Curious about how to cook a fresh pumpkin to make fresh pumpkin puree? Unsure of how much pumpkin in a can compares to the fruit itself? This complete guide for how to cook fresh pumpkin will answer all of those questions and more, plus walk you through exactly how to clean a pumpkin, cook it, and make homemade pumpkin puree.

By Karla Walsh
Updated July 10, 2020
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Yep, it’s possible to make pumpkin pie and other pumpkin goodies without opening a can. Our Test Kitchen pros love cooking fresh pumpkin for fresh pumpkin puree that showcases the natural sweetness of the fruit. Once you learn how to cook fresh pumpkin (promise, it’s easy!), you can put local produce to delicious use in sweet and savory recipes ranging from Bourbon Pumpkin Bread to Pumpkin Parmesan Risotto. While roasting is the best method to amplify the flavor and caramelize the sugars in pumpkin, you can hit fast-forward on cooking fresh pumpkin by doing so in the microwave. We’ll explain how to cook fresh pumpkin both ways.

Scott Little

How Many Cups in a Can of Pumpkin, Really?

Fifteen ounces of canned pumpkin is just shy of 2 cups (16 ounces would be 2 cups). By comparison, a 3-pound pie pumpkin will likely give you enough puree for a recipe that calls for a can of pumpkin.

After cooking and draining a pumpkin, this is about what to expect from a typical cooking pumpkin transformed into fresh pumpkin puree:         

  • 2½ pound pie pumpkin = 1¾ cups puree
  • 3½ pound pie pumpkin = 2½ cups puree      
  • 6 pound carving pumpkin = 2¾ cups puree       
  • 5 pound round pumpkin = 3⅓ cups puree
Kritsada Panichgul

How to Select the Best Fruit for Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Small, bright, and vibrant-colored pumpkins that are deep orange with few green spots or blemishes are best for cooking fresh pumpkin. Buy one from a local pumpkin patch or farmers market, or discover how to grow your own! Our Test Kitchen recommends pie pumpkins for their sweetness over carving pumpkins, but if you're carving pumpkins and don't want to waste anything, they will work, too. Whichever type of pumpkin you plan to buy, look for those that are heavy for their size and store them in a cool place up to a month.

How to Cook Fresh Pumpkin into Fresh Pumpkin Puree in the Oven

Now that you’ve got your pumpkin picked out, it’s time to make the puree to use in any recipe you would use canned pumpkin. Here’s how to do it in the oven.

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  • Clean your pumpkin for cooking. Scrub pumpkins thoroughly. 
  • Cut pumpkins in 5-inch-square pieces, discarding stems.
  • Remove seeds and fibrous strings (save seeds for roasting, if desired).
  • Arrange pumpkin pieces in a single layer, skin side up, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan (such as this Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet ($11, Target).
  • Roast, covered, 1 to 1½ hours or until tender. 
  • Allow to cool until cool enough to handle, then scoop pulp from rind. 
  • Place, in batches if necessary, in a blender ($170, KitchenAid) container or food processor bowl. Cover and blend or process until smooth (or for a chunkier puree, blend or process until slightly chunky).
  • Scoop puree in a 100% cotton cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh sieve (use a double thickness of cheesecloth for best results).
  • Allow to stand 1 hour to drain. Press lightly to remove any additional liquid, then discard this liquid.
  • Fresh pumpkin puree can be refrigerated in a tightly sealed container up to 3 days or stored in the freezer up to 6 months. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible from the container or zip-top bag before freezing your fresh pumpkin puree.
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How to Cook Fresh Pumpkin to Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree in the Microwave

If you're too excited to start making your pumpkin recipe using fresh pumpkin to allow for roasting pumpkin in the oven, use the microwave for a shortcut.

  • Start by scrubbing your pumpkins thoroughly. 
  • Cut pumpkins in 5-inch-square pieces, discarding stems.
  • Remove seeds and fibrous strings.
  • Microwave on high power for 7 minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes so the portions cook evenly.
  • Place, in batches if necessary, in a blender container or food processor bowl. Cover and blend or process until smooth (or for a chunkier puree, blend or process until slightly chunky).
  • Scoop puree in a 100% cotton cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh sieve (use a double thickness of cheesecloth for best results).
  • Allow to stand 1 hour to drain. Press lightly to remove any additional liquid, then discard this liquid.
  • Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months before using.

How to Use Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Pumpkin pie recipes are a stellar option, of course! Beyond that, we like to use fresh pumpkin puree in Pumpkin Ravioli, Pork and Pumpkin Noodle Bowls, Pumpkin Mac and Cheese, Glazed Pumpkin-Pecan Cakes, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies, and so much more.

Now that you’re a pro at making fresh pumpkin puree, you can mix things up with canned and fresh as your timeline allows. It’s no longer just for fall once you have some in the freezer and the pantry. So are you ready to pump up your menu all year long? We sure are!

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