The best part of fall? Hands down, the delicious pumpkin-flavored treats. Whether in lattes, pies, soups or pizza, pumpkin is one versatile ingredient. And look, we totally get it—picking up a can of pumpkin puree at the store is super convenient. But if you’re feeling fancy (or want to seriously impress your dinner guests), making your own doesn’t have to be that much more difficult. Here, how to cook a pumpkin in five easy steps.
First: Choose the Best Pumpkin
When selecting your gourd, look for a small pumpkin with a deep orange hue and few or no green spots or blemishes. You want to pick “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins.” (They might also be called Cinderella pumpkins, Lumina pumpkins or peanut pumpkins at your grocery store.) These guys are smaller and sweeter than the larger and stringier “carving pumpkins” typically used for jack-o’-lanterns. For reference, a five-pound pumpkin will yield about two cups of puree.
If you’re not planning on cooking your pumpkin right away, store it in a cool space (around 50°F to 65°F), where it should last a couple of weeks. When you’re ready for pie, you have two options: You can either bake or boil your pumpkin.
How to Bake a Pumpkin
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Wash your pumpkin and cut it in half lengthwise. Remove all of the seeds and stringy parts with a spoon or ice cream scoop.
3. Brush the pumpkin with a little bit of olive oil and place it flesh side down on the baking sheet. Pierce the skin with a fork or knife to allow steam to escape.
4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes (for a two- to three-pound pumpkin) or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the pumpkin to cool for at least ten minutes before scooping out the flesh.
5. Your pumpkin is now ready to eat, or you can turn it into a puree (if you’re making a pie, for example). For recipes that require pumpkin puree, place the flesh in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
How to Boil a Pumpkin
1. Wash your pumpkin and cut it in half.
2. Remove the seeds and strings. Peel the gourd (this might require a little bit of elbow grease) and cut into pieces.
3. Place the pumpkin chunks in a large pot filled with water.
4. Boil until the pumpkin is soft (this should take about 20 minutes).
5. Drain well and puree in a high-speed blender or food processor until nice and creamy.
How to Store Homemade Pumpkin Puree
You can keep baked pumpkin and pumpkin puree covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. You can also store it covered in the freezer for about a month.
7 Ways to Use Pumpkin
It’s a must-have for pumpkin pie, but that’s not the only way to enjoy this glorious gourd. Why not start off with something savory like pumpkin soup or pumpkin polenta? Or give your kids a lunchbox treat with these biscuit-dough pumpkin hand pies. Another family-friendly favorite? This pumpkin pizza crust recipe. Then, top it all off with pumpkin cream cheese bread or pumpkin cheesecake cookies. We just love fall, don’t you?