As the air turns crisp and the seasons change from summer to fall, it’s that time of year when new seasonal foods take the spotlight. Homemade pumpkin puree is a staple ingredient for some of our favorite fall treats! For years I used canned stuff not knowing how easy it is to make my own homemade pumpkin puree. It’s one of those things, that once you taste the real thing, you’ll never go back!
Choosing a Pumpkin
This time of year, the stores are full of pumpkins! Big ones, small ones, white ones, and even some oddly shaped ones! While most any pumpkin will do, the pumpkins with the best flavor for making homemade puree are sugar pumpkins. You might have heard them called pie pumpkins. These small pumpkins can usually be found in the produce section of your local grocery store. Any farmer’s market will carry them this time of the year. These small pumpkins are sweeter and less fibrous than large carving pumpkins. While I have made pumpkin puree from large pumpkins, the pumpkin flesh will not have the same sweet flavor as a sugar pumpkin.
Baking a Pumpkin is as Easy as Pie
Pumpkin is one of the easiest things to bake! As you begin to prepare your pumpkin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Next complete these simple steps to prepare your pumpkin for baking.
It’s always best practice to wash any produce you purchase. Once washed, simply slice the whole pumpkin in half. If you choose to bake a larger pumpkin, you can slice the halves into smaller pieces that will fit better on a sheet pan.
Once the pumpkin is cut, it’s time to gut the pumpkin. Using a large spoon, remove the seeds and fibers inside the pumpkin as best as you can. If you enjoy roasted pumpkin seeds, you can set these aside for yourself. However, they make a tasty treat for many animals on the homestead.
For easy cleanup, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Oil the paper with your choice of healthy oil. I used avocado oil, but olive oil is a great choice. Place the pumpkin halves cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour. Baking time will be based on the size of the pumpkin. If baking pumpkin pieces, it does not matter if they are placed skin side up or down on the tray.
To test doneness, pierce the pumpkin with a fork. The pumpkin is done when the flesh is soft and tender. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Removing the Pumpkin Skin
Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, there are several ways to remove the pure pumpkin puree. Removing the cooked pumpkin is simple, using a spoon, scoop the flesh out. If the pumpkin is cut into slices, the pumpkin skin can be peeled off. Sometimes if you grab the outer shell of the pumpkin, it will lift off in one piece, leaving behind the soft cooked pumpkin. Scoop out any pumpkin puree left inside. If you find any seeds left in the soft pumpkin, simply remove them and add them to the compost bin.
Please note, sometimes the edges of the pumpkin will have a brown appearance. The sugar in the pumpkin has caramelized during the baking process. You can remove this if you choose.
Easy Homemade Pumpkin Puree
Processing the pumpkin puree is really up to personal preference and intention for use. I don’t do anything special at all to my pumpkin puree. I like the texture of fresh pumpkin puree exactly the way it comes out of the oven. If the pumpkin has clumps in it, you can use a potato masher or spoon to break them up. Some homestead cooks like a creamy texture and use a food processor to make the pumpkin into a smooth puree. I don’t find that much effort is necessary to make a delicious pumpkin puree that is suitable for almost any recipe.
Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree
- Fresh Sugar Pumpkin (or any pumpkin or winter squash of your choice.)
- Oil of your choice, I prefer olive or avocado oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash fresh pumpkin.
- Depending on the size of the pumpkin, cut in half or slices.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional).
- Drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil on the baking sheet.
- Place the pumpkin, cut side down on the prepared tray. If you have cut the pumpkin into slice, cut side up or down is fine.
- Bake pumpkin for 45 minutes to one hour. This will vary based on the size of your pumpkin.
- Check for doneness by piercing the pumpkin with a fork. Its done when the pumpkin is soft and easy to pierce. If the pumpkin halves are different in size, check both, as a larger one may take longer.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Once cool to touch, scoop out the pumpkin puree.
- Mash any clumps of pumpkin puree with a potato masher or spoon. For extra smooth texture, run through a food processor (optional)
- Homemade pumpkin puree can be stored in an airtight container for 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator. Otherwise package in useable portions and freeze.
Some winter squash are very hard, you can bake them whole and remove seeds after.
Using Pumpkin Puree
Now that the pumpkin is baked, use the pure pumpkin puree in your favorite pumpkin recipes. Simply measure out exactly what you need and add it to your recipe. One of my favorite recipes is Homemade Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting. This recipe is included in the Kowalski Mountain Subscriber’s Library. Not a member? Sign up here to access all our favorite recipes, eBooks, and free printables.
Storing Pumpkin Puree
Once the pumpkin is cooked, store it in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days in an airtight container. If you need to store it longer, freezing is recommended. I measure my pumpkin puree into the amounts normally used in my favorite pumpkin recipes. If you are not sure what that might be, a can of pumpkin is 15 ounces, which is likely a good amount for most recipes. I measure 2 cups of pumpkin puree and add it to freezer bags. Once you have pushed out all the air and sealed it, smooth the bag of pumpkin flat in the bag, so it will store well in the freezer. Be sure to label and date!
Another option is to measure into an ice cube tray and freeze. We like Pumpkin Spice Syrup from my friend Julie at Capturing Wonderland. This recipe uses only 4 tablespoons of pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree frozen in ice cube trays is easy to portion when it’s time to whip up another batch.
It is not recommended by the National Center of Home Preservation to can pumpkin puree. Fresh pumpkins can be canned in the pressure canner. The Complete Home Canning Guide is my favorite canning cookbook. Full instructions can be found on page 4-18 of this free online publication, or purchase your own color copy.
I have processed fresh pumpkin in this way. Freezing pumpkin puree is definitely my favorite method. I canned pumpkin in quart jars, it took two jars of canned fresh pumpkin to equal 2 cups of pumpkin puree. To use the pumpkin, you must strain out all the water. Once strained, you mash the pumpkin. While canning fresh pumpkin does work, I found it to be a messy experience that is not worth the effort.
if you grow your own pumpkins or winter squash, I would store them whole in a root cellar or cold room instead of processing them. Bake fresh pumpkin as needed
Not Just for Pumpkin
These same baking instructions can be used for any winter squash. If you like buttercup squash, butternut squash, kabocha, or spaghetti squash. Baking time may vary based on the size of your squash.
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.