How To: Why You Should Always Keep Canned Pumpkin in Your Pantry

Why You Should Always Keep Canned Pumpkin in Your Pantry

Canned pumpkin is something I always stock up on and keep in my pantry, because it's endlessly useful when cooking or baking. Sweet, creamy, and mild, pumpkin can be folded into baked goods and savory dishes with ease.

Why Canned Pumpkin Is More Useful Than Fresh Pumpkin

Using canned pumpkin is always easier and more consistent than using fresh. Fresh pumpkins, when in season, can be great, but canned pumpkin is available year round. It's also more stable in flavor than fresh pumpkin, and is usually a little sweeter and creamier.

Image via Jessica Collins

How Can Canned Sometimes Taste Better Than Fresh?

Canned pumpkin is usually a mixture of pumpkin and a few different squashes, including the big orange things we like to carve into jack-o'-lanterns. Butternut and Golden Delicious squashes are usually in the mix, and they are creamier and sweeter than our big orange pumpkins, which is why canned pumpkin gives consistently good results when you bake or cook with it.

This is perfectly legal, by the way, because the term "pumpkin" applies to different types of squashes according to the USDA.

What to Buy & Where to Get It

I like Libby's canned pumpkin, which is available nationwide and makes up about 80% of America's canned pumpkin product. Instead of looking for the canned pumpkin in the canned vegetable aisle, you'll most probably find it in the baking aisle near the ready-made pie crusts. For cooking and baking, just make sure you are buying 100% pure puréed pumpkin, and not the pumpkin pie filler that has sugar and spices already added.

Image via The Scrumptious Pumpkin

There have been some complaints of Libby's canned pumpkin containing sand/grit in them, which could be because the soil Libby's prefers for their pumpkins has a little bit of sand in it. However, I've never experienced any sand/grit in my cans.

If you're worried about excessive sand, grit, or silt, look for canned pumpkin products with a USDA grade of "A" which is practically free of defects, as compared to "C" or "SStd." However, USDA grades are voluntary, so it's unlikely you'll see them on any labels.

Substitute Eggs or Butter with Canned Pumpkin for Healthier Baking

Pumpkins are very nutrient-dense, which means they are full of vitamins and minerals but low in calories. Adding them to sauces, soups, and baked goods will up the nutritional value and reduce calories and fat per serving.

Healthier Cooking: Replace the butter or oil with canned pumpkin in dishes like macaroni and cheese and creamy pastas to save calories and a lot of fat.

Healthier Baking: Replace one egg with ¼ cup of canned pumpkin when baking cookies or muffins for healthier desserts. Canned pumpkin can especially add freshness and flavor to boxed cake and pancake mixes.

Skinnier chocolate pumpkin muffins and cookies. Image by Martha McKinnon/Simple Nourished Living

The Easiest Turkey Chili in the World

Canned pumpkin adds creaminess and a lovely sweet flavor to stews and sauces, but my favorite way to use it is in vegetarian or turkey chili. This is a cheat recipe for weekdays that uses jarred salsa to replace the diced tomatoes, onions, and spices that go into traditional chili. You can even add in a third jar of salsa if you want more vegetables and a saucier texture.


  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 (16-oz) containers store-bought salsa (mild, medium, or hot, depending on your spice level)
  • 1 can pumpkin purée
  • 1 can kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup frozen sweet corn, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • cilantro, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream to serve, optional


  1. In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, brown the turkey over medium-high heat in a little olive oil.
  2. Drain off any excess oil.
  3. Add in salsa, pumpkin, beans, and frozen corn (if using), and stir to combine.
  4. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Ladle into bowls and serve with tortilla chips or cornbread.
  7. Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese, and/or cilantro (optional).

Super Easy Pumpkin Hummus Dip

Hummus is always a crowd-pleaser, and it's full of nutritious protein. Change it up a little by adding an equal amount of canned pumpkin to the mix, which will lighten both the consistency and calories of the hummus.

Just combine equal parts hummus (homemade or store-bought) and canned pumpkin. Top with pepitas, if possible.

More Pumpkin Food Hacks

Want more out of your canned pumpkin? Try some DIY pumpkin butter or Korean pumpkin pancakes, or recreate Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte at home. You could also just spice up your normal pumpkin pie with vodka for a more intoxicating treat. What do you use canned pumpkin for? Share below or over on Food Hacks' Facebook page.

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Photos by Naomi Imatome-Yun/Food Hacks (unless otherwise specified)

1 Comment

I've had sand/grit in Libby's mix for the past several years. It has been the cause of many tossed pies and I will no longer buy it. This year I had home grown pumpkins as a backup and I'm glad I did because it was the same old story with Libby's garbage. The freshly roasted pumpkin tasted much better and was free of sand because I take the necessary step of washing the pumpkins before roasting. Also, you can freeze the purée and have pumpkin all year, or even can it yourself if freezing is an issue. Just because something is legal doesn't make it ethical. When I buy something labeled 100% pure pumpkin, I expect 100% pure pumpkin, not a variety of things in the "pumpkin" family. That's just my opinion and if I had to prioritize those concerns I'd definitely say that the lack of quality control around the sand that is going into the pumpkin would be my bigger concern.

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