Not sure about how to cook pumpkins? Roasted pumpkin is quick & easy, and today I’m going to show you how to cook a whole pumpkin, which you can use to make homemade pumpkin puree.
Which Pumpkin Is Best for Baking?
You won’t want to use the large carving pumpkins for baking; instead look for smaller pie pumpkins (also called sugar pumpkins) which are dense and darker in color.
How Do You Prepare a Pumpkin For Cooking?
First, you’ll scrub the outside of the pumpkin to remove any visible dirt. Then, you have two choices for preparation.
- Cook the pumpkin whole, without cutting it.
- Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, then roast it.
The first method is my preference when you want to make homemade pumpkin puree, because the inside doesn’t get dark and caramelized at all. Instead, the inside is steamed, leaving you with a bright orange flesh that’s easy to puree later.
Cooking a pumpkin whole also means you don’t need to struggle to cut through the tough shell while the pumpkin is raw.
When you roast pumpkin whole, it’s tender enough to be cut with a butter knife, and the seeds are easily scooped out, once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle.
How to Cook a Whole Pumpkin
Preheat your oven to 400ºF and have a baking sheet ready. Rinse off the pumpkin, then use a knife to stab the hard outer shell a few times, to allow for ventilation.
Place the pumpkin on the baking sheet (or use a square baking dish) and transfer to the oven. For a 2.5 to 3 pound pumpkin, it will need to roast for about 60 minutes at 400ºF.
The pumpkin is ready when the flesh is darker, and the skin can be easily pierced with a fork.
Cut the pumpkin in half, and allow to cool until cool enough to handle.
Use a large spoon to scrape out the seeds, and reserve them for another use. (Like making crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds!)
How to Cut a Pumpkin
To cut a pumpkin, I like to leave the stem in place, and cut right next to stem, as close to the center of the pumpkin as possible. This leaves you with one half that is slightly larger than the other, but in my experience, both sides will still bake evenly.
Alternatively, you can cut the pumpkin in half cross-wise, just like you do when cooking spaghetti squash, so one half with have the stem, and the other half won’t.
The perk of cutting a pumpkin before cooking it, is that it will cook faster, and you won’t have to scoop the seeds out later, when it’s hot from the oven. (The seeds are easier to clean the pulp off, if you scoop them out raw, too.)
How to Cook a Halved Pumpkin
If you’d prefer to cut your pumpkin in half first, it will shave off some of the cooking time later.
Plus, the pumpkin seeds are easier to clean from a raw pumpkin, compared to a cooked pumpkin. So, if you’re looking to snack on the seeds later, this method will make that process easier.
After you cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush the inside and edges of the pumpkin lightly with olive oil, then arrange the halves cut-side-down on the pan. (Line the pan with parchment paper, if you want to save yourself some clean-up later!)
Roast at 350ºF until tender, about 45 minutes for the average 2.5 to 3-pound sugar pumpkin.
Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle the pieces, then make pumpkin puree as directed below.
How to Make Pumpkin Puree
Once the pumpkin is cooked, scoop out the tender pumpkin flesh from the outer shell. It might be a little stringy at this point, so I like to transfer it to a food processor.
Briefly process the cooked pumpkin in the food processor, pulsing several times. Stop and scrape down the sides, as needed, until everything is very smooth.
You can add a splash of water, if needed, to help everything blend, but that shouldn’t be necessary in most cases.
How to Store It
Store the pumpkin puree in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week, and use it in your favorite pumpkin recipes! You could also freeze it to extend it’s shelf life indefinitely.
For a pumpkin that is roughly 2.5 to 3 pounds in weight, you should get about 3 cups of puree from cooking it. (Close to 2 cans worth!)
We’ll be using ours in my favorite pumpkin pie.
How to Cook Pumpkin (+ Make Puree)
- 1 (2 to 3 pound) sugar pumpkin
How to Cook a Whole Pumpkin
- Preheat your oven to 400ºF and have a rimmed baking dish ready.
- Rinse off the pumpkin, then use a knife to stab the hard outer shell several times, to allow for ventilation.
- Place the whole pumpkin on the rimmed baking dish, then transfer to the oven to roast until tender, about 60 minutes. (Smaller pumpkins may cook in only 45 minutes.) The pumpkin is ready when the outer shell is darker, and can be easily pierced with a fork.
- Cut the pumpkin in half, then allow to cool until you're able to handle it. Use a large spoon to scrape out the seeds, and reserve them for another use.
- Once the seeds are removed, use the spoon to scrape out the cooked, tender pumpkin from the shell. You can transfer this to a food processor to puree until very smooth, then use it in your favorite pumpkin recipes! Pumpkin puree can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week, or you can store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.
How to Cook a Halved Pumpkin
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut the pumpkin in half, lengthwise or crosswise, avoiding the stem to make the cutting process as easy as possible. (It's okay if the halves aren't perfectly equal in size.) I think it's easiest to cut the pumpkin in half crosswise, where it's hollow, rather than by the stem.
- Scoop out the seeds, then brush the halves lightly with olive oil, to help prevent too much browning around the edges. Arrange the halves cut-side-down on the pan.
- Roast at 350ºF until tender, about 45 minutes. A fork should easily piece through the shell, and it should look visibly darker in color.
- Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it, then scoop out the tender insides and puree in a food processor until smooth. Use the puree in your favorite pumpkin recipes! Cooked pumpkin can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months.
Update note: This was originally posted in November 2012, and has been updated October 2020 with new photos and more detailed instructions. I used to bake the pumpkin at 350ºF, but I’ve found the hotter oven temperature guarantees more tender results.
Need ideas for using up your freshly cooked pumpkin puree? Try one of the delicious recipes below!
- Pumpkin Smoothie
- Double Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins
- Paleo Pumpkin Muffins
- Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
- No-Bake Pumpkin Tarts
- Healthy Pumpkin Donuts
- Vegan Pumpkin Pie
- Creamy Pumpkin Tomato Soup
- Flourless Pumpkin Bars
- Gluten-free & Vegan Pumpkin Bars
If you try this roasted pumpkin method, please leave a comment below letting me know how it works for you! And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too. We can all benefit from your experience.
Reader Feedback: Have you ever made your own pumpkin puree?