Homemade Kabocha Squash Pumpkin Purée:
How & Why to Use Squash, Not Pumpkin,
for 100% Pure "Pumpkin"

It took four years but finally, I've found the trick to making 100% pumpkin purée from scratch –– switch to 0% pumpkin and 100% kabocha squash. The squash is roasted whole so there's no cutting into a large, unwieldy pumpkin or squash. The result is sweet, oh-so-pumpkin-y purée, perfect for making pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving and all our favorite pumpkin recipes before and after.

Homemade Kabocha Squash Pumpkin Purée
The Homemade Pantry
This recipe is part of a special collection of recipes
that I call "The Homemade Pantry" -- stuff we can buy, often 'ingredients' more than dishes, but for one reason or another, choose to make at home in our own kitchens.

Laugh if you like but the best 100% pumpkin purée – made at home from scratch – is made from squash, not pumpkin.

Over the years, I’ve had mixed results baking a whole pumpkin – the roasting part is easy, but some times the flesh is wonderful, other times it is watery and lifeless, even after draining out a surprising amount of liquid. (Want more detail? See How to Roast a Whole Pumpkin from A Veggie Venture.)

So two years ago I switched to kabocha squash. Finally! Each batch has been remarkable: thick and colorful with real pumpkin-y flavor. Plus, you know how wine people will say that a certain wine has ‘notes of hay’ or ‘a lingering fruitiness’? To my nose, kabocha-squash pumpkin purée is fruity with ‘notes of pear’.

Then – and this was a real revelation – I switched from a fussy “cut the squash into wedges and roast” technique to one that is unbelievably simple.

Just throw the squash in the oven. Whole. No cutting. No fussing. Just throw it in the oven whole. (Funny story? I first wrote this column before switching to the new simple method. I had to rewrite the column!)

Besides sheer easiness, roasting kabocha squash whole has two other huge benefits, besides. First, all the moisture stays inside the squash, so the flesh remains moist and flavorful instead of drying out. Second, the squash flesh doesn't brown, this means the color of the purée is pretty golden orange rather than a muddy orange.

Now please know, making pumpkin purée from scratch is no bargain. In fact, even with relatively inexpensive $.79 a pound kabocha squash, the homemade purée is three times more expensive than a can of 100% pumpkin from the grocery store. But it is a treat for special occasions, a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, say, or an extra-moist pumpkin bread.

So making pumpkin purée from scratch is an extra, a luxury even, so let’s not beat ourselves up if we’re happy with cans of inexpensive pumpkin purée. My pantry holds a can or two or three all year long. It’s one of the few ‘whole ingredients’ to be found in the inner aisles of a grocery store.

Homemade pumpkin purée made from kabocha squash, it’s remarkable but it’s not required. But now that it’s easy and so delicious? I'm completely smitten and make it all the time. I think you might too.

EXPERIMENTING WITH OTHER SQUASHES Others have luck roasting butternut squash for pumpkin purée. That hasn’t worked for me, the texture is too rough, too fibrous. I recently roasted a calabaza squash, that’s the squash that Libby’s uses for its 100% Pure Pumpkin. It’s got a lovely orange color but is more watery and the flavor just doesn’t compare to kabocha. I won't try it again.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe (especially a savory pumpkin recipe) that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

KABOCHA SQUASH PUMPKIN PURÉE

Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours
Allow about 1-1/2 pounds of kabocha squash per cup (8 ounces) of pumpkin purée, that's about a three-pound kabocha squash for the equivalent of a 15-ounce can of %100 pumpkin
  • 1 large kabocha squash
  • A little olive oil

Set oven to 400F. Wash the squash well under running water, paying special attention to the stem and blossom ends and any rough spots. Rub the skin with a little olive oil, just enough to dampen.

Place the squash in the oven on the center rack. IMPORTANT Line a baking sheet with foil and place in the oven on the rack below the squash, this catches any juices that leach out and can burn.

Roast for 60 to 90 minutes, until a knife slipped deep into the squash cuts through like butter.

Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. Slice squash into quarters or eighths. Use a grapefruit spoon or tablespoon to scrape out the seeds and “gunk”. Scrape the flesh from the skin using a table knife, discarding the skins.

Transfer flesh to a bowl. For a rustic purée that works especially well in savory side dishes and every day baking, just mash it with the back of a fork. For a smooth purée that is better for sauces, custards and even some baked goods, use a food processor. Refrigerate and use within three or four days.

Freezes beautifully, I pack into quart-size freezer bags in generous one-cup and two-cup volumes, "generous" because it's hard to get all the pumpkin out of the bag after it's thawed.

I have great results making a one-for-one exchange of canned pumpkin and homemade pumpkin purée. Still, the homemade purée is definitely thicker so you might need to add a little extra liquid to baked goods.

ALANNA’s TIPS I usually roast two or three kabocha squash at the same time. Small ones roast in an hour, larger ones take 90 minutes. If roasting mixed sizes, take the smaller ones out first while the large ones finish roasting. It's important to not overbake. When a squash overbakes, dark color leaches into the pretty interior flesh, the flesh can also turn dry and grainy. One squash can turn out a little different than another. If the flesh is a little dry and brittle after roasting, add a spoonful or two of water to the food processor when puréeing. If after puréeing the flesh is loose and watery, drain it through cheesecloth for a few minutes or gently cook down in a saucepan. I've learned that the lighter, creamier purée is better for baked goods like pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins and so on. The heavier squash is better for savory dishes, like soups, macaroni and cheese and so on.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Cup: 82 Calories; 0g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 0mg Sodium; 19g Carb; 3g Fiber; 8g Sugar; 3g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 2
FOR COMPARISON, Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin, Per Cup: 80 Calories; 2g Tot Fat; 0g Sat Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 10mg Sodium; 18g Carb; 10g Fiber; 10g Sugar; 4g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 2

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

This is how I used to make pumpkin purée. No more!

THE OLD FUSSY WAY. This is the "hard way" to roast a kabocha squash, what I did until I learned how easy and effective it is to roast a whole squash in the oven, no cutting, no fussing. This kind of effort, it's just not required!

Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the kabocha squash into wedges about an inch thick, no more than a couple of inches. If the squash is too hard to cut into, put it in the microwave for a minute or two to soften the skin. Place the wedges flesh-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving room between for air circulation. Roast for as long as needed, checking after 15 minutes and then every 5 minutes, until the flesh is very soft, turning the wedges over midway. Some wedges will finish before others, take them out and return the rest to the oven. With the flat side of table knife, scrape the flesh off the skin and drop the flesh into a bowl. Mash the flesh with a fork for a rustic purée or use a food processor for a finer purée.


This Week, Years Past

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This Week, Elsewhere

Red Pepper Hummus from PW Pizza
My Column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch


For Canadian Readers - Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian family and to all the many Canadian readers who will celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend. I'd hoped to cook Thanksgiving on Monday with my sister. Instead, I may cook it here at home on Monday and again with her later in the week. (Yes, Adanna?!)

For pie, I'll make Honey Pumpkin Pie from A Veggie Venture, it's sweetened with honey instead of processed sugar. And yes, I'll use homemade pumpkin purée!



More Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Autumn Pumpkin Bread Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Perfect Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins
~ more pumpkin recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Favorite Pumpkin Recipes ~
~ Pumpkin Bars ~
~ Stuffed Pumpkin with Apple & Cranberry ~
~ more pumpkin recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog

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Alanna,

Last year a friend of mine was complaining about some volunteer squash that had shown up in her garden. As she's not a squash fan, I said I'd take them off her hands. Turned out I was the happy recipient of 4 large, beautiful kabocha squash! After roasting and pureeing some of it went into pumpkin pie, some into soup, and some into pumpkin muffins (did I get that recipe off your site? Maybe).
As you can imagine, I've agreed to "help her out" by taking any volunteers she gets this year off her hands. And now I have an easier way to roast them - thanks for the tip!
 
I had to laugh when I saw this. Apparently, for a number of years, my mother had used some kind of winter squash when making "pumpkin pie." I was about 10 when I had a piece of pumpkin pie at school. "This is not pumpkin pie," I said. Then I found out about the substitution of squash for pumpkin. Different color, different texture, probably a better taste, as I remember.
 
I love this time of year with all the different varieties of squash. Interesting that you like the kabocha for puree. Supposedly the canned puree is made from Hubbard squash, though I've never actually seen one in the markets.
 
Kabocha is one of our favorite squash. I grew tons this year on a fence. These are hard to find in the market. With the price of canned pumpkin in the store now, this is a great alternative.
 
Great idea! I'm roasting mine now... and am going to use my three pie pumpkins as soup bowls. ;)
Also, where did your lovely measuring cup come from?
Thanks for such a great site! I'm always looking for amazing veggie recipes, and you have them in spades. :D
 
Kellie ~ so glad you're roasting pumpkins, they're so great to have on hand in the freezer. As for the measuring spoon, isn't it lovely? It's part of a set given to me by a friend, they're actually "useable" but I think they're so pretty, they are the one thing that sits on my kitchen counter! They came from a wonderful little gift shop here in St. Louis, American Visions. I don't know if the store stocks these any more but the owner would know the source. Good luck!
 
Yesterday, I tried a slightly different method that included 10 minutes of microwaving a pierced pie pumpkin. The piercing was to let out steam. I was very pleased with the results. I've cooked squash/pumpkin entirely in the micro, and entirely in the oven. I like the mixture.
Anybody who peels a squash & cuts it in chunks before cooking it is doing a lot of very unnecessary work!
http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2011/10/24/baking-with-pumpkin-making-your-own-fresh-pumpkin-puree-is-easy/
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna