Before you can turn a fresh, ripe pumpkin into fall-flavored pies, cakes, breads, or cookies, you first need cook and purée this popular winter squash to a smooth, silky consistency.

By Vanessa Greaves
Updated September 22, 2020
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While there's certainly no shame in using canned pumpkin — even professional bakers do it — fresh pumpkin purée is easy and satisfying to make yourself. Read on to learn four easy ways to make pumpkin purée from scratch; you can use these methods to purée any winter squash you like.

Choose Your Pumpkin

Credit: Meredith

When it comes to choosing pumpkins for baking, smaller is better. Sugar pumpkins are a popular and easy-to-find variety; small and sweet with dark orange-colored flesh, they'll reward you with the best flavor. Large field pumpkins, which are bred for jack-o'-lanterns, are too flavorless and stringy for baking.

A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin. This purée can be used in all your recipes calling for canned pumpkin.

Choose Your Cooking Method

Credit: DaMora

Get this recipe: Pumpkin Purée

Here are four ways to transform fresh, raw pumpkin into the purée used in baking:

1. Baking Method

  • Cut the pumpkin in half and discard strings and seeds.
  • In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil.
  • Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.
  • Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and purée or mash it.
  • For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin purée through a sieve.

2. Boiling Method

  • Cut the pumpkin in half, discard strings and seeds.
  • Peel the pumpkin and cut it into chunks.
  • Place in a saucepan and cover with water.
  • Bring to a boil and cook until the pumpkin chunks are tender.
  • Let the chunks cool, then purée the flesh in a food processor or mash it with a potato masher or food mill.

3. Microwave Method

  • Cut the pumpkin in half, discard strings and seeds.
  • Microwave on high power for seven minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes to promote even cooking. Process as above.

4. Instant Pot Method

  • Cut pumpkin in half, discard strings and seeds.
  • Pour water into the inner lining of a multi-functional pressure cooker (such as Instant Pot®). Set trivet inside.
  • Close and lock the lid; set valve to sealing. Select manual mode according to manufacturer's instructions and set timer for 12 minutes. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for pressure to build.
  • Release pressure carefully using the quick-release method according to manufacturer's instructions, about 5 minutes. Unlock and remove the lid. Remove pumpkin from the pot and set on a rack until cook enough to handle, about 5 minutes.
  • Scrape pumpkin flesh from the skin and place into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.

How to Store Homemade Pumpkin Purée

You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin purée for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to six months, so you can enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.

Pumpkin Recipes to Try: