Fresh vs. Canned Pumpkin: I put them to the test!

fresh pumpkin vs canned pumpkin for pie

Is fresh pumpkin worth the effort, or should you just used canned pumpkin?

A few nights ago I laid in bed, eyes wide open, pondering that very question (because thinking about food before bed is way more fun than counting sheep).

For the longest time I had never bothered to use anything other than canned pumpkin. Mostly because so many recipes just say to use canned pumpkin by default. It seems like the common thing to do.

I mean seriously, which do we all WANT to be better? The canned pumpkin, obviously. All you have to do is open a can. It’s so quick and simple. Fresh pumpkin requires extra work.

a sugar pumpkin for fresh pumpkin pie

But hey now, it’s not that much extra work, and I decided that it was time to see if the extra work is worth it. This extra work is basically just to cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, roast, and puree. Not difficult at all. So I set out to compare the two, to figure out whether fresh or canned pumpkin is the way to go.

In order to test, I first had to prep the pumpkin (make sure you buy a designated sugar or pie pumpkin). I scooped the seeds out with a melon baller (much like I did with my Maple Butter Roasted Acorn Squash). Save the seeds if you want to make roasted pumpkin seeds.

use a melon baller to seed a fresh sugar pumpkin

Place the pumpkin halves on a sheet pan to roast until tender.

how to roast fresh sugar pumpkin for puree

Scoop the roasted pumpkin from the skin, and puree in a food processor until smooth, like this:

fresh pumpkin puree from sugar pumpkin

Once I had the pumpkin puree cooked like this, my husband and I both did a blind taste test.

Here were my notes:

  • WOW pumpkin is not sweet at all. We think of it as sweet because it’s often used in desserts, but this stuff needs some sugar!
  • Both of these pumpkin purees taste far too yucky to tell which one is better, at this point. No more tasting until I add some sugar.
  • For now I will observe with my eyes, and I noted that the colors are very different.

So what I did is I made the exact same recipe for pumpkin pie, except I used the fresh pumpkin puree for one, and the canned pumpkin puree for the other.

This was the canned pumpkin mix:

canned pumpkin pie recipe

And this was the fresh:

fresh pumpkin puree for pumpkin pie

I stirred it all together, and here you can see the canned pumpkin mixture on the left, and the fresh on the right.

They vary quite a bit in color, don’t they?

side by side comparison of fresh and canned pumpkin

Here’s where my husband and I did another blind taste test, tasting the raw pumpkin pie filling (sweetened up this time).

Blind Taste Test #2 Notes:

  • This stuff tastes so much better with all the ingredients mixed in!
  • It is now painfully obvious which one is the canned and which one is the fresh, even though my eyes are closed and I don’t know which is which. There is a weird flavor with the canned pumpkin that now that I notice it, is pretty off-putting.
So I put the two pumpkin fillings into two identical pie crusts, on a sheet pan so that they could both bake evenly, on the same oven rack:
flaky pie crusts for pumpkin pie

Here’s what they looked like after being baked. The colors aren’t as different anymore. If someone brought me the pie on the left, even though it’s not as bright of an orange, I would still know it’s pumpkin pie.

side by side comparison of pumpkin pies

Finished product blind taste test #3:

  • What’s most funny about this experiment is that going into it, I thought there would be a clear answer based only on taste. What I found is that the biggest difference is the texture.
  • The canned pumpkin has a sort of cottage cheese/ricotta texture, whereas the fresh pumpkin has a more sweet potato-like, thicker, more velvety texture.
  • I personally think the fresh pumpkin pie texture is better. My husband agrees.
  • The canned pumpkin pie taste is seriously driving me crazy now. I’m not sure I can eat canned pumpkin again, because that canned pumpkin flavor is just so strong and unappetizing to me.
Pumpkin pie recipe using fresh pumpkin puree

So tell me, have you compared canned and fresh pumpkin, side by side? Maybe it’s time to see what you prefer! Have fun and let me know which you like better =)

 

My Favorite Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pie pumpkin, to yield 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 pie crust (you can use my recipe here)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the pumpkin in half, scrape out the seeds with a melon baller, then bake on a sheet pan for about 1 hour until fork tender. Scoop out all the pumpkin from the skin, and puree in a food processor until smooth. Measure out two cups of pumpkin puree, and set aside for later. (By the way, if you wish to have a thicker, denser pumpkin pie, let the pumpkin puree strain in a colander lined with cheesecloth or a damp, thick paper towel for an hour or so, to remove some of the water from the pumpkin puree).
  2. Bump the oven heat up to 400, and place your pie crust in a standard 9-inch pie plate. Blind bake the pie crust for 20 minutes, and be sure to either prick the dough all over with a fork, or fill the pie crust with a piece of parchment weighted down with pie weights, to keep the crust from bubbling up as it bakes.
  3. While the crust parbakes, make the pumpkin pie filling. Place 2 cups of the pumpkin puree, heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon, salt, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, eggs, and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
  4. Remove the par baked crust from the oven, and turn the heat back down to 350. Place the pumpkin pie filling into the par baked pie crust and place it in the oven (yes, you are starting the pie out at an elevated oven temperature, that’s intentional), and bake the pie for 45-50 minutes (you know it’s done when you jiggle the pan, the center part of the pie jiggles, but doesn’t look liquidy). Let the pumpkin pie cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours before eating (this part is important). This will help set the texture of the pie and let the flavors develop a bit. Enjoy!