What to Do with That Pumpkin You Never Carved

What to Do with That Pumpkin You Never Carved

There it is, still sitting on the counter, cute as an oversized button: the jack-o'-lantern that wasn't. Here's how to make it the pumpkin dessert that was:

With luck, you picked out your pumpkin at the grocery store from a pile of small "sweet pumpkins," which are meant more for cooking than carving. They're also generally smaller, sweeter, and creamier than the classic Halloween porch decoration.

To whip up a fresh puree -- needed for pie, soup, muffins, you name it -- just cook your pumpkin using one of the three easy methods below. Then, mash or puree the cooked flesh in a food processor or blender. If it smells too good not to eat today, add a little brown sugar and cinnamon and serve it as a side dish for dinner. But if you're still pie-eyed, the puree will keep in the fridge for 5 days or the freezer for 6 months—you know, in case you don't get that pie made for Thanksgiving, there will still be a whole season of holiday sweets ahead!

Pumpkin puree
First, cut your pumpkin in half, and scoop out the strings and seeds. Then, choose one of these procedures:

Microwave it. Place the halves cut-side down on a microwave-safe plate, and cook on high for 15 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, spoon out cooked insides and mash or puree.

Boil it. Cut the halves into cubes, place in a saucepan, and cover with water; bring to a boil and cook until tender. Drain, cool, and peel each piece.

Bake it. Place the halves cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for an hour at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. When cool enough to handle, spoon out the tender insides.

Save the seeds!
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with all sorts of goodies: omega-3 fatty acids; iron; zinc; phosphorous; manganese; magnesium; vitamin K; and phytosterols, plant compounds that lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and prime your immune system. In other words, they're one of those health-bestowing foods that, munched regularly, can make your RealAge years younger.

Toasted pumpkin seeds: Rinse the seeds under cold water, removing any pulp or strings. Place on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and shake or stir the seeds until they're well coated. Sprinkle lightly with salt and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes. For extra flavor, season with a little Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic salt, or cayenne pepper. They're perfect to add to a stir-fry or salad. Or just snack on a handful.

Don't guilt yourself into passing up pumpkin pie—just make it with a healthier crust.

Medically reviewed in April 2019.

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