I love and respect canned pumpkin as much as the next fall baking enthusiast – but if you have a local source for fresh pie pumpkins to take advantage of, you can’t beat your Instant Pot for the easiest way to prep your own pumpkin from scratch. A pressure cooker can make quick work of dense vegetables like pumpkin – instead of baking in the oven for a whole hour, you can get your squash fully cooked in just 15 minutes under pressure.
I’ve seen a lot of noise online about pumpkin puree, so I must submit my Hot Take on the juicy controversies:
“canned pumpkin isn’t really pumpkin!” … let’s settle down with the labels, man! Botany is not so black-and-white. It’s true that the “Dickinson Pumpkins” that the major producers source for their canned goods are a different species than the pumpkins at your grocery store, and that labeling regulations allow “canned pumpkin” products to contain different types of squashes within both of these species – but the reality is that “pumpkin” is just a vague term for, well, pumpkin-like squashes. Like many other common vegetables, “squash” is a broad category that covers several species and seemingly infinite varieties (I’ll refer to my favorite culinary botanist for the full trip down that rabbit-hole: Cucurbita Squash Diversity).
“fresh pumpkin puree is bland and watery and terrible for baking” … Nonsense! Don’t let Big Pumpkin tell you there’s anything you can’t accomplish with fresh ingredients in your own kitchen. It may be true that your favorite brand of canned puree is reliably flavorful/sweet/dense – but in the many articles I’ve seen urging readers to not waste their time cooking fresh pumpkin, all of them end with a comment section full of dissenters who treasure their annual fresh pumpkin pies.
For best results, don’t use the big stringy jack-o-lantern pumpkin from your front porch (not that it would fit in your Instant Pot anyway!) – stick with the little “pie pumpkins”/”sugar pumpkins”, or even try a different squash like butternut or kabocha if you like.
To maximize your chances of success when baking with DIY fresh pumpkin puree, the main secret you need to know about is that freshly pureed pumpkin is wetter than the stuff that comes out of a can (in industrial production, water is extruded from the flesh after cooking). This is less of a problem if you plan to use your pumpkin in soups or sauces, but your best bet is to drain liquid from the puree before using it for baking recipes. You can achieve this by placing your puree in a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, coffee filters, or paper/cotton towels over a bowl in your fridge for a few hours or overnight.
After you’ve let some water run out to thicken the puree, you’re ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Might I suggest using your pumpkin in one of these fine recipes?
I’ve got another exciting pumpkin-spiced post in the works for you coming soon too… stay tuned!
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[Instant Pot] Insta-Pumpkin! DIY Pressure Cooker Pumpkin Puree
- one sugar pumpkin or pie pumpkin about 3-5 pounds
- 1 1/2 cups water
- With a large sharp knife, carefully slice off the top of the pumpkin, about 1 inch under its stem, then cut the pumpkin in half vertically. Remove the seeds and stringy innards from the pumpkin’s center, using a large spoon and a small paring knife.
- Pour 1 1/2 cups water into Instant Pot, and place the cooking rack. Arrange the pumpkin halves to fit, taking care not to block the pressure valve area. If the pieces are too large, slice the halves into quarters.
- Close the lid and ensure that the valve is set to sealed position. Select “Steam” mode, leave the setting on High Pressure, and adjust the time to 15 minutes.
- When the cooking time is up, the pressure valve may be opened immediately for a quick release. The pumpkin flesh should be very soft and easy to spoon out of its skin (if it isn’t, close the lid and cook again for a few minutes more as needed). Scoop the pumpkin flesh into a large bowl, discarding the skins.
- To puree, you may use a food processor or blender – or to produce fewer dirty dishes, return the pumpkin to the Instant Pot (after removing the rack and pouring off the cooking liquid) and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.
- To drain excess liquid from the pumpkin puree, place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and line the strainer with a coffee filter or cheesecloth or paper/cotton towels. Mound the pumpkin puree into the lined strainer and allow it to drain into the bowl for at least an hour, or in the refrigerator overnight.
- Store the pumpkin puree in an airtight container; use within four days if refrigerated, or freeze for long-term storage.