how to process a pumpkin

Chances are pretty good that you’re in possession of a pumpkin right now, and if you’re not, you probably plan to be shortly. Maybe you’ve already strapped on your gumboots and been out to your local pumpkin patch, or maybe you’ve picked up a pumpkin or two at your favourite farmer’s market. Consider this less of a recipe and more of a public service announcement . . . that pumpkin? It’s food! The internets are flooded with pumpkin recipes at this time of year, but sadly, the bulk of those recipes are calling for canned pumpkin puree at a time of year that the fields are dotted with orange. And even more sadly, most households are in possession of at least one pumpkin, maybe multiple pumpkins, which will be carved into scary faces and stuffed with candles to the delight of Halloween enthusiasts young and old, and then left to rot once the festivities come to an end. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can enjoy your pumpkins, carved up and spooky and with all the whimsy the season has to offer, and then when November rolls around, or sooner if you want, you can process your pumpkins.

I processed a pumpkin last week because I needed pumpkin puree for our delayed Canadian Thanksgiving festivities in Stockholm. I used it in pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie, a sadly failed and ultimately abandoned batch of pumpkin gnocci (it was the right thing to do), and there was some left to be frozen in 1 cup portions for baking. I started with a 4kg pumpkin, and was left with around 8 cups of pumpkin puree. I’ll likely process at least one more while the pumpkins are still in the stores.

I started with a whole pumpkin, but you can still process a pumpkin that you’ve already carved up for Halloween purposes – and the good news is if that’s the case, the hardest part is already done. You’ll want to give the insides a bit of a scrape if they’ve been sitting around for a while, so you’ve exposed a fresh layer of flesh. If you’re starting with a fresh pumpkin, begin by taking off the top, splitting it in half, and then scooping the seeds and stringy bits out. I used an ice cream scoop with a nice sharp edge, and the innards came out quickly and cleanly.

If you’ve got a roasting pan you can fit your entire pumpkin in, then use it. I had to cut my pumpkin into quarters to fit it in the pan. Depending on the size of your oven and the size of your pumpkin, you may be able to fit in in a pan or on a cookie sheet in two halves. If you use a cookie sheet, use one with rims; the pumpkin is going to release a lot of liquid while it’s roasting. Whatever which way you end up fitting your pumpkin in the oven, you want it to be skin side up, cut side down. The skin will trap steam inside as it roasts, and the pumpkin will cook faster than if you put it skin side down.

While the pumpkin is roasting, you can decide if you want to do anything with the seeds; I normally can’t be bothered. Roasted pumpkin seeds always seem like they’re going to be a good idea, and just don’t seem worth the effort in the end. Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkin seeds and they’ve got great nutritional value, I just prefer them already roasted and shelled is all. They never seem to turn out quite right when I roast them myself, so I’ve basically given up. But if you’ve got a great trick for pumpkin seeds and you want to prove me wrong, by all means, send the recipe my way and I’ll give it a try.

*updated! Duh, I totally love the seeds! I just rinse them well, pat dry, toss with a bit of olive oil and sea salt, and then throw them in the oven to roast along side with the pumpkin. Super yummy!

Roast your pumpkin in a 400 F oven, for about an hour, or until the pumpkin has collapsed, and the skin is blistered and pulling away from the flesh. There should also be some liquid in the bottom of your pan; the amount will vary depending on how long it has been since your pumpkin left the pumpkin patch. A very fresh pumpkin can hold an amazing amount of liquid.

Once your pumpkin has cooled sufficiently so that you can handle it,  peel the skin off of the flesh. The skin should come off quite easily; I normally start at the edge or by pulling up on a blistered section, and it will come off in strips. Place your pumpkin flesh into a container of some sort, and decide what you’re going to do with it next. If the pumpkin is really liquidy , you may want to let it sit for a while and drain off some of the liquid before you do anything else. Once the pumpkin is cooled I normally mash or puree it, and then portion it into 1 cup servings and freeze for baking. Pumpkin isn’t acidic enough to safely can it in a water bath canner, so unless you’ve got a high pressure canner at home that can reach the extreme temperatures necessary to ensure safety, don’t do it. Botulism is not your friend. Trust me, just freeze it.
You should end up with, depending on the size of your pumpkin, several portions of pumpkin puree that you can freeze and pull out when the mood strikes for pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, muffins, loaves, etc. Don’t let that Halloween pumpkin go to waste! It’s food!
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2010


  1. says

    THANK you for the processing tutorial. I wanted to make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies this weekend, but for some reason I couldn’t find any canned puree in stores. When I got home and saw the pumpkins on the stoop, I thought “Hmmmm…..”.

    I went the steaming route to make my puree (our baby food making training never really leaves us, I guess), and it turned out a tad bit too liquidy for my taste. But it’s all good! I’ve got 3 more pumpkins on the stoop! Perfect pumpkin puree will be mine!

    • says

      I did the steaming thing the first time I processed a pumpkin for baking too! It was so tedious cutting it all up, and then so liquidy I had to strain in a cheesecloth before it was usable. This is much more efficient, and a fantastic end product. Enjoy!

  2. heather says

    The farmer’s market in Vancouver has “sugar pumpkins” as well as the ordinary kind. Are the sugar ones (I think that’s what they call them ) better for baking than the regular ones? I think until I have more time on my hands i will continue to use the canned stuff, except perhaps the hallowe’en pumpkin, and learn to make your delicious homemade pasta. I promise not to touch your machine till you are here to supervise!

  3. says

    “Sugar Pumpkins” are a little sweeter than the Halloween pumpkins, but I more often than not end up processing the Halloween kind for baking. It’s what I’ve made my pumpkin pies with the last several years.

  4. Dennis says

    Just made a great big batch of lasagna in that All Clad Lasagna pan that you are using to roast pumpkin…all because of your post. Not pumpkin today…but your pumpkin recipe looks a lot easier. Mine required most of my pots and pans…including the blancher to blanch those ready to use lasagna strips I got at Duso’s. So my question is…What if I didn’t blanch them for a minute? Would they be just as cooked and tender from the oven?
    I love this method of preparing pumpkin. Roasted veggies are so much sweeter.

    • says

      That lasagna required a lot of pots too, with the sauce and home made ricotta and cooking the noodles. If you got your noodles from Dusso’s, then they’re fresh, right? No need to blanch them, just put them in, and they’ll cook in the heat and liquid of your lasagna. When I make fresh lasagna noodles with my pasta rollers, I don’t do anything at all to them before I put them in the dish. So yes, they’d be just as cooked and tender if you skipped that step.

  5. says

    Great and very useful posting, Katie. We applaud anything that inspires more people to cook (and with ‘real’ food). We just had to add you to our blogroll. Keep up the great work.

  6. says

    Great lesson on how to process a pumpkin…I noticed my local grocery store has pumpkins ( the Halloween kind, overbought, I guess) on sale for 50 cents each…holy cow, I’m going back and buying a couple and then putting your lesson to use…thanks!

  7. says

    Great info!
    I have actually hit on two things this year that have revolutionized pumpkin seeds for me ->
    1) I’m tossing them in a little bit of oil before adding whatever seasonings I’m using. This causes the seasonings to stick to the seeds instead of just floating around on the baking sheet. I’ve done basic salt and pepper, but also an incredibly yummy pumpkin pie flavor! (used nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and a touch of brown sugar) I have *not* been using any oil on the pan.
    2) I’ve been doing them at 250 (fahrenheit) for an hour instead of a higher temp for 20 or 30 minutes. Turning ~every 20 mins.

    • says

      I should really edit that post – immediately after posting last year I decided to give the pumpkin seeds a chance and I actually really liked them! I also like to toss in oil and then seasonings and toast away. I’ll be sure to try your pumpkin pie version out!

  8. Stephanie says

    Ok, my pumpkin is in the oven! I think the boys will like pumpkin muffins! Excited. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. Krista says

    Thanks for the recipe Katie! I picked up a pumpkin at a grocery store Halloween afternoon cuz they were giving them away. Didn’t carve it, now it has roasted and ready to go into the ReBar cookbook’s Lasagne Rio Grande instead of zucchini.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *