How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin

How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin on The Creekside Cook Cook a fresh pumpkin for pies, muffins and cakes – it’s easy!

October is always SO busy for us. We become slaves to the garden and the freezer and canner – have to get all that fresh produce taken care of, before it goes bad! It makes for a lot of very tasty eating over the winter months, but there are days when I ask myself just who had the bright idea of planting an extra half dozen tomato plants in the spring, anyway?

On the other hand, it is awfully nice to look around on a January morning, and find that we have all I need to make a great dinner – right down to the dessert. Which is where this pumpkin comes in. I will have enough pumpkin put up for a couple dozen pies, or loaves of bread, or batches of whoopie pies, or even brownies.

But first, we have to get it cooked, which is something I have known how to do since I was a kid, watching my Mom and grandmother cook fresh pumpkins. But not everyone has that kind of cooking in their background – in the past week alone I’ve heard from 3 readers, asking me how the heck you cook a fresh pumpkin.

So, today that is what we are going to do. I have to get all of these pumpkins cooked up anyway, so I may as well let you join the fun, and turn it into a blog post.

You have to begin by choosing the proper sort of pumpkin, if you can. Now, you actually can cook with any kind of pumpkin, but starting out with a pie pumpkin, or sugar pumpkin is going to help you end up with more pumpkin from less work. Pie pumpkins are smaller, often a little squatier in shape, and if you are fortunate, labeled as a baking, pie, or sugar pumpkin. They have drier flesh, and thicker walls than a pumpkin you would use for decorating, or to make a jack o’lantern.

You also want to make sure the pumpkin you are going to cook is completely orange all over – that is how you will know it’s ripe, which will give you the best flavor. Pumpkins will actually keep a few months if you have a dry, cool place to put them, where there is no danger of them freezing, and generally speaking, they will have better flavor as they age. We only have a spot to keep them until the weather gets really cold though, so I got started on them already – otherwise I suddenly have a bunch of pumpkins that have to be cooked right now.

Begin by washing the pumpkin all over, and drying it off, so that it will not be slippery as you try to get it ready. Line a large, heavy baking sheet with parchment paper, and set the oven to about 400º. Knock the stem off the pumpkin by tapping it against the counter, or hit with something heavy, like a rolling pin. Throw the stem away.

Use a big chef’s knife, and cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom, taking care not to get more than about 1/3 of the knife into the flesh, or it can kind of stuck in there. If that happens, just tap on the back of the knife firmly with the rolling pin, or even a hammer, to work it on through. Once it is in two halves, use a large spoon to scoop out all of the seeds [wash & dry them off and save them – next week we are going to do a roasted pumpkin seed recipe!]. lay the halves, cut side down on the parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Getting ready to cook a fresh pumpkin on The Creekside CookBake the pumpkin for 45 minutes to an hour, until a sharp knife easily pierces the side. Bigger pumpkins may take longer, smaller ones less. Take the pan out of the oven, and carefully turn the halves over, to allow them to cool more quickly. You want them cool enough to handle comfortably, but the next part is easier if the pumpkin is still warmish.

Scoop out all the cooked pumpkin, making sure not to get any of the skin, which is not good to eat at all. There are a couple different ways to do this next part, which gets all of the pumpkin uniformly squished. I used my food mill this time, but you can also use a food processor, or even an immersion blender to do the job. You want to end up with a very smooth puree.Pictures from the step by step: How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin on The Creekside CookYou will notice though, that what you have at this point, doesn’t really look very much like what you might be used to if you have bought canned pumpkin before. That’s because we still have a lot of liquid to get drained out of there. Put a large mesh strainer over a bowl that has a small enough circumference to keep the bottom of the strainer up off the bottom of the bowl – that is so the liquid has a place to collect.

Put the pureed pumpkin in the strainer. You can just let gravity do the work for you, though it takes awhile, and I am not patient enough for that. I lay a piece of plastic wrap over the pumpkin, place a small plate on top, and then weigh it down with some cans – that speeds things up quite a bit. It is still going to take at least an hour. In fact, after an hour, I take off the weights, and stir it around some, then put the plastic wrap, plate and cans back on top and leave it until it stops dripping completely. You really can’t get too much liquid out of there – I got about 2 cups from that one little pumpkin!Part of the step by step: How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin on The Creekside CookDon’t throw that liquid away either – if you have chickens, they will love it, as will your dog probably. I use it in smoothies a lot, or save it to use in a soup – it is really good in any kind of veggie or bean soup.Step by step: How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin on The Creekside CookI freeze the pumpkin, and once it’s thawed, you can use it just the way you would any canned pumpkin. I do usually put it back in a mesh strainer for a few minutes, because there is always a little more liquid, and if you leave it in, your pie or whatever might end up on the watery side. I package it up in about 1 pound packages, in freezer bags, freezer containers, or saved yogurt containers [if using containers, press parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap right on the surface, to prevent freezer burn] – it will keep in the freezer for about a year. See – easy, right?

How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin
Recipe type: Canning & Freezing
Serves: varies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • Fresh pie or sugar pumpkins
  1. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper and set the oven at 400º. You can do as many pumpkins at a time as your oven will hold, and you have baking sheets for, but the photos just show a single pumpkin]
  2. Knock off the stem, and cut the pumpkins in half, from top to bottom. Use a large sharp chef's knife for this - it will be much easier.
  3. Scoop out all of the seeds, and pull out whatever stringy membranes you can - no need to be super careful about it, but you do want all of the seeds. Put the seeds in a bowl of cold water right away, if you are going to save them, because it will make it a lot easier to get them clean.
  4. lay the pumpkin halves, cut side down on the baking sheet. Parchment paper is by far the best way to keep them from sticking, but if you don't have any, oil the baking sheets.
  5. Roast the pumpkins for 45 minutes to an hour, until a sharp knife meets no resistance at all when poked into the side. [once you get past the skin of course]
  6. Allow the pumpkins to cool for awhile, until you can comfortably handle them.
  7. Scoop out all of the flesh, into a bowl big enough to hold it all.
  8. Puree the pumpkin with a food processor, a food mill or immersion blender - you want it very smooth and uniform.
  9. Place a mesh strainer [a colander will not work, unless it is a fine metal mesh one] over a bowl, and put all of the puree in there to drain. You can weigh it down by placing plastic wrap over the puree, with a plate onto of that, and then some kind of heavy things on top of the plate - cans of beans or some such work.
  10. Allow to drain for 1 to 2 hours, until no liquid is still dripping out.
  11. The pumpkin can be used right away or you can store the it in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days, or freeze it to use later on in the year.

59 thoughts on “How to Cook a Fresh Pumpkin

  1. I KNEW that you would know this, Donalyn! Thanks so much. Now I can cook these pumpkins my aunt and uncle gave me without feeling like a total idiot! I love all of the options for using different equipment, and how practically nothing is wasted. Thanks again!

  2. It’s funny but I have never seen canned pumpkin… though everyone eats pumpkin here! I only learnt it existed from US/Canadian blogs… I’m glad to see you encourage people to cook fresh produce. It’s always healthier than buying canned stuff! Great idea to share.

  3. Have you ever tried cooking one whole? I did it recently and like the results. The only difference is you push the whole thing through a tami to remove the seeds, fibers and skin. GREG

  4. I always make fresh pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dinner but I always use Butternut Pumpkin (squash) instead because they re smaller and easier to use. But with your instructions, maybe I’ll try the ‘real pumpkin’ next time!

  5. What a great recipe, Donalyn! Thank you for sharing… I’m so intimidated by the pumpkin, lol! But, you have now inspired me to make my own pumpkin instead of buying it in a can, thank you. I’m so pinning this for reference! Thank you for joining in our #PinUP Pin Party… Hope to see you again, there’s a new one every Friday 🙂

  6. I found a “cheese” pumpkin this year and was told the meat from that is the BEST for baking with. I have yet to cook it down, per your instructions, because it is so pretty , so it will sit on my porch for a few more days before it gets cooked. I have the pie pumpkins too which are excellent.

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  8. Great tips for cooking pumpkin. I’ve done it, but now I’ve got the definitive guide. Thanks for stopping by our Happy Holidays Link Party – be sure to join us again this week (beginning on Saturday at 7 pm ET) and every week through the holidays.

  9. Thank, Hon, Hadn’t done it for a while and I never used that trick of draining all the liquid. Now on to the baked Pumpkin doughnuts! The pie will come later.

  10. Silly question….. Do you have to freeze the pumpkin or can you just refridgerate and if so how long is it good in the fridge? Also, how do you store the liquid you have leftover do you freeze that also? I saw you mentioned giving it to your animals…. how do you do that? Sorry for all the questions but I’m crazy for pumpkin and this is the first year I started cooking pumpkins and I want to get the most use out of it.

    • Hi Danielle – not silly at all! I would not refrigerate it for longer than a few days – the quality will definitely deteriorate after that.
      I do also freeze the liquid – sometimes in ice cube trays, so that I can add a cube or two to rice while it’s cooking – up to pints or quarts for soups and such. I save containers from yogurt, sour cream etc to use for things like this. [I only reuse them once and then recycle – after that I don’t trust the plastic to not deteriorate and leach some noxious thing into our food]

      As for the animals – the cat won’t touch it, but the dog likes it, so I give him a 1/4 cup or so at a time, either in his food, or just in a bowl. Not too much, cause he sleeps by the bed and I try to minimize stuff that will give him gas!

      We also give it to the chickens – they will drink it from a shallow dish straight, or it can be mixed with their food. In the winter we like to give them a warm treat, so we would mix it with some laying mash and sit it on the woodstove until it’s warm.

      I completely understand not wanting to waste any of it – we certainly don’t! The skin ends up in the compost for next years’ garden and everything else gets eaten by someone or something around here.

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  12. I cook mine the same way, but long enough that the pumpkin collapses. I then drain off the liquid and when it is cool enough to handle, I peel off the skin leaving all the pulp to be puréed and frozen for pies,cakes and muffins

    • This is my first time to use fresh for my pie, draining now, I would have never known that much juice was in them! Fingers crossed! Happy Turkey Day everyone!

  13. My mom used to take a Teflon frying pan and slowly cook the pumpkin until all the liquid was cooked out. But that is because she never use the liquid for anything else.

  14. I made this recipe and it worked out great. But when I froze the left over fresh pumpkin the pies didn’t turn out . I thawed it and did the same to it as I did the fresh. What did I do wrong?

  15. I just follow your direction for making fresh pumpkin. (Last year I tried it, but did not know that I needed to drain the liquid out.) I did not have a big enough mesh strainer, so I improvised by layering two colanders with paper towels and spooned the purée in them. I placed the colanders on top of introverted bowls sitting inside larger bowls. The purée has been draining for about three hours and I am amazed by the amount of liquid that has drained out so far, and is still slowly dripping out. Thank you so much. This year’s pumpkin results will be much better—I can already tell.

  16. my grandmothers sister at our reunions use to bring a bowl of fried pumpkin. I LOVE that bowl of once a year goodness and am going to try to do it. I’m glad I found your site and now I know if the pumpkins I bot are ripe. I also am glad you are going to tell us how to cook the seeds. Can’t wait!

  17. All the way from the United Kingdom, I have never seen a can of pumpkin…but a massive thank you for sharing, I have never attempted to cook anything with pumpkin and neither has anyone I know, we use them as decorations here for Halloween… I was interested to find out what I could make as it seems like a waste! I found loads of recipes from the United States to try this week and now I know how to cook 1 I can’t wait!
    Thank you 🙂

  18. Just picked up a pie pumpkin from the farmers market in the Niagara region in Ontario and found your recipe for preparing fresh pumpkin. Our Thanksgiving is next weekend (October) here in Canada. Never knew about straining it so I will definitely do that. I am so excited to do this for my pumpkin desserts. Thank you for your excellent instructions.

  19. I am going to give this a try. My sons both help a friend who owns a pumpkin patch. After Halloween, they all mostly go to a compost.
    I asked him to bring me home a few to cook.

  20. I just did this with a pretty large pumpkin that I had bought for Halloween. The kids were supposed to paint it but kept putting it off. I am amazed at the amount of purée I got from one pumpkin. I also have already collected a large peanut butter jar of liquid. My dogs and chickens are each getting some and some will be used for soups this winter. My 6 year old is already eating a huge bowl of roasted seeds. I will be making 4 loaves of pumpkin pecan bread today and freezing enough purée to make lots more this holiday season. I shocked how far this $3.00 pumpkin is going. I love pumpkin but never knew how to cook it before. I am also setting some aside for my nephew to use for baby food for his little one. Thank you so much for sharing!

  21. After reading all the comments and what you have set up in the directions Donalyn Ketchum, I am going for it, I’m going to do it, pat me on the back, tell me I am the man, LOL. But my one question is this. Alongside scraping out the seeds and the loose stringy stuff can you use the loose stringy stuff for anything?

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