Pumpkin Puree: 11 Creative Ways Nutritionists Use It
Move over, PSL! Here, healthy, creative ways to use pumpkin puree to celebrate the season—without unwanted calories or sugar.
Pumpkin spice parfait
To resist leftover pumpkin pie, try a dessert parfait instead, using real canned pumpkin, yogurt, and chopped fruit. “A fruity dessert provides fiber, which helps you feel satisfied with a smaller portion,” says Willow Jarosh, RD, co-owner of C&J Nutrition, a private practice and nutrition communications business in New York City. Pumpkin is also chock-full of satiating fiber (just 1/2 cup boasts nearly 4 grams of fiber in just 42 calories) and vitamins A and C.
The trick: For the first layer, combine almond butter and yogurt with a generous pinch of pumpkin spice. For a second layer, mix pumpkin puree with 1 tsp maple syrup. Top with chopped fruit for a third layer. Repeat as desired.
It’s easy to fall into an eating rut this time of year (heat up leftovers, curl up in a blanket, repeat nightly—sound familiar?). Pack vitamins and variety into your routine by adding pumpkin puree to basic dishes. “One night, I had leftover canned pumpkin puree and spaghetti, and needed a late-night dinner,” says Michelle Dudash, RDN, a Cordon Bleu-certified chef and author of Dish with Dudash. “Pumpkin pasta is a savory way to use up leftover pumpkin, and is a delicious vegetarian meal you can make quickly.”
The trick: Stir a dollop of pumpkin puree into cooked, whole-grain spaghetti. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with garlic salt, onion powder, and nutritional yeast seasoning. Garnish with toasted sliced almonds.
In the mood to cook something simple? Soup’s on. “I whip up a simple pumpkin soup that’s dairy-free, low in calories, and loaded with nutrients and antioxidants,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of Slim Down Now. “It’s healthy but hearty.”
The trick: Saute a golf ball-sized portion of yellow onion and garlic (combined) in 1/4 cup low sodium organic vegetable broth. Blend in a food processor with 1/2 cup each canned pumpkin and unsweetened coconut milk, 1/4 cup of broth, and a dash of curry seasoning. Transfer to a saucepan, bring to a quick boil, and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. To make it a meal, add a lean protein—like three ounces of grilled shrimp.
Make a healthier version at home to cut calories and sugar. “You’re saving yourself from coffeehouse sugary flavored syrup, and using real pumpkin puree gives you a major boost of the antioxidant beta-carotene,” says Dudash. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, where it promotes healthy skin, eye health and vision, and a strong immune system. Milk provides calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein.
The trick: Add one part hot coffee to two parts hot milk. Add 3 tbsp pumpkin puree, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. For even mixing, use a blender or handheld milk frother.
Cooking for someone vegan or lactose intolerant? Note this trick if cheese is off the menu: “Pumpkin puree’s texture and color resembles that of melted cheese,” says Jarosh. Surprise them with this creative dish—everyone at the table will ask for a second serving.
The trick: Spread pumpkin puree and vegetarian refried beans onto a whole grain tortilla. Add sautéed mushrooms and kale. Fold in half, and heat in a lightly oiled skillet until both sides are crispy and golden. Extra health perk: Mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light (look for “100% vitamin D” or “High in vitamin D” on the label) are a good source of the sunshine vitamin—important to get more of as the days get shorter.
Swap butter for pumpkin puree to nix a sweet number of calories. “You don’t taste the pumpkin at all because the chocolate overpowers it. But it makes the brownies more moist,” says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, co-author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean.
The trick: Swap out half the butter the recipe calls for with twice the amount of pumpkin. For example: If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter, replace 1/4 cup of butter with 1/2 cup pumpkin to cut 373 calories and 46 grams of fat.
Pumpkin pie smoothie
Don’t eat pumpkin pie, slurp it. Use traditional smoothie ingredients (bananas, yogurt, and milk), then add pumpkin and almond butter for a filling seasonal drink. “Pumpkin and banana provide fiber, yogurt and milk provide protein, and the almond butter infuses healthy fat,” says Jarosh. “That high-fiber, protein, and fat trifecta is a recipe for staying satisfied.”
The trick: Blend 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, 3 tbsp almond butter, 1 banana, and 2 tbsp raisins. Sprinkle with pumpkin spice. Blend until smooth. Add 1 to 2 cups ice and blend again.
Bring this nutritionist-approved snack to your next fall potluck. “For fall parties, I love serving [flavored] hummus as an appetizer to create seasonal flair,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, chef, nutritionist, and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.
The trick: Add canned pumpkin puree to your favorite hummus to taste, sprinkle with garlic, and garnish with pumpkin seeds.
Another trick: Care to start from scratch? Sass whips up this pumpkin hummus: Combine 1/2 cup chickpeas with 2-3 tablespoons each tahini and canned pumpkin. Add 1 tsp garlic, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and dashes of cayenne pepper, black pepper, and cumin. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Use as an appetizer, or as a spread in place of mayo.
Mashed spuds are a comfort food staple. But nutritionists prefer to eat it when pumpkin puree is added. “It’s a really easy way to boost nutrition and change up the same-old dish,” says Bazilian. “The added fiber may reduce the overall glycemic load, which slows your blood sugar response.”
The trick: Stir pumpkin puree into cooked mashed potatoes, to taste.
The nutritionist-approved morning pumpkin fix: Pumpkin puree and pistachios mixed into Greek or Icelandic yogurt. This provides a sweet flavor without the added sugar in many store-bought flavored yogurts, says Dudash. Plus: “The protein in Greek or Icelandic yogurts and the good fats in pistachios keep you satisfied between meals.”
The trick: Swirl 2-3 tbsp pumpkin puree into a single-serve cup of plain Greek yogurt. Spice with ground cardamom and cinnamon, sprinkle with pistachios, and drizzle with honey.
Adding pumpkin puree to chili won’t make it taste much different, but it will provide a heartier texture and a vitamin boost, says Bazilian. You’ll taste just a hint of pumpkin, depending on how much you add.
The trick: Stir a dollop of pumpkin puree into your cooked chili, to taste.