Pumpkin pie is a seasonal favorite and if you want your pie to really shine, here are the 10 Best Pumpkins for Pies, as well as other desserts, soups, and side dishes.
Making your own homemade pumpkin puree can add a complexity of different flavors to your fall dishes. Depending on the pumpkins available, the flavors can be sweeter, richer, more colorful, and with a smoother consistency. Every year I like to make a large batch of pumpkin puree to freeze recipes throughout the season. Here’s everything you need to know about the best pumpkins for pies and all your culinary needs.
The Worst Pumpkins for Pies, Baking, and Cooking
Since we’re talking about the best pumpkins for pie, baking, and cooking, we should also be talking about the worst. You may be surprised to learn that Sugar Squashes sold in grocery stores and sold as pumpkins for pies are the worst! They are bitter and give a horrible taste.
You should also avoid large gourds used for carving, which are also bitter and incredibly stringy.
Characteristics of the best pumpkins for pies.
There are certain characteristics that make pumpkins great for pies. Listed below are the reasons why these are the best pumpkins for pies, baking, and cooking.
- Low water content: The denser the pumpkin, the better the puree for use in recipes. It will also add more flavor to any baked dish.
- Little to no string: If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin, you’re probably aware of all the stringy, stringy pumpkin that needs to be pulled out. These stringy fibers are not pleasant to eat and result in a coarse mash.
- Taste: Large carved pumpkins can actually taste bitter. When choosing the best pumpkin for pies, you should go for pumpkins that have a slight sweetness in the flesh, while I like savory dishes with nutty or earthy flavors.
- Color: A much more vibrant and beautiful coloration can be achieved depending on the type of pumpkin used. Regular carved pumpkins and even sugar pie pumpkins found in most grocery stores can be very dull and light orange in color.
Kabocha Squash is a popular type of squash that actually has green flesh, with vibrant orange flesh. It is commonly used in baking due to its low water content and rich flavor. It also produces a beautiful orange coloration with a smooth, velvety finish.
Kabocha squashes are also great for roasting, as they have a subtly sweet yet earthy flavor. If you’ve ever eaten at a Japanese restaurant, chances are you’ve enjoyed kabocha squash in tempura batter.
2. Red kuri
During the holiday season, you are likely to find Red Kuri Squash in your produce department. It has a vibrant orange-red hue, sweet flavor and produces a creamy puree. This is a favorite for baking because it will make your dishes look and taste amazing.
3. Fairy Tale Pumpkins or Muscade de Provence
Fairytale gourds have gained popularity as ornamental heirloom gourds. Fortunately, they also make great pumpkin pies with their mild sweet flavor and pungent aroma. Its low water content will produce a nice thick puree. I also like these pumpkins for savory dishes.
4. Dickinson squashes
Dickinson squashes are the most commonly grown and used for Libby’s popular canned pumpkin puree. They are found more on the East Coast and the Midwest. Dickenson squashes are actually a variety of butternut squash, which is what you’ll typically find in almost all store-bought pumpkin purees.
5. Jerrah Valley
Jarradale squashes are a dull light green color and are known as one of the best squashes for pies and desserts. They have a very sweet and fruity pulp, almost like a melon, and create a perfect puree for pie fillings. They have minimal stringiness and create a wonderfully smooth texture.
These pumpkins are also much harder to find and are more expensive. You’ll have better luck finding them at your local nursery. Although the price can go up to $20-$30, they are larger and will make a lot of pumpkin puree to enjoy in pies, soups, and more.
6. Cinderella or Rouge Vif d’Etampes
Cinderella Pumpkins or Rouge Vif d’Etampes is a French heirloom variety. These gourds have also gained popularity for their beautiful white color and can be found in most grocery stores and nurseries. These are perfect for decorations and baking cakes.
Cinderella squashes have a nice firm, sweet flesh and are great in desserts and savory dishes.
How to make pumpkin puree
One key to making pumpkin puree is to reduce the water content. That’s why denser pumpkins make better purees. Since we want a thicker puree, the worst thing you can do is boil the squash or use any technique that adds water! If you’re going to the trouble of making your own pumpkin puree, don’t boil the pumpkin, use the Instant Pot or Crock Pot instead.
Instead, you want to roast your squash in the oven. Roasting will also add a bit of caramelization, making your pumpkin puree even more flavorful.
- depending on the size of your squash, cut off the top if it’s small or cut it into large chunks
- remove all seeds and any stringiness
- place squash skin side up on foil-lined baking sheet
- bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes until squash is tender
- remove the entire squash, discard the skin and puree in a food processor
Try These Delicious Pumpkin Recipes
To say that I like to cook with pumpkin would be an understatement. Every year I make new pumpkin recipes and I love being creative. Check out my Pumpkin Panna Cotta, Vegan Pumpkin Donuts, and Delicious Pumpkin Muffins.
I like to make a large batch of pumpkin puree that I can use throughout the season. I recommend filling small freezer-safe ziplock bags with 1 cup of pumpkin puree. This measure is the most common in recipes. Then just thaw the puree the night before and it’s ready to go.
Have you used any of these heirloom squashes for baking or cooking? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best pumpkins for pies, baking, and cooking! Comment below on your favorites.