How To Bake A Pumpkin

By Jennette Ross / November 16, 2015
how to bake a pumpkin

In todays day and age of over processed food and confusing or tricky labeling, going back to the basics is always a good idea. Learning how to bake a pumpkin from scratch for pies, soups, or baked goods is a smart, healthy, and simple skill to understand because even purchasing a can of cooked and prepared pumpkin doesn't guarantee you are in fact getting only pumpkin. 

Shockingly the regulations and definitions about what is considered pumpkin aren't as cut and dry as you would expect. ​Some manufactures mix pumpkin and other winter squashes together in the can and call it all pumpkin. Take a quick look at this article from blogger Susan Vinskofski for more details.  

Now there isn't anything unhealthy about winter squash, but with so many people dealing with allergies, food sensitivities, or generally upping the ante on the specifics of what they incorporate into their diet, many consumers want to know if they are eating winter squash or pumpkin. Even if you manage to find a product that is offering a can of pure pumpkin, any form of tampering or preparation short cuts done to fresh food will lower the nutrient and vitamin integrity.

The charge for moving back to simple, clean, and whole ingredients is noble and growing. What better way to continue on in that journey to healthy and clean eating than to bake a pumpkin yourself and skip the prepared canned pumpkin. Baking a pumpkin is easy and doesn't require fancy tools or equipment. The satisfaction of knowing you are eating real and whole food is well worth the extra time too.

Picking A Pumpkin

how to bake a pumpkin

Before you can cook a pumpkin, you need to pick a pumpkin. But the pumpkin you are looking for isn't the large pumpkin patch pumpkins you carve into jack-o-lanterns. No, that kind of pumpkin yields stringy and bland pumpkin meat. 

Sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins are what you are on the hunt for. This kind of pumpkin is small, about the size of a melon,​ and sweet, hence the name. When in season, you can find them in the grocery store, local farm and art markets, or pumpkin farms. 

Sugar pumpkins range in size from 4-8 pounds and will have shiny or dull looking skin. Duller skin usually means the pumpkin has been around longer and may mean it has gotten a little sweeter tasting than a shiny skinned version. Shiny or dull doesn't matter as much, the important thing to look out for are ​bruises or cuts to the outer skin, those should be avoided. 

​Cleaning & Cutting Pumpkins 

how to bake a pumpkin

First, rinse off the pumpkin with warm water, removing any dirt or debris.  Then, pat the pumpkin dry with a towel. Now the stem needs removed. Roll the pumpkin on its side and cut the stem off at the base, leaving no evidence of the stem having been there. 

​Place the pumpkin on a cutting board with the exposed flesh from the stems removal making full contact. The flat surface made by the previous cut will afford some stability for the next cut. Now, make a vertical cut through the middle of the pumpkin. Each half will have seeds exposed.

Scooping Seeds 

how to bake a pumpkin

With a large metal spoon, scrape out the seeds and pulp from the inside of the pumpkin. The seeds make a great snack when toasted, so don't just throw them away.   The sugar pumpkins should be left with clean smooth fleshy insides, free of any strings or seeds. 

​For a quick tutorial on how to roast pumpkin seeds, take a look at this video from Clean & Delicious. 

Time To Bake 

how to bake a pumpkin

Baking pumpkins can be cooked in all sorts of different pans. A casserole dish or jelly roll pan will work made in either glass, metal, or stoneware. Make sure to place the pumpkins halves down and skin up. If the pumpkins staining your pan or sticking to the surface is a concern, line the pan or dish with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. ​

You could also rub a little oil on the pumpkin flesh that makes direct contact with the pan, or add the oil directly to the pan's surface. Bake the pumpkins for ​1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the size of the baking pumpkin at 375 degrees. The pumpkins are fully cooked when a fork or knife easily cuts into the flesh.

Peel And Puree The Pumpkin

how to bake pumpkins

Allow the pumpkin to cool before trying to handle peeling the skin away from the meat of the pumpkin. Once the pumpkin has reached a safe temperature, go ahead and pull back the skin from the pumpkin. During the baking process the skin will naturally separate, so finishing the job should be an easy task. 

The other option is to use a spoon to scoop away the pumpkin flesh from the outer peel. No choice or method is better than the other. The manner selected, comes down to personal preference. Try both and see which way seems easiest to you.

Now you are ready to throw all the soft pumpkin meat into a blender or food processor. To achieve the consistency needed for the the pumpkin recipe, simply blend until the right level of smoothness is reached. Add a little bit of water if the pumpkin feels or looks too thick.

If you don't have a blender or food processor available, tossing the pumpkin in a bowl and mashing it with a large spoon, potato masher, or the back side of an ice cream scoop would work as well. Every body has an ice cream scoop, right? 


how to bake a pumpkin

I told you baking a pumpkin from scratch was super easy. It's so easy you can do multiple pumpkins at a time and freeze the pureed pumpkin. Then, defrost the puree to use on another day when pumpkins aren't readily found at the market. So now, you can skip the canned pumpkin every year and get back to the basics. 

About the author

Jennette Ross

Mother of five and creator of Cooking Upgrades, Jennette enjoys helping people get the most out of their experience in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

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