Pie Pancakes, Pumpkin Nut Muffins and this Pumpkin-Coconut-Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Crumble.
3. Drink a Pumpkin
Add pumpkin to your beverages for sweet, fall flavor. Try this Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, this Seriously Healthy Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, and this Pumpkin Protein Smoothie. If you are craving one of those pumpkin spice lattes from a certain chain store, you can make one yourself. Find out how in the article, How to Make Starbucks-Style Drinks Healthier.
4. Pumpkin Dips and Spreads
Pumpkin is smooth and creamy and perfect for dips and spreads. Not only does adding pumpkin to your hummus make it healthier, it also adds beautiful autumn colors. Pumpkin mixes with chickpeas and cannellini beans to make this Pumpkincredible Hummus while this Fresh Pumpkin and Kale Hummus is a verdant, bright green. For the ultimate spread that is smooth and silky, make this Pumpkin Butter. Read How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Butter in 7 Easy Steps, and then enjoy it on toast or my favorite way which is spread over peanut butter on a gluten-free waffle.
5. Pumpkin Soups and Stews
My Curried Pumpkin Soup is spicy but balanced with sweet apple sauce. Saute 1 diced medium onion in a soup pot for 4 minutes or until translucent. Add 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger, 1 Tbs. curry powder and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon and mix to combine. Add 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree and 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce. Stir to combine and cook for 3 minutes. Add 4-6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, ½ tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Let the soup come to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is silky smooth. Add 1 cup coconut milk and mix to combine. Heat the soup until it is warmed through. Taste for any seasoning adjustments and serve hot. For another pumpkin soup recipe, make this Hearty Valentine’s Soup for the one you love.
Nothing tastes better when the weather gets chilly than a bowl of warm, hearty stew. This ‘Three Sisters’ Stew is kind of a stew and kind of a chili. The title comes from Native American lore where the trio of squash, corn and beans are known as the “three sisters.” In this Indian Sanbar: White Pumpkin Lentil Stew, white pumpkin is cooked with lentils and warm, fragrant spices to make this mouthwatering South Indian dal.
6. Pumpkin Pasta
For my very first attempt at making pasta, I made gnocchi that was vegan, gluten-free and instead of potato, I used pumpkin. I was amazed how fast and easy it was to make it. My Pumpkin Gnocchi in Spiced Butter Sauce with Lemon Cashew Cream is a delicious and elegant dish. To make the Lemon Cashew Cream, combine 1 cup of raw cashews that were soaked for several hours, ¾ cup water, the zest and juice of one lemon and ¼ tsp. black pepper in a food processor. Mix until the cream is thickened and smooth. Add salt to taste and set aside.
To make the Pumpkin Gnocchi, make flax gel by combining 2 Tbs. of ground flaxseed and 1/3 cup warm water. Mix and set aside to gel for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups pumpkin puree, 2 ½ cups brown rice flour, ¼ cup potato starch, ¼ cup nutritional yeast and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Mix until it forms a dough. Use your hands to mix the dough until all the ingredients are incorporated. The dough should stick to your fingers but not to the bowl. Dust some flour on a flat surface. Divide the dough into sections and roll the sections into balls. Then roll each ball into a long tube, about ¾’ in diameter. Press the tines of a fork into the tube to form indentations in the dough. Cut the tubes into gnocchi pieces.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently place the gnocchi into the water and cook for about 2 minutes. They will float to the top when ready. Remove from the water and drain. To make the Spiced Butter Sauce: In a large saucepan or skillet, melt 1/3 cup vegan butter and 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil. Add ½ tsp. ground nutmeg, ¼ tsp. ground allspice and salt and pepper to taste. Add the gnocchi to the pan and coat with the butter sauce. Serve while hot over the Lemon Cashew Cream. Top with grated vegan parmesan, if desired.
Besides having pumpkin actually in the pasta, pumpkin can be mixed with the pasta. I love to make a spicy sauce with vegan butter, shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, sage, and pumpkin puree. Then I toss penne into the sauce and top it with vegan feta and chopped hazelnuts. For other recipes, try this Pumpkin Sage Pasta and Creamy Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagna. I also like to use cashews and pumpkin puree to make the most Decadent Mac and Cheese.
7. Pumpkin Burgers and Sides
We all know that we can make burgers out of almost any vegetable, and pumpkin is no exception. These Amazing Vegan Pumpkin Burgers are made with pumpkin, mushroom and sundried tomatoes. They are soft, sweet and delicious. Everyone also knows that the perfect side dish for a burger is fries, but what about pumpkin fries?
Yes, instead of potatoes, try making fries with pumpkin. All you have to do is cut a pumpkin in half and remove all the seeds. Using a potato peeler, remove the skin from the pumpkin. Cut the pumpkins into ¼” – ½ “strips, depending how thick you want your fries. Toss the fries in a bit of vegetable oil and your favorite seasonings. My choice is spicy with a mix of ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Arrange the fries on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the fries in a 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until crisp, flipping halfway through. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce. For another incredible side dish, make these Smokey Pumpkin Grits with Maple Roasted Pepitas. Pumpkin pies don’t always have to be sweet. Go savory with this Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Shiitake Mushroom Streusel. That’s my kind of pie!
8. Pumpkin Breads
Pumpkin comes in very handy for baking as just ¼ cup of pumpkin puree can replace one egg for binding. Adding pumpkin also adds delicious flavor. In this Pumpkin and Maple Spice Quickbread, the pumpkin is warmed with fragrant spices. These toasty, golden Spicy Vegan Pumpkin Flatbreads are perfect alongside your favorite Indian dish (like the Sanbar mentioned above). Spice up your usual cornbread by making this Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cornbread Squares.
9. Pumpkin Desserts
Pumpkin is probably best known for being used in desserts. Of course, there are delicious pumpkin pies; let me suggest a few. Try this Simple and Healthy Pecan Pumpkin Pie, The World’s Healthiest Pumpkin Pie, and this amazing Chocolate Pumpkin Pie. If you prefer to not bake, go for this No-Bake Coconut Pumpkin Pie, this Raw Vegan Pumpkin Pie and this Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie with Gingersnap Cookie Crust. Pies aren’t the only pumpkin desserts. Make these Simplicity Chocolate Pumpkin Bars and these Pumpkin Bean Bars. There are Pumpkin Scones, Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies and Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Swirl Brownies. Can’t choose between pumpkin pie and cheesecake? Don’t worry, you don’t have to. Have the best of both with this Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust, Hazelnut Pumpkin Cheesecake, and these Raw Vegan Pumpkin Mini-Cheesecakes. Indulge with this Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Bundt Cake and this Apple Pumpkin Pie Tart.
You are going to want to sit down for these next few desserts. Try these Golden Vegan Pumpkin Phyllo Rolls in Agave/Maple Syrup with Roasted Apples and Hazelnuts and this raw Pumpkin Cashew Cream Cake with Chocolate Sauce. It isn’t all about cakes and pies. There are these incredible Pumpkin Spice Doughnut Holes, this Pumpkin Ice Cream and Brownie Parfait and you can even make your own Pumpkin Nut Butter Cups.
10. Don’t Forget the Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are the added bonus of using fresh pumpkins. They are super-healthy with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. To make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: put the pumpkin seeds in a colander and rinse to remove all the pumpkin strings. Dry the seeds in a towel. Transfer the seeds to a baking sheet. Drizzle with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt. You can also add whatever spices you like to jazz up the seeds. Toss to coat and arrange the seeds in a single layer. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir the seeds and roast another 5-10 minutes. After 5 minutes, check a couple of seeds. The insides cook before the outsides look cooked. If you roast the seeds until the outsides look cooked, the insides will be overcooked. Use the pumpkin seeds to make this Zucchini Pasta with Pumpkin Seeds and Garlic and this Pumpkin Seed Pesto.
There are so many ideas for cooking with pumpkin. The next time you think about drawing faces on pumpkins, make them happy faces – just like yours will be when you try these amazing pumpkin recipes.
Image Source: Simplicity Chocolate Pumpkin Bars