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Pumpkin puree in a can vs homemade puree

Is there a significant difference in taste?
I am trying to make a pumpkin pie.

If I do make a real pumpkin puree using a real pumpkin , is there a specific type of pumpkin I should use?

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  1. There are actually pumpkins called "pie pumpkins" that give you sweeter, softer flesh. It's been my experience that if you cook your own pumpkin puree it has more water than canned puree, which could affect a pie recipe. There is a definite difference in taste, but it's a matter of personal preference whether the extra work is worth it to you.

    I'm all for cooking fresh pumpkins and winter squash for eating or as a pureed side dish, but for pumpkin pie I just go with the canned Libby's stuff (canned pumpkin, not the pumpkin pie filling). It's easy and there's a recipe right there on the can. It's not "from scratch" like going with a fresh pumpkin, but at least it's also not a storebought pie.


    1. Most canned 'pumpkin' is actually squash, for what it's worth... there's not much difference in taste between pie pumpkins and butternut or other winter squash.

      It can be kind of a pain preparing fresh pumpkin or squash, and I've had a problem getting all the lumps out - probably not cooking it enough - but I think it tastes much fresher than the canned product.

      1 Reply
      1. I think it really depends on what kind of committment you are willing to make.

        It takes a bit more than an hour to roast a pumkin. After that its a scrape into the blender or food processor and its done.

        I've made a lot of pumkin pies from the can and few people notice that it isn't fresh pumkin. Some people even prefer canned pumkin to fresh. I think when working with pumkin pie, fresh spices make the big difference.

        I am using fresh more because I want to reduce my carbon footprint and support my local farmers, but I wouldn't hesitate picking up a can of pumkin to make a pie.

        1 Reply
        1. re: adventuresinbaking

          It's not quite that simple, in my experience. I find that I've had to drain the water out of the pumpkin after roasting, which takes ages. Otherwise, the puree is too watery. I did this a few times because I can't easily find canned pumpkin where I live. Luckily, I finally did find a shop that sells it and I'm going there soon to stock up!

          Good for you supporting local farmers! That's one good reason to make your own.

        2. I've made both ways. I think that canned is just fine. I do enjoy the fresh too. I have never done a blind taste test, so i don't know which I truly prefer.

          For the fresh, I use a sugar pumpkin, roast halves upside down until very soft (needs to be super soft), scoop into a food processor and puree it until it is very smooth - it takes awhile. Then scoop into a cheescloth lined colander and let drain for a few hours.

          I personally prefer other uses for pumpkin, so if it is pie and I don't have a pumpkin I need to use, I'd go for canned.

          1. Libby's canned is 100% pumpkin...nothing else. It's one of the handful of products (like canned tomatoes when fresh are out of season) that I think is better canned than fresh (for puree). I tried the homemade route once...and found that it just wasn't worth the time and there really wasn't a lot, if any, difference in flavor.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ccbweb

              I totally agree with this. I just don't think you can get a puree from a pie pumpkin that is as smooth, as flavorful, and as dry as it is from a can....meaning a can of pure, solid-pack pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling. Canned pumpkin is one of the few foods that is actually better than the fresh product, IMHO anyway.

              1. re: cookingschool

                so you buy a pumpkin in a can and not a pumpkin puree to make a pie?

                1. re: Monica

                  Sorry I wasn't clear. The canned product I'm referring to is pure solid-pack pumpkin puree. Canned pumpkin pie filling is sweetened and may contain other additives. It is the canned pumpkin pie puree that is superior to making a pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin.

                  1. re: Monica

                    No, it's puree in the can. It's also referred to as "solid pack pumpkin" because there's nothing else added, so it's just a "solid" can of pumpkin.

                2. re: ccbweb

                  I think there is a lot of difference in flavor, but fresh is more subtle than canned.

                3. I recently put the fresh v. canned debate to the test for myself. I found that there isn't a significant difference except for sweetness level; the non-canned stuff being a little on the blander side but nothing a drizzling of sweetened condensed milk didn't fix.

                  1. It is my understanding that the pumpkins that are used to make the canned stuff are a different variety from that usually available in stores for use as decorations, and not as flavorful. I read this somewhere, within the past year. I would ask around at a farmers' market about this.

                    1. I agree with the Cook's Illustrated tasting that canned pumpkin (Libby's brand, in particular) is as good as fresh pumpkin, and it's so much easier to open a can than it is to butcher a pumpkin with a cleaver and rubber mallet (and then dig out all of the guts, which I find sort of disgusting, but I digress...) and then bake the darn thing for an hour.

                      If you want the challenge of a real pumpkin, you MUST MUST MUST buy a sugar pumpkin or other cooking variety of pumpkin, the jack-o-lantern pumpkins (which are ubiquitous this time of year) are nasty for cooking (watery and flavorless). They are also 19 cents a pound around here (sugar pumpkins are closer to a dollar a pound) but do NOT let that tempt you into baking with a jack-o-lantern. Bleah.

                      And if you decide to get canned pumpkin, make sure you check the can to make sure that you are getting pure pumpkin and not "pumpkin pie mix" which has sugar and eggs and spices and stuff included. That stuff is vile.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chococat

                        good advice. i will stick with cans. i've been getting Libby's pimpkin pie mix and didn't know about the pure pumpkin in a can...i gotta try that this holiday. hehe
                        thanks all.

                      2. Last night, my wife made a recipe for Turkey Pumpkin Goulash from a recent Bon Appetit. It was quite good and used a can of Libby's Pumpkin. Great fall dish.


                        1. This week-end I went through a whole little experiment cooking two pumpkins two different ways. I recorded every step and my result and conclusion: http://christonium.com/culinaryreview...

                          It's so much more fun to cook your own pumpkin, and besides you can make other things with it as well, such as pumpkin butter...

                          1. Another excellent reason to make pumpkin puree from scratch versus using canned is the Bisphenol A in the can lining. None of that in a homegrown, homemade puree! Pumpkin puree is a favorite first food for babies in my house and, to be perfectly honest, I don't find it to be a hassle at all. Cut in half, scoop out the fibers and seeds (save those seeds for roasting), throw it face down in a 9x13, add a little water, cover with foil, roast for an hour. Let it cool, scoop it out, throw it in the food processor, silky, gorgeous pumpkin puree. If your puree is thinner than the canned stuff, simmer it in a saucepan until you have the right texture or let it hang out in a cheese cloth lined colander. Use what you need, throw the rest in the freezer. Done. Additionally, in most climates, sugar pumpkins are super easy to grow. So, now you have a product that is superior in nutrition AND costs pennies on the dollar.

                            It should be noted that canned pumpkin is higher in beta carotene than fresh as the packing/canning process causes more to form but fresh is much higher in fiber.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: corrina621

                              I really do prefer the taste of fresh, homemade pumpkin puree in pies and other dishes. But, it can be MUCH easier than y'all make out! I get those little sugar/pie pumpkins. Jab it a few times with a knife and microwave until it gets soft. The time really depends on the size and denseness. I start with 5 minutes and go from there. Split it open, remove the seeds, scrape out the flesh and drain in a wire strainer over the sink for awhile. If you want that roasted taste, nuke until not quite soft, split open, remove seeds and roast on a sheet pan in a hot oven until it carmelizes a bit, then scrape out the flesh and drain (it won't have as much water if you roast after nuking). I usually whiz the flesh with my immersion blender before or after draining.

                            2. If you are making pie, use canned.

                              If you are making ice cream, use canned.

                              If you are making bread or muffins, use fresh (if possible).

                              If making soup, use only fresh (never the canned stuff).

                              If you are making a savory dish, like ravioli, then use fresh.

                              If you are making waffles or pancakes, then canned.

                              1. I have made both fresh and canned and noticed no taste benefit to fresh pumpkin in a pie v. canned. Given the million other pies and things I do for the holidays, I was glad to learn this!

                                1. I've used both. If you use fresh make sure to put the puree in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and let it drain over night or so. I found that when left to drain until it is as dense as the can the results aren't watery. I don't notice any difference in flavor, so I would say it's not worth the work in terms of that. For shopping local etc. then it is worth the effort.

                                  1. In PA the long neck or crooked neck pumpkin is the preferred pumpkin among us Pennsylvania Dutch. I grow my own in the garden and save the seeds for next planting season. I peel, scrape out the seeds (the seeds are only on the bulb end) cut into 2 inch pieces and steam until soft. Then puree in a food processor. Bag in pints in a frezzer bag and freeze. Makes great pies and I have the personal satisfaction