10 Ways to Use Canned Pumpkin (Besides in a Pie)

pumpkin soup
Pumpkin soup is just one great idea for using the canned stuff. We've got nine others for you. See more pumpkin pictures.

Is any food more comforting than pumpkin pie warm from the oven? Pumpkin pie is so much a part of our American heritage that other uses for pumpkin tend to get overlooked. But don't ignore this gourd! It's high in fiber and packed with vitamins A and C, riboflavin, potassium, copper and manganese. It's also low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Canned pumpkin is a wonderful addition to smoothies, pasta dishes, soups and cakes. It's incredibly versatile, a perfect match for cinnamon and nutmeg in dessert recipes and for sage and thyme in savory dishes. It also makes a great parfait when layered with honey, almonds or walnuts and yogurt.

Pumpkins are easy to grow and a cinch to roast and mash if you're into home gardening and canning. Plus, they have a long shelf life, so they'll keep for a while after harvest time if you're not ready to preserve them. As you salivate over these 10 delicious ideas for using canned pumpkin, you may find yourself stocking up on the store-bought version or searching for a space in your yard to grow your own.


10: Smoothies

If you make a daily smoothie for breakfast, you probably welcome new ideas for jazzing up your routine. A dollop of canned pumpkin is just the ticket. With a little cinnamon and nutmeg, it's a subtle wake-up for the standard yogurt-fruit combo. Crumble some honey graham crackers on top, and you may never go back to your old ways.


9: Cheesecake

Pumpkin pie and cheesecake are both guaranteed crowd-pleasers on any holiday table, so why not combine the two into one scrumptious creation? Pumpkin cheesecake can be as simple or elaborate as you'd like. Why not skip the typical graham cracker crust and use gingersnaps instead? Forgo the traditional sour cream topping for a drizzle of melted chocolate or caramel sauce and a scattering of candied pecans or walnuts. No matter how you slice it, you won't be going home with any leftovers. Here's a delicious version for you to try (just replace canned pumpkin for the sweet potato).


8: Ravioli

pumpkin-filled ravioli
Sage and thyme are great herbs to pair with pumpkin.

We all know that pumpkin, in combo with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, makes a mean dessert. But it works beautifully with other seasonings, too. Mixed with heavy cream, herbs and wrapped up in store-bought wonton wrappers (or your own homemade ravioli sheets), pumpkin ravioli makes a delicious, savory main dish. A nutty cheese like Parmesan is the perfect thing to sprinkle on top. We've got two variations for you to try; one uses pumpkin as a filling for the pasta; the other recipe transforms the gourd into a velvety sauce that tops cheese ravioli.


7: Doggie Digestive Help

If your dog is a little, um, backed up, look no farther than your pantry for relief. Because pumpkin is high in both water and fiber, it's a great remedy for constipated canines. You can stir canned pumpkin into dog food or make special treats with it, but chances are your pup will be perfectly happy eating it straight off the spoon.


6: Cake

Sure, you can make a pumpkin cake from scratch -- if you have a couple of hours to kill. But you can also add a can of pumpkin purée to a box of cake mix and fool everyone into thinking you've been slaving away. The cooked gourd is a tasty match with yellow, chocolate or spice cake mix, and you'll earn even more rave reviews if you top this treat with cream cheese frosting.


5: Risotto

pumpkin risotto
The pumpkin will give your risotto a lovely golden color.

Risotto with pumpkin (and other squashes) is a classic fall dish, but it's somewhat time-consuming, given all the chopping, roasting, puréeing, simmering and stirring. Here's a secret: You can cut corners -- without sacrificing taste or nutrition -- by using canned pumpkin and baking the whole thing for about half an hour rather than having to continuously stir it. You'll save time and labor, and no one will know the difference!


4: Soup

Because we've become so set in our ways by serving pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we've ignored some other obvious ways to enjoy this vegetable. But pumpkin is actually a natural for soup, imparting a rich, colorful thickness that rivals other veggies. After all, the gourds come into season just when the weather is turning cold and we begin to crave the warmth of stews and chilis. If you skip the pie but serve pumpkin soup during your holiday dinner, any objections to a break in tradition should be alleviated.


3: Cocktails

Margaritas are among the most popular cocktails out there, but they're really a warm-weather drink, best suited for sipping on a sunny patio. If you're a tequila fan who needs a fix for the winter, we have just the ticket: the pumpkin spice margarita. Combine some simple syrup made from canned pumpkin purée and brown sugar with tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice, and you've got it made in the shade.


2: Pancakes

pumpkin muffins
Pumpkin muffins would also be a good addition to any breakfast table.

During the colder months, you want to send your family out into the frosty world with something more substantial in their stomachs than cold, sugary cereal. Pumpkin pancakes, which you can make with regular or whole wheat flour, should do the trick. Flavored with warm cinnamon, fragrant nutmeg and rich brown sugar, they're so tasty that butter and syrup might be irrelevant. Give these flapjacks a try on your next lazy Saturday or Sunday morning; simply substitute the mashed sweet potatoes for canned pumpkin.


1: Butter

pumpkin butter and bread
Pumpkin butter will last for several weeks in the fridge.

Pumpkin butter does not, in fact, contain any butter -- it's just a delicious, fragrant spread that you can enjoy on all manner of baked goods, use as a pie or tart filling or swirl into oatmeal and yogurt. Many recipes call for the freshly baked gourd, but we promise no one will be the wiser if you open a can instead. Simmer a mixture of pumpkin purée, brown sugar, apple cider and spices for a half-hour or so, and then seal in jars. Make some pretty labels for the containers and wrap them with some ribbon for a great holiday gift.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • All About Pumpkins. http://www.allaboutpumpkins.com/ (Jan. 9, 2012)
  • Dogtime. "Top 10 Constipation Cures for Dogs." (Jan. 4, 2012) http://dogtime.com/top-10-constipation-cures.html
  • Food Network. "Creamy Baked Pumpkin Risotto." (Jan. 4, 2012) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aida-mollenkamp/creamy-baked-pumpkin-risotto-recipe/index.html
  • Food Network. "Pumpkin Ravioli." (Jan. 4, 2012) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/wolfgang-puck/pumpkin-ravioli-recipe/index.html
  • Health. "Pumpkin Ravioli." (Jan. 4, 2012) http://www.health.com/health/recipe/0,,10000001046792,00.html
  • Self Nutrition Data. "Pumpkin: Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt." (Jan. 4, 2012) http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2601/2
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. "Protein in diet." http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002467.htm