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Food & Recipes

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Your Canned Pumpkin (That Aren’t Desserts)

It's good for more than pie.


Maybe you had the best intentions to bake pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving, but the convenience of store-bought dessert won you over at the last minute. Maybe you ran out of time to make pumpkin bread for your fall office party. Or maybe you bought canned pumpkin with no real plan, and now it’s sitting in your cupboard gathering dust. Whatever the reason, I won’t judge: I’m just glad you have it in your pantry. Though canned pumpkin is considered a seasonal commodity, it’s endlessly versatile and nutritious to boot. Read on to discover five unexpected and delicious ways you can use your canned pumpkin — in fall and beyond.

Why Use Canned Pumpkin?

Pumpkins aren’t just great for doorstep decor: They’re as healthy as they are orange. Studies have shown that adding pumpkin to your diet can aid in treating and managing depression, liver problems, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease; pumpkin also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, among other benefits. Pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) can even help ease symptoms of menopause and lower blood pressure.

One problem: Fresh pumpkin is a hassle to prepare, and it’s not easy to find at the grocery store year-round. The good news is that canned pumpkin is more widely available throughout the year, and according to Mayo Clinic, is just as nutritious as its fresh counterpart. Keep in mind that I’m talking about 100 percent pure pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie mix. Pumpkin pie mix, while yummy, is packed with sugar, preservatives, and flavorings — it’s great for fall confections, but not as nutritious.

5 Ways to Use Canned Pumpkin (That Aren’t Desserts)

I love pumpkin pie and bread as much as anyone, but there are so many other delectable and unexpected ways to reap the nutritional benefits of canned pumpkin. And don’t worry — you can still satisfy your sweet tooth. Here are five of those ways:

1. Mix it into your oatmeal.

You already know oatmeal is an uber-healthy and satisfying breakfast. It’s my go-to morning meal. But you know what makes it even better? Adding a tablespoon or two of canned pumpkin (I measure with my heart), some pumpkin pie spice, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Not only does the pumpkin thicken your oatmeal to a custard-like consistency, but the orange hue and aromatic spices make you feel like you’re eating dessert. Bonus: The added fiber from the pumpkin will help keep you full until lunch. 

2. Blend up a pumpkin protein smoothie.

The smooth, creamy texture of canned pumpkin makes it the perfect smoothie ingredient. And mixing it with banana, vanilla protein powder, almond butter, and pumpkin pie spice will make you feel like you’re drinking a milkshake from your favorite dessert spot’s seasonal menu. Try this Pumpkin Pie Protein Shake, which boasts 23 grams of pure plant protein, from food blog Chelsea’s Messy Apron. 

3. Don’t be afraid-o of pumpkin alfredo.

That’s right — pumpkin alfredo. It’s really not so odd when you think about it. We add a wide variety of veggies to pasta dishes without a second thought, so why should pumpkins be the exception? Lindsay Ostrom, creator of food blog Pinch of Yum, makes canned pumpkin the star of the show with her Five Ingredient Pumpkin Alfredo. Check out the details below. 


  • 8-12 ounces DeLallo fettuccine egg pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Cook fettuccine according to package directions, reserving 1 cup pasta water before draining.
  2. Sauté garlic in butter over medium heat until soft and fragrant.
  3. Add pumpkin and heavy whipping cream, simmer until slightly thickened, add cheese, and stir.
  4. Toss pasta in sauce, adding pasta water as needed to thin to desired consistency.

Ostrom notes that rosemary sprigs and sage leaves are delicious additions to this sauce as well — just add them with the garlic, and remove them before adding pumpkin and cream. And because this pasta sauce is full of immune-boosting beta-carotene from the pumpkin, you can feel good about grabbing a second helping. 

4. It might sound silly, but add pumpkin to your chili.

Chili is already one of the most autumnal meals out there, but adding pumpkin puts it in the running for The Official Food of Fall. Canned pumpkin imparts an earthy, nutty flavor, and a soft, velvety texture that complements the richness of this hearty fall favorite. Try this recipe for Easy Pumpkin Chili from Budget Bytes. For less than 10 dollars, you’ll have six servings of pumpkin chili in under an hour. 



  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée
  • ½ 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 cups water

Chili Seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Sauté minced garlic and onion in olive oil over medium heat, 5 minutes.
  2. Add ground beef, cook through.
  3. Add all other ingredients (for chili and chili seasoning) and stir.
  4. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.
  5. Serve and garnish as desired.

With pumpkin’s health benefits, combined with the cancer-preventing properties of tomatoes and heart-strengthening power of beans, your taste buds and your body will thank you. 

5. Use canned pumpkin as a substitute for oil, butter, or eggs when baking.

If you’re out of some essentials and can’t run to the store — or if you simply want a healthy, plant-based alternative to oil, butter, or eggs — canned pumpkin can come to the rescue. Here are the substitution ratios, according to the Libby’s Pumpkin website:

  • 1 egg = ¼ cup pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon oil or butter = 1 tablespoon pumpkin purée

Feeling pumped about pumpkin? You don’t have to actually eat it to reap the benefits. If, by some miracle, you still have a can left over after trying all these recipes, you can use it to make this complexion-brightening pumpkin facial. You deserve it.

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