Fall into Great Taste: 31 Perfect Pumpkin Recipes

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Another autumn has arrived, and with it comes all the traditional trappings of fall: Crisp air, glorious foliage, Sunday football and, of course, pumpkin. As far as we know, it's the only vegetable that multi-tasks as a food, drink, fragrance, craft and decoration. In the coming weeks, pumpkins will lend their essence to everything from pies and potpourri to coffees and candles.

But the uber-popular pumpkin (which is actually a squash and a member of the Cucurbita family) is more than just a spooky face, tantalizing taste and sweet, spicy scent. Packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, it's also a bonafide superfood. Whether you start with a fresh pumpkin or opt for the convenience of the canned version, both come packed with fiber, protein, potassium and beta-carotene, which is known for improving heart health, vision and overall immunity. But the seeds pack the biggest nutritional punch—rich in magnesium, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants, they serve as a secret weapon against osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes. And because pumpkin is low in calories (just 80 per cup), you can indulge without compromising your fourth-quarter fresh start.
Finding, Storing and Cooking Fresh Pumpkins
In most cities from early September through October, you can't throw a pumpkin without hitting a patch. Many families make it an annual outing to stock up on fall produce while enjoying hayrides and corn mazes. If you can't make it to a farm, your local grocery store should have fresh pumpkins for sale throughout the season.

Once you get your pumpkin home, wash it in a mixture of one part household bleach and nine parts water. To preserve its freshness, store the pumpkin in a cool, dark place—ideally 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit with 50 to 75 percent humidity. Although a basement is ideal, you should place the pumpkin on a wood plank or piece of cardboard and not directly on a cement floor. When stored appropriately, a pumpkin can remain fresh for up to two or three months.

When you're ready to cook your fresh pumpkin, you've got three options:
Baking a Pumpkin
  1. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the stringy pulp from the inside. If desired, save the seeds to roast later.
  2. Put the two halves face down in a baking pan and cover with aluminum foil.
  3. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 90 minutes or until tender.
  4. Let the pumpkin cool, then scoop out the pulp and blend or mash it into a puree.
Boiling a Pumpkin
  1. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the stringy pulp from the inside.
  2. After peeling, cut the pumpkin into chunks.
  3. Cook the chunks in boiling water in a saucepan on the stovetop until tender.
  4. After the chunks have cooled, blend or mash them into a puree. 
Microwave a Pumpkin
  1. Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the stringy pulp from the inside.
  2. Microwave the halves for about seven minutes per pound.
  3. Let the pumpkin cool, then scoop out the pulp and blend or mash it into a puree. 
Pumpkin puree stays fresh in the refrigerator for up to three days, or can be frozen for up to six months.

Another option is to buy canned pumpkin puree from the grocery store. Although this is the most convenient way to add pumpkin to recipes, the canned version may not be 100 percent pumpkin. Many brands actually use other types of winter squash, as they are sweeter, creamier and easier to cook with. Canned purees are low in calories, fat and sugar, and have the same nutritional benefits as fresh pumpkin. Just be sure to select the canned puree and not the pumpkin pie mix, as the latter will include a lot of added sugar.

However you prefer to prepare it, pumpkin plays a starring role in many delicious and diet-friendly fall recipes.
Pumpkin Breakfast Recipes
  1. Whole Grain Pumpkin Spice Waffles: Light but filling, these gluten-free, oat flour-based waffles are crispy outside and fluffy inside.

Image via Cookie and Kate

  1. Pumpkin Pie Protein Overnight Oats: Pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt are the stars of this super-easy, protein-packed day starter.

Image via Amy's Healthy Baking

  1. Pumpkin Spice Granola Bars: Made from all whole-food ingredients—pumpkin puree, dried apples, cranberries, toasted oats and dark chocolate—these spicy snacks are the essence of fall.

Image via Simply Sissom
  1. Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with Pecans: Pumpkin and buttermilk combine deliciously in these light, fluffy pancakes, topped with sweet honey-roasted pecans.

Image via Maebell's

  1. Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls: Made from challah dough, these sweet, chewy rolls are also perfect for snacks and dessert.

Image via The Forest Feast

  1. Pumpkin Spice French Toast Casserole: Overnight holiday guests will feel the love when you serve this wonderfully spicy, nutty dish. Great for brunch or dessert, too.

Image via The Cooking Jar

Pumpkin Lunch & Dinner Recipes

  1. Curried Quinoa Pumpkin Vegan Collard Wraps: Perfect for lunching or snacking, this light, yet filling wrap is packed with 15 grams of protein per serving, combining tantalizing taste with an energy boost.

Image via Avocado Pesto

  1. Ground Chicken Pumpkin Chili with Roasted Veggies: It's the season of chili, and this refreshing, gluten- and dairy-free alternative—made with creamy pumpkin puree, white beans and roasted veggies—doesn't disappoint.

Image via Avocado Pesto

  1. Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Sage: Trade your traditional marinara for a creamy pumpkin-based sauce, flavored with garlic and sage, for an easy weeknight dinner.

Image via Avocado Pesto

  1. Pumpkin Sausage Bowtie Pasta: You can't go wrong with a pasta sauce that includes Italian sausage, pumpkin, white wine and heavy cream.

Image via Jo Cooks

  1. Roasted Heirloom Pumpkin and Squash with Ricotta Salata and Pomegranate Seeds: With its bright, cheerful colors, this scrumptious dish is just as festive as it is flavorful. You'll want it on your table all the way through the holidays.

Image via What's Gaby Cooking

  1. Bourbon-Spiked Pumpkin Risotto with Prosciutto and Goat Cheese: When you're craving some quality carbs, this satisfying and savory dish hits the spot, and then some.

Image via The Roasted Root

  1. Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seeds: In addition to the health-boosting pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, cotija cheese, pepitas and lemon-parsley dressing add delicious dimension to this sassy salad.

Image via The Roasted Root
Pumpkin Appetizers, Snacks & Sides
  1. Creamy Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Potatoes: Pair this creamy, spicy soup with sandwiches or a salad for the definition of fall comfort food.

Image via Occasionally Eggs

  1. Grilled Pumpkin Pie Bites: Ditch the chips and serve these flavorful finger foods—packed with fall spices along with rich ricotta cheese—as a warmup for the main course. 

Image via Grill Girl

  1. Vegan Curried Pumpkin and Cauliflower Soup with Spinach and Almonds: In this healthy, hearty and gluten-free soup, pumpkin and cauliflower are all dressed up in delicious spices, along with spinach and almonds.

Image via Avocado Pesto

  1. Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Dip: Add some spice to your next soiree with this quick, easy and shareable dip.

Image via The Big Man's World

  1. Coconut Oil Pumpkin Bread: This one-bowl dish combines spicy pumpkin with the subtle sweetness of coconut.

Image via Gimme Some Oven

  1. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Reap the health benefits of pumpkin seeds while enjoying a savory garlic flavor.

Image via The Girl Who Ate Everything

  1. Crunchy Pumpkin Pie Energy Balls: These no-bake, bite-sized treats are great for autumn appetizers, or pack them in a ribbon-wrapped mason jar to give as a gourmet gift.

Image via Simply Sissom

  1. Pumpkin Spice Granola: This sweet, crunchy mix is great for scooping and snacking, or use it as a healthy and flavorful topping for yogurt, oatmeal and muffins.

Image via Simply Sissom

Pumpkin Drink Recipes

  1. Pumpkin Pie Smoothie: Cold, creamy and sweet, this spicy, nutrient-rich beverage is great as a morning kick-starter, post-workout recovery drink or Thanksgiving dessert.  

Image via Fannetastic Food
  1. Homemade Pumpkin Chai Latte: Starbucks who? This creamy beverage blends almond milk and pumpkin puree with a medley of seasonal spices.
Image via Cookie and Kate
  1. Pumpkin Steamers: Move over, coffee! Warm up chilly fall nights with this comforting drink, topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Image via Six Sisters' Stuff

  1. Vegan Pumpkin Pie Milkshake: Who says milkshakes are just for summer? This cool, creamy treat spices up dessert all year round.

Image via The Pretty Bee

Pumpkin Dessert Recipes
  1. Triple Layer Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake: Go big or go home. This delectable dessert, the perfect marriage of pumpkin and chocolate, is so gorgeous that it doubles as a fall centerpiece.

Image via What's Gaby Cooking

  1. Classic Pumpkin Pie with Cinnamon Whipped Cream: No pumpkin recipe roundup would be complete without its namesake pie—especially one topped with cinnamon-infused whipped cream.

Image via What's Gaby Cooking

  1. Healthy Pumpkin Cookie Dough: Take that, sweet tooth! This high-fiber, gluten-free dip is much less sinful than it appears (and tastes).
  1. Slow Cooker Pumpkin Spiced Apples: Tender apples flavored with pumpkin spices also make a savory side dish, and you can blend the leftovers into a smoothie.

Image via Maebell's

  1. Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars: Pumpkin and cheesecake are a silky-smooth match made in heaven—especially when the smart substitutes keep you well within your healthy eating plan.

Image via The Roasted Root

  1. 4-Ingredient Pumpkin Fudge: No cooking required for this smooth, creamy fudge, which is free of dairy, gluten and refined sugar.

Image via The Big Man's World

What's your favorite way to enjoy pumpkins?