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Making your own home made pumpkin puree couldn’t be simpler!  Then using it in this yummilicious brown rice pumpkin risotto really makes it sing. Trust me this will become a favorite whole grain entree that you can make all Fall and Winter long!!

This week I pulled a favorite healthy seasonal recipe out of the archives to talk a little bit about how to cook a pumpkin. The original post/recipe for brown rice pumpkin risotto calls for pureed pumpkin, which you can either make from scratch or use canned. I never mentioned how one goes about making it from scratch.

how to cook a pumpkin and make pumpkin puree

Which Variety of Pumpkin Makes The Best Puree

So here is what you do: First of all, make sure you start with a cooking pumpkin. I bought mine at a grocery store, but you will also be able to find them at Farmers’ Markets. Or you may be seeing them in your CSA. These cooking pumpkin varieties will typically be a lot smaller than the jack-o-lantern carving type pumpkins. They will be labeled something like “pie pumpkin.” Mine were a variety called “sugar baby.” These cooking pumpkins are less fibrous and make smoother sweeter puree.

How to Cook Pumpkin to Make Home-Made Pumpkin Puree

Next you have to cut the pumpkins in half. It is safest to use a very sharp Chef’s knife to to this. Cut the pumpkin in half along the equator. Then use a large spoon to scrape the seeds and pulp out of the center cavity. You can save the seeds and roast them too. Then to roast them, I like to line my baking sheet with parchment paper. The reason I do that is that when the pumpkin touches the baking sheet the naturally occurring sugars in the pumpkin will caramelize and that part of the pumpkin will be dark and tough when pureed. The parchment minimizes the caramelization. If you don’t have parchment, you may just want to scrape off that darkened part to make the smoothest puree.

Next, place the pumpkin cut side down on the parchment. This will trap the natural moisture in so the pumpkin will almost steam itself a bit, and stay very moist. Then you roast them at 350. Normally when you roast vegetables you’ll go for a hotter oven temp, like 400, but that causes the aforementioned caramelization of the sugars, and you really want to minimize that. So a 350 degree oven is better.

Also, a microwave works really well too and is faster. You’ll need to add water to the microwave safe baking dish to help steam the pumpkin. One of the drawbacks to cooking the pumpkin in the microwave is that you can only do one at a time, and with smaller pumpkins. Since I freeze my pumpkin puree, I like to do a bigger batch of puree and cook a couple pumpkins at once. So an oven works better for that

How to Tell if the Pumpkin is Fully Cooked

Roast the pumpkin until it is soft. To tell if it is soft you can carefully flip it over with a spatula and tongs, and test the flesh with a pairing knife or fork. Personally, I like to just press my finger into the flesh (really fast since it is really hot) and if the pumpkin is soft enough it will give away slightly under the pressure of my finger. If you’re afraid of touching hot pumpkins, you can do this with a wooden spoon, but it is harder to tell if it is really soft or not. Or you can try the first method of the flip and poke.

How to Make the Cooked Pumpkin into Pumpkin Puree

Once the pumpkin is soft, just pull the baking sheet out of the oven and let the pumpkin cool on the parchment. To speed the process you can carefully flip it over cut side up and allow the steam to escape or you can leave it cut side down. The pumpkin will collapse as it cools. This is normal. Once it is cool use a spoon to scoop the cooked flesh out of the skin. The skin will be softer now, so try not to get any of the skin in with the flesh. Scoop batches of it into the food processor (don’t over-fill it) and puree until it is smooth. You may have to stop the motor and scrape down the sides to ensure the smoothest puree.

I made a large batch, and divided it up into smaller 2 cup portions to freeze. Most recipes for pumpkin call for 2 cup increments or a 14 ounce can, so I find this is the most useful portion to freeze.

Below you can print the recipe for home-made pumpkin puree which details all of these steps.

home made pumpkin puree

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

Yield: 3 cups (about 1 pound 10 ounces)

How to make home-made pumpkin puree. Pie pumpkins or sugar baby pumpkins make smoother sweeter puree than carving pumpkins.


  • 2 small cooking pumpkins, such as sugar baby, about 4 pounds


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Cut pumpkins in half along the equator. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp in the center. Place pumpkin halves (cut side down) on the prepared pan and roast until they are soft, about an hour. You can tell they are done if you carefully press on the outer skin and the meat gives way underneath.
  3. Alternatively, place two halves cut side down in a 9 by 13-inch microwave safe baking dish with a half inch of water. Microwave on high power, until soft, 15 to 17 minutes. Repeat with the remaining pumpkin halves.
  4. Allow the pumpkins to cool. Scoop the flesh out with a spoon and puree in a food processor or with a food mill.
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Here is that Risotto Recipe I mentioned. Enjoy!

brown rice pumpkin risotto

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Size: 3/4 cup each

brown rice pumpkin risotto

Healthy Brown Rice Risotto Recipe with pureed pumpkin.


  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium broth, such as chicken or vegetable
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • 1 3/4 cups pureed cooked pumpkin, or
  • 1 15-ounce can canned pumpkin

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano cheese, divided


  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring often until softened and just beginning to brown, 1 to 3 minutes.  Stir in rice and cook, stirring until the rice grains start to get translucent in spots, about 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in wine and cook, stirring often until the wine has mostly evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in broth, nutmeg, salt and pepper, increase heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer undisturbed until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes.
  3. Stir in pumpkin, sage and cinnamon, return to a simmer, and cook, stirring often until the mixture is thickened and the rice is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in 3/4 cup Romano cheese, cover and let sit 5 minutes off the heat to thicken further.  Serve sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese, more freshly ground pepper and sage leaves for garnish.
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