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