5 Quick & Tasty Ways to Use Canned Pumpkin (with a Recipe)

Now that it’s Thanksgiving in Canada, pumpkins abound! And while I’m all for funneling the things into pie, pumpkins have got a lot more going for them than simply being tasty vehicles for whipped cream. See, not only are they packed with good stuff like vitamin A and fiber, pumpkins are also able to move seamlessly between the realms of sweet and savoury, decadent and light. They can play a supporting role in subtly flavouring baked goods or take centre stage as the base of a sauce.  

So today, to celebrate all that is pumpkin, I’ve scoured the web so that I can share with you a variety of great pumpkin recipes – those that have plenty of good reviews, use easy-to-find ingredients and produce relatively healthful results, quickly. They all make use of pumpkin puree – canned or homemade will do, as long as its not pre-spiced – so that you can use up whatever’s leftover after you’ve made your requisite pie. But these recipes are so quick and tasty that you may want to stockpile pumpkin while it’s still around so that you can keep the pumpkin love going long after your jack-o’-lanterns have crumpled.

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Incorporating pulverized fruits and veggies into quickbreads – those made with leavening agents other than yeast, like baking powder and baking soda – is a classic move. You’re already familiar with banana bread, carrot cake, zucchini loaf and banana pancakes, so why not try getting the same sweet, moist, cakey goodness from pumpkin instead? Here are a couple tasty whole-grain options to get you started. 

Oatmeal Pumpkin MuffinsAccording to its scores of reviewers, this spiced pumpkin muffin recipe is best when the 2 cups of all-purpose flour called for are replaced with 1¼ cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of quick-cooking oats. The butter can also be substituted with success for ½ cup of canola oil. Good news for anyone on the hunt for a tasty breakfast-worthy treat!

Pumpkin Pancakes: Swap half the flour for whole wheat and be on your (deliciously-spiced) merry way!  

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Pumpkin’s velvety texture and earthy flavour give it a whole lot of richness without any fat, making it an excellent base for a hearty, healthy pasta sauce. Which isn’t to say that pumpkin doesn’t take well to more indulgent pasta-friendly additions like cream, cheese and butter. It’s just that it doesn’t need those things to be delicious. So, in the interest of fairness, I’m giving you tasty recipes for both kinds of pumpkin-based sauces. 

Pumpkin Pasta with Kale: Pureed pumpkin and sautéed kale form the base of a satisfying and healthy pasta dish, Martha-style. If you can’t track down sundried tomato pesto, you can whiz together a speedy batch using this recipe.

Fettuccine with Pumpkin, Shiitakes and Mascarpone: Here, cooked squash is combined with stock (I’d use veggie) and mascarpone cheese before being dumped into a pan of sautéing mushrooms and thrown over fettuccine. Decadent. Using pureed pumpkin will let you skip the first step and save you 30 minutes! Note that the original recipe is scaled to make 8 servings, so adjust as necessary. 

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A friend of mine makes great, crispy dumplings by frying and steaming wonton wrappers (the little guys in the photo above) stuffed simply with seasoned squash, but you can try your hand with more complicated fillings too. The two recipes below – one for gingery squash potstickers and one for pumpkin ravioli – illustrate the range of options you’ve got with pumpkin and wonton wrappers, but don’t be afraid to try inventing fillings of your own too. And if the idea of using wonton wrappers in place of pasta weirds you out – the textures are admittedly a little different – simply substitute in sheets of fresh pasta. 

Squash pot stickers: These potstickers are made with squash that’s been flavoured with a tasty combination of sesame, ginger, soy and green onions. The recipe calls for butternut squash, but there’s no reason why you can’t use pumpkin!

Squash ravioli with sage butter sauce: Here, wonton wrappers are used to create speedy squash ravioli, which are served in a simple sauce of browned butter and sage. Simple and delicious! The recipe calls for sweet potato, but reviewers have had success using pumpkin puree in similar recipes (it’ll also save you a few steps!). 

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If you’ve ever had apple butter, a deliciously spreadable concotion made by cooking apples down until they turn into an amber jam, you already know that pumpkin butter is a great idea. I’ve read through an embarrassing number of recipes now, with some calling for as much of 4.5 cups of sugar and others a mere 0.5 to be added to the same amount of pumpkin, so I can only conclude that the amount of sugar you add is discretionary. The two recipes below caught my eye as being simple, sane and tasty. 

Simple Pumpkin ButterMartha Stewart’s no-frills take on pumpkin butter requires just pureed pumpkin, two types of sugar and salt. The simple recipe also includes a list of neat flavour combinations you can use to augment the basic batch, like apple-cinnamon-ginger and the more savoury cardamon-allspice-clove. 

Spiced Pumpkin ButterApproximately a million people like this version, spiced with ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Some folks found the 1.5 cups of sugar to be too much, so don’t be afraid to scale back to 1 cup. Really, it’ll be ok! 

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We’ve all eaten butternut squash soup a zillion times (just last month, I had a version that was gently curried), so why not switch things up and try pumpkin for a change? Pumpkin’s easier to come across, just as tasty, and comes with the added bonus of being extra orange. What could be better? But enough with the hypotheticals, let’s get to the soup! 

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The recipe below augments pumpkin with ginger, garlic, cumin, chile, coconut milk and other tasty additions to make for a smooth, slightly spicy soup. But pumpkin takes well to other flavours too, like Thai curry-esque spices (think red curry paste and lime); more mild vegetative flavours like leek and shallot sauteed in a tasty bit of butter; warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom; and richer additions like cream. With that in mind, use the recipe below as a starting point: start by sauteeing some sort of aromatic vegetable in some kind of fat, add in the spices of your choice, maintain the level of salt, water and pumpkin and finish with whatever fats and garnishes you so please. The world is your soup pot! 
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Curried Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from chowhound
Serves ~4

Ingredients
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
4 tsp minced fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
2 dried chiles
2 ½ cups hot water
1 ¾ cups pureed pumpkin (homemade or canned)
2 bay or lime leaves
½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat, adding onions and ginger when oil is hot. 
2. Sautee until onion is soft but not brown, 7-10 minutes, stirring regularly.
3. Add garlic and spices (salt through chiles).
4. Sautee 1-2 minutes more, stirring regularly. 

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5. Stir in water, pumpkin and bay/lime leaves.
6. Bring soup to a boil then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
7. Stir in coconut milk.
8. Return to a simmer for 3 minutes. Taste and season as necessary.*  
9. Top each bowl of soup with 1 tbsp of fresh, chopped cilantro. 

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*If you want a super-smooth soup, your next step should be to puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a food processor or blender, working in small batches and removing the stopper in the blender lid and covering with a towel to prevent the hot liquid from exploding (it happens!). You could simply strain the soup too, if you’d rather.

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