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How to Cook a Raw Pumpkin

Cooked pumpkin in a bowl
The easy way to make DIY pumpkin puree.
By Natalie Boike

Okay. I must admit I’m one to take the canned pumpkin shortcut. It’s so easy to simply open the can and start baking. BUT, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as roasting the real deal on your own. And it’s really not that complicated. Here’s how to get it done in about 45 minutes. Then, you’re free to make pies, breads and more with your delicious yield.

Cooked pumpkin in a bowl

Pick Your Pumpkin

Now, if you’re just going after the seeds, the type of pumpkin doesn’t matter. But we’re for-sure eating this one, so pick up a Sugar or Pie Pumpkin. They’re a bit smaller than the carving pumpkins you see all over every fall and they actually have a thicker flesh and lower water quantity. This means less work and more pumpkin for you. Win-win. If you’re roasting more than one pumpkin at a time, try to get similar sizes so the baking time is the same for both.

Prepare Your Gourd

Do a quick wash of your pumpkins, then slice them cleanly in half. I find a sharp kitchen knife works best; no need to use a special serrated blade. Now use a sturdy spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits of flesh.

Season the inside of the pumpkins by rubbing the flesh with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Then place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. I recommend lining it with aluminum foil or parchment for easier clean up later.

Pumpkins, cut in half, on a baking sheet

Just Bake It!

Now, just like with any vegetable, there are a lot of methods for cooking a pumpkin out there. You can microwave, steam or boil it, but honestly a simple roast is the easiest and cleanest option.

Simply place your prepared pumpkins in an oven preheated to 400°F. Set a timer and do something fun with the kids while you wait, or treat yourself to an episode of your favorite streaming TV show. The point here is that it’s hands-off cook time. No pot to watch here!

Check the pumpkin for doneness after about 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when a sharp knife easily and cleanly pierces the skin and flesh. The pumpkin will look kind of caramelized and slightly deflated.

Do the Pumpkin Mash

Let the pumpkin cool a bit more before handling. Then turn the halves over and scoop out the tender pumpkin goodness.

Scoop out pumpkin an put in a pan

Take one of those old-fashioned potato mashers, one of my hardest-working kitchen tools, and go to town. You can get out a food processor or blender at this point, but a little elbow grease does the job with fewer dishes to clean.

Mashed pumpkin

Now, you can portion into storage containers and refrigerate or freeze for later use. Or get to making up one of your favorite fall recipes. (Psst: You can use this fresh puree in any recipe that calls for the canned stuff.)



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