What is Pumpkin Puree?

What is pumpkin puree? In this educational 101 Guide, we’re going to cover the difference between canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie filling. If you plan on making a homemade version, you’ll also learn about selecting the right pumpkin for the job.

What is pumpkin puree? In this educational 101 Guide, we're going to cover the difference between canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie filling.

Pumpkin puree is the essential Fall and Winter ingredient that brings instant holiday cheer. Whether you’re in the mood for a savory weeknight meal or freshly baked pastry, the pumpkin flavor is a crowd-pleaser, and this ingredient is versatile to use in several types of recipes.

What is pumpkin puree?

A cooked pumpkin that is blended or mashed in a food processor to create a smooth pulp. This round orange ingredient can be baked, roasted, sautéed, steamed or boiled. Different cooking methods will change the flavor of the puree. For example, the roast method uses higher heat and Maillard browning that reduces moisture in the puree.

When making at home, a cooked and tender pumpkin is mixed in a blender or food processor. The whole process is relatively easy and takes under an hour to make. Although if you’re looking for a quick convenience product, buying canned pumpkin puree is an easy solution too.

How to select a pumpkin for baking and cooking

Depending on the variety of pumpkin you choose, the color, flavor, and texture will vary slightly. At the store, you may find generic names like “pie” or “sugar pumpkins.” They varieties look more round and orange in color but are sweeter and creamier in texture than large carving pumpkins used for Jack-o-Lanterns. If you have access to information on more specific pumpkin varieties, look for ones like Autumn Gold, Baby Pam, Ghost Rider, Cinderella or Lumina.

Large pumpkins tend to have more moisture, less flavor and are stringy in texture. A preferred selection size of 2 to 8 pounds in weight is an excellent choice; a 3-pound pumpkin will yield about 1 cup of puree. You can store an uncut pumpkin for about two months in a dark, cool place.

What is the difference between canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie filling?

Canned Pumpkin: The USDA has a standard of identity for canned pumpkin, and you would be surprised to find that it’s pretty broad in the definition:

Canned pumpkin and canned squash is the canned product prepared from clean, sound, properly matured, golden fleshed, firm shelled, sweet varieties of either pumpkins or squashes by washing, stemming, cutting, steaming and reducing to a pulp. The product is properly sieved and finished in accordance with good commercial practice and is then sufficiently processed by heat to assure preservation of the product in hermetically sealed containers.

As you can see above, some brands can use a mixture of pumpkin and squash. If you’re looking for 100% pumpkin puree, Libby’s is a good option that has no preservatives or artificial flavors. That brand grows and harvests their proprietary strain of Dickinson pumpkins for a distinctive sweet flavor and characteristic bright orange color. So don’t be surprised if other products have a different appearance or taste.

Pumpkin Pie Filling: Don’t get mixed up when quickly grabbing a can off the shelf. Pumpkin pie “filling” or “mix” is a type of puree that has already been sweetened and flavored with spices, and ready to use for a freshly baked dessert. For most recipes like Libby’s pumpkin pie, you just need to add in eggs and evaporated milk to the pumpkin filling to create a custard, then cook in an unbaked pie crust.

How to Use Pumpkin Puree

Not only does pumpkin taste good, but it’s also packed nutrients like the antioxidant beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C, protein, and fiber, so let’s add it to your daily meals!

  • Recipes: It’s excellent as a base for soups, stews, pasta, rice dishes, stuffed, oatmeal, muffins, bread, cookies, and even smoothies.
  • Drain: When making puree from scratch, it may contain more moisture than a canned product. If you notice a difference, allow the puree to drain in a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl for a few hours before using to remove some of the extra moisture. This process may be most helpful when making baked goods like cookies or pies, as too much moisture can affect the texture of the finished product.
  • Freeze: Any leftover pumpkin puree can be frozen in an airtight resealable plastic bag in the freezer for months. Just allow thawing before using.
  • Healthy Baking: According to Libby’s, you can make the following baking substitutes using pumpkin puree; 1/4 cup pumpkin for 1 egg, and 1 tablespoon pumpkin for 1 tablespoon oil or butter.

Pumpkin Recipes

How will you use pumpkin in your cooking and baking? I’d love to hear in the comments section below!

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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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3 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Vickie Lynch says

    I am making a pie that calls for pure pumpkin purée. In the area where I live I cannot find any cans of that on the shelf in the grocery stores. If I just used canned pumpkin with nothing added to it is that the same thing?

  2. kathy grimm says

    hi. I’ve accidentally used pumpkin pie mix instead of pure pumpkin in a cake I have not yet baked. should I throw it out and start over?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I don’t think you need to throw it out, it will just be very spiced and on the sweeter side. Have you tasted the cake yet? I would make a new one if the first one doesn’t taste the way you hoped.

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