It’s that time of year when the weather gets cooler, the leaves begin changing colors and the world has a love affair with pumpkins. That’s the true sign that autumn has arrived. Suddenly, every recipe seems to have pumpkin in it, from drinks to pies, from soups to stews, from breakfasts to desserts.
Of course, Halloween decorations, especially jack o’ lanterns, are popping up all over but do you know how to pick the right pumpkin for carving versus cooking? And while you can just buy a can of pumpkin puree, cooking pumpkin from scratch is easier than you think. If you’ve been wanting to jump on the pumpkin bandwagon, now’s the time. It’s pumpkin time! Here are some tips on how to cook with these orange beauties.
1. How to Choose a Pumpkin
When choosing a pumpkin for cooking, smaller is better because they have a smooth texture, dense flesh and taste sweeter. Baby Pam, Cinderella, Lumina, and Autumn Gold are good varieties to look for. Choose a pumpkin that weighs between four and eight pounds. Make sure there are no bruises, cuts or soft spots since that might mean the pumpkin has begun to rot. Check the bottom of the pumpkin since it may have been sitting on the damp ground and will begin rotting in that spot. Lastly, do not lift a pumpkin by its stem. The stem is not a handle. If it breaks, the pumpkin will start to go bad.
Why buy cans of pumpkin puree when it’s so easy to make your own? A medium-sized pumpkin can yield around 1 1/2-2 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 1/2 cup water to the baking dish. Roast the pumpkin halves at 400 degrees for one 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 including making pumpkin butter. Read How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Butter in 7 Easy Steps.
…Roast them for snacking and recipes. 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, if you want, 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 five 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 Creamy Pumpkin Seed Alfredo With Kale and Sweet Peas, Pumpkin Seed Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms and Fudgy Chocolate, Pistachio, and Pumpkin Seed Butter Cookies. More recipes with pepitas include this Toasted Pepita Breakfast Hash, Slow-Roasted Tomato and Pepita Pesto and Crispy, Crunchy Cornmeal and Pepita Onion Rings.
Nothing tastes better when the weather gets chilly than a bowl of warm, hearty soup or stew. This Creamy Pumpkin Soup and this Sweet Potato Pumpkin Soup are pure comfort in a bowl while this Moroccan Miso, Lentil, and Pumpkin Soup is vibrant and exotic.
This ‘Three Sisters’ Stew is kind of a stew and kind of a chili with a trio of squash, corn, and beans. 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 or try this Pumpkin Dal. This Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Chili is easy to make and will satisfy the hungriest family.
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 us inside and out – oatmeal is good for that, but it needs more flavor. These Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats solves that problem.
Other ways to have pumpkin for breakfast include Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Cookies, Cranberry and Pumpkin Breakfast Loaf, and Pumpkin Breakfast Loaf with Chocolate Drizzle. Add pumpkin to your pancake batter as in these Vegan Pumpkin Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup, Pumpkin, Apple and Pecan Pie Waffles, Yeasted Pumpkin Pancakes, and Vegan Pumpkin Pie Pancakes. If you prefer muffins, try these Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Nut Muffins and this Pumpkin-Coconut-Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Crumble.
While you may not stick a straw into a pumpkin and drink as you would with a coconut, pumpkin is a great addition to beverages. They add sweetness and yummy autumn flavor. Every coffee shop is offering pumpkin lattes but why pay top dollar for one when you can make your own! Read How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice Latte Without Nasty Ingredients and try this Pumpkin Green Latte.
Other delicious and healthy pumpkin beverages include this Spiced Pumpkin Eggnog, Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie, Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, Seriously Healthy Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, and this Pumpkin Protein Smoothie.
Adding pumpkin to any recipe will boost the flavor and the nutrition. 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 and they are soft, sweet and delicious. This Avocado Pumpkin Panini with Caramelized Onions is a delicious blend of flavors and textures.
Spice up your pumpkin with these Pumpkin Enchiladas which have both pumpkin and sweet potato along with Mexican spices. Pumpkin is delicious made into a pasta like this Pumpkin Gnocchi and this Pumpkin, Arugula and Vegan “Goat” Cheese Gnocchi. It’s also delicious added to pasta dishes like this Rye Spaghetti with Hazelnuts, Zucchini, and Pumpkin. This Red Lentil Curry With Black Tahini and Roasted Cashews also has pumpkin to add to its heartiness.
Pumpkin added to side dishes brings sweetness and vibrant color. Just look how beautiful these Easy Roasted Root Vegetables look with the bright orange pumpkin! These Super Simple Curried Pumpkin Fritters are easy and delicious. Swap potatoes for pumpkin and make crispy Pumpkin Fries. 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!
Pumpkin is probably best known for being used in desserts. Of course, there are delicious pumpkin pies; let me suggest a few. Try this Creamy Pumpkin-Coconut Pie that is vegan, sugar-free, and oil-free, as well as this Pumpkin Pie Recipe Everyone Will Love. Other pumpkin pies include 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, check out How to Make a Gluten-Free, No-Bake, Low Sugar, Vegan Mini Pumpkin Pie. Then make this No-Bake Coconut Pumpkin Pie, Raw Vegan Pumpkin Pie and this Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie with Gingersnap Cookie Crust.
Pie isn’t the only dessert to use pumpkin in. Pumpkin comes in very handy for baking as just 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree can replace one egg for binding. Adding pumpkin also adds delicious flavor and nothing smells as wonderful as the warm pumpkin pie spices used in baking. A great combination is chocolate and pumpkin. Try it with these Chocolate Cupcakes with Pumpkin Coconut Frosting and this Chocolate Chip Pecan Pumpkin Bread. These Peanut Butter Pumpkin Cookies are so good as are these Chocolate Frosted Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cookies and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars. More pumpkin desserts include Pumpkin Spice Doughnut Holes, Golden Vegan Pumpkin Phyllo Rolls in Agave/Maple Syrup with Roasted Apples and Hazelnuts, 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.
It’s isn’t all about cakes, pies and baking. Pumpkin can be used in candies and other treats. You’ll love this soft and silky Pumpkin Pudding. Get your chocolate fix with these Peanut Butter Pumpkin Truffles, Clean Eating Pumpkin and Pecan Fudge, Clean Eating Pumpkin Truffles, Pumpkin Ice Cream and Brownie Parfait and these Pumpkin Nut Butter Cups.
Whew! That’s a ton of recipes, but it’s just the beginning of all you can do with the beautiful pumpkin. No wonder Linus calls it The Great Pumpkin!
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Lead image source: Gluten-Free Vegan Pumpkin Cornbread Squares