How to puree a pumpkin

Guest post including a recipe for pumpkin flan

My first run-in with converting a whole pumpkin into functional puree was about 7 years ago. The kitchen, the pumpkin, my unsuspecting roommate at the time, and I were all utterly exasperated afterward. I sure wish I would’ve had this savvy post from Stacy of Seattle Seedling in my list of things to consult before turning the whole kitchen into a big hot mess.

Please welcome Stacy to the HGGH guest post fold!

p.s. I love her hip trick, a creative improvisation for straining the puree in her salad spinner, and with clothespins no less. A girl after my own heart!


I went to the farmers’ market last weekend and bought my first sugar pie pumpkin of the season. That means it’s fall in my book. That means making my own pumpkin puree and then making delicious things with it like pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin butter. But not this season…

Nope, after eating the pumpkin flan I made this weekend, it will be a miracle if I ever use my pumpkin puree for anything else.

First things first. Make your own puree. It takes a few more steps than opening a can, but the results are worth it.

Homemade pumpkin puree

Find a delightful little sugar pie pumpkin, or other variety grown for eating. A little three pounder is good. That will give you about 2 1/2 cups of puree. (Editor’s note: The carving pumpkins are edible, but contain a lot more water and are less flavorful than the smaller, pie pumpkins. I’ve pureed many a large pumpkin, but used the puree mostly for soups and non-baking purposes.)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F while you prepare.

2. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, and place the two cut halves face down on a baking sheet. (Save the seeds and roast them into snacky pepitas!)

3. Roast the halves until tender, until a fork can easily pierce through the skin (the skin will ideally be wrinkly).

4. Let cool until you can handle the halves and peel the skins off or scoop the meat out into a food processor. Process until very smooth. (If you don’t own a food processor, make it a puree party at a friend’s house who does.)

5. Transfer pulp to a cheesecloth-lined strainer and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Discard the water and use or freeze the puree.

Hip trick: Line the strainer basket of a salad spinner with cheesecloth. There will be just enough space between the strainer and the container to catch the draining pumpkin water. Keep the cheesecloth in place using clothespins.

Once you have your puree, make this flan – it’s like eating pumpkin pie without the crust, smooth and custardy with all the right spices. And, if you have to, share it with people you love. But I won’t judge if you end up eating the entire thing yourself. It is that good. You’ll welcome fall with open arms and an orange-dabbed smile. 

Pumpkin Flan, Gluten-free
Adapted from Sunset

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put a soufflé dish or pie plate (I used my 9.5 inch Pyrex) in the oven to heat.

2. Now, for the tricky part. Put in a large frying pan over medium-high heat:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar (this keeps hot sugar syrup from crystallizing)

and stir frequently until the sugar turns deep golden, which will take anywhere between 8 and 12 minutes. Take solace in knowing that if it doesn’t seem like it’s turning out right (like in my experience “why is it foaming? Is that golden enough?”), your flan will turn out delicious regardless.

3. Remove the caramelized sugar syrup from the heat. Remove the pie plate from the oven and pour the syrup into the dish, carefully tilting the dish so it evenly coats the bottom and an inch or two up the sides. Protect your hands when working with the melted sugar! Nothing burns more than hot, liquid sugar. (Editor’s note: I’d wear these in addition to using my potholders because I’m clumsy; better safe than sorry!)

4. Fill your kettle and put it on to boil while you whisk together in a large mixing bowl:

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup whole fat plain yogurt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

5. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared pie or soufflé dish and set it inside a large roasting or baking pan. Put the pan with the pie dish on the rack in your oven and carefully pour the boiling water from the kettle into the large baking pan, until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the pie dish.

6. Bake until a knife inserted halfway between the center and edge comes out clean, about an hour and a half. Start checking for doneness after it’s been in for an hour and 15 minutes. Carefully remove the dish from the hot water bath and let cool on a rack. Pop it into the fridge to chill, covered, for at least four hours before serving.

When ready to serve, run a knife or thin metal spatula around the inside of the dish, place a deep plate or serving platter on top of the dish, and invert. If you’d prefer to have a little more caramelized syrup on the flan, set the pie dish (after inverting and removing the flan) in hot water for about 10 minutes to loosen the syrup. Pour over the flan and devour.