How to Cook Pumpkin (+ Make Puree)

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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.

pumpkin cut in half on pan

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.

These are the types of pumpkins you want to use when making puree for Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Bars, and Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal.

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.

  1. Cook the pumpkin whole, without cutting it.
  2. 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.

spoon scooping out pumpkin flesh

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.

whole pumpkin on sheet pan

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.

whole pumpkin cooked on pan and cut in half

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!)

removing seeds from whole cooked pumpkin

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.

two pumpkins cut in half

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.

pumpkin seeds scooped out and placed on pan

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 400ºF until tender, about 45 minutes for the average 2.5 to 3-pound sugar pumpkin.

roasted pumpkin scooped out of shell

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.

pumpkin puree in 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.

pumpkin puree

How to Store Pumpkin Puree

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.

slice of vegan pumpkin pie being served

spoon scooping out pumpkin flesh
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4.77 from 17 votes

How to Cook Pumpkin (+ Make Puree)

Here's the best way to cook pumpkin! Roasted pumpkin is an easy way to make homemade pumpkin puree for pies, breads, and more.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine gluten-free
Keyword how to roast pumpkin, roasted pumpkin
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 88kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 (2 to 3 pound) sugar pumpkin

Instructions

How to Cook a Whole Pumpkin

  • Preheat your oven to 400ºF and have a baking dish or pan 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 pan or 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 flesh is darker, and the skin 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 1 year.

How to Cook a Halved Pumpkin

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • 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.) Scoop out the seeds, then arrange the halves cut-side-down on the pan.
  • Roast at 400ºF until tender, about 45 minutes. A fork should easily piece through the shell.
  • 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 1 year.

Notes

Nutrition information is for 1/4 of a whole pumpkin. In my experience, a whole pumpkin that's about 2.5 pounds makes roughly 3 cups of pumpkin puree, or 2 cans worth.
Want to use up your seeds? Here's how to make perfectly roasted pumpkin seeds.

Nutrition

Calories: 88kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 3g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 1156mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 28945IU | Vitamin C: 30.6mg | Calcium: 71mg | Iron: 2.7mg

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.

Pumpkin Recipes

Need ideas for using up your freshly cooked pumpkin puree? Try one of the delicious recipes below!

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?

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Comments

Ashleigh

This blog has been out of control delicious lately. Work it girl!

jeanne

How fun! I have a pumpkin I bought at TJ’s that’s been intimidating me since halloween…I’m totally doing this!

I’m making your favorite pumpkin pie recipe as well, except I sub tofu for almonds…works out great if you want a pie with a little less fat or you’ve got nut allergy people coming to thanksgiving, super creamy and you can’t taste the tofu at all behind the maple syrup 🙂 I can’t wait to share it with my family, I love it!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

the delicate place

roasted a sugar pumpkin a fee weeks ago in the same way you did! far easier than trying to cut it open raw!

    Lisa Goldberg

    I was wondering if there was a taste difference between a cut roasted pumpkin and a whole one.

Danielle @ Clean Food Creative Fitness

This looks amazing. Perfect compliment to thanksgiving dinner!

sophie

what size pumpkin was yours?

    Megan

    I didn’t weight it, so I’m not sure! It was pretty small, with only about 1 cup of cooked pumpkin from each half.

      Tamela

      Hi
      How do I know if I have a sugar pumpkin
      I got 2 big ones all ready

        Maggie

        Sugar pumpkins don’t grow large, they’re rather small, 1-2lbs each at most.

          kenny

          doing my pumpkin right now hope it works

Misty

So I have done this also, with the sweet pumpkins from Trader Joes. The first pumpkin I cooked came out perfect, but the second one the outside of the pumpkin was so incredibly hard I had a difficult time piercing it before cooking. Anyways I kept cooking it for it it to soften up when it was in the oven and finally I just took it out because it was so dark colored (it was in the oven over an hour!)I still couldn’t push a fork through the skin like I did with the other pumpkin but I managed to cut it open and it was cooked on the inside! The outside of the pumpkin just became a hard shell instead of getting soft! It was so bizzare, but I just wanted to share!!

laura

You know, I once roasted my own pumpkin for pie, but it was way too watery. Something weird happened with that pie and the filling was all loose and the crust floated to the top. I have never seen such a thing before or since! After that I read you’re supposed to strain the extra liquid out for a while before using. But I never had the gumption to try again. You’ll have to let me know how your pie turns out! I have a pumpkin here too!

    Megan

    Interesting! I’ve had a watery spaghetti squash before, so I think it just varies with each squash. My roasted pumpkin was less moist than the canned stuff, so it worked great in my pie this year!

    Michelle Dombroski

    If you see your pumpkin puree is watery after pureeing, add a bit of salt, then spread it on a cookie sheet. Put it in the oven at 250F until it’s thick (as thick as you want it). It’ll also be the pumpkin color that’s in the can after this.

Rachel

It’s quite difficult to find canned pumpkin puree in the UK so I had no choice to make my own last week – I paid £1 for about 1.2kg of pumpkin, took the skin of the outside with a coarse peeler (you lose WAY less flesh that way) and then chopped and boiled the flesh til it was soft. I blended it all up and got at least 5 cups worth out of it! SO much cheaper than sourcing canned stuff. It’s now frozen in handy portion sizes. AND I got the pumpkin stock for something else. Will be doing that again!

Amy

Perfect timing!…I was feeling adventurous earlier this week and bought two pumpkins with no definite intentions for them or a clue on how to cook them. Thanks for the instructions and all your great recipes. Happy Thanksgiving!

laura

So glad it came out good! I’m going to try again. Like I said, it was the weirdest thing I have ever seen. Thank goodness I was not bringing it to the in-laws that year! I had to start over in the middle of the night!

But speaking of roasting squash whole, I just did that with a spaghetti squash and made your mac and cheese and it was awesome! Totally passed the skeptical-meat-and-pasta eating husband test. Left it on the counter and didn’t tell him what it was and he had it for a late snack after a long work day. In the morning he said “what was that delicious stuff you left on the counter? Tasted just like mac ‘n cheese.” He’s lactose intolerant too, so even if I would eat the “real” stuff, he never could. So now we’re both happy! Mind you, I Laura-ized it a bit with mushrooms and onions and stuff while it baked…

babs

Be careful with this method. I was roasting a whole spaghetti squash in the oven once, and after it was done I pulled it out by the stem, and the whole thing exploded in my face! Burns on my chin, and I’ve still got a bit of a scar. I likely did not pierce the skin deep enough. Just be mindful…..

    mike

    this is why you are supposed to cut holes to let the steam escape

Maria

Thanks SO much for posting this! I’ve been intimidated for years to roast a pumpkin but just did this a few days ago and it was so easy – came out perfect!

Carissa

Wow! I can’t believe how easy this was. Thank you for the simple, step-by-step guide to pumpkin roasting. I have been intimidated by making my own pumpkim puree for years, but no longer! I whipped mine up in the Vitamix after roasting and it came out great! For other readers who have a big pumpkin–mine was quite large, not sure of pounds, but bigger than my head, and it took almost 2 hours to fully roast in my oven.

Kate

Ok. I never knew about this method but I’m going to try it. Pumpkin here is almost 4 $ a can. So after the holiday injust buy like 5 big pumpkins and I cut them up and roast them like squash. Then scoop the insides out and freeze it. I’m going to try this. I wonder though if my pumpkins are too big

MJ

Regular hallowe’en pumpkins may be too bitter to use for pies! I learned this the hard way and wasted many ingredients before tasting the puree filling which was inedible! make sure you use pie pumpkins!

Nancy

I just cooked a sugar pumpkin as your recipe stated and it is amazing! The only thing I did different was I put about 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of the baking dish and it cooked in 45 minutes. No more cutting through a hard surface wondering if I going to cut a limb off. The other amazing thing is it was so much easier to remove the pumpkin seeds so I can roast them later. Thanks for this wonderful approach to cooking a squash. I’m planning on doing this to a very large butternut squash that a friend recently gave me.

Isabel in Spain

Hi! I live in Spain where Halloween has really taken a strong hold in the last few years making it way easier to find pumpkins to carve with the grandkids… I have bought four small pumpkins after the holiday and are wondering if these are what are considered “sugar” pumpkins? They are about six to eight inches in diameter and the same high. Please help as I don´t want to use the wrong pumpkin for my Thanksgiving pie making!! Love the site and do plan on roasting these babies whole!!

    sheila

    a pie pumpkin is a lighter color orange than a carving pumpkin, they actually call them brown , but to me they look like a pale orange

Penny

After roasting a pumpkin, I put it in a non-stick pan, over low heat, & cook it down, like apple butter. It gets thicker, & develops a rich, carmelized flavor.

mary jamison

I roasted a pie pumpkin last year, and just stuck this year’s in the oven. I’ve been roasting butternut squashes like this for years, and that’s why I decided to take a chance on the pumpkin. (Pie turned out great, btw)

Here in the States, “pie” pumpkins (or sugar pumpkins) are sold separate from decorative pumpkins at the farmer’s markets. I think they’re a little darker orange than decorative pumpkins, and they don’t get as big, but I personally wouldn’t try to guess.

So glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks this makes way more sense that taking a hacksaw to the darn thing!

Melissa

I recommend just putting the pumpkin whole (if small enough) into your crock pot with a little water at the bottom and leaving it for four hours. Works like a charm!

Lynn

I did this and not sure what happened. Maybe cooked it too long. The inside was the color and taste of butternut squash. Any suggestions?

Elise

HavE been usuing fresh pumpkins for breads and pies since 1972. I used to cut them up and cook in a pressure cooker. Either way, there’s NOTHING like fresh pumpkin for your fall goodies! 🙂

Laura

This may be a crazy question but would you use the “sugar pies” to puree for savory pumpkin dishes or would you use a regular pumpkin?

    Marilyn

    I have used sugar pumpkins for savory but I think it’s not a bad idea to follow the rules for apples: some make wonderful pies and some don’t. I’d use the sugar pumpkin for desserts and other pumpkins for savory. Unlike some poster, I do use “Halloween” pumpkins. I have my neighbor’s monster in the oven now. My dog doesn’t really care about the flavor and texture and pumpkin is very good for dogs and the love it. Also our ancestors didn’t have all these hybrid pumpkins and they managed to cook and eat them.

    I frequently roast whole squash and pumpkin. Never a mishap and I never have to struggle to peel a butternut squash or pumpkin or other thick skinned produce. I roadt beets with their skin too.

    Bonnie l

    Yes, I would, as this variety is cultivated for eating. Most are grown for carving and lack flavor, or are bitter. THey have been hybridized for size, color, and to slow down the rotting,,regardless of edibility.
    As someone else said, her dog is not fussy. For people it is worth knowing the variety. It could be fun to try heirloom seeds if they exist.

Diana

after cooking and processing your pumpkin place it in a strainer line with cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl and put it in the refrigerator overnight to strain out the extra liquid to make solid packed pumpkinthis way you can use any variety of pumpkin for your pumpkin pie.this way it is cup for cup with canned pumpkin

Joy davison

In New Zealand many people enjoy pumpkin as a roasted vegetable. Despite many near misses I am still blessed with all my fingers. BUT recently I offered to help a 90 year old friend cut her pumpkin. She declined, and asked me to follow her outside where she lifted the pumpkin as high as she could and let go. Gravity helped, and said pumpkin was dashed into a number of pieces. After a wash and scraping out the seeds, it was ready for the oven. The skin was removed when it was cooked. I love practicing and sharing Ida’s idea!
Thanks for your help – a whole pumpkin is in the oven!

Chris

Just got about 4cups of puree from a rather small “Pie Pumpkin” and a bag of seeds (will get roasted)
I had to add about 1/3 cup water to each batch in the food processor.

Peggy Esposito

It didn’t work – pumpkin is still hard as a rock!

The Mad Chef

Took the pumpkin, put it into the oven at 375, forgot about it. Sliced and bbqd the pork loin, baked and smashed the potatoes, pulled the pumpkin out after maybe two hours? Slit it in half, looks beautiful! Just waiting for it to cool, then I’m going to slice it up into smaller pieces, and put into a stew pot, simmer it with cinnamon, sugar, and condensed milk, unsure about the nutmeg though, then see what we have left. The condensed milk will sweeten it up but it will also keep it from cracking when I put it into my crust later!

Helena

Brilliant! I am in process of making a stuffed pumpkin for 2 (croutons,cheddar,cream, veg bouillon cube). Using a Turk’s Turban squash from the garden 1kg, took 1 hour, softened, easy to cut the top of the turban shape off, scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp. Stuffed and back in the oven. I expect it to be delicious, served with sweetcorn.

    Helena

    Just to add that now eaten it was delicious. I’m an English vegetarian staying in France for a few weeks where we grow Musquée de Provence, Turk’s Turban and Invincible pumpkins/squash. I found the recipe, Potimarron Surprise on a French website. Bon appétit!

Talia

Can you do more than one pumpkin at a time?

    Laverne

    Am doing two right now…but might have to leave them in longer.
    Using convection roast. They are both bigger than my head.

Gwen

I can’t wait to try this recipe with pumpkin instead of bananas! I suppose you could also substitute sweet potatoes for the bananas. I think adding chopped walnuts would be a delicious addition as well. Thanks for all your delicious, nutritious ideas. I gets me out of my rut!

LisaE

My French fairtale pumpkin had a ton of juice that ran out when I cut it open. Do I blend that in with the meat?

Linda Lipe

I had a fresh pumpkin, and roasted it in the oven.. I cut the pumpkin in half, cleaned out the insides of each half. I put the cut side down on top of parchment paper and covered it with aluminum foil and baked them for 1 1/2 hours because it was a big pumpkin.. My question is: Why is one half of my pumpkin orange and the other half orange and white. Taste the same.. Can anyone answer my question?

Angie

This is the easiest best way I have ever roasted a pumpkin. When using the pumpkin seeds for the granola, do the seeds need to be roasted again or hulled?

    Megan Gilmore

    I would rinse and roast the seeds on a baking sheet to crisp them up!

Suzanne Surburg

I was looking for a recipe to roast a whole pumpkin and found this one. Love the idea of not struggling with the hard skin of a pumpkin or trying to peel it. I have numerous butternut squash from my garden. I want to make soup and freeze it. Trying to peel a butternut squash is a dangerous endeavor. Would this method work with my butternut squash?

Bonnie l

This is how I like to do it too! So much easier! I even let it cool before cutting in half.
Very important to know what kind of pumpkin you have. My experience is that the mass crop of jackolantern pumpkins are cultivated for size and carving. they lack flavor and sweetness, NOT worth the time for me.

Teresa

This was so easy. Thanks for your help. I hated to throw out the pumpkin so now I have pumpkin pulp to make pumpkin bread. Thanks again.

Ashley

What a great idea to roast your pumpkin whole! Much safer than cutting a hard pumpkin. I’ll have to try this next time. Thanks for the idea.

Mirko

Just googled baking crown pumpkins whole and you came up first. Well done with your blog, Megan.
Cheers, Mirko (Krystal’s husband)

Kathy Miro

I wast a pumpkin every Halloween so I’m going to try to cook it for muffins and dog treats.

Cheryl richardson

Worked great!

Cheryl Richardson

I loved all three recipes I tried: the whole pumpkin, the pumpkin seed granola, and the began pumpkin pie!

Judy Stubleski

I usually pie several “pie” pumpkins every fall. I bake them as you suggested.( I like my fingers attached to my hands too) I typically freeze the puree, in premeasure amounts(typically 2c.) in ziploc bags. I also discovered that it’s better to dump it out of the bag while frozen and let it thaw in a bowl. Less messy!

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