Types of Edible Pumpkins

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You’d be shocked to learn how many types of pumpkins exist. It’s not just one big, orange guy. Dozens of varieties range from 2 feet long up to 20 feet long.

Several different types of pumpkins.

You know those big ol’ orange Jack o’ Lanterns you carve every fall? Well, their species name is Cucurbita. Fancy, right? There are different Cucurbita species called ficifolia, maxima, mixta, moschata, and pepo that range in color in texture. Orange, red, white, blue, green, smooth, bumpy, stripped — there’s a little something for everyone.

But let’s settle a few debates before going any further. First, pumpkin is a type of squash and therefore considered a fruit (not a veggie). Pumpkins, as well as other varieties of squash (think winter squash), are edible. Gourds, on the other hand, are not edible. While pumpkins can be used for cooking and decorating, gourds are purely decorative.

The easiest way to look at it is there are types of pumpkins for eating, types of pumpkins for carving only, and types ideal for both. Edible pumpkins are used for making classic pumpkin pies and other baked goods, as well as in savory dishes. They add flavor, yes, but color and consistency as well.

Sugar Pie

Sugar Pie pumpkins

Sugar pie pumpkins look a lot like the Jack O’ Lanterns you carve but smaller. Their more petite size makes them ideal for cooking in many capacities, whether you’re roasting or pureeing to make pies or soups. It can be cooked into savory dishes or baked into sweet ones.

New England Cheddar

These medium-sized pumpkins resemble a giant cheese wheel, hence their nickname. It’s a lighter, creamier color of orange. Because they are sweeter with more sugar content, they are best used in baked goods like pie.

Long Island Cheese

Long Island Cheese Pumpkin

Who knew there were so many pumpkins named after cheese? These medium-sized pumpkins with deep ridges will grow in various colors but are usually lighter, if not white, sometimes with some green speckles. Similar to the New England Cheddar, it’s sweeter. But they are often used for everything from roasting to steaming to and grilling in addition to baking.

Hybrid Pam

In the realm of what you expect pumpkin to look like, hybrid pams look like a cross between butternut squash and a jack o’ lantern. Use them to make pumpkin pie, or simply paint and pepper them around your porch for decoration.

Blue Doll

Blue Doll Pumpkins

Suitable for both roasting and in pies (they are very sweet), blue doll pumpkins look nothing like traditional pumpkins on Hallmark cards. They break the mold with their green exterior. The flesh is still orange, and they grow between 15 and 20 pounds.

Porcelain Doll

Porcelain Doll Pumpkins

It’s another excellent variety to bake with, but porcelain doll pumpkins are also great for savory dishes like soups. They lend a nice, creamy texture. They are light in color with deep ribs compared to your typical Jack O’ Lantern.

Lumina White

Lumina White Pumpkins

This is a type of white pumpkin that grows up to 12 pounds. While it can be tasty to cook with, they do spoil sooner than other pumpkin varieties. So, plan to cook it quickly, and don’t leave it on your porch as decoration.

Flat White Boer Ford

Flat White Boer Ford Pumpkins

These are a smaller pumpkin variety with dense flesh that works great for baking pies. They are flat and look like they’ve been stepped on, and are white versus a traditional orange. Bonus: They are seedless, another fabulous pie-baking quality.

Cinderella

Cinderella Pumpkins

Yes, this pumpkin is named after the carriage in Cinderella. Though they are on the larger side, they might look a little flatter than you’d expect in real life. Sometimes they appear a reddish-orange. Their shape is not quite as squashed as the flat white but they are still wider than tall. This type of pumpkin tastes best in savory dishes.

Rouge Vif d’Etampes

Rouge Vif d'Etampes Pumpkin

Tomatoes aren’t the only fruit heirlooms. This unique and special pumpkin variety is an heirloom and is named after an old French town. You can create a stunning table setting with these beauties, but they are also great for roasting.

Fairytale

Fairytale Pumpkin

The fairytale pumpkin is a small variety. They can be orange or bluish-green, but they almost always have very defined ridges and appear flattened. They lend a sweetness to baked goods and a creamy quality when cooked and pureed into soups.  

Jarrahdale

Jarrahdale Pumpkins

Another variety that proves not all pumpkins are orange. The Jarrahdale pumpkin is small and bluish-green. They originated in New Zealand, and they weigh up to 10 pounds. 

Black Futsu

Black Futsu Pumpkin

These are hard-to-find Japanese pumpkin varieties. Black futsus look like a pumpkin married with a berry. You can eat it raw or cooked; it’s commonly roasted. They are more nutty and earthy than sweet when raw, but they do get sweet as they roast. 

Kabocha

Kabocha Pumpkin

Kabocha pumpkins are another Japanese variety. The skin is dark green with yellow specks, and the flesh is a lighter yellow compared to the bright orange of traditional pumpkins. Consider roasted kabocha as a side or pureeing them into a soup.

Other types of pumpkins

Jack-Be-Littles, Baby Boos, Galeux d’Eysines, Tigers, Caspersitas, and Orangitas are all great decorations. New moon and Knucklehead pumpkins can also be carved, while the prizewinner, Crystal Star, and Jack O’Lantern are best for carving only.

Selecting and storing pumpkins

Pumpkins are at their peak in September and October, but they are typically available in stores through November. You can keep pumpkins for up to 90 days, but they may start to spoil after 30 days. They survive best in cool, dry areas. Once heat and humidity enter the scene, they may only last a couple of weeks. If you’re cooking your pumpkin, use within five days of cutting it open.

Sugar pumpkins are best for baking and are one of the most common varieties in stores. Cinderella, Long Island Cheese, and New England Pie are other great baking varieties. Whether carving, cooking, or decorating with your pumpkin, watch out for soft spots. Always choose a pumpkin with the stem intact. 

Health benefits of pumpkin

Any orange pumpkin variety is a sign of high vitamin A content, similar to carrots. Pumpkin also contains antioxidants such as beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin. According to the USDA, 1 cup of cubed, raw pumpkin contains 1g protein, .1g fat, 6.5g carbohydrates, .5 g fiber, 24 mg calcium, and 394mg potassium. You can even use pumpkin puree as a substitute for butter and oil and eggs as a healthy recipe swap.

Recipes with pumpkins

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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14 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Mary P. says

    Great article, but I have two questions. Some pumpkins are considered inedible. Is this because they’re toxic, or simply that they don’t taste good?

    And, I bought seedlings last spring intending to grow zucchini. But by mid-summer these were clearly some other squash, and by late August I saw that they were some kind of pumpkin. I ended up harvesting two, but I don’t know what they are. The outside is a pretty, even orange color. One was like a small soccer ball shape and the other taller and more oval and like a large rugby ball. Both sliced easily but the interior flesh is yellow and stringy very much like spaghetti squash. Flavor is really mild, maybe like a butternut squash but watery? I’ve roasted one, but it’s not what I wanted for soup.

    Any idea what I grew? Thanks

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, big max pumpkins are edible. Would love to know how the pumpkin puree tastes! I have a guide for how to roast pumpkins for puree too!

  2. Pat says

    Hi. We bought a pumpkin that looks like the one in the middle of the first picture; the one with the white on the top. Ours is called candy corn pumpkin. Is there any difference in that and a regular pumpkin?
    Thank you.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      The white and yellow pumpkins tend to be used for decoration or can be cooked or left uncooked to use as bowls. They tend not to yield as much flesh if you’re using it as an ingredient for a recipe.

  3. Shelley says

    I came to check all pumpkins are eatable; thanks for the breakdown of many kinds. was however shocked to see a culinary article saying basically ‘yes yes all pumpkins … but all gourds are not eatable’

    Hard shell style Gourds are sold/grown to an immature stage (same as luffa) by some asian communities, and my understanding steamed or boiled and sometimes then fried i think. (I learned while looking for seeds to grow, and found plants/imature fruits sold locally, for use to eat 🤷‍♀️)

  4. pumpkinlover says

    while that was a good article, there are a few pumpkin photos that are definitely not the variety you are talking about. I have been a commercial grower of all pumpkins for several years, these varieties are not the ones you have pictured. Blue doll, Rouge, and Jarrahdale are indeed good for eating but the pictures you have associated with them are certainly not those varieties.

  5. Susan Pownall says

    Hell there . Last Dec 2022 we threw out 2 small white decorative pumpkins. It’s now Almost August we have a huge patch with many growing . Are these safe to eat ? Some are white and round . Others are yellow and oblong
    Thanks for your input

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, white pumpkins are edible. If you cut one open, they tend to also have a range of orange skin. Let me know if you cook one and how it tastes! Would love to know if it’s Lumina, Valenciano, or possibly Polar Bear varitey.