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Can I use pure pumpkin instead of pumpkin puree?

Using pure pumpkin instead of pumpkin puree is a common question that many home cooks have when a recipe calls for pumpkin puree. While pure pumpkin and pumpkin puree are similar, there are some key differences between the two that determine if they can be used interchangeably.

What is Pumpkin Puree?

Pumpkin puree is made from pumpkins that have been cooked, blended, and strained to produce a smooth, thick paste. It can be made at home by roasting pumpkin pieces until soft, then blending or mashing them until smooth. Store-bought canned pumpkin puree is also readily available.

Pumpkin puree has a smooth, pudding-like texture and can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. It’s a staple ingredient in classic fall desserts like pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, and can also be used to make soups, risottos, pasta sauces, and more.

What is Pure Pumpkin?

Pure pumpkin refers to 100% pure canned pumpkin. It contains absolutely no added ingredients or seasonings. The pumpkin is cooked and then mashed to a rough puree texture that still contains some fiber and pulp.

Pure pumpkin has a thicker, chunkier texture compared to smooth pumpkin puree. It also has a more pronounced pumpkin flavor since it contains no added ingredients to dilute the taste.

Key Differences Between Pure Pumpkin and Pumpkin Puree

Here are the main differences between pure pumpkin and pumpkin puree:

  • Texture: Pure pumpkin has visible pumpkin pulp and fiber while pumpkin puree is completely smooth.
  • Thickness: Pure pumpkin is thicker and not as smooth or pudding-like as pumpkin puree.
  • Flavor: Pure pumpkin has a more intense, pronounced pumpkin flavor.
  • Added ingredients: Pure pumpkin contains no added ingredients. Pumpkin puree may have added sugar, spices, etc.
  • Interchangeability: Pure pumpkin and pumpkin puree cannot be used interchangeably in all recipes, depending on texture needs.

Can Pure Pumpkin be Substituted for Pumpkin Puree?

Pure pumpkin can be substituted for pumpkin puree in some recipes, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Texture: The chunkier texture of pure pumpkin may not work well in recipes where a super smooth puree is needed, like pumpkin pie or soups.
  • Density: Pure pumpkin is thicker so you may need to adjust the liquid in a recipe to account for this.
  • Flavor: The bolder pumpkin flavor of pure pumpkin could overwhelm more delicately flavored recipes.
  • Sweetness: Pure pumpkin won’t be sweetened like some canned pumpkin purees, so you may need to adjust sugar.

In recipes where texture and density are not as important, like pumpkin bread, cookies, or muffins, pure pumpkin can be used in place of pumpkin puree with minor adjustments. But for custards, puddings, or recipes where texture is key, pure pumpkin is not the best substitute.

Tips for Substituting Pure Pumpkin for Pumpkin Puree

Here are some tips if you want to use pure pumpkin in place of pumpkin puree:

  • Check the texture needed for the recipe. Pure pumpkin won’t work as well in recipes requiring a smooth puree.
  • Adjust liquid in the recipe to account for the thicker consistency of pure pumpkin.
  • Add sugar or spices to balance out the strong pumpkin flavor as needed.
  • Use pure pumpkin in small amounts along with regular pumpkin puree if texture is a concern.
  • Puree the pure pumpkin further to break down fiber and pulp for a smoother texture.

Recipe Adjustments

Here are some general recipe adjustments when replacing 1 cup of pumpkin puree with 1 cup of pure pumpkin:

Recipe Adjustments
Pies – Add 2-3 tablespoons milk or cream for more moisture
– Additional egg may help with structure
– Add spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg to balance flavor
Bread/Muffins – Reduce other liquids by 2-3 tablespoons to account for moisture in pure pumpkin
– Add 1-2 tablespoons sugar or other sweetener to balance flavor
Pancakes – May need a teaspoon more milk or water
– Mix in a bit of pumpkin puree for texture if needed
Smoothies – Use some extra liquid to thin out texture
– Additional spices like cinnamon complement flavor

Should I Just Make My Own Pumpkin Puree?

You can certainly make your own homemade pumpkin puree to substitute for canned versions. This allows you to control the texture and flavor exactly how you want.

To make pumpkin puree:

  1. Wash and cut a sugar pumpkin or pie pumpkin into sections. Scoop out seeds.
  2. Roast pumpkin pieces at 400°F for 45 mins to an hour until very soft.
  3. Allow pumpkin to cool, then scoop flesh from skin into a blender or food processor.
  4. Blend until completely smooth, adding liquid as needed for texture.
  5. Use immediately or store in refrigerator up to 1 week, or freezer up to 3 months.

Homemade pumpkin puree has a brighter, fresher flavor than canned. You can control the texture from smooth to chunky depending on your preference. It does require more effort than just opening a can, but can be worth it for the flavor payoff.


While pure pumpkin and pumpkin puree are similar, their differences in texture, thickness, and flavor mean they are not always interchangeable. Pure pumpkin can work in some recipes calling for pumpkin puree, but may not be suitable when a perfectly smooth texture and more delicate flavor are needed.

To substitute pure pumpkin for pumpkin puree, adjust the liquids and spices in a recipe to account for differences in consistency and taste. Making your own fresh pumpkin puree is also an option for total control over the texture and flavor.

Consider the specific recipe requirements and make adjustments as needed when deciding whether pure pumpkin can stand in for pumpkin puree.