Just when it seems like we’ve seen the peak of the pumpkin spice craze, another pumpkin-laced product pops up at the store. Don’t get me wrong, I love pumpkin (and the spices that typically go along with it), but let’s face it, these products are no substitute for something made with actual pumpkin in it! And most don’t taste like real pumpkin pie, which is what I hold as my standard. So, if you want something that tastes like pumpkin pie, your best bet is to cook something that contains pumpkin—no surprise there, right? Not only will you get the great taste that you’re craving this time of year, you’ll get some of the nutrition benefits of pumpkin, too.
Pumpkin is naturally very nutritious: it’s an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is a plant compound that the body converts to vitamin A. It’s also a got about 3g of fiber per half cup of puree, and is a caloric bargain at just 50 calories per half cup.
Picking Your Pumpkin
There are basically three options when it comes to choosing pumpkin for a recipe: cooking a pumpkin at home and then scraping out the pulp, opening a can of pure pumpkin puree, or using pumpkin pie filling.
If you cook your own, be sure to use a cooking pumpkin (sometimes called a “sugar pumpkin” or “pie pumpkin”)—they are typically smaller than jack-o-lantern pumpkins and have more flavorful, less stringy flesh (carving pumpkins are edible, they just aren’t as tasty). To cook your pumpkin at home, try cutting it in half, scooping out the seeds and either baking/roasting it in the oven just like any other squash, microwaving it or putting the halves in the slow cooker (no water needed) and cooking it for 1+ hours on HIGH until softened.
If choosing canned pumpkin (super convenient to have on hand!), I suggest using plain pumpkin puree over pumpkin pie filling. Most recipes will specify which product to use (pie filling is best used just for pie). Pure pumpkin puree is not sweetened or spiced, which allows the cook more flexibility.
Guiding Stars Pumpkin Picks
Need a new recipe for pumpkin? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered in both the sweet and savory categories. If you’ve never tried pumpkin in something that isn’t a snack or dessert I urge you to give it a try with this soup recipe or these croquettes. Maybe pumpkin cornbread is more your style? Try this pumpkin smoothie for pumpkin pie taste in a glass, or whip up these healthy pumpkin pancakes that are sweetened with banana. Check out the Guiding Stars recipe database for more ways to indulge your passion for pumpkin this season.