As Halloween approaches, you’ll find a galore of these orange, white and multicolored gourds greeting you at farmers markets, aisle displays and even front yard porches. When we see pumpkins, the image of grinning Jack-o-lanterns and autumn displays often come to mind, but pumpkins can be used for more than delightful or frightening seasonal carved decor.
Pumpkins are incredibly versatile and can be transformed into a variety of delicious dishes. Join us as we explore 10 creative ways to use pumpkin in your culinary creations, from savory to sweet treats, so you can make the most of this autumnal superstar.
Can I use any pumpkin?
Is there a difference in pumpkins? Technically, yes. Carving pumpkins are the larger pumpkins you usually see in the bins outside of supermarkets. These are great pumpkins to use for Jack-o'-lantern carvings. They are also edible. However, if you are looking for a more flavorful pumpkin taste, we recommend using culinary ones.
Culinary pumpkins, also known as sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins, have a sweeter and smoother flesh, making them ideal for cooking and baking due to better flavors and texture.
If a carving pumpkin is all you have on hand, don’t fret. You can still use carving pumpkins for recipes if that's what you have available. Keep in mind though the texture of these pumpkins is often more fibrous and stringy. When roasted, you’ll want to ensure you puree them fully. Carving pumpkins also have a milder flavor and are less sweet than culinary pumpkins, meaning you may need to adjust some seasonings to balance out the flavors in your favorite pumpkin recipes.
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
If you’re planning on carving pumpkins this year, make sure you save the seeds! Roasting pumpkin seeds is an excellent way to make use of the whole pumpkin and reduce food waste. Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are packed with essential nutrients, health benefits and make a tasty and nutritious snack or toppings for salads and soups.
Toasting pumpkin seeds is easy and can be done in the microwave, on the stovetop or in the oven. If you have a sweet tooth, try a recipe that uses maple syrup or honey, with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar or cinnamon spices. Personally, we prefer savory seeds, and like experimenting with different spice blends from ranch dressing mix, tajin, curry powder, garlic salt and more.
Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
Kick off your morning routine with everyone’s favorite fall drink, the pumpkin spice latte, or PSL as we’ve come to know it. This easy recipe can boost your day or serve as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up throughout the fall.
Start off by brewing your normal cup of coffee, add steamed milk, a spoonful of pumpkin puree (yep, that’s it), and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie and cinnamon spices. Sweeten to taste. If you want to feel indulgent, you can also top it off with whipped cream for an extra treat.
If PSL’s are one of your favorite morning sips, then carry this flavor forward all year long by freezing up small batches of pureed pumpkin and pulling them out as needed.
Keeping with the breakfast theme, you can upgrade your breakfast routine with fluffy pumpkin pancakes. Simply add ½ cup pumpkin puree (1 cup if you really like pumpkin) to your go-to pancake batter, along with a few sprinkles of fall spices like cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, ground cloves or allspice. For a little zing, try adding ginger!
Make the recipe yours and add in any additional mixings such as pecans, walnuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter, blueberries, roasted diced pears or candied ginger. Serve with maple syrup and a dollop of butter, pumpkin butter or whipped cream.
Give traditional hummus a fall twist by adding pumpkin puree to the mix. The result is a creamy, slightly sweet dip that pairs perfectly with pita bread and vegetable sticks. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds for an extra crunch.
Pumpkin and Spinach Salad
Create a vibrant and nutritious salad by adding some pumpkin. For this recipe, you want to swap out your pumpkin puree with diced or sliced pumpkin that has been roasted until tender in the oven. Roast the pumpkin as is, or add a little flavor kick by tossing your pumpkin in a little cinnamon and sugar, or opt for a more savory seasoning mix of chili powder, garlic salt and cayenne.
Once your roasted pumpkin has had an opportunity to chill, you can toss it together with fresh spinach or mixed greens, toasted walnuts or pepitas, crumbled feta cheese, and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and oil. It's a perfect blend of flavors and textures.
Creamy Pumpkin Soup
Warm, comforting, and velvety, pumpkin soup is a fall favorite and one that can warm you up as temps start to change. Start by roasting or steaming larger cubes of pumpkin until they are soft. Blend the cubes with sautéed onions, garlic, vegetable or chicken broth, and a touch of cream or a dollop of Crème Fraîche. Season with nutmeg, cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne for a delightful twist.
For a hearty and flavorful vegetarian option, try a pumpkin curry. Simmer chunks of pumpkin in a rich tomato-based curry sauce with spices like cumin, coriander and turmeric. Although it’s vegetarian, we promise you it will not disappoint. Serve it over rice or with warm naan bread. It is a great change of pace and a dish that will delight your taste buds.
Pumpkin puree can also be incorporated into pasta dishes for a creamy and comforting twist. Combine cooked pasta or some cheese ravioli with a sauce made from pumpkin puree, heavy cream, grated Parmesan cheese and sage. Garnish with toasted pine nuts for extra flavor and crunch.
If you want to challenge yourself, try making stuffed pumpkin ravioli from scratch. These little pillowy bites can then be quickly boiled before finishing off in a pan of toasted brown butter. Serve it garnished with roasted, diced pumpkin, a sprinkle of toasted pepitas, fresh grated parmesan and a few fried sage leaves.
Add depth and creaminess to your risotto by stirring in pumpkin puree during the cooking process. The pumpkin not only enhances the texture but also imparts a subtle earthy sweetness to the dish. Top it with crispy pancetta or sautéed mushrooms for some extra flair.
Pumpkin Ice Cream
For a cool and creamy treat, make homemade pumpkin ice cream. Mix pumpkin puree, heavy cream, sugar and spices. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and let it do the hard work. The result is a delightful autumn dessert that can be enjoyed as is or served alongside a slice of pie.
The versatile pumpkin is truly more than just a symbol of fall. From savory soups and hearty pastas to sweet pies and lattes, pumpkin recipes offer something for every palate. Whether you're craving comfort food or a festive treat, these recipes showcase the incredible diversity of this humble gourd.
So, this season, don't just carve your pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns, carve out some time to explore the delectable world of pumpkin cuisine and savor the flavors of autumn in every bite.