Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Cook Pumpkin for Pies & Breads

A long time ago I was taught how to cook up a pumpkin for pie. I love pumpkin pies, and I really can not get enough of them.

Every fall I cook a year's worth of pumpkin, portion it out and freeze it. This is a really easy but time consuming project. Once you taste a pie made from fresh pumpkin you will never settle for less!

back to basics


First thing you should do is pick the kind of pumpkin you want. I did not take pictures of this, but I wish I had. There are different types of pumpkin but the most common will be Pie Pumpkins and Large Pumpkins.

  • Pie Pumpkins: These are smaller and sweeter to taste. You can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, but these will yield less pumpkin goo.

  • Large Pumpkins, or Jack O Lantern Pumpkins: These are larger, and less sweet.  They are more common and have a stronger gourd taste. If you increase the brown sugar in the recipe it really brings out the flavor. This is my favorite, if nothing else because of volume.

Other Pumpkins:

I have never used these before so I do not know anything about them. Feel free to experiment. I am sure the cooking would be the same. Here are some of the ones I have seen.

  • White Pumpkins

  • Heirloom Pumpkins
I am sure there are far more varieties then most people know. Keep in mind, a pumpkin is just a winter squash, so you can use it in any squash recipe! I LOVE pumpkin! Be sure to try my Pumpkin Stir fry recipe too!

Once you decide what kind you want you get to cook it!

There are many methods to cooking pumpkin and I have tried at least most of them. This is my preferred method.

First I cut the top of the pumpkin off, like you would a jack o lantern. After cutting off any usable pumpkin from the top I just throw it away. Next I cut the pumpkin in half cleaning out the seeds and goo.

You will quickly learn that pumpkin is a little harder to cut than you expect. I suggest using a very sharp knife with a comfortable grip.

Cut the pumpkin into cubes, about the size you would for potatoes, or a little larger. Once cut toss into a large stock pot and fill with water. I also add salt so that it will cook a little faster.

As you see I have kept the dark skin on the pumpkin. That is because it is difficult to remove raw. I have destroyed so many knives and potato peelers trying to remove it.

I prefer to only fill the stock pot half way, and cook fewer pieces at a time. I find it takes just as long to cook fewer all day as it does to fill the pot. You get your temperature up faster this way and the pieces cook quickly.

To check if the pieces are done I insert a knife into the chunks. If it's soft enough to go through, it's done. Once soft I strain it with a colander and and let it cool.

When cool I use a simple table knife to cut the dark skin off. It is not harmful to eat but it does not blend well and does not digest well either. I think it makes for ugly pumpkin goo.

When I am making my Honey Pumpkin and Shrimp Stir Fry I stop the process here. You can eat the pumpkin like any other squash at this point!

If you want to make pumpkin goo there is one more very simple step.

Mash the Pumpkin! I use a food processor.

In the past I have used mixers, and blenders too. I have even used a non electric hand mixer before. All of these have about the same results. I suggest avoiding blenders though, because they get hard to clean and turn out to be more mess and hassle. I mash them just like I do potatoes.

As you see, this really is easy. The bigger the pumpkin, the longer it takes. If you use a lot like I do, a full day of pumpkin cooking is worth it. If you use less you can get a smaller one and only spend an hour or two.

Cooking With Fresh Pumpkin Tips:

  • This method of pumpkin cooking makes the pumpkin watery. You may want to reduce the liquids in the recipe, or strain the pumpkin overnight.

  • Fresh pumpkin is lighter in color than canned. Your pies will not have the same rich color as store bought ones. This is also a way to tell if they used fresh pumpkin or not.

  • Unfrozen pumpkin goes bad quickly. It is important to freeze right away. Remember you did not add preservatives.

  • Once thawed out, use within 24-48 hours. As with all things, if it smells bad throw it out!

  • Cooked, frozen pumpkin in a deep freeze can last a year. Most people say only 6 months. I have kept mine for a year, but if it gets freezer burn it does not taste as good. After a year it sometimes smells bad once it is thawed out.


  1. You might try roasting pumpkin in the oven next time and save the work/time spent cutting it up! If small you can leave it whole, just jab it a few times with a knife. if large, half it and lay cut side down on cookie sheet. 350 degrees until fork tender. Start checking after 45 min.
    Yum, pumpkin pie, bread, pancakes, cookies. . .. :-D

  2. I have done that, but I tend to end up hurting myself