Recently on my Facebook page I linked to a post from one of my favorite food blogs, Fifteen Spatulas, comparing fresh vs. canned pumpkin purees. I thought it was genius and you guys seemed to love it too, so I figured I ought to do my own test! You guys know how I love my kitchen experiments. Reader Tracey commented that she likes to use organic canned pumpkin puree which intrigued me because I’ve never used that, so I wanted to add it to my comparison experiment as well. I hope you find this experiment interesting, I certainly did. I always have so much fun figuring out what ingredients and techniques make for the absolute best recipes. Be sure to let me know which is your favorite in the comments below.
Before we get into the fresh vs. canned pumpkin nitty gritty, I wanted to quickly share a how-to video and easy recipe for making your own homemade fresh pumpkin puree. It’s surprisingly simple!
Alright, so now that we now how to make fresh pumpkin puree and what it looks like, let’s see how fresh compares to the canned stuff. Which do you think will be the best?
From left to right: Fresh, regular canned (Libby’s), organic canned (Farmer’s Market brand).
As you can see from just a quick visual assessment, there is a big difference in color and even in texture between these three purees. The fresh is notably the lightest in color, it almost just looks like any ol’ pureed squash. The organic is the second darkest while the regular canned stuff is practically a completely different color.
A quick Google search revealed that Libby’s uses a proprietary variant of the Dickinson pumpkin, which actually looks more like a butternut squash than pumpkin. The claim is that these pumpkins have been grown specifically for pumpkin puree in cooking and baking, so the result is a sweeter and creamier product. Interesting. As I mentioned in the video, if you attempted to make pumpkin puree from a regular field pumpkin that you would use to carve for Halloween, the result would be stringy, watery, and bland. That’s why we use pie or sugar pumpkins, though they are certainly no Dickinson pumpkin. While Libby’s canned pumpkin puree contains no preservatives, the actual act of canning and sitting in a metal can for who knows how long has to affect the taste. I’d be curious to taste test fresh Dickinson puree vs. pie/sugar pumpkin puree.
Pumpkin Puree Taste Comparison:
Fresh: Squashy/pumpkiny, raw and unprocessed, almost herbaceous flavor.
Regular Canned: Deep, slightly intense flavor but just different, maybe even “off” from the fresh.
Organic Canned: More similar to the fresh stuff than the canned, but not quite as bright.
Since in most pumpkin baking we add tons of sugar and spices, I realized the texture was as important as the taste. In fact, pure pumpkin puree kind of just tastes like straight up baby food. I hadn’t thought much about that beforehand. Let’s just say this taste testing wasn’t nearly as scrumptious as some of my other kitchen experiments!
Pumpkin Puree Texture Comparison:
Fresh: Velvety, creamy, and slightly loose and fluffy.
Regular canned: Loose, smooth, very thick, reminiscent of ricotta cheese.
Organic canned: Strange almost gelatinous texture (it took the shape of the can), watery. As you can see it’s unable to stand tall on its own like the other two in the above photo.
The texture of the organic canned pumpkin surprised me the most. It was just weird. It totally turned me off and I don’t think I’d use it again, not just because of the weird factor but because of the watery factor which became even more apparent after I used it to bake mini pumpkin pies and when I froze the leftover (it froze hardest fastest and iciest).
Once baked into mini pumpkin pies (following the standard recipe from Libby’s), the color differences among the purees became less obvious. At this point, after adding enough sugar and spices to disguise the original pumpkin flavor, it was all about the texture. The regular canned was definitely the firmest, the organic canned was most watery, and the fresh puree was the lightest and most velvety.
So which is best?
Well, this is a tough question because each puree had good qualities. I think it depends on the use and your personal preference.
Based off my taste tests, I think that fresh puree would easily elevate any savory pumpkin dish such as soup or pasta. The fresh, unadulterated flavor and fluffy texture would work wonderfully in savory dishes, especially because even “sugar pumpkins” aren’t very sweet on their own. When it comes to baking, I think you’d be fine using either canned or fresh. I’ll always keep a few cans of regular pumpkin puree in my pantry because I love to bake with the stuff. I think I will stay away from organic canned pumpkin, as surprised as I am to say so, because it just had such an odd texture that wasn’t worth the organic payoff. I’d rather make fresh than buy organic canned.
Which is your favorite? What will you try next time you’re baking or cooking with pumpkin?
Baked Pumpkin Nutella French Toast
Pumpkin Bread Rolls with Cinnamon Butter
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (these are chewy not cakey!)
Creamy Pumpkin Prosciutto Rigatoni
pie or sugar pumpkins
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Using a large sharp knife, slice off the stems then cut each pumpkin in half. Spoon out all the seeds and pulp, reserving the seeds for roasting if desired. Place the pumpkin on the baking sheet, skin side down, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender. Let cool until comfortable enough to handle.
Use your fingers to peel off the skin. Place the pumpkin flesh in the bowl of a food processor, high-powered blender, or food mill. Puree until completely smooth, this may take several minutes. Turn off motor and stir mixture occasionally to ensure an even puree. If the puree looks dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.
Use or store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week or in the freezer for 6 to 8 months.
To Roast the Seeds:
Place the pulp and seeds in a colander and run under cold water, removing the pulp from the seeds. Spread the seeds out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and let air dry for several hours or overnight, do not attempt to blot with paper towels. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and generously season with salt and other desired flavorings. Roast low and slow at 250°F for 1 hour, or until golden. Serve.