Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

The many faces of pumpkin

The antioxidant-rich ingredient is delicious in more than just pie

It's no secret that pumpkin is the ingredient du jour.

You will find it everywhere. At popular coffee chains, pumpkin is in everything from lattes to muffins and breads.

In the fall, grocery stores devote more shelf space to canned pumpkin - and often it's on sale. Don't confuse it with pumpkin-pie filling, which also comes in a can.

One of the most popular uses of pure pumpkin, of course, is in pumpkin pie.

But there are plenty of other ways to use this antioxidant-rich ingredient.

You can make pumpkin soup or stir some into stews and chilies.

Swirl pumpkin into plain nonfat Greek-yogurt. Add some to mashed potatoes.

Use pumpkin to replace some of the fat in cookies, muffins and breads.

It's all good. And, for the most part, good for you.

Adding pumpkin to recipes adds vitamins and antioxidants and provides a good dose of fibre.

A half cup of pumpkin has only 50 calories, less than one gram of fat and four grams of dietary fibre.

Mayssoun Hamade, clinical manager and registered dietitian for St. John Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan, says pumpkin meets U.S. government vegetable requirements of eating two cups of orange vegetables weekly.

"The two things that pumpkin is high in are vitamin A and beta carotene - an antioxidant," Hamade says. "They protect the body and the cells from getting damaged."

Pumpkin is available year-round, but it's during the holidays when producers, such as Libby's, say they see a jump in sales.

Libby's sells more than 80 per cent of commercial pumpkin products.

Pure pumpkin is what you get after cooking sugar or pie pumpkins (don't use jack-o'-lanterns) until their inner flesh is soft. Once soft, the flesh is mashed or processed into a puree.

You can make your own, but it's just as cost-effective to buy it canned.

For example, a 15-ounce can of 100 per cent pumpkin is about $2. Larger 29ounce cans are about $3.

A pie pumpkin weighs about four pounds and averages about 79 cents a pound. Once you roast it, the flesh softens and shrinks some, yielding about 2 1 /2 cups of pumpkin.

Here are few ways to use pumpkin:

Chili: Brown 1 pound bulk spicy Italian pork sausage (or turkey sausage) in a large pot; pour off fat.

Add 1 cup chopped onions, 1 1 /2 cups chopped bell peppers and cook until softened. Season with chili powder, cumin and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Stir in 1 1 /2 cup canned great northern beans, 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 1 cup vegetable broth and 1 1 /2 cups pumpkin. Simmer 20 minutes. (Recipe adapted from

Mini muffins: Mix one devil's food cake mix with one 15-ounce can (about 1 1 /2 cups) pumpkin. Scoop batter into mini muffin tins. Bake according to package directions.

Pasta sauce: Stir 1 cup of pumpkin into 3 cups of pasta sauce for a thicker consistency.


Bake: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut sugar or pie pumpkins in quarters and remove all the seeds and fibers. (Save seeds for roasting, if desired.) Place the quarters flesh-side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast about 45-50 minutes or until the flesh is tender.

Puree: Scoop away tender pumpkin flesh from the skin. Purée it in a food processor or mash it by hand until smooth. Cooked pumpkin can have a lot of moisture. To remove it, line a colander with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Place the flesh in the colander and press on it to remove excess moisture.

Store: Freeze any leftover canned or homemade pumpkin puree. Place it in a plastic sealable freezer bag and squeeze out the air. Press the bag so it will store flat, label, date and freeze.

You can keep the puree about six months. Thaw before using.


Serves: 8 (about 1 /2-cup servings)

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Using a mix of heavy whipping cream and skim milk saves a few calories and fat grams. You also can use fat-free half-and-half in place of the cream. Using Gouda cheese gives this mac and cheese a mild nutty flavor.

2 cups dried elbow macaroni

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 cup skim milk

4 ounces Gouda or fontina cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

1 Tbsp snipped fresh sage or 1/2 tsp dried leaf sage, crushed

1/2 cup soft bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1 Tbsp olive oil

Fresh sage leaves, optional

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain pasta, and then return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add whipping cream and milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in the cheese, pumpkin and sage until cheese melts. Stir cheese sauce into pasta to coat. Transfer macaroni and cheese to an ungreased two-quart rectangular baking dish.

In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, walnuts and oil; sprinkle over pasta. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is golden. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage leaves.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens.


Serves: 4 (generously)

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

This dish has a good balance of curry and cayenne suitable for most tastes. If you like it spicier, add more cayenne.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sliced onion

1 Tbsp minced ginger

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 plum tomato, chopped

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

2 cups vegetable broth

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 1/2 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste

1 cup butternut squash, roasted and diced

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

For serving Steamed rice

Cilantro Lime zest Fried shallots

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add onion and ginger; saute until soft, about 8 minutes.

Add garlic; cook for one minute.

Stir in plum tomato and pumpkin puree; cook, stirring frequently, until pumpkin is golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, curry powder and cayenne pepper; simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the butternut squash, shrimp and lime juice.

Simmer until shrimp are cooked and squash is warm. If desired, serve over steamed rice and top with cilantro, lime zest and fried shallots.



Makes: 1 loaf (12 slices)

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Floured baking spray

1 mashed ripe banana (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup canola oil

1 large egg

2 egg whites

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Coat an 8 1 /2-by4 1 /2-inch loaf pan with floured baking spray.

In a large bowl, place mashed banana, pumpkin puree, oil, egg and egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon. Add flour mixture to banana and pumpkin mixture and beat until just moist.

Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick placed in center comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly before cutting into slices.


Makes: 36

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

If desired, substitute

1 /2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice for the nutmeg and cloves.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup raisins

1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 3 standard muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add the walnuts and raisins and gently toss with the flour mixture. This will help prevent the nuts and raisins from sinking to the bottom.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugars and oil.

Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in three batches, stirring with a wooden spoon just until combined.

Fill muffin cups about three-fourths full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 2025 minutes.

Cool tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes and cool them completely.

Frost and decorate as desired.