Is canned pumpkin real pumpkin or is it some kind of squash?

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It’s fall and you know what that means. It’s pumpkin season! Fall is literally my favorite season and don’t at me, but I am a pumpkin spice QUEEN! I am usually first in line to get a pumpkin spice or apple caramel latte at Starbucks when they roll them out in early September. I love everything pumpkin. Pumpkin tortilla chips (thank you Trader Joe’s), pumpkin lattes, pumpkin ice cream, and pumpkin pie (yes, I believe pumpkin pie is superior to sweet potato pie, fight me). I know my ancestors are currently looking down at me with despair, but whatever. I must also add that Halloween is my favorite holiday. Need I say more? I tend to go to Trader Joe’s and Krogers to buy as much canned pumpkin as possible since it’s seasonal. But what I didn’t know is that there has been an online battle of sorts on whether canned pumpkin puree is indeed pumpkin. Are we eating squash pie (which pumpkins are btw) or drinking squash spice lattes? Taste of Home did a deep dive into where the pumpkin in pumpkin puree actually comes from. A few highlights:

Yes, canned pumpkin is really pumpkin. But this bright orange puree comes from a squash that looks nothing like the jack-o’-lanterns we know and love! There’s no strict botanical definition for pumpkins, which are, in fact, all squash. You might be used to seeing giant orange pumpkins every fall, but they’re not the only variety of pumpkin out there.

The kind used in most canned pumpkin is Dickinson pumpkin, a variety of Cucurbita moschata, and was developed by Libby’s, the brand that sells most of the cans in the US. This type of pumpkin is called Libby’s Select, and it’s most definitely pumpkin, even if it might not look like the pumpkins we know and love. The off-white pumpkins still contain the classic orange pumpkin flesh, which goes straight into the can. The Libby’s can also states that pumpkin is the only ingredient, so rest assured—you’re baking a 100% pumpkin pie.

The texture and taste of canned pumpkin is impossible to mess up, but the same can’t be said for fresh puree.

“The major drawback to making your own pumpkin is inconsistency in moisture content and sweetness,” Taste of Home‘s kitchen operations manager Beth Jacobsen explains. “This is the benefit and curse that comes with all fresh produce. You would be playing a guessing game as to how much water to add to your puree if it’s too dry or how much liquid to remove from your recipe if it’s very wet.”

[From Taste of Home]

The article goes on to say that you should only use canned pumpkin to cook because it’s the perfect consistency for recipes, it’s easier and it tastes better. I’d like to point out that pumpkin spice is not just a white people thing. Everything about pumpkin spice, the pumpkin and the spices, comes from brown countries. I said what I said. I am glad to know that canned pumpkin puree is really pumpkin and not some unknown squash cousin of pumpkins. Now I can go back to making my pumpkin pies and pumpkin curry soups without fearing that some inferior squash has made its way into my food (sarcasm). Like seriously, why is this even an argument? I assume people don’t know that a pumpkin is a squash but a Google search could have cleared that up easily.

Also, pumpkin comes in different shapes and sizes. When I lived in Ireland and Italy, their pumpkins looked vastly different from the squash we call a pumpkin. I love that Libby’s pumpkin puree literally has one ingredient, pumpkin. I am personally going to go to Kroger tomorrow and buy a few more cans. I have pumpkin spiced lattes to make and ancestors to upset by making pumpkin pies. I wonder if I could make a pumpkin pie for my family (who look down their noses at pumpkin_ and pawn it off as sweet potato pie? I mean most people can’t tell the difference anyways, *shrugs*. I am glad us basic witches can sleep at night now that we know that canned pumpkin puree is really pumpkin. And bonus it is a special, gourmet pumpkin developed by Libby’s.

Note by CB: This is not a sponsored post! We just like canned pumpkin and the fall. Here is a link to a pumpkin pie recipe to try.

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Photos credit: Pixabay, Monstera, and Karolina Grabowska on Pexels and via Instagram/Libbys

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64 Responses to “Is canned pumpkin real pumpkin or is it some kind of squash?”

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  1. Ashley says:

    I love canned pumpkin! My family eats pumpkin pie all year. Lol 😀🎃

    • Aang says:

      We eat a crazy amount of canned pumpkin. I put it in smoothies, add it to oatmeal, spread it on toast with cream cheese and some cinnamon sugar, and my dog gets a couple tablespoons a day.

      • BeanieBean says:

        Have you tried pumpkin cheesecake? Divine!

      • Jan90067 says:

        I use Libby’s pure pumpkin all year, too. LOVE pumpkin everything. I do this “mousse” with canned pumpkin, some (lite) Cool Whip, pumpkin all spice, and a bit of vanilla…mix it all together and chill…omg..SO good!!

        Also, Oya, check out TJs little pumpkin and ginger mini ice cream cones!!! Each is about 90 cal. and SOOOOOO good!!!

    • Lawcatb says:

      We don’t do pie all year, but I add it to a ton of different recipes, and we love pumpkin alfredo. It’s a great way to sneak a lot of nutrients into your kids food without fighting about vegetables.

  2. faithmobile says:

    Japanese Kabocha squash makes the best “pumpkin” pie but I grew up with sweet potato pie(the best pie) and because you bake the sweet potatoes in their jackets, moisture content is not an issue. Also if you can’t be bothered to make your own crust just buy the whole dang pie.

    • Celebitchy says:

      Nonono I am a baker and making crust is exceptionally hard. It’s very fickle compared to bread and cake. It’s easy to make filling and there’s no shame in using frozen or rollout pie crust.

      • Becks1 says:

        CB and others – I know I know lol but I swear Pioneer Woman has the best pie crust recipe. I mean its probably not hers but its super easy and works almost every time. I am not a baker at all (although I’m working at it and getting better, especially with bread) but this is something I can do. Even if it cracks its easy to fix and it tastes really good.

      • StellainNH says:

        I took a class at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT and that is the best recipe for pie crust.

      • Nick G says:

        When my daughter was little she had to be gluten free at a time where there was nothing to buy that was gluten free. America’s test kitchen had a recipe for gf piecrust that was so good I stopped making regular pie crust. My mother in law was a cook and pastry chef, but my husband said over and over that the gf crust was the best he ever tasted.

      • BeanieBean says:

        You gotta use lard, CB. That’s key to making a good pie crust. Lard.

      • Chicken Tetrazzini! says:

        @BeanieBean- cosign on the lard. I use half-shortening, half-lard per my great grandmothers recipe book and it’s a damn good pie crust

    • Tiffany :) says:

      A few years ago I made sweet potato cupcakes where the sweet potatoes were roasted in the skin. The potatoes condense down and become so creamy and rich when they roast in the skin. The cupcakes were so moist and delicious, and I’d serve them with maple syrup cream cheese frosting.

      It’s only my guy and me at home, so I brought the extras to work and people loved them.

  3. Eurydice says:

    I don’t like pumpkin pie or pumpkin beverages, but I make very nice pumpkin mini-muffins with orange glaze and pumpkin cheesecake with pecans.

  4. Becks1 says:

    I love pumpkin and use it a lot in cooking – I have made a pasta with pumpkin and a chili with pumpkin (not pumpkin spice, just canned pumpkin, which people do get confused.) I like pumpkin spice but am not obsessed with it. I get maybe two PSLs a season and I’m good (but I never buy coffee anyway, so even two PSLs is a lot of starbucks or whatever for me lol.) I also love pumpkin ravioli. And Pioneer Woman (sorry lol) has a good recipe for pumpkin smoothies that I make every year around thanksgiving.

    I just love squash in general, because it really is very versatile. Yes different squashes have different flavors, butternut is my favorite, but you can roast it, dice it for a salad, use it for soup, as a sauce for pasta, etc. I have this recipe somewhere for stuffing acorn squash and cooking it in the slow cooker. Its delicious!

    • Maria says:

      Ooooh yes I love making pastas with pumpkin and sausage! I’m obsessed with pumpkin muffins personally, lol.

    • Nick G says:

      I also started making Thai soup with spaghetti squash instead of noodles!

      • Becks1 says:

        spaghetti squash is great! My husband doesnt really like anything that isnt meat, potatoes or pasta, but if I make a good meat sauce, he doesnt care how he eats it, lol, so we use spaghetti squash a lot for that.

    • Oya says:

      ooh yumm. I have a pumpkin mushroom lasagna recipe.

  5. Concern Fae says:

    Canned pumpkin is also good mixed into steel cut oats. Big spoonful per bowl mixed in about halfway through cooking. Counts as your serving of yellow vegetable for the day.

    Everyone knows field pumpkins (for making jack o lanterns and cooking pumpkins are two different things.

  6. mellie says:

    Same, same, same, same, same! I love fall and Halloween, I’ve already started hoarding cans of pumpkin myself and while I do like to cook down pie pumpkins to make all things pumpkin. I don’t always have time for that, so Libby’s canned pumpkin it is! I’ve already made a pumpkin roll, a rum pumpkin cake and the cutest little pumpkin cream cheese fingerprint cookies. And the Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew is soooo good. So yes, I am ALL about the pumpkin as well. If it’s squash, it tastes fine to me.

  7. Indica says:

    So I get the feeling Oya would want the pumpkin scone and pumpkin spice sheet cake recipes I have…

    • Jan90067 says:

      Recipes, ladies!!! Recipes!!!!

      Hey CB, can we have a post dedicated to posting pumpkin recipes???

    • Oya says:

      Stares longingly and prays for the recipe. Indica don’t teasing me like that. Spill. I’ll love you forever. LOL

  8. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    Oya, this Mexicana loves pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice whatever! One of my favorite Mexican pastries is the pumpkin-filled empanada! Cochita is another treat that has fall vibes. It’s a pig-shaped cookie made with cinnamon and molasses. Sooooo good!

  9. Jas says:

    I always look at the ingredients of canned pumpkin. Sometimes it says squash and pumpkin depending on the brand. The ones that have squash mixed in are gross btw.

  10. AmelieOriginal says:

    I don’t know where everybody else lives but I can find canned pumpkin in grocery stores where I am year round. There may not be as many as in the fall but I have definitely bought canned pumpkin out of season. I did always wonder what kind of pumpkin it was so good to know!

    • Splinter says:

      I live in Europe, and in my country I have not seen any canned pumpkin, only purees sold as baby food. I would love to try and make a pumpkin pie, but the extra step of baking it for the puree puts me off.
      So I just grate it and make pumpkin pancakes. Without the “pumpkin spices”.

      • AmelieOriginal says:

        I doubt you’ll find canned pumpkin in Europe unless you have an American grocery stores near you. When I lived in Madrid, there was an American grocery store called Taste of America (looks like they are now a chain as there are several locations across the city and in other Spanish cities) where you could get stuff like Skippy peanut butter, American cereals, canned pumpkin, etc. I went once or twice but it was so darn expensive, we’re talking like 15 euros for a peanut butter jar or something ridiculous. It was good to know it was there though if I ever wanted something from home. But trying to find those products in a Spanish grocery store–yeah forget it.

      • Splinter says:

        Interesting, they sell one type of peanut butter at my regular grocery store, but it is not a staple here. People know that sandwiches with peanut butter and jelly are a thing, they have heard about them from american sitcoms, but I have never come across one in my whole life. And that is probably the reason they don’t sell canned pumpkin, it would not be in high demand.

      • Philly says:

        I’ve never seen canned pumpkin either, in Europe or here in Australia. Why wouldn’t you just use fresh pumpkin, they are cheap and in season during American halloween/thanksgiving?

    • Becks1 says:

      I can find it year round as well, or at least whenever I need it, which is at random times throughout the year. Sometimes its in a different place in the store but we can usually always find it. I’m in Maryland.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Yep, I can usually find it year-round, too. And I’ve lived all over the place in the States.

  11. Nicki says:

    Not a fan of the pumpkin spice flavors but love that a pumpkin FAQ fits right into the profile of this site. Celebitchy is the best. :)

  12. Willow says:

    Canned pumpkin is also good for dogs with (ahem) runny poop. Especially puppies with their delicate stomachs. Make sure you do NOT buy the cans that say ‘for pumpkin pie’ on them because they add spices and sugar to that. Buy the 100% canned pumpkin. Add between a teaspoon to a tablespoon to plain rice or their food. The amount depends on the dogs weight.
    Grocery stores always put canned pumpkin in the baking aisle on the very bottom shelf with all the canned fruit for pies.

    • pottymouth pup says:

      it’s also good for the opposite (constipation) in dogs

    • Jan90067 says:

      I’ve been doggy-sitting my furry nephew for the last 5, and I have had to add a good sized tbsp to all of his meals. Poor baby has a bad tummy 🥺 esp. when his routine is changed. Luckily, he loves the taste.

      PS: it also aids digestion if you give a bit of “people food” to his bowl.

    • fluffybunny says:

      I use powdered pumpkin for my dog that seems to keep having explosive poop any time she comes back from the kennel. The canned stuff is supposed to be thrown out daily so the powdered kind cuts down on waste.

    • Christine says:

      Absolutely! Pumpkin (from cans), mixed with rice, is the perfect diet for a dog with runny poo. The same pumpkin, added to whatever the regular diet is, makes constipated dogs happy.

  13. pottymouth pup says:

    I’m not a fan of pumpkin myself but I have a few friends who are all in for anything pumpkin spice. I recently got a ninja creami and made them a batch of pumpkin spice latte ice cream which had a canned pumpkin puree base (I used coconut cream & coconut milk instead of dairy since one of my friends is vegan)

  14. Chlo says:

    I would totally be interested in your pumpkin curry soup recipe(s)………..

  15. MissMarirose says:

    Pumpkin spice may not be a white people thing, but like most awesome stuff, it was co-opted from POC.

  16. Renee says:

    I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin but I LOVE Halloween too!

  17. jwoolman says:

    You can add all the usual pumpkin pie spices to a baked yam or sweet potato (mash it up a bit with a fork) along with some sweetener and some fat and voilà – instant dessert.

  18. BeeCee says:

    I love this whole post ahahahahaha
    Thanks for making me laugh Oya!
    From one Pumpkin Spice Queen to another <3

  19. L4Frimaire says:

    I agree that the canned pumpkin really is the best for pies and cooking, and that it is a squash used. Fresh pumpkins can be watery and not taste that great because we’re not that familiar with the different varieties. I have a canned squash that I’ll try in my pie this year and give it a brûlée sugar topping. Whatever type of squash/pumpkin is in it, I prefer it over sweet potato pie.

  20. StrawberryBlonde says:

    I love squash of all kinds. Summer squash, winter squash, pumpkin, buttercup (my favourite), Hubbard, buttercup etc etc. I also love the Fall spices. My mom and Dad used to cut up our jack-o-lanterns and make spiced “pickled” pumpkin. Chunks of cinnamon and clove flavoured pumpkin.

  21. Julie says:

    I adore pumpkin pie – I used to request it for my birthday instead of cake when I was a kid! Canned pumpkin is the way to go, for sure. I tried to make it from fresh pie pumpkins one time, and it was a disaster, all stringy and gross.

  22. Seraphina says:

    Hahaha. We were just talking about this topic the other day at my house. My family, who is from another country, will not eat canned pumpkin and they consider the butternut squash a substitute. That said, I use it in my pumpkin pie recipe and everyone LOVES it. They joke is that it’s squash pie, not pumpkin.
    Personally, I am a sweet potato gal so I don’t know if there is much of a difference.

  23. Jules says:

    “I assume people don’t know that a pumpkin is a squash”— what??

  24. Lisa says:

    I don’t make Pumpkin Pie. My mother in law makes an outstanding one, and gave me the recipe, but my son says it doesn’t taste the same. So I buy him a store bought pie! ;-)

    Instead I make a Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Pecan crust. I got the recipe back in the 80′s from Epicurious magazine (you can find it online). It is incredible, and my most requested holiday recipe. last year I made a smaller cheesecake, and then used the extra filling for mini cheesecakes that I made in a muffin pan, with individual gingersnaps in the bottom as a crust. YUM!

  25. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Favorite time of year for me too! And I always have cans of pumpkin on hand. I’m crazy for seasonal pumpkin everything. But I also have to add another seasonal favorite I’m already stocking up…frosted sugar cookie coffee creamer. Yes yes, I hang my head in shame as I currently have eight in the fridge.

    • fluffybunny says:

      My husband would have a fit if I had that much creamer in the fridge. He doesn’t drink coffee and thinks he should be throwing out the opened creamer every weekend after we grocery shop. I only drink one cup a day so I don’t go through an entire carton a week. We’ve been having this battle for years.

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        Lol, creamer doesn’t last very long around here, but it certainly lasts a lot longer than milk. My husband doesn’t drink it and he makes fun of my ‘creamer with coffee.’ But I have a certain color I aim for lol. 😋

      • Becks1 says:

        @Mabs lol I love the sugar cookie creamer! I love coffee but I stopped drinking it about a year ago (I drink one mug of black tea a morning now) bc I was so obsessed with creamer. I figured it was an easy way to save 200 calories a day bc I was never honest on MFP about how much I used lol. Now when I’m at my parents I always drink their coffee with creamer and it feels like such a luxury.

  26. BOOGIE says:

    I do not like pumpkin flavor but I love going to farmers markets and picking out all manner of squash during spooky season!

    Is sweet potato pie the one with the marshmallows? I know there’s some super surgary pie. I’m a pecan gal but I’ll try anything once!

  27. The Recluse says:

    You can also buy the smaller sweet pumpkins that are also for pies, but they take work on your part to puree them! I tried it once and it was a lot of work.

  28. Juniper says:

    I buy pumpkin year-round. I love it but it’s mostly for my dog, who has gastrointestinal issues and it keeps him regular. lol, I try and buy a bunch of it during this time of year because it gets hard to find and expensive after the winter holidays.

  29. Kkat says:

    One thing I do with canned pumpkin that is so easy. Is you can mix a can with a box of cake mix. Like Betty crocker
    Then you can make muffins or cake
    No other ingredients, just a can of pumpkin and a box of any flavor cake.
    It makes a denser cake like a zucchini or carrot cake
    It really came in handy during the height of the pandemic when you couldn’t get milk, eggs, oil ect here in California.

  30. dawnchild says:

    There’s a really good recipe for an Impossible Pumpkin pie on the fatfreevegan blog site…I’ve made this a few times with canned pumpkin puree and eggs instead of the egg replacer. It converted me to a pumpkin pie fan LOL! And also, it is gluten free for those who need it.