Recipes » How to Substitute Fresh Pumpkin for Canned

How to Substitute Fresh Pumpkin for Canned

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As Autumn rolls in, so do the recipes for mouthwatering dishes containing pumpkin. . . muffins, pies, cakes, soups and more. Which begs the dilemma for those who don’t have access to solid-pack canned pumpkin, just how much should you use?

Here’s a handy guide on how to substitute fresh pumpkin for canned in all of your favorite recipes, but first, I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret… most commercially prepared canned pumpkin, isn’t pumpkin at all.


Canned Pumpkin, or is it?

Canned pumpkin contains nothing but canned “pumpkin”, no spices, salt or other ingredients.

Most of you are probably familiar with One-Pie and Libby’s Canned Pumpkin. It’s that kind of pumpkin you remember from your childhood, the white and orange cans your mother would keep in the pantry at Thanksgiving, the ones that read “100% pure pumpkin” on the label. The problem is, though, it’s not actually 100% pure pumpkin. In fact, it isn’t even pumpkin at all.

Even though pumpkin purée makers call it pumpkin on the can, it’s actually a type of Dickinson squash. The closest produce to it even has nothing to do with pumpkin. The closest equivalent would be butternut squash. This is why “canned pumpkin” is such a vibrant dark orange.

I bet you think that can’t be true; the Food and Drug Administration would never allow false labeling. You’d lose that bet.

Apparently, the Food and Drug Administration finds it too challenging to differentiate between pumpkins and “golden-fleshed” winter squash, allowing brands to label their products as pumpkin even when they are serving up something else. But, then again, pumpkin is technically a squash.

The FDA defines canned pumpkin as follows: “articles prepared from golden-fleshed, sweet squash, or mixtures of such squash with field pumpkins.”, and further states, “In the labeling of articles prepared from golden-fleshed, sweet squash or mixtures of such squash and field pumpkin, we will consider the designation “pumpkin” to be in essential compliance”

In other words, any kind of squash could be in that can! If you’re passionate about keeping things real this fall, then your best bet is to make your own purée – like, from a real pumpkin. If that feels too exhausting, just continue to eat canned squash. But, if you’re up to the task, here’s how to make your own.

So the answer to how do I substitute fresh pumpkin for canned, of course, is to use the exact same amount the recipe calls for. If a recipe calls for a 15 oz can of pumpkin, use 15 oz of fresh (prepared) pumpkin which is about 2 cups MINUS 1 Tablespoon.


How to Prepare Fresh Pumpkin

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Wash the exterior of the pumpkin, then cut it into quarters (Cut it in half and then cut the halves again). Scrape out the innards (just the fibrous strings and seeds, much like you would if you were carving a pumpkin for Halloween).
  3. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet skin side UP and cover tightly with foil.
  4. Roast in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it is fork-tender.
  5. Scoop the soft pulp from the rind and transfer into a blender or food processor. Puree.
  6. Pour the puree into a cheesecloth-lined sieve and strain for about an hour to ensure that all the excess liquid has drained away.
  7. Measure out 2 cups of puree per recipe into vacuum seal bags and seal them. These will last up to 18 months in the freezer. If using freezer Ziploc bags, they’ll last about 4 months before becoming frost-bitten.

Choosing the Proper Pumpkin Size

A pound of pumpkin contains 4 cups (948 mls) of raw, peeled, and cubed pumpkin. After cooking and draining, this is about what to expect from a typical cooking pumpkin.

Pie Pumpkin
2 1/2 lbs
1 3/4 – 2 cups
3 1/2 lbs
3 to 3 1/2 cups
4 lbs
4- 4 1/2 cups
5 lbs
5 1/2 to 6 cups
6 lbs
6 to 6 1/2 cups

Alternatively, if you are completely out of pumpkin all together, you can use sweet potato puree or butternut squash puree (well-drained!) as a delicious substitute in place of the pumpkin in your favorite recipes!

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1 thought on “How to Substitute Fresh Pumpkin for Canned”

  1. When I was growing up my mom always use to substitute the same volume (1 cup fresh puree for 1 cup canned). A 15 oz. can is approximately 1 3/4 c fresh. It is best to allow your puree to sit for a while so the excess moisture can drain.


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