Got extra pumpkin to use up? Health writer and chef, Kristen Boye, shares her favorite outside-the-box ideas for preparing this versatile fall squash.
There’s no doubt pumpkin pie is one of America’s favorite fall-time desserts. But, if you find yourself with a surplus of pumpkins, either from growing your own or going a little crazy at the pumpkin patch, you’ll need some creative ways to use it all up.
Look no further than these 7 yummy ways to use up pumpkin...besides pie and cheesecake.
#1: Try out Some Healthy Homemade Protein Bars
While we may not think much about nutrition when indulging in a piece of pie or cheesecake, pumpkin is actually a super-nutritious food.
Technically considered a “squash” and a fruit, pumpkin contains a wealth of nutrients, including: a hefty dose of fiber, immune-boosting Vitamins A and C and magnesium aka: the anti-stress mineral.
You can enjoy all the health benefits of pumpkin daily by whipping up a batch of homemade protein bars.
There are no shortage of recipes available on Paleo-based food blogs (Paleo enthusiasts typically use pumpkin to add nutrients and/or to replace butter in baking recipes), but I like this one for Best Easy Gluten-free Pumpkin Protein Bars, from My Natural Family. It’s easy to make and combines a whole cup of pumpkin puree with oat flour (which is just ground up oats), delicious spices, the protein powder of your choice and even a drizzle of chocolate for a delicious and healthy snack.
#2: Blend up Some Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Pumpkin seeds or “pepitas” are delicious roasted and contain a wealth of nutrients like protein, healthy fats, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
The only thing about harvesting and roasting your own pumpkin seeds is you wind up with a lot to use up.
Pumpkin seed pesto to the rescue!
Pumpkin seeds make this Italian staple super nutritious and it’s delicious on nearly anything (pasta, meat, bread, salmon, blended into dressings, on pizza, etc.). Plus, it freezes well so you can make a big batch and freeze it in small containers.
To make, just follow a basic pesto recipe (like this one) and substitute dry roasted pumpkin seeds for pine nuts.
*Chef’s note: since pumpkin seeds are a bit less fatty than pine nuts, you may wish to add a little more olive oil to your recipe to taste.
#3: Try Pickling Your Pumpkin
Peter piper picked a peck of pickled...pumpkins? Yes, pumpkin can be pickled!
This old-fashioned pickle is super easy to prepare and makes a unique addition to a holiday relish tray or as a gift.
There are many variations of recipes to try, but this one from The Old Farmer’s Almanac has only 5 simple ingredients, allows you to use any type of pumpkin and is preserved using a simple water bath method.
Chef’s tip: Want to skip the canning and/or enjoy the next day? Just pour the syrup over the pumpkin, cool, and refrigerate for 3-4 months (though they will have the best texture if eaten within 2-4 weeks).
#4: Make and Preserve Your Own Pumpkin Puree
Sure, canned pumpkin is cheap and easy to use, but it doesn’t taste very good in anything but desserts and gives you zero bragging rights.
Herein lies the appeal of making your own pumpkin puree. Plus, it’s pretty darn easy. The only tricky part is peeling the pumpkin.
However, if you roast the pumpkin in its skin for 20-30 minutes and allow it to cool, the skin peels right off.
The best way to do this is to place wedges of pumpkin (or pumpkin halves if using a small pumpkin) on a baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes. Cool until it’s comfortable to handle, and peel with your hands or a paring knife.
From there, continue roasting until the flesh is soft, then puree until silky smooth and either freeze (for up to 6 months) or can for future use.
You can also use a good quality Y-peeler to peel small whole pumpkins or wedges of larger pumpkins raw, then cook the flesh until soft...but I always found this to be awkward and slightly harrowing.
Chef’s tip: A quart-size ziplock bag holds about a can’s worth (15 oz) of pumpkin puree.
#5: Try These Incredible Mini-Pumpkin Trifles
This is an original recipe I made for Thanksgiving a few years ago...and everyone LOVED it. It was inspired by another favorite autumn treat: pumpkin bread.
Mini Pumpkin Trifles
Yield: 8 mini-trifles
1 loaf pumpkin bread, cubed
1/4 - 1/2 cup bourbon (omit for the kids)
1-2 cups fresh whipped cream
1-2 cups vanilla custard or vanilla pudding (instant is fine) combined with ½ cup pumpkin puree
Cinnamon and orange zest to garnish
I like to use either stemless wine glasses, martini glasses or mini trifle dishes.
- Line up 8 dessert dishes.
- Place a few cubes of pumpkin bread into each dish and sprinkle on 1/2 - 1 tablespoon of bourbon. For children, you can use apple cider or just omit this step.
- Next, add a nice dollop of custard or pudding, followed by a dollop of whipped cream.
- You may need to repeat this layering once or twice depending upon the size of your dishes, but you’ll want to end with whipped cream on top.
- Garnish with a little sprinkle of cinnamon and orange zest.
You can make these the night before and refrigerate or serve them straight away. This can also be made in one large trifle dish, in which case use the larger quantities of whipped cream and custard or pudding listed above.
#6: Bake up a Batch of Savory Pumpkin Biscuits or Scones
Nearly every coffee shop features sweet pumpkin scones this time of year. But, did you know this recipe can be transformed into savory, Southern-style biscuit?
Check out: The Southern Lady Cooks for two delicious savory pumpkin biscuit recipes, one with regular flour and one with whole wheat. and serve as a side at your next holiday party or with ham or eggs for an extra special country breakfast.
#7: Try This Quick Week-Night Pasta Dish With Pumpkin, Brown Butter, Sage and Fettuccine
This yummy pasta dish makes quick work of leftover roasted pumpkin, butternut squash or pumpkin puree, and can be enjoyed any time of year.
I don’t have a “formal” recipe for this, so here’s the gist:
- Cook your pasta until al dente (fettuccine's my favorite, but any pasta will do).
- While the pasta’s cooking, heat a large skillet on medium with 4-6 tablespoons butter. Let the butter cook until it just begins to brown. Reduce heat to low.
- Throw in some finely minced garlic and freshly minced sage to taste and cook for a minute or so.
- Add either pumpkin puree, roasted pumpkin, canned chopped pumpkin, etc. and stir to coat the pasta.
- Add your freshly cooked pasta and toss. If you’re using roasted pumpkin instead of puree, you may wish to add some pasta water for a saucier dish.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with plenty of Parmesan cheese.
- For a heartier meal, try adding apple sausage, leftover roasted chicken or shrimp.
Happy pumpkin eating everyone!