Homemade pumpkin puree


A forgettable number of years ago, I tried to make a pumpkin pie by roasting my own pumpkin, and was not pleased with the result.

From that point on, I touted my “only-canned-pumpkin” policy, meaning that while in most conceivable kitchen scenarios, homemade is better than canned, this was a case where that was simply not true. With the rise of industrialized food and Libby’s, I was firmly convinced that Thanksgiving dessert tables all over the country were better suited in these processed times (drawing a hard & fast line at the invention of Cool Whip).

But then last year? Let’s just say I can’t teach a sleeping dog new tricks. Or let an old dog lie. Whatever, I just couldn’t let it go.

So I roasted a “pumpkin.” Translation: I roasted a butternut squash, and used it to make a pumpkin pie. And it was delightful, the best pumpkin pie I’d ever made.


Before you gasp in the horror of my farce, the intentional misleading of pie-adoring innocents, just hear me out.

The problem with roasting pumpkins is that many varieties have too much water, so you end up with a runny mess when it comes pie time. Wanna know the secret to those cans of thick, condensed pumpkin purée?

They use butternut squash.

That’s right. I can’t even remember who told me this. But the dirty truth is that most canned pumpkin purée is made up of other varieties of winter squash. Technically the FDA allows everyone to label it “pumpkin” because they are of similar plant varieties. And who can blame them? Butternut, along with other winter squashes, are dryer than pumpkins. When it comes to roasting puree for use in pies, breads, and the lot, dryer equals thicker.



Since now is the time when I can get organic butternut squash at my farmer’s market for around 85¢/pound, I decided to get ahead of the game and start roasting some for the upcoming pumpkin-love season. Checking a can in the pantry, I found they hold 425g by weight, which ends up being about 1 3/4 cups by volume — easy to measure and freeze in ready-to-use canned-size portions.


So if, like me, you have been long-wed to the can, pick up a butternut squash and give this method a try in your next pumpkin recipe. As far as whether or not you are morally bound to reveal the source of the best pumpkin pie you will ever make, well, I leave that up to you.

I’m certainly not telling anyone.

This recipe was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.


Recipe: Homemade pumpkin puree


  • butternut squash (one 2-pound squash will give you about the equivalent of a 15-oz can of pumpkin)


  1. Preheat oven to 350º, and line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the tough stem off the squash, then cut in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds from inside and discard.
  3. Place squash halves cut-side down on sheets.
  4. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until very soft.
  5. Let squash cool completely. Scrape flesh from the skins, and puree in a food processor until smooth.
  6. Measure out in 1 3/4 cup portions, and freeze until ready to use (use as exact replacement for one 15-oz can of pumpkin puree).

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.




12 thoughts on “Homemade pumpkin puree

  1. Who’d a thunk it? I still have some in the freezer from all the butternut squash I was baking and pureeing for baby food. Pie it is!

    1. Beth, I made winter squash baby food like this for YEARS before I ever used it to bake something. Sometimes I think everything I’ve learned in the kitchen is rooted in making baby food.

  2. I have heard that butternut squash makes great “pumpkin” pie, but I didn’t know that canned pumpkin could include pretty much any winter squash. Great idea to make a bunch and freeze can-size portions!

    1. Isn’t that crazy? Mildly disturbing, too, as it brings to light the fact that we usually don’t know what’s really in processed foods. The can lists one ingredient: pumpkin — seems like that’d be hard to hide anything. And yet, it kind of does.

  3. I have always hated pumpkin pie and assumed it was an intense dislike of pumpkin and other winter squashes. But when I started roasting or sauteing the squash that came in my CSA bag, I realized it was the canned stuff I didn’t like. I am still not a lover of pumpkin pie, but I’m game for trying it with a butternut to see if I like it better . . . or perhaps a pie done with a milder pie pumpkin would be for me! (And who knew about the canned being butternut squash?!? Not I.)

    I’ve got four squashes roasting in the oven right now: a butternut and an acorn for Ella, and two kabochas for pureeing and freezing to go in cookies, cupcakes, and risotto. Later, a butternut for maple/apple/squash soup. ‘Tis the season! I love fall eating.

    1. RM, you might not ever go for the pie — it might be a custard/texture thing as much as anything. But I’ll be using mine for all the other things you mentioned too. Care to share that recipe for maple/apple/squash soup? Sounds so Vermont ; )

      1. Katy, I just now typed up the recipe here (where I store all recipes I don’t want to lose!): http://rebawritcooking.blogspot.com/2011/10/maple-apple-squash-soup.html

        This is several-times adapted down a line of friends-of-friends. I make it once or twice at the beginning of each fall, since I don’t love sweet foods for meals (I think you don’t, either). Tonight’s was the best yet. I went light on the maple syrup and applesauce, and switched to balsamic from apple cider vinegar. (Past batches had been a little too appley.) I also left out 3 Tbsp brown sugar. I recommend trying it for a lunch or dinner treat!

        What I’m curious about now is if there is a chili that incorporates pumpkin/squash . . .

  4. Well, I just had to google that because my father raised a very skeptical daughter. Also, I’m genetically wired to disagree with everything whether I really disagree with it or not. I know, I should seek therapy, especially now that my oldest son is showing he is prone to disagree and argue. He’ll probably become a lawyer just like my dad and then they can just argue to their hearts content never agreeing with each other and being happy. Anyway, it’s not really butternut squash, though it does resemble it. It’s a Dickinson pumpkin. Still, not exactly what we are thinking of when it says pumpkin. We think that if we were really competent, we would gut the pumpkin, make a jack-o-lantern for Halloween, puree the pulp for a pie, and toast the seeds for a super healthy snack. Oh well. We can still do two of those activities. Then, let the jack-o-lantern get kicked to death by your two sons who don’t have enough physical outlets for the pent-up energy accumulated during hours of spelling homework. I hear spelling is the first fiery ring of hell. Not because of it’s difficulty but because of it’s power to suck out your soul like a dementor while you write words out three times each. Apparently my soul was lost years ago as I thought that was a pretty easy homework assignment. But back to the pumpkin. Interesting how labels work. I learned that through food allergies. And to further illustrate my soullessness, I really don’t like pumpkin anything. Pie, bread, juice, etc. I’m told it’s likely the spices since pumpkin doesn’t have too much of a flavor and I DO like various squash. Probably the nutmeg. There are at least three in this house who don’t like anything with nutmeg. Not even just a little bit. And my boys will eat just about anything. So the moral is, don’t make your kids do spelling because they will have their souls removed and will henceforth dislike nutmeg.

    1. can you promise me that you will never, ever stop leaving novella-length comments on my posts? because, seriously, every time you do it totally makes my day!

      I think it’s nutmeg. And I could see that — I’m not offended by it, but use it very cautiously. Too much gives me a headache, for real.

      as far as soul-sucking, and spelling, and the first level of hell, well, that’s quite simply a children’s novel waiting to happen. Dante for the primary reader?

  5. This is strange to me, because a couple of years ago, I made a pie with fresh pumpkin. Actually, I did what Nancy described, LOL! We carved pumpkins for Halloween and saved the pulp and seeds. I froze the pumpkin pulp and baked the pumpkin seeds. When Thanksgiving came, I made pumpkin pie and it tasted just like it always had when we made it from canned pumpkin.

  6. I am so excited to learn about this butternut substitution. I can’t find canned pumpkin here in Hawaii because there is a “shortage”! I know people who stock-pile it once a limited supply finally appears on the shelves just before Thanksgiving. Now I can relax. Going to roast some butternut squash today. I may have to try this puree in pumpkin bread as well (an amazing recipe from an old grad school roomie ;)–have you done this, Katy?

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