- Which pumpkins to bake? Not all pumpkins are intended for consumption. The typical jack-o-lantern we purchase for Halloween is very watery and lacks flavor. Ask at the market or store you buy from if you need help finding a good cooking squash. My favorites are : Buttercup, Kabocha, Butternut, Cinderella, Fairytale, Carnival, Long Pie, Hubbard, Sweet Meat, Chioggia, Galeux D’Eysines, and Sugar Pie (although there are endless options out there!). Sugar Pies and Butternuts are the most widely available. They key to picking a good one is choosing a GOOD EATING variety, then it needs to feel dense and hefty for it’s size….a sign of good flesh! Ask your local farmer or produce person for help. When in doubt, choose a Sugar Pie or Butternut.
- HAVE A FUN BAKE-OFF DAY: Stock up on a few varieties for a little taste test, find out which you like best!! Some are much sweeter than others! It is just as easy to fill two cookie sheets as it is 1, take advantage, it will save you some time and energy!
- The water content of every squash can vary widely. One year, my normally perfect Cinderella Pumpkin was super spongy and watery (I think it cross pollinated with some other varieties). When I baked it, there were pools of water. I had to hassle with cooking the water out of it…fine, but kind of a pain. In general, stay away from any spongy or overtly soft pumpkins – too much water! Flesh should be very firm with little give when pushed.
- Some squashes are very dry, so it is OK to add some water to the final flesh to puree it to desired consistency. You are going for smooth and easily scoopable, but you should not be able to easily pour it. If you have ever opened a can of pumpkin, you know what you are looking for.
- How much will I get? Typically, a Sugar Pie will yield about 2 cups pumpkin puree. But that is a gross generalization,,,the size can vary widely! I baked one good size Sugar Pie and one melon size Kabocha here (see pictures below) and filled about five two-cup bags of puree. To save on time, I like to cook large varieties so I get loads of puree in one fell swoop!
INSTANT POT? With the addition of this beloved tool into my kitchen, I now regularly use this to cook my pumpkin and squash for puree, s quick!! Simply clean as below and cut pieces to fit onto the steamer trivet. I start with about 15 minutes on the ‘Manual’ function, but it will depend on the size and thickness of the variety you are using. Add more time if you need.
- Cut your squash into half, or if it is a large pumpkin, into large chunks that will fit onto a cookie sheet. Use large knife, this can take some muscle.
- Using a large metal spoon, scrape away the innards, and if you are feeling especially ambitious, set the seeds aside to to be washed and roasted!
- Here we have it cleaned out and ready to bake, or cut to fit into an Instant Pot..
- Place the squash cut side down on a cookie sheet. If you are using an especially dry squash, adding a couple of tablespoons water to the pan is OK. Place the sheet into a preheated 350 degree oven. OR if using and Instant Pot, cut pieces to fit into the Instant Pot on top of the steamer trivet.
- Cooking time will vary greatly on the size of squash you are cooking. First test is to pierce the outer skin with a fork, it should be easy. Second, lift one of the pieces up and probe around the inside, the flesh should fall away easily w/ almost no scraping. If it still seems firm, you know you need some more time. Start with about 45 minutes for an average size sugar pie pumpkin. Mine were large and took about an hour. I have had to go up 80 minutes before. If you are using and Instant Pot, start with 15 minutes on the manual setting!
- Once the cooked flesh is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a food processor (I LOVE mine and can’t live without it!). Whir the whole mixture for a couple of minutes until silky and smooth. With my Kabocha squash, I had to add a touch of water to give movement to the flesh within the food processor bowl. The Sugar Pie had more water content and needed no additional water to spin freely.
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