How to Cook a Whole Pumpkin: Homemade Pumpkin Puree

One of my favorite things to do every fall is to make homemade pumpkin puree.  I tried it for the first time five years ago, and I haven’t bought a can of pumpkin since!

It really isn’t any more difficult to cook a pumpkin than it is any other squash.  I think that canned pumpkin is just so accessible that it has become what most people instantly think of when a recipe calls for pumpkin.

The best kinds of pumpkins to make pumpkin puree out of are the smaller pumpkins.  They’re usually called pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins, and they are really cute!  The reason that they are great for making pumpkin puree, is because they are sweeter and less stringy than the larger pumpkins that most people use for carving.

I have tried several different methods for cooking whole pumpkins.  I’ve steamed them in small chunks, cut them in half and baked them, and even microwaved them before (I don’t recommend that one!).  Out of all the different methods I’ve tried, the one that I’m going to share with you today is my favorite.  To me it’s the easiest, and I like easy!

How to Cook a Whole Pumpkin

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash off your pumpkin, and then cut off the stem if it’s too tall to fit into the oven.  In these pictures I was making two pumpkins and I had to cut the stem off of one, but the other one was short enough to leave on.

With a very sharp knife or a metal skewer, poke several holes in the pumpkin all the way around.

Place your pumpkin on a baking sheet or in a baking pan and pour a small amount of water in the bottom of the pan.

Put the pan with your pumpkin into the oven and cook until it is tender.  This time can vary greatly depending on the size of your pumpkin.  My pumpkins here were around 5 pounds each and they took about an hour and a half to cook.

Smaller pumpkins would take less time and larger pumpkins would take more.  You want to cook them until you can very easily insert a knife or a fork into the pumpkin.

When your pumpkin is done cooking, pull it out of the oven very carefully.  It will be hot!

At this point, you can let it cool down for a little while or you can go ahead and cut it in half (which will speed the cooling process up).

Once you have cut the pumpkin in half and it is cool enough to handle, start scooping out the seeds with a spoon.  They will come out very easily.

Don’t throw the seeds away!  Save them all in a bowl and then roast them for a yummy snack!  Here’s a tutorial that shows you exactly how to do it.

Once all of the seeds and strings are scraped out of your pumpkin, you can start scooping out the pumpkin flesh.  It should come right out of the skin with a spoon.

Scoop out all of the pumpkin flesh until all you are left with is the skin.  You can throw that away or compost it.

Once you have scooped out all of the pumpkin flesh, process it (in batches if needed) in a food processor or blender.  I have a Blendtec that does a great job at pureeing the pumpkin.  If you don’t have a high power blender though, I would recommend using a food processor.

And that’s it!  Very easy, right?

You can keep the pumpkin puree in your refrigerator for up to a week, or you can keep it in the freezer for up to a year.

Notes:

  • The two pumpkins that I used in these pictures were around 5 pounds each.  That is on the larger side for a pie pumpkin, but they still turned out great.  I got around 16 cups of puree from both pumpkins, so around 8 cups per pumpkin.
  • Use your fresh pumpkin puree the same way you would use canned pumpkin in all of your favorite recipes.  I have a list of recipes below if you are looking for ideas.

What are some of your favorite ways to use pumpkin?  Leave links in the comments below to some of your favorite recipes!