Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

How to eat a pumpkin!

Brought too many home from the patch? Try this!

Your little one arrives home from school with a sugar pumpkin and tells you she wants to eat it. I feel for you.

Until challenged by a super-chef friend a few years ago, I had only used pumpkin-in-a-can … and on occasion still do. But when they are just there, in my CSA (veggie) box or in the hands of my son, it is time to try to take on this winter squash.There’s lots of good news when it comes to cooking pumpkin. They are pretty non-perishable. Keep them in a cool dark corner and they will last for months. A dry corner of the basement or garage is great. Heck, the kitchen counter works for a few weeks. And once cooked, the pulp can be tossed into the freezer until you have time.So how does one cook a pumpkin?

Cut it up raw — or bake it whole, then cut it up

Eat a pumpkin

If you have a nice big chef’s knife, you probably can just cut it in half and break off the stem.

But what if it is tough, or you’re worried about harming yourself or the counter? Getting out the hatchet or a cleaver might not really be an option. Instead, get out a little knife and poke a few holes in the pumpkin, break off the stem, pop it in a pan, bake it for about 30 minutes at 350˚F, until the little cuts gap and the bottom looks a little dark and wilty. Pull it out of the oven, let it cool or handle it with a good hot-mitt. The knife will go in much easier.

Eat a pumpkin

Cook a pumpkin: Scoop out the seeds

Either way, once you have the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds (*see the end of the recipe for tips on cleaning those seeds, and making some munchy roasted pumpkin seeds).

That done, put the pumpkin in the oven at 425˚F for about 30 to 40 minutes (less if you “softened” the pumpkin), until the flesh is easily pierced by a fork. Let it cool and peel off the skin. It should peel off easily in mostly large pieces.

Eat a pumpkin

Cook a pumpkin: Mash it up

The pumpkin will be a bit chunky and stringy. Run it through a food processor or the coarse disk of a food mill. Add a little (a few tablespoons) of milk, broth or water (depending on its final destination) to create a thick, smooth purée. Now you’re ready to go. (If you are out of time, pop it in a freezer zip-top bag or a snap-top plastic container and freeze until you are ready to cook, up to two months later!)

Eat a pumpkin

Eat it!  A pie. A pureed side dish. Pumpkin cream cheese.

To make a pumpkin pie just follow your favorite recipe, and use the purée you’ve made or thawed from the freezer. I still use the recipe I pulled from the Libby’s can so many years ago, yet I nearly double the spices.

If you have kids who dig mashed potatoes (I, alas, don’t), all you need to do is warm up the puree in the microwave, or on the stove. Then stir in 2–4 tablespoons of butter and soy sauce to your taste. The sweet of the pumpkin and the salty/savory of the soy sauce produce a little magic.

If you have kids who are a little pickier, freeze the puree into ice cubes and add them to spaghetti sauces, soup or use them to replace ¼ to ½ cup of the liquid in pancakes, waffles or muffins. The pumpkin gives an extra nutritious punch to whatever it has been added to. Adding pumpkin to muffins makes them good candidates for freezing; the pumpkin will help keep them tender and moist when they are reheated.

Cook a pumpkin: Other ways to use pumpkin puree

A delicious healthy oatmeal pumpkin muffin  

Yummy Pumpkin Soup 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Place the pumpkin pulp and seeds in a large bowl/sink full of water. Simply squeeze the seeds off the pulp. They will float to the top. Scoop them out and onto a cookie sheet or baking pan.

Toss with a little oil and roast for about 15 minutes at 425˚F. Pull them out of the oven and lower the heat to 350˚F. Sprinkle on some salt. Or, make them a little fancier by trying seasoning salt, Italian seasoning and red pepper flake, or maybe even some curry powder. Roast the seeds for about 10 to 15 more minutes at 350˚F, or until they are light golden brown. Once cool, I bet they don’t last until the end of the day.

This updated story was originally published in September 2020.


Helping parents, kids and new cooks navigate and enjoy fresh, local and sometimes unusual produce prodded Greta Hardin into writing the book “Cooking Your Local Produce: A Cookbook for Tackling Farmer’s Markets, CSA Boxes, and Your Own Backyard.” She’s a science teacher, enthusiastic cook, and mother. She couldn’t find a cookbook to help people get started in the emerging landscape of local food, so she wrote this one. 

More Halloween fun:

Pumpkin: It’s more than just pie

Fall Farm Fun: Pumpkin patches and corn mazes