If you’ve had enough of “faux pumpkin” in the form of pumpkin-spiced everything, why not get back to basics and cook with real pumpkins this fall? They’re packed with fiber as well as vitamins A and C and taste smashing in both sweet and savory recipes (just in time for Thanksgiving).

But what type of pumpkins are best for cooking? And how can you make a delicious puree without resorting to the canned lump from the store?

Here’s the scoop on everything you need to know if you’re cooking with pumpkins.

Get the right size

The bigger the pumpkin, the better the jack-o’-lantern … but the worse the kitchen result. Think about the last time you carved a pumpkin and how stringy and watery they are inside. Blech.

For cooking, you’re going to want a smaller pumpkin, ideally between 4 and 8 pounds.

Baking with pumpkins 101

Ready for some pumpkin pie? It’s easy to find the right pumpkin since they’re often generically labeled “pie pumpkins” or sometimes “sugar pumpkins.” They also go by Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, and Lumina (white pumpkins), along with very sweet names like Cinderella and Fairy Tale.

The trick for most baked goods is that you first have to create pumpkin puree. There are 3 methods you can use: boiling, baking, and microwaving.

Boiling 

  • Halve the pumpkin and remove the insides.
  • Remove the skin and dice the pumpkin.
  • Boil in a saucepan until the pumpkin is soft.
  • After the pumpkin has cooled, purée it in a food processor or mash it.
Check out:  4 Eco-Friendly Fall Décor Tips

Baking 

  • Halve the pumpkin and remove the insides.
  • Place them in a baking dish and top with with foil.
  • Bake at 375°F for about 90 minutes (or until tender).
  • When it’s cool, puree or mash it.

Microwave 

  • Halve the pumpkin and remove the insides.
  • Microwave on high power for about 7 minutes per pound. (To ensure it cooks evenly, turn pieces halfway through.)
  • Then puree or mash.

Once you’ve created your puree, you can refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 6 months.

Cooking with pumpkins 101

Desserts aren’t the only place where pumpkins shine. Chilly fall weather just begs for savory dishes, such as soups, stews, and chilis.

There are 2 ways to use pumpkin without making puree.

Roast them: Just cut into chunks, season with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for about 40 minutes at 400°F. The chunks are ready to eat as is (yum!) or toss into salads for a festive fall flair.

Make pumpkin stockAfter you remove the seeds, add the pumpkin fiber to vegetable stock at the same time that you add the other vegetables. Voilà! Easy pumpkin soup.

DIY hacks | Home and garden

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.