If the fall season had a signature flavor, surely it’d be pumpkin. From autumn baking to warming soups and stews, this winter squash stars in some of the best dishes during this time of year. Here are our best tips for working with pumpkin, plus new recipe ideas from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Pumpkin: Everything You Need to Know
What to Look For
Choose pumpkins that feel solid and heavy for their size. As they age, they dry out and become lighter. The skin should be hard, with no cracks, blemishes or soft spots.
For cooking, seek out small, sweet varieties with fairly small seed cavity, such as the Sugar Pie, Baby Bear or Cheese pumpkin, with a thick flesh that will become tender when baked. Reserve field pumpkins, which have a fibrous flesh that’s not good for baking, for carving jack-o’-lanterns.
To cut open a pumpkin, steady it on a thick towel, very carefully insert a large, heavy knife near the stem, and cut down through the curved side. Always cut away from you. Turn the pumpkin 180 degrees and repeat on the other side. (A more dramatic, messier method is simply to drop the pumpkin onto newspapers spread on a hard floor. The pumpkin will break into pieces.) Once you’ve cracked the pumpkin, use a large metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and any fibrous strings in the seed cavity. If you like, save the seeds for roasting.
Pumpkin puree is a key ingredient in autumn-inspired baked goods; instead of buying it canned, try making it yourself in just two simple steps.
Hard shells protect pumpkins from easy spoilage. Most will keep for a month or longer if stored in a cool, dry place. Once cut, pumpkins should be wrapped tightly in plastic, refrigerated and used within three to four days.
Your Pumpkin Toolkit
- Pumpkin Cocotte, to simmer seasonal soups, stews and braises
- KitchenAid Stand Mixer, for mixing pumpkin baked goods and desserts
- Emile Henry Ruffled Pie Dish, for baking pumpkin pies
- Le Creuset Gratin, to roast pumpkin and bake gratins and casseroles
Cooks love to puree pumpkins for pies, tarts, muffins or quickbreads. Like other winter squashes, pumpkin are also wonderful when cut into chunks and roasted, braised, or simmered in soups. Here are a few of our most basic ways to enjoy pumpkin.
Pumpkin Curry: In a Dutch oven, sauté diced onions, red bell pepper and carrots with minced garlic, ginger, seeded Thai chiles and madras curry powder. Add drained canned diced tomatoes, diced pumpkin, small cauliflower florets and stock. Simmer until pumpkin and cauliflower are tender. Stir in frozen peas until heated through. Top with chopped cilantro and serve. with Greek yogurt.
Roasted Pumpkin & Candied Pepita Salad: Toss pepitas with oil, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Bake at 350°F until lightly browned. Whisk together apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, light brown sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss hearty greens with roasted diced pumpkin, dried cranberries and vinaigrette. Top with crumbled goat cheese, if desired, and sprinkle with candied pepitas.
Pumpkin Ice Cream: Make your favorite vanilla ice cream base. For every 3 cups base, whisk in 1 cup pumpkin puree, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg and 1/8 tsp. ground cloves. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Pumpkin Pancakes: Beat 4 egg whites to stiff peaks. In another bowl, mix 4 egg yolks, 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, 1 1/2 cups milk, 4 Tbs. melted butter and 1 tsp. vanilla. In a large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 3/4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ginger and 1/4 tsp. allspice. Stir in pumpkin mixture, then fold in egg whites. Drop 1/3 cupfuls onto a skillet, cooking each side until golden.
Pumpkin Ravioli: Puree roasted pumpkin with an egg yolk, grated parmesan, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper. Roll out sheets of fresh egg pasta and fill with pumpkin mixture to form ravioli. Brown butter in a sauté pan and stir in slivered sage leaves. Keep warm. Gently simmer ravioli until al dente. Pour brown butter over ravioli and garnish with coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts and shaved parmesan.
Pumpkin-Gruyere Gratin: Cut the top off a pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the inside with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Alternate layers of toasted French bread with grated Gruyère until about 1 inch from the top. Combine equal parts chicken stock and cream. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour into pumpkin until it reaches the top layer of bread. Replace top and bake at 350°F for about 2 hours.
Some of our most beloved pumpkin preparations may be more elaborate and time-intensive, but they highlight the squash’s versatility in starters, salads, entrees and more.
Unlike other pumpkin soups, this version is topped with Colombian picadillo, a zesty pepper-and-onion salsa. It’s comforting without being too heavy.
Here, Italian ravioli is filled with pumpkin and dressed with a simple sauce of brown butter and sage, which heightens and contrasts with the sweetness of the pumpkin in the filling. Making the pasta by hand takes some time, but if you gather friends and family on a crisp fall day and make it an afternoon activity, you’ll be rewarded.
There’s arguably no autumn dessert more beloved than the traditional pumpkin pie.