Healthy Recipes

Recipes You Can Make Healthier with a Can of Pumpkin

Recipes You Can Make Healthier with a Can of Pumpkin

After autumn, it’s easy to forget pumpkin puree’s tasty, versatile, nutrition-packed goodness. However, a can of pumpkin is a great pantry staple anytime. It adds moisture, texture, and health benefits to many recipes—including some you might not expect.

Pump in the Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Pumpkin is one of many varieties of common American winter squash. Pumpkin is botanically a fruit, though its nutritional profile resembles many vegetables.

Canned pumpkin puree is cooked, mashed pumpkin; it retains its color, flavor, and nutrition well. (Just make sure you don’t get “pumpkin pie mix,” which contains additives such as sugar. Look for 100 percent pumpkin.)

Ubiquitous throughout its native North America, pumpkin is an affordable, easy-to-stock pantry staple that’s packed with nutrition. It contains alkaloids and flavonoids, which are natural compounds with documented anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic, and antioxidant properties, as well as a long list of other nutrients.

Recipes You Can Make Healthier with a Can of Pumpkin

Pumpkin puree is about 94 percent water and has only about 50 calories per cup. That means pumpkin puree can add moisture, texture, flavor, and nutrition to a wide variety of meals without adding extra calories. These dishes taste delicious with a pop of pumpkin.


Chili is a natural for a pumpkin boost. Stir pumpkin into chili to add sweetness that enhances spices and complements the dish’s rich, savory flavors. Pumpkin won’t steal the show, but it works behind the scenes to add a silky texture and slight vegetal note.

Mac and cheese

Mac doesn’t hold mac and cheese together, and neither does cheese. The sauce is what makes mac and cheese a favorite dish for kids and adults. While it’s typically made with butter, flour, and milk, a dose of pumpkin puree enhances it

Pumpkin puree deepens the dish’s color and adds creaminess and texture without extra fat or calories. It makes mac and cheese more filling and nutritious, which means you may feel satiated with fewer servings.


From India to Thailand, curries are a culinary mainstay. Thailand’s massaman curry reflects Malay and Indian roots and boasts an aromatic mix of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and nutmeg. Of course, those are the same spices in fall pumpkin treats and pumpkin pie spice, which makes pumpkin a natural addition for massaman curry. Stir in puree or chunks of pumpkin or other winter squash such as butternut to add flavor and heartiness. Those healthy starches also tame curry’s spicy bite.

Waffles and pancakes

Few things compare to the smell of waffles or pancakes cooking on a frosty morning. Add a cup of pumpkin puree to your waffle or pancake batter to make your breakfast tastier and more nutritious and colorful. Pumpkin’s rich sweetness pairs well with toppings such as nuts, maple syrup, or sautéed apples.


With layers of noodles, meat, rich sauce, and cheese, lasagna tends to be a heavy dish. Swap pumpkin puree for some of the heavier ingredients to lighten the dish while keeping the texture, flavor, and heft. Or use pumpkin puree as a foundation for a non-traditional take on the classic dish.


Pumpkin enhances vegetarian dishes, and it can add texture and flavor to meat dishes too. A pop of pumpkin gives classic meatloaf moisture, silky texture, and extra body. Plus, pumpkin makes the dish more nutritious and filling.

Baked goods

Pumpkin is a secret weapon for bakers. It can stand in for the texture and structure of these ingredients.


Replace one cup of oil with one cup of pumpkin puree.


Multiply the amount of butter in a recipe by three-fourths (or 0.75) and add that amount of pumpkin puree instead. For instance, use three-fourths cup of pumpkin puree to replace one cup of butter. (Or you may only want to substitute half of the butter in a recipe.)


Replace each egg with one-fourth cup of pumpkin puree.


Many fat-free baked goods call for applesauce, but pumpkin offers more body and flavor. Substitute applesauce one-to-one with pumpkin puree.

Perk Up Your Pantry with Pumpkin

Pumpkin puree is affordable, ubiquitous, and versatile. Don’t just eat it during pumpkin pie (or pumpkin-pie-spice latte) season. Stock your pantry with pumpkin puree to boost your cooking—and nutrition—all year long.

By Anthony St. Clair

Anthony St. Clair is an author, globetrotter, craft beer expert, and professional writer based in the US Pacific Northwest. When he’s not writing, Anthony is with his wife and two children, usually either cooking or going on some sort of adventure. Learn more or check out Anthony's Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series at