Original publish date September 26, 2020. Updated 2022 with expanded information.
The easiest way to prep your own pumpkin from scratch: pressure cook it in your Instant Pot!
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, you can make your festive fall recipes that much more special by giving them the starring role.
Jump to Section:
- Why to Use Instant Pot for DIY Pumpkin Puree
- Controversial Issues (!)
- The Secret to Baking with DIY Pumpkin Puree
- Whole Pumpkin vs. Halved vs. Chunks
- Step By Step: How to Cook
- How to Store & Freeze
- Nutrition Insights
- Pumpkin Recipes
Why to Use Instant Pot for DIY Pumpkin Puree
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.
This recipe takes advantage of Instant Pot’s “Steam” function – because food steamed over water is not at risk for scorching, this setting is designed to use a hotter element and should reach pressure in less time than standard “Manual” mode. Depending on the size of your pumpkin and your cooker, you can expect about 5-10 minutes to build pressure.
100% pure pumpkin. 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” that come into the markets in fall.
Controversial Issues (!)
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.
The Secret to Baking with DIY Pumpkin Puree
To maximize your chances of success when baking with DIY fresh pumpkin puree, the main secret you need to know 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 for use in baking recipes, your best bet is to drain liquid to thicken the puree before mixing it into your batters or doughs.
Good news: it’s not difficult at all! Read on for my simple tutorial.
Whole Pumpkin vs. Halved vs. Chunks
Whole pumpkins can go straight into your Instant Pot – yes, really! This is a good option particularly if you’re wary of cutting into a tough pumpkin with a large chef’s knife. After pressure cooking for about 20 minutes, you will peel away the skin and scoop out the innards before pureeing.
Halved or quartered pumpkins soften a little more quickly (about 15 minutes cook time), and are easier to fit into a standard 6-quart pressure cooker. The seeds are removed before cooking, giving you the chance to get a head start on roasting them into a crunchy snack.
Pumpkin chunks, in my opinion, are not the best choice for cooking with Instant Pot. If your goal is to make puree, it’s much easier to deal with whole, halved or quartered pumpkins. If you want to eat pumpkin chunks, they will be more firm and flavorful when roasted in an oven (the pressure cooker will leave them more soft and watery). If you want to try it anyway, use a cook time of about 3-5 minutes for 1-2 inch chunks.
Step By Step: How To Cook
Before you start, be sure to wash your pumpkin well to remove dirt and germs from its surface.
As reviewed in the last section, the pumpkin can be left whole, or halved or quartered. I generally halve and de-seed my pumpkins before pressure cooking in my 8-quart Instant Pot.
Place a low cooking rack (like the one that ships with each unit) into the cooker, and add water. 6-quart Instant Pots need 1 cup of water, and 8 quart models need 1 1/2 cups.
Place the pumpkin onto the rack; if using halved or quartered pumpkin, arrange the pieces to maximize airflow between and around the pumpkin for even cooking.
Close the lid, set the valve to sealing position, and select the Steam cooking program (this option heats more quickly and pressurizes sooner than the standard Manual program).
How Long to Pressure Cook?
After hitting the Steam button, adjust the cook time. Most pie pumpkins weigh about 2-3 pounds, and the recommended cook times below are designed to cover this range and yield softly cooked pumpkin ideal for puree.
Whole: 20 minutes
Halved or Quartered: 15 minutes
Chunks: 5 minutes
After pressure cooking, the valve can be opened immediately for a quick release.
When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, the skin can easily be prepared away and discarded. 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.
Drain Excess Liquid
It is important to remove water from the cooked pumpkin if the puree will be used in 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.
How to Store & Freeze
After preparing your pumpkin puree, it can be stored safely in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
For longer term storage, you can keep it in the freezer for up to a year, but the quality is better if used within 3-6 months. For freezer storage, I like to use reusable plastic zip bags or freezer-safe glass jars.
Food for thought, from your friendly neighborhood Registered Dietitian Nutritionist + food science buff.
Pumpkin is a vibrant vegetable for our seasonal fall/winter diets. Its bright orange color comes from carotenoid pigments, which our bodies convert to vitamin A to support our vision, growth, immunity and other functions.
Nutrition information for homemade pumpkin puree vs. store bought canned pumpkin: some small differences can be expected. Even though we drain our puree, it is difficult to remove as much liquid as in commercial canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin is just a bit more concentrated.
In my experience… after removing the seeds, guts and skins – a pie pumpkin yields about 60% of is weight in wet product. Then, I’m able to drain off about 15% of the resulting weight in water. Based on these observations, I’m providing a comparison of nutrient estimates in the table below.
Ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor?! Try using your pumpkin in some of these recipes:
Fueled By Instant Pot is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and earns a commission for purchases made through the following links:
[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.